Sexual harrassment is one of the biggest problems for women in Spain, according to an official study earlier this year that shows it is the biggest concern of 38% of all Spaniards when asked which problems Spanish women face specifically because of their sex. It is followed by sexual assault (34%), physical violence (31%), wage equality (20%) and discrimination in the workplace (20%). One might think this is perhaps unsurprising in a culture known for its machismo but the figures are borne out elsewhere – this is a problem all women face, not just Spanish women.
It is therefore reassuring to see the likes of Cara Delevingne come forward and join the latest #MeToo-type movement, #WhyIDidntReport. The “hashtag campaign” is intended to counter the latest pronouncements from Donald Trump in his troubled Supreme Court nomination: with a nominee accused of teenage assault, Trump said that any woman who leaves it for years before reporting sexual assault has reduced her credibility, and so, in essence, it couldn’t have been that bad if you didn’t come forward at the time.
As others like Delevigne have said, sometimes these assaults were indeed actually reported … and ignored. And then the women concerned have had disregard and disrespect added to the assault they suffered. The problem, silenced, then becomes a psychological burden these women carry for the rest of their lives, with all of them describing their main emotions as shame, guilt, and fear, for being “slutty” enough to be “attackable”, for being unworthy enough to be believed, for being too unimportant to be taken seriously.
Only yesterday, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said enough was enough after four women were killed by men in Spain in just one day, and of course Spain is ploughing many resources into domestic violence: please see THIS page for detailed information and resources for help available to any vulnerable woman. Sexual attacks, however, are sometimes carried out on children, with attackers sometimes being members of the family, and whether carried out on children or adult, by family or stranger, at home or in the workplace, they bring their own very particular forms of physical and psychological damage.
Despite what the President of the United States says, delay in reporting does not intrinsically mean reduced credibility. Of course there can be false accusations, but accusations years later aren’t false on the grounds of timing alone. Late reporting, rather, usually means that someone has been carrying psychological baggage with them for years, feeling shame, guilt and fear on top of the memory of the assault itself. Despite what the President of the United States says, it does not actually matter a jot when you report as long as you do report.
Do remember that if the attack has just happened, go first to the hospital because it will allow injuries or evidence to be ratified by medical personnel who will themselves bring in the police and assist in the denuncia process. Otherwise, start with either the Policía Nacional or the Guardia Civil and denounce, either in person or by calling 091 or 062 respectively. Police say that since the #MeToo movement started there has been an explosion of denuncias about sexual assault … the #WhyIDidntReport campaign could dwarf those numbers if women now start to come forward to put down the baggage they’ve carried for so many years.