WAVE Working Group on sexualized violence holds study visit in Madrid

Last week, from November 4 to 5, the WAVE Working Group on Sexualized Violence held a study visit in Madrid, Spain. Ten members from across Europe gathered to learn from Spain´s practices in preventing gender-based violence and protecting victims. Participants were also able to visit the GBV Coordination Unit, WAVE Member office, Aspacia, the Cimascam Sexual Assault Center, the specialized GBV police unit as well as the magistrate specialized court and protest along with others during the Monday 4th demonstration.

Ten members of the WAVE Working Group on Sexualized Violence met in Madrid for a two-day study visit from November 4 to 5, 2019. Participants came from Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Ireland, Malta, Portugal, Serbia, Spain and Sweden. As one of the first European countries to introduce a specific framework law on gender-based violence (the Organic Law 1/2004 on Integrated Protection Measures against Gender Violence) