Murders due to sexist violence have skyrocketed in the last month and a half. It is not the first time in the historical series that a similar number of crimes accumulate in a short period of time, but different expert voices point to the influence of the end of the restrictions to control the COVID-19 pandemic. Only since May 9, the day the state of alarm subsided, twelve men have killed their partners and ex-partners and the child of one of them. Victoria Rosell (Murcia, 1968) leads from the Government Delegation against Gender Violence of the Ministry of Equality a plan promoted weeks ago to evaluate and update the protocols and tools available, but it is still in the diagnostic phase. “We must put all the means within reach because, although we cannot assure it, it is foreseeable that a rebound could occur,” defends the judge now on leave in conversation with elDiario.es.
Thousands of women take to the streets to condemn the latest sexist crimes: “We are the cry of those who are no longer there”
In this month and a half there has been a sexist murder every three days. Do you think this escalation will continue?
We cannot assure it, but it is foreseeable and we must put all the means and resources at our disposal to avoid an upturn in gender and sexual violence this summer. During the pandemic there has been a control violence that did not lead to extreme physical violence or murder, but we have already said that it was expected that with the end of the restrictions there could be a rebound. It is important that this summer in the festivals, concerts or parties that can be held, women, adolescents and girls see that there are places they can go. Not only central services such as 016 or the Police, but also local resources and at hand, without implying going through the door of a police station.
Precisely one of the challenges is to reach women who do not report, who are the majority. How to protect them?
I believe that we must go from that State that is waiting for them to denounce and take the leap, which is sometimes a leap into the void, and then all protection measures are adopted, to a State that sets the network and the conditions. You must be more proactive. And that network can be an educational sector formed to detect signs of gender violence in boys and girls, who suffer it directly, or a Primary Care that has been more than up to the task and overwhelmed, but that cannot be left behind, overcoming the coronavirus pandemic, the pandemic of gender violence. The same, the detection capacity, with mental health, gynecology, pediatrics, occupational health and of course social services. In addition, when it is a social problem like this, the environment we have the obligation to report or ask for help for that woman and that sends a very powerful message: she is not alone and we believe her. This proactive state, taking into account that more than 70% of violence is not reported, will cover a wide spectrum of silenced violence.
Are measures being considered from the Ministry of Equality for this?
This is what this is all about when we talk about revising and improving protocols. First, specialized training in these areas is essential: training social, educational and health services personnel and updating protocols. We must assess whether faults are detected. For example, at a Family Meeting Point, which detects or witnesses violence from the father to the minor during a visit, but how long does it take and through what process is this communicated in turn to whom it corresponds? Communication and coordination must be protocolized.
Equality announced that it was promoting this plan after an emergency meeting on May 21. At what point are they in the process?
We are still in the phase of receiving contributions. As we have spoken, they are many and diverse areas and, when we assume that gender violence is a social problem, we must act and intervene from all areas. It is not done in two days or two hours; we are talking about 17 autonomous communities and 8,000 municipalities. Some of the protocols have not been updated since before the State Pact against Gender Violence.
“Even if the woman does not state that she is undergoing psychological treatment, the forensic reports must be generalized because, in addition, not doing so has a class bias”
Faced with the common belief that sexist murder is always preceded by serious physical violence, the reality is that it does not have to and there are murders in relationships of psychological abuse. Even so, it is a type of violence with less experience in the courts. Where does the detection fail?
There is evidence and it is that it is more difficult to prove than physical violence, but with specialized training and knowledge of gender violence it is known that violence is intertwined and it is possible to presume that the majority of women who report humiliating and humiliating treatment and sustained over time have psychological consequences and, therefore, forensic evidence should be generalized or the Comprehensive Forensic Assessment Units must be asked to make psychic, physical and social reports of the victim. Although she does not state that she is undergoing psychological treatment, forensic reports must be generalized because, furthermore, not doing so has a class bias: a woman who cannot afford to pay an expert is not going to bring a report, but rather affirm and it is the State that has to prove this psychological violence. The same with minors. If we know that three-quarters of the children in whose homes there is violence are considered victims, it is not necessary for the mother to verbalize that they suffer violence to be included in the forensic assessment directly.
