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Adrian, the ride-share driver who rushed to her aid, next to Maria, the victim. Ñito Salas
'In Spain the abuser is protected and the victim is punished': Woman who escaped rape attack in Malaga
Crime

'In Spain the abuser is protected and the victim is punished': Woman who escaped rape attack in Malaga

Maria has spoken to SUR at length, just a few hours after a judge's decision to suspend the prison sentence of her attackers in the city

Juan Cano

Malaga

Tuesday, 18 June 2024, 11:19

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Two hooded men tried to rape María in Calle Cuarteles in Malaga city in the early hours of 28 January. A ride-share driver stopped them and helped police to find the assailants, who have just been sentenced to two years in prison after they struck a deal with the public prosecutor's office, which did not oppose their release. They are now on the street and will remain so if they do not reoffend for the next five years and pay 239.69 euros in compensation to the victim.

The testimony of María, 28, is that of a young woman who has been the victim of a sexual crime and who feels like the system worked against her. Initially she was encouraged to report the crime and believed in the importance of doing so in order to prevent other women from going through something similar. Now, she does not feel the same way.

This SUR interview comes just a few hours after the judge's decision to suspend the prison sentence of the attackers, two young Moroccans aged 21 and 24. Meanwhile, Maria continues to see a psychologist as she is still suffering from the after-effects of the sexual assault. She has spent more than 700 euros. "An experience like this eats you up emotionally. Lately I've been better, but the sentence has destroyed me," she said.

Moved

She no longer lives in Malaga and has moved to another province to find the peace of mind she left behind that early morning in January. "When you make a complaint, your details are in a court case and they [the accused] have your address. A restraining order is put in place, but in the end it's a dead letter," Maria said.

She looked for a way to get a private prosecutor, but was denied free legal aid due to her salary. "I went to the Andalusian Women's Institute (IAM) and they told me that, as I was not a victim of gender violence, they could not help me. I went to the SAVA (Servicio de Atención a las Víctimas de Andalucía), and they couldn't help me either. I thought: 'How am I going to spend 5,000 euros on a lawyer for this?' Between the anxiety I felt, and feeling all alone, I said to myself: whatever God wants. Then they explained to me that the public prosecutor's office protected the victims. So I left it in their hands."

Legal aid

New Spanish legislation dubbed the "only yes is yes" law, included in its final provision free legal aid for victims of sexual violence. It also gave one year from when it took effect - September 2022 - for the government to reform the law on legal aid and incorporate them as beneficiaries. The deadline expired in September 2023. To date, it has still not been amended.

Maria is of foreign origin, like the convicted men, but comes from a very different professional background. She is an IT professional with a job and a decent salary. "What bothers me the most is that they did have a court-appointed lawyer, which I probably helped pay for with my taxes. I feel as if the government was to blame," Maria said, who now plans to leave Spain. "I don't want to be here. This country is getting worse. My conclusion is that it has become more insecure and tax-wise it is more exploited. Just now I've been with the IRPF and with what I paid I could have hired several good lawyers."

Free

María is extremely disappointed with the government, the public prosecutor's office, the ministry of equality "and with all the entities that claim to protect women, such as the IAM", she added. "They use us as cannon fodder to increase the number of victims of sexual aggression and rape and thus justify the funds allocated to certain administrations, but then you have to face the trial alone. It doesn't make sense. In Spain, the abuser is protected and the victim is punished."

A few days ago, she was summoned to testify at the trial. She was waiting for three hours and, as they accepted the sentence requested by the prosecution, she did not even testify. No one listened to her, she said, or gave her an explanation. "Their [the defendants'] lawyers asked for release and it was granted without any problems. No one ever contacted me to see what I thought. Some days later they sent me the sentence by email. That's all I know, that there is no appeal. And you know what the worst thing is? That they are free and they have realised that there is nothing wrong with them."

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