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The shocking rape trial that galvanised Spain’s feminists – and the far right | World news | The Guardian

DiLuna Rossa

Apr 24, 2019

The long read: The ‘wolf pack’ case inspired widespread anger and protests against sexual assault laws in Spain. But the anti-feminist backlash that followed has helped propel the far right to its biggest gains since Franco

In the early hours of 7 July 2016, surrounded by throngs of revellers dancing and drinking, an 18-year-old woman suddenly found herself alone. She was standing on Plaza del Castillo, a square in the centre of the northern Spanish city of Pamplona, which was hosting its annual festival, the running of the bulls.

The weeklong festival combines a religious celebration of the city’s patron saint, San Fermin, with the eponymous bull run – and copious amounts of alcohol. Every morning at the stroke of 8am, the bravest festivalgoers sprint ahead of a group of bulls leading them from the pen where they’re kept to the ring where they will die later that day. Then the drinking resumes. The festival has long had a reputation for bad behaviour – exasperated locals often complain about outsiders turning their town into a lawless city – and after photos of young women being groped by groups of men went viral in 2013, the city launched an anti-sexual assault campaign whose symbol, a red hand, was plastered across billboards, walls and buses. But the festival has not lost its somewhat seedy reputation. “People come here to fuck,” a hospital receptionist told me wearily, fanning herself against the July heat, when I attended last year.

The young woman, who had just finished her first year of university, had been drinking with a few people she had met that night, but after leaving them to dance, she lost sight of them. As she would later testify in court, she nudged her way past the crowds to a bench on the edge of the square to get her bearings. There, on the bench, a man struck up conversation with her. His name was José Ángel Prenda, a 26-year-old from Seville with a broad face and a paunchy stomach across which he had inked his name in large, gothic script.

Prenda had come to the festival with a group of friends, four men in their mid-20s, who called themselves la manada – the wolf pack. One member of the group, a soldier named Alfonso Jesús Cabezuelo, had a tattoo of a howling wolf on his foot, along with the words “The power of the wolf lies in the pack”. Another member, Jesús Escudero, a hairdresser, had a wolf paw tattoo on his ribcage. The other two members were a police officer, Antonio Manuel Guerrero, and Ángel Boza, the rookie of the group, who, like Prenda, was unemployed. The woman and Prenda compared tattoos and talked football while the other men hovered around, occasionally dipping in and out of the conversation.

In the woman’s recollection, the chat was friendly but unremarkable. She was tired, and after about 10 minutes, she said she was going to head back to a friend’s car, where she would spend the night. Offering to walk her, the men accompanied her past busy terraces before turning into quieter and increasingly deserted streets. When she pointed out that they were close to the car, Prenda suddenly rushed ahead, catching up with a woman entering a nearby apartment building. Pretending to have rented a room there, Prenda held the door for the resident and then slipped into the lobby.

Outside, one of the men – the woman wasn’t sure which – had begun kissing her, and she had kissed him back. Soon they were interrupted by Prenda’s hushed command from inside the lobby of the apartment building: “Let’s go, let’s go.” The man she was with took her hand and led her towards the door. Before she could register what was happening, she had been corralled into the back of the lobby and felt herself being undressed. Over the next 20 minutes, the five men would take turns repeatedly penetrating her orally, vaginally and anally. She shut her eyes and waited for it to end.

At 3.27am, according to CCTV footage, the men filed out of the building. Once the woman was alone, she got dressed and looked for her phone to call a friend, but the men had stolen it. That’s when she began to cry. She left the building and eventually found a bench to slump on, sobbing inconsolably. Eventually a passing couple stopped to talk to her. When she told them what had happened, they called the police, who drove her to a local hospital where she was treated for vaginal wounds and given a morning-after pill.

The men, meanwhile, had headed back into town, some to continue partying, others to sleep. At 6.50am, Prenda wrote in the WhatsApp group they shared with a few other friends back in Seville, “Good morning. The five of us fucked one girl. Hahaha.” He added: “We have video.” At 8am, the five friends ran with the bulls. They were still catching their breath when the police officers approached.