We know that most victims do not report, but of those who do, some find that they are not protected. Are we assessing the risk well?
The extreme, high and medium risk in the Comprehensive Monitoring System in cases of Gender Violence (VioGén System) is sufficiently contrasted that it is well valued. Based on the fact that they are scarce resources and that it is not possible to put a member of the State Security Forces and Bodies behind each woman, there are more claims in the assessments of low or unappreciated risk. It is still a risk forecasting system, it is a complicated application and it is not easy to predict human behavior. It is also an internationally valued system, but it can incorporate some improvement. Minors should be included with total security, something that was done in 2019, but those that are not dumped in VioGén are the social assistance data. It will not happen in two days, but perhaps we can come up with the idea of a joint work with the Interior and Justice on something that the State Pact against Gender Violence said: record the information of the civil administration of the victims, especially of specialized social services.
The extreme right in Spain continues to defend its discourse of denaturing sexist violence. Does denial influence the fight against sexist violence?
Yes. It is an accomplice speech of the aggressor and sexist violence because it is an accomplice of silence. If a woman is suffering sexist violence and doubting how to face the process and whether to verbalize it or not and the discourse on the networks and public and political speeches is that, she will think that they will not believe her. The reaction would be to shut up and we know that sexist violence has always taken advantage of silence. Those who encourage this discourse of false accusations, that gender violence is not true or that we victimize ourselves are directly promoting that gender violence does not come to light and that women continue to be discriminated against and subordinated. Because contrary to what the deniers say, it is not only that it is not a violence that women exaggerate, but that it is clearly a violence that women minimize. It is also sending a message of impunity to the aggressors in their dynamics of domination and discrimination.
“The best interest of the minor is not to spend the same time with the mother and father, but to have a life free of violence”
With the murder of Ana and Olivia in Tenerife the concept of vicarious violence has been put on the table like never before. Many minors live in homes where there is violence. How will the issue of visits finally remain with the Child Protection Law?
The law provides for the visitation regime to be suspended when there are indications of gender violence, but not only in the criminal jurisdiction, also in the civil jurisdiction, if indications are detected, in custody, divorce and separation procedures, which is the way forward. the one that most victims come out of violence. This is a breakthrough. The judiciary can continue to agree that visits continue, but changes the general rule, which, in the face of signs of violence, is suspension. The exception will be maintenance as long as it is reasoned and based on the best interests of the minor. Now, the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) tells us that this measure is only adopted in less than 4% of the cases. It is a paradigm shift.
However, it is an area, the civilian, that does not have specialized training in sexist violence. How will you detect signs of violence?
Progress has been made in specific training, but it is true that it is still very limited to the courts for violence against women. However, gender violence is seen by all guard courts and mixed courts in small towns. It is essential that the family courts, which see these civil proceedings, have training in gender and childhood. It is something that expert jurists have been saying for years. Both the Association of Women Judges of Spain and the Association of Women Jurists Themis have long demanded the incorporation of this perspective, which should affect the entire judiciary.
With minors we must be even more proactive with detection and offer two essential elements included in the Children’s Law: listen to minors, who have their rights and exercise them according to their evolution and age. In many processes of mothers deprived of their children, children have not been listened to. And from the first moment remove them from danger so that they are in a position to verbalize it and get out of the violence. We have decades of sexist prejudice and patriarchal stereotype that the best interests of the minor means maintaining the same time with the mother and father, but no, the best interests of the minor is a life free of violence.
Continuing with the Childhood Law, on the false parental alienation syndrome (SAP), it is established that “the public powers will take the necessary measures to avoid it.” What measures are planned to be taken to do this?
I think that with this there has been some resistance to progress. No one had ever mentioned SAP in a law. Saying that it should not be applied is a very important advance, because it must also be borne in mind that it is very difficult to regulate something that does not exist. The warning to avoid being taken into consideration is binding on that part of the judicial, legal and psychological career that they defend from misogynist, antifeminist and patriarchal positions that exists. In this case it is very clear and the norm is addressed to these public powers. What could be measures leading to a sanction? Not all regulations have to be met under this threat. The warning is in itself a giant step because in no legal instrument of any category was the SAP until now.