Several women who have denounced sexist violence in rural areas of Galicia have fallen like a jug of cold water to know the name of the lawyer who has been their duty. The Federation of Associations of Mulleres Rurais (Fademur) has evidence of several cases in which the assigned lawyer is himself firmly convicted of mistreatment. In addition to the difficulties that the process itself poses for the victims, there is also the impossibility of creating a relationship of trust with those who must guide and defend them, highlights the organization’s general secretary, Cristina Pedreira. “It is an aberration,” he says.
Women who reported sexist violence increased by 3.4% in the first quarter in Galicia
That the cases have been detected in small places has an explanation: “In rural towns, anonymity is lost, for better and for worse.” For the worse because in these environments it is difficult for women to overcome social pressure and report knowing that the word is going to spread among their neighbors and for the better because this is what has allowed several to have realized that who has to do it charge of his case of sexist violence is condemned precisely for attacks of this type. “With how difficult it is to take the step under normal conditions, imagine if they put more stones on the road,” reflects Pedreira.
Fademur knows several cases. He does not specify the amount, but says that “there are neither two nor three”. He filed a complaint with the Valedora do Pobo at the end of 2020 in which he asks for a change in the norms that regulate the shift of office of gender violence so that the related sentences are taken into account. This institution considered that the problem was not exclusive to Galicia and referred it to the Ombudsman. Before that, he also contacted bar associations. The dean of Ourense, Pilar López-Guerrero, considers that the problem is “very worrying and very serious.” The positive aspect is that he believes that it can be solved with current tools.
It focuses on the fact that the school has no way of knowing these situations by itself. In Ourense there are no complaints or requests from women in this situation to change lawyers, he says. “If they tell me a case like this, I immediately – and I believe that all schools – make a change of lawyer,” he explains. In any case, it proposes to address the problem from the legal sphere. He complains that the courts do not inform these professional organizations that one of their members has been convicted of this type of crime. Information only reaches them if there is a criminal conviction that includes a disqualification from practicing the profession, he explains. She considers that, with the current Penal Code, accessory penalties could be included in the sentences with a specific prohibition for a lawyer convicted of sexist violence issues to be excluded from the shift that attends to these victims. But in this, he adds, “there are opinions.”
He argues that the schools find themselves with “a void” because they have no way of knowing the sentences. If this information reaches them, López-Guerrero assures that they could adapt their regulations to separate these convicted professionals from cases of complaints of violence against women. This attention requires “special sensitivity and training” for lawyers. And he maintains that they receive it, both to start and once they are already on the shift. “We are very clear that a victim cannot be victimized again during the complaint process, much less by the person who is their representative,” he says.
For his part, Fademur proposes that, to enter the specialized shift in sexist violence, lawyers have to periodically provide their criminal record certificate. “How is it done to work with minors”, says Pedreira. If there is a firm conviction for a crime of this nature, they demand that the bar associations remove the professionals from these cases. They ask for changes in the rules: “We do not want all this to remain mere recommendations.”
Fademur has also just transferred his complaints to the Galician Government. In a meeting with the general director of Xustiza last Tuesday, they appreciated “receptivity”, but they are waiting for him to give them an answer.
Pedreira insists on the impact this has on women victims of sexist violence who denounce: “the level of trust in the lawyer is none”. This, he believes, is especially important because these are cases in which intimate experiences have to be recounted. He asks “what involvement” and what “empathy with the victim” has a person who has been convicted of this type of violence. It works as yet another deterrent for rural women, she regrets.