By that evening, the five were behind bars. What had taken place in Pamplona would become known as the “wolf pack” case, and for the next two years, as the trial approached and more and more details seeped into the press, the story would rarely be out of the headlines. In April 2018, the verdict was finally handed down and the court acquitted all five men of rape, finding them guilty of the lesser crime of “sexual abuse”. It came down to the fine print of the law: because the men had not used violence to coerce the woman into the act, the crime could not technically be categorised as sexual assault, which includes rape. The men were sentenced to nine years instead of the 22 to 25 years the prosecution demanded.

For many women across the country, even before the verdict arrived, the case had been a moment of reckoning, which laid bare a deep culture of misogyny in Spanish society. The wolf pack case “brought out the worst in our society, the worst in our judicial system, the worst in social media,” the human rights lawyer and analyst Violeta Assiego told me. But the outcome of the trial galvanised feminists in Spain like never before, turning feminism into a movement with unprecedented visibility and real political power. Immediately after the verdict, hundreds of thousands of women flooded plazas in dozens of Spanish cities to protest against the ruling, calling for Spain’s sexual assault laws to be rewritten.

But it wasn’t just a transformative moment for feminists – it also became a rallying point for the far right. As more and more women took to the streets, a reactionary counter-movement of aggrieved men was forming online, while the far-right party Vox pitched itself to supporters who felt threatened by the increasing prominence of what they called “radical feminism”. This past December, Vox became the first far-right party to win multiple seats in Spain since the death of Franco. In Spain’s upcoming general election on 28 April, polls are predicting that Vox is likely to win roughly 10% of the vote – up from just 0.2% in 2016 – meaning that it could play kingmaker to a rightwing coalition government. “Vox isn’t an isolated case. It’s part of a global trend where a minority of the population can see that their privileges are in danger,” Ada Colau, mayor of Barcelona, told me recently. “That’s why feminism needs to show its strength.”

Long before the wolf pack trial began, it seemed most Spaniards had already reached their own verdicts. For months, they had pored over the men’s WhatsApp conversations – both text and audio – which had been leaked to the press and posted online. Many predated the Pamplona festival visit, and seemed to suggest a level of premeditation. “Mate seriously, if the five of us all fucked a fat girl together at San Fermin, it would be the best thing ever. I’d rather fuck a fat girl with all of you than a hot one by myself,” one of the men had said. “Are we bringing burundanga [a date rape drug]? I got reinoles [another date rape drug] at a really good price. For the rapes,” a message read. “This trip is a baptism of fire to become a wolf,” read another.

Even more damningly, a leaked video from the same WhatsApp group showed four of the five accused men groping and kissing an apparently unconscious woman in the back of a car two months before the running of the bulls, at another festival in Andalucía. A separate investigation into that incident was launched. (The men stand accused of sexually abusing the woman and are currently awaiting trial. Their defence argues the woman consented because she voluntarily stepped into the car.)

On 13 November 2017, the first day of the wolf pack trial, a famous TV presenter glibly polled his followers on Twitter: “Do you think it was rape or consensual sex?” Followers had to select one option or the other. He deleted the tweet after a storm of condemnation, but not before thousands had picked and clicked their answer. It all seemed to boil down to one question: who was lying?

When the plaintiff took the stand, she insisted that over the course of the 40 minutes she spent with the accused, they “never talked about sex, ever”. She described freezing in shock after the men led her into the lobby, and, because she had her eyes closed, she said she did not realise that the men had filmed her. In the wake of the alleged assault, she said she had tumbled into a spiral of self-blame, shame and guilt. She had suffered from nightmares, insomnia and difficulty concentrating. Months later, when university exams rolled around, she had been unable to sit them.

