Passengers on a platform of the Madrid Metro (Photo by Europa Press News / Europa Press via Getty Images)
By Violeta Molina Gallardo
Since the end of the state of alarm there has been an upturn in sexist murders: Between May 9 and 31, six women and a child were murdered, almost half of the total fatalities of gender-based violence in 2021, an increase that legal experts associate with the end of restrictions due to the pandemic.
To the names of María Soledad (60 years old), Betty (52), Lucía (42), Teresa (48), Katia (35), Warda Ouchen (28 years old and pregnant) and her son Mohamed (7), murdered between the May 9 and 30, can be added that of Nicoleta Clara (40), whose death this Sunday in Guadalajara is under investigation.
They are the last seven fatalities of a violence that so far this year has killed fourteen women and two children and their murders have been committed in the the first three weeks after the state of alarm subsided.
The lawyer and president of the Themis Association of Women Jurists, María Ángeles Jaime, explains that they are multiple factors that explain sexist violence, that seeks to subdue the victim, but clarifies that murders occur when the aggressor cannot maintain that dominance.
As the restrictions wane, women who have been subjected to a great deal of control by the aggressor “can take the helm of their lives, go to seek help, make the decision to break up and emancipate that many times is the trigger for their murder”, indicates.
In the same sense, the magistrate and founding member of the Association of Women Judges of Spain, Lucía Avilés, points out that the end of the restrictions has favored greater autonomy for the victims, which diminished the control exercised by the abusers.
“Confinement fostered control and submission. The closing of the houses allowed the aggressors to know at all times everything the couple was doing and they did not need the generalized use of violence to control it”, maintains Avilés.
The resumption of social and family contact and in some cases an improvement in their economic situation, the judge continues, could have been the “definitive impulse” for the victims to break the relationship, a moment of high risk.
The Ministry of Equality insists that the femicides in recent weeks are not only due to the end of the state of alarm and restrictions, since there are multiple social and individual factors that explain these crimes.
“The confinement and restrictions that existed during the state of alarm contained the sexist murders because the aggressors were able to exercise other violence, which is what we call control and psychological. Once the state of alarm ended, the aggressors have returned to murder under the same usual patterns “, they emphasize.
Calle Preciados in Madrid (Photo by Marcos del Mazo / LightRocket via Getty Images)
Sources from the department headed by Irene Montero emphasize that “there is no difference between the aggressors from before the state of alarm, those who exercised violence during the restrictions or the aggressors who are now murdering women.”
ONLY THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG
Of the 14 women murdered by their partners or ex-partners so far this year, only three had reported. Six minors have been orphaned, two other children have been murdered by their parents and Anna and Olivia are being sought, abducted by their father in the Canary Islands.
Femicides make headlines, but daily there is a trickle of attacks on women who are seriously injured and whose cases do not transcend or form part of the official statistics.
In the last two weeks, a man seriously injured his partner in Sagunto (Valencia) -the victim was found wandering in shock with a head injury-; another tried to crash his car into a tree with his copilot partner in Cintruénigo (Navarra); another was arrested in Avilés (Asturias) for kicking and punching his partner in the street and another abused his partner in Murcia “for” wearing an excessively short skirt.
The Government delegate against Gender Violence, Victoria Rosell has insisted that sexist murders are only the tip of the iceberg of a problem of great magnitude.
According to the Macro-Survey of Violence against Women 2019, one in three women over the age of 16 has been physically, sexually, psychologically or financially abused by a partner or ex-partner. Only 21.7% reported these events.
For its part, in the police system for evaluating the risk of Viogén there are 565,288 victims and 62,840 cases remained active at the end of April: 11 of extreme risk; 582, high and 6,308, medium. There were also 3,999 minors in follow-up.
STRENGTHENING THE FIGHT AGAINST ABUSE
The Minister of Equality has announced that all the tools and protocols to combat gender violence will be reviewed and that the Government will propose to make the State Pact permanent.
These instruments include inter-institutional coordination protocols, comprehensive care and assistance models for victims, care devices and the risk assessment systems themselves.
Judge Avilés assures that there are very valuable tools for the protection of women in Spain, but some are underused: only in 1 or 2% of reported cases is a comprehensive forensic evaluation performed and in a vast majority the risk calculation is reduced to the victim’s testimony, when it would be necessary to study the aggressor and the family environment.
Avilés advocates implementing more telematic control bracelets, increasing the early detection of violence in the health system – which is an environment of trust and confidentiality for women – and encouraging the judicial system to generate trust.
The president of Themis joins the demand for a better early detection system in the social health field, requests that the forensic assessment units be launched and recommends that more homogeneity in the resources available to victims in the different autonomies.
Denialist discourses, he adds, “do not help”, because they make “the aggressor feel legitimized to a certain extent.”