Daniela Hirsch, 34, is a Chilean lawyer, lifelong humanist and married with a daughter.
If anyone does not know what I am talking about, I am referring to the case of the girl in Spain who was raped by five men who were convicted of sexual assault and not rape; a case in which even one of the judges voted to acquit completely. It took me so long to understand it, I started reading the ruling. It’s terrible. It makes you cry. I haven’t been able to finish reading it. It describes a horrific situation in detail and yet the ruling says it is not rape because it is alleged that: 1) no physical violence was used to subdue the victim; 2) the injuries do not show any signs of violence; and, 3) there was no intimidation. All this in the context of the fact that the aggression is committed by five large men ten years older than the victim, who take her to a dark and lonely doorway where they repeatedly penetrate her and leave her lying there. No violence, no harm, no intimidation? What are you talking about?! I don’t understand it.
Every woman I know has suffered sexual violence. Many have shared their stories publicly and I think it helps to show men – because women already know this – the violence we are exposed to on a daily basis. For my part, I remember when I was 16 years old, at a party, a group of men (an Argentine rugby team…) surrounded me and pawed me all over. When I was 17 or 18, in a shopping mall, an old man grabbed my ass and when I turned around and couldn’t believe what was happening, he smiled at me and looked me straight in the face. Do I need to go on?
Two days ago, before I heard about the ruling in this case, I was walking back at night from a birthday party a few blocks from my house. On the way there was a lonely and slightly darker block, and I made a diversion: if they grab me here, no one will see me. And I asked myself: What would I do in that case? How would I react if a guy grabs me here and tries to rape me? I suspect men never wander the streets doing that. Women do. Frequently. I thought about my alternatives. Would I run? Would I scream? But what if it makes the guy hit me, stab me, or whatever? That day I thought that maybe I would try to humanize my attacker by telling him my name, my age, telling him that I have a daughter, a husband, and dreaming that maybe that would connect with his humanity so that he would let me go…. How strange that someone would go down the street thinking about how to escape a rapist, right?
But after reading the ruling, I am forced to ask myself again, what should one do? And I also ask my friends, criminal lawyers, and if there is a judge among my contacts, how should I react? What do I have to do to not get myself killed, but yet to have my attacker convicted as a rapist? Because in the case of The Wolfpack, the girl chose to live. To accept to be raped, to live. Then she closed her eyes, did what she was told and let them do whatever they wanted. Because she thought that at least that’s how she’d survive. But for the judges that meant that there was no physical violence or harm to justify convicting these men of rape. I write this and it hurts. I write it and I want to cry. And I’m angry. And I feel the injustice of the world we live in.