By contrast, the men’s testimonies read like porn scripts. According to their accounts, they were hanging around, minding their own business, when suddenly an attractive young woman materialised and, within five minutes, declared she would go to bed with any one, two or five of them. They all claimed there was no doubt she enjoyed herself, though admitted they never asked. Most of the men boasted about frequently partaking in orgies, and insisted that it wasn’t surprising an 18-year-old stranger would agree to one given the “festival context”. Guerrero, the police officer, said he was so convinced of the gang’s innocence that when police informed him he was accused of rape, he asked to see their superior and, cop to cop, offered the video he had taken on his phone as exonerating evidence.

When we spoke recently, the men’s lawyer, Agustín Martínez, called the incident “consensual sexual relations among six adults” and suggested that the plaintiff only changed her tune out of fear the men would leak videos of the act and tarnish her reputation. Martínez said that anyone who suggested the plaintiff would not have wanted to have sex with five men she had met minutes earlier was denying her her freedom to do so.

Most of the trial was closed to the public and media to protect the privacy of those involved. But that hardly mattered: as well as the WhatsApps, the testimonies were continually leaked to local press and picked apart by the public like weekly soap opera instalments.

To many observers, one of the most astounding elements of the trial was what was deemed admissible as evidence and what was not. While the three presiding judges – two men and one woman – ruled that the personal lives and social media activities of the accused were generally irrelevant, they took a different view when it came to the victim. During the preliminary “instruction” phase of the trial, they admitted a report compiled by a private investigator, who had been hired by the family of one of the accused to monitor the plaintiff’s behaviour in the months after the alleged assault. Without her knowledge, the investigator had trailed the plaintiff while she enjoyed a brief holiday with friends and family in September. The investigator’s report concluded that she seemed to be living “life as normal”. The investigator also delved into the plaintiff’s social media activity. The defence ultimately withdrew most of the report, but hung on to what their lawyer considered a key piece of evidence proving the plaintiff had not suffered any trauma. It was a picture that the plaintiff had posted on Instagram, two months after the incident. It showed a T-shirt emblazoned with a quote from one of the contestants on Spain’s Jersey Shore spinoff, Super Shore: “Whatever you do, take off your underwear.”

Protesters in Madrid in May 2018, one bearing the slogan ‘Yo Si Te Creo’ (‘I believe you’).
Protesters in Madrid in May 2018, one bearing the slogan ‘Yo Si Te Creo’ (‘I believe you’). Photograph: Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty

When she read the news about how the Instagram post was being used as evidence against the plaintiff, Teresa Lozano, a 31-year-old actor from Madrid, felt her blood boil. “You need two things to feed feminism: one is theory, and the other is rage,” Lozano told me recently. On 15 November, two days after the trial had begun, Lozano and her collaborator Zua Mendez made a YouTube video that captured the anger many women were feeling. “First, they rape you. Then they investigate you, without your knowing. They spy on you. In the media, many men claim there isn’t enough evidence to prove it wasn’t consensual,” they said in turn, staring into the camera, their voices steady and dry. “I believe you, much more than this bullshit system, this system in which we ask, we demand that victims file reports, but when they do, we don’t believe them.” They called the video Yo te creo, “I believe you,” and hastily posted it online. By that evening, it was trending on Spanish YouTube. (It now has more than 300,000 views.)

The next day, with little notice and no permit, feminist activists called a protest for the following night outside the justice ministry in Madrid, expecting a few dozen to show. By nightfall on November 17, some 3,000 crowded on to the streets around the ministry. It was just a small taste of what was to come.

On 26 April 2018, the day of the verdict, the journalist Cristina Fallarás was standing in a studio in Madrid, getting ready to comment on the case. A screen behind her broadcast the exterior of the Pamplona court where hundreds of assembled women waited for the ruling. When it came out, Fallarás felt her stomach drop. “I said to myself: ‘Right now, I’m not a journalist. I’m a woman’,” she told me recently. Live, on national television, she let out her anger. “This is bullshit,” she shouted. Behind her, the screen showed the women in Pamplona break through police lines and rush the court house. For his own safety, Martínez, the accused’s lawyer, was kept inside for three hours until the crowd began to disperse. (Martínez told me that even now he would only travel to Pamplona if guaranteed police protection.)

Although two of the three presiding judges in the case conceded that they believed the plaintiff had not consented to the act, the fact she had not been violently coerced prevented them from qualifying it as rape. Instead, the men were found guilty of “sexual abuse”. The third judge voted to absolve the men. In his dissenting opinion, he commented that all he could see in the videos the men had taken of the act was “an atmosphere of revelry and joy”. In a matter of hours, hundreds of thousands of women throughout Spain had stormed the streets. It was Spain’s largest spontaneous feminist uprising in living memory.

That night, while women across the country banged pots and pans in so-called cacerolada protests, Fallarás logged on to Twitter. In a series of tweets to her tens of thousands of followers, she recounted some of her own own experiences of sexual violence. She signed off with the hashtag #Cuéntalo, “Tell your story.” That night, 100 women did. By the third day, it was 10,000. By the 10th day, Fallarás’ hashtag had been retweeted 3m times and spread to 70 countries, including Argentina, Mexico and the US. It was Spain’s #MeToo. “It created a collective memory that hadn’t existed,” Fallarás said.

A demonstration against the release of the ‘Wolf Pack’ in Madrid in June 2018.
A demonstration against the release of the ‘Wolf Pack’ in Madrid in June 2018. Photograph: Pablo Blázquez Domínguez/Getty Images

But along with the outpouring of solidarity came a backlash. One of the hubs for this anti-feminist feeling was ForoCoches, a popular Spanish web forum. The site, which is a bit like a Spanish 4Chan, was founded in 2003 as a place to talk about cars (ForoCoches literally translates as “car forum”), but it quickly became a “breeding ground for machismo,” says Gema Valencia, an expert on the Spanish manosphere. According to Alejandro Marín, the founder of ForoCoches, recent polls on the site suggest that around 60% of users support the far-right Vox party, though these polls are far from scientific.

Throughout the trial, the forum had been a place where users gathered to express sympathy with the accused and disparage the plaintiff. After the verdict was released, ForoCoches users posted information identifying the victim. (They had discovered her identity because when the court sent news outlets a redacted version of the sentence, it failed to remove a security verification code that granted access to the unredacted version containing the plaintiff’s name.) The posts were reported and deleted, Marín told me, but news of the young woman’s identity still spread quickly, even making it to the US, where the Spanish-language pages of the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer also published her information. “It’s our citizen duty to spread this slut’s identity,” said the article.

In one of the only public statements by any of the accused after the verdict, Guerrero, the police officer, wrote a letter that was published on a rightwing news site, in which he gave special thanks to ForoCoches members for “not following the herd”. Guerrero attacked the feminist movement and warned that what had befallen him “could happen to your brother, your father, your son, or even you”. The same site published an editorial titled, “Yo no te creo” (“I don’t believe you”) expressing support for the men. The counter-slogan caught on. One typical tweet said: “#IDon’tBelieveYou What the hell, if any girl who regrets hooking up with you the next day can report you for rape and then all the feminazis go to battle for her. Scary”.

In the media, the term “wolf pack” became shorthand for any alleged group sexual assault, with numerous ongoing cases described as the wolf pack of Barcelona, Alicante or Madrid, like a modern Grimms’ fairy tale warning young women of the dangers of going out at night alone. In 2018, according to an independent website that tracks sexual assaults committed by groups, there were 59 such attacks, more than in the previous two years combined. Some journalists have worried that the wolf pack coverage triggered copycat crimes, but it is unclear whether the surge represents an actual rise, or a growing confidence among victims to report them.

And then, on 21 June, two months after the verdict, there was another twist: the five men were released from jail on bail, pending an appeal against their sentences. In their decision, the judges said the men’s “loss of anonymity” through the trial made it “unthinkable” that they would attempt to flee the country or commit a similar crime. In response, hundreds of thousands of women again flooded the streets in protest. Soon after, Carmen Calvo – minister of equality in the new socialist government, which had taken office after the ruling conservative party was ousted following a corruption scandal – announced that the government would propose a new sexual assault law that eliminated the distinction between rape and sexual abuse.

Other parties on the left, such as Podemos, pushed for bigger changes to resolve the kind of legal absurdities the wolf pack case had brought to light. For example, Spanish law has, since 2004, included special provisions for crimes classified as “gender violence” – but the only crimes actually classified that way are acts of violence between partners or former partners. Victims of gender violence are allowed to testify remotely, and should be assigned lawyers who have received specific training. But because the woman in the wolf pack case was abused by strangers, she was not entitled to these protections. Instead, she had to travel to Pamplona to testify (though she was spared from having to do so in front of the men who sexually abused her) and she was assigned a lawyer, Carlos Bacaicoa, who had no specific gender-violence expertise.

Bacaicoa, who alternated between deep, exasperated sighs and gruff rebukes when we spoke on the phone, is a social conservative who was assigned the wolf pack case simply because he happened to be on call the night the incident took place. He described the case as “the worst experience in 37 years” of his career because of the toll it took on him, and told me he wished it had never fallen under his charge. Bacaicoa held no affection for the accused – “those animals,” he called them – and believes they should have been found guilty of rape. But although he doesn’t agree with the verdict, he respects it. “Justice is served in the tribunals, not the streets,” he told me. There was no need to reform the current sexual assault law, he said – it just needed to be applied with “common sense”. He added that it was a “disgrace” how feminist groups had exploited the case to prop up their “gender ideology”. He was far from the only person to think this.

In 2013, a young conservative politician called Santiago Abascal published an open letter on his blog announcing that he was defecting from the ruling Partido Popular (PP) for “betraying its principles”. He was angry that the party had not taken a tougher line with Basque and Catalan separatists, and had failed to undo the previous socialist government’s “ideological legislation”. (It was the socialists who had passed the 2004 gender violence law.) In December 2013, he joined forces with a group of other former PP politicians and co-founded Vox. By September 2014, he was the face and president of the party.

Abascal described Vox as “the party that defends what Spaniards say on WhatsApp”. Like other new far-right parties around the world, Vox scorned political correctness and touted its politicians as the only people brave enough to say what many Spaniards had grown afraid to say out loud, whether the subject was nationalism or immigration or feminism.

One of Abascal’s first political recruits was Francisco Serrano, a former judge and outspoken critic of feminism, who had been suspended from the bench in 2011 for bending the law in a child-custody case. (Serrano said he was persecuted by his ideological opponents, and has complained about being “a victim of gender-based jihadism”.) Last month, I met Serrano on an unseasonably warm evening in Seville, the orange-tree scented capital of Andalucía and the wolf pack’s hometown. Serrano had invited me to a Vox youth event he would be speaking at later that night. He wore a burgundy sweater stretched taut across his round stomach, and his eyebrows sloped behind his glasses giving him a sleepy look. For more than a decade, he told me proudly, he has waged war against Spain’s anti-gender violence legislation, which he believes removes the presumption that one is innocent until proven guilty, and emboldens women to make false accusations against men. The title of Serrano’s latest book is A Practical Guide for Abused Fathers: Advice to Survive the Gender Dictatorship.

In early 2015, Abascal asked Serrano to run on a Vox ticket in Andalucía’s regional elections, and he accepted. “It was a very high risk to join a party no one knew,” he told me, recalling how he and Abascal would stand on top of beer crates or benches, a loudspeaker in hand, speaking to a few dozen people. In the elections, they were trounced, winning only 0.45% of the vote.

Back then, the conventional wisdom was that the far right held little appeal in a country where memories of fascist dictatorship were still fresh. But over the next few years, Vox began to win over conservative voters with their hardline positions on the most divisive issues, such as immigration and Catalonia’s push for independence. Vox voters are, for the most part, middle- and upper-middle-class men disenchanted with the PP, according to Spain’s Centre for Sociological Investigations.

Santiago Abascal, leader of the far-right Vox party in Spain, at a rally in Alicante in April.
Santiago Abascal, leader of the far-right Vox party in Spain, at a rally in Alicante in April. Photograph: MORELL/EPA

Although commentators have tended to focus on how Vox has won voters with its rhetoric on immigration and Spanish unity, its opposition to feminism has also been a key part of its pitch to the electorate. Vox has sought to rally voters who feel alienated or threatened by what the party likes to refer to as “radical feminism” – a phrase they use to describe any kind of feminism whatsoever. Such voters, many of them unhappy with sweeping social changes that have challenged traditional notions of family and gender roles, believe they have been abandoned by mainstream political parties. “Even the PP no longer defended their point of view, since the party had slowly accepted these changes,” Berta Bartet, a political scientist, told me. “Vox emerged to be the voice for those who haven’t accepted these changes.” According to a recent survey polling 1,116 Spaniards, 44% said the current gender violence legislation could be harmful to men, and 77% of potential Vox voters believed this – by far the highest percentage out of any political party.

In late 2018, Abascal asked Serrano to run in Andalucía’s regional elections again. This time, Vox was more organised, and its message was finding a far larger audience. Chief among the party’s new 100-point programme was the dissolution of federally funded feminist organisations; the creation of a family ministry in lieu of the current gender ministry; removing sex change and abortion procedures from public health services; and – Serrano’s rallying cry – the repeal of the 2004 gender violence law.

On 12 December, Vox won 12 seats – nearly 11% of the vote. It wasn’t huge, but it was enough to give them real influence: the new regional government, a conservative alliance between the PP and Ciudadanos, a centre-right party formed in 2006, would need Vox’s support to be sworn in. Vox promptly declared it would only lend them its support if they pledged to deport 52,000 illegal immigrants and dismantle Andalucía’s anti-gender violence law. In now familiar scenes around the country, women returned to the streets. In Barcelona, women carried signs saying “Solidarity with our sisters in Andalucía”. Vox eventually backed down and agreed to lend the government its support anyway.

On the day I visited Serrano at the Vox youth event in Seville, about 100 young men, and a sprinkling of women, had crowded into the back of a bar for the monthly Cañas por España (“Beers for Spain”) gathering. Almost all were dressed in starched white shirts, navy and pastel sweaters and shined leather shoes. The atmosphere felt like a cross between a Young Republicans convention and mass.

When Serrano took the floor, the room fell silent. “Every time progressives attack us, Vox wins more votes,” he began. A few men nodded solemnly. The previous night, someone had graffitied “death to Vox” and “no to fascism” on the outside of the bar in purple spray paint, signing off with a feminist Venus symbol. Vox thrives off this kind of attack, real and fabricated. Earlier that month, an official Vox account tweeted that a “radical feminist” had assaulted three adolescent girls – one’s jaw had allegedly been broken – for refusing to wear purple ribbons to mark International Women’s Day. The story was circulated across Vox’s social media platforms, each of which have hundreds of thousands of followers, but it turned out to be a hoax. It took several hours after the story was debunked for Vox to eventually issue a statement claiming they had been duped.

One attendee at the youth event, Manuel, a 26-year-old whose yellow chequered shirt and two small hoop earrings made him stand out among the legions of Oxford shirts, told me that he knew Vox were portrayed as bigots by the mainstream media, but, as a gay man, he said that he had never had a problem with the party. Like most of the attendees I spoke with, he said feminists had grown “too radical” and “aggressive”. “Spain is divided like it was before the civil war” – but this time, he said, it was “around gender”.

When I asked Serrano what he thought about the wolf pack case, he launched into a short rant about how the press was all too happy to report cases involving Spaniards, but ignored those involving foreigners. On the one hand, Vox insists gender equality has been won in Spain – “we’re not Saudi Arabia,” Serrano told me – but on the other, they regularly invoke the need to protect women to justify other contentious, and often racist, policies. In late March, Abascal shared an article about an investigation into a woman’s alleged rape by a group of Moroccan boys, and tweeted: “Is it more important to protect illegal immigration than women?” Abascal has also recently suggested that “good Spaniards” be allowed to carry arms because, they couldn’t “be at peace when they’re under attack and their daughters are being raped”.

Vox seeks to “shift people’s attention away from gender violence as a problem that pits men against women” and instead “frame it as a cultural problem from abroad”, Violeta Assiego, the human rights lawyer, told me. “And portraying foreigners as violent individuals who attack women reinforces the idea they want to create – that anything goes when it comes to defending our own, our women, our daughters, our land. It’s a perfect confluence.”

March 8 was a cold, crisp day, but the sun shone brightly on Madrid. At noon, a sea of young women decked out in purple shirts, skirts and leggings, with Venus symbols drawn in purple lipstick on their cheeks, streamed down the capital’s major avenues. Some waved purple feather boas, others danced and carried each other on their shoulders. It looked like a Mardi Gras parade. They chanted, “Tranquila, hermana, aquí es tu manada” (“Don’t worry, sister, we are your wolf pack”).

If last year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) saw record numbers of Spanish women take the streets, this year’s confirmed the fact that feminism had reached critical mass. Police estimated 350,000 people rallied in Madrid, 200,000 in Barcelona, and 50,000 in Seville and Bilbao – the biggest turnouts among hundreds of others throughout the country. Surveys indicate that nearly 65% of Spanish women under 30 consider themselves feminists today – double the number of five years ago. Describing this younger generation of feminists, Isabel Cadenas, a 36-year-old spokesperson for the group that organises the annual IWD march, said: “They know violence for what it is in a way that we didn’t. They’ve been raped, they’ve been harassed, they’ve been abused, and many became feminists that way. It’s easy for women to become feminists when they realise that their problems aren’t unique, but collective.”

At the march, a group of high-school girls in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square posed for selfies. For most of them, it was their first protest. When I asked if they had followed the wolf pack case, a 15-year-old with purple lipstick and glitter smeared across her face answered quickly, “That’s why we’re here. If they touch one of us, they touch all of us,” repeating a popular slogan.

In recent months, with the general election looming, politicians have seemed increasingly desperate to win over female voters, presenting the occasionally comic spectacle of male politicians fighting over who is the best feminist. (None of the major parties are fronted by women.) Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos, joked in an interview that “feminist men are better in bed,” and when his party entered a coalition for the elections, they adopted the name, “Unidas Podemos” (United we can), using the feminine form of the adjective (unidas rather than unidos) in a nod at inclusive language. (Iglesias also publicly apologised for a text he had written about a female journalist a few years back – and which was leaked – in which he said that he would “whip [her] till she bled.”)

Meanwhile, before IWD, Pedro Sanchez’s entire Socialist cabinet changed their Twitter profile pictures to a purple icon bearing the phrase “It’s women’s time”, and launched a hashtag that translates as “the Spain you want is feminist”. Even parties on the right joined in: Ciudadanos brought out its own “liberal feminism” manifesto, prompting many feminists to roll their eyes. “If Ciudadanos is talking about feminism, a word they used to denigrate, that’s a victory for the feminist movement,” Cadenas said. “The problem is that they’re talking about feminism a week before [IWD].” Vox, meanwhile, is banking on the backlash.

Today the members of the wolf pack are all home in Seville, on bail. Four of them await trial for the other case that came out of the Pamplona investigation. Alfonso Jesús Cabezuelo was expelled from the army. Antonio Manuel Guerrero retained his position in the Civil Guard police corps, but is no longer active. Jesús Escudero was laid off from his hairdressing job. Ángel Boza and José Ángel Prenda were unemployed before the case, and remain so. They all live with their parents.

The victim has broken her silence only once, in a letter she sent to a local television station. She beseeched the public to report sexual crimes. “Tell a friend, a family member, the police, in a tweet, however you want, but tell your story,” she wrote. “Don’t stay silent, because if you do, you’ll let them win.”

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Sorgente: The shocking rape trial that galvanised Spain’s feminists – and the far right | World news | The Guardian

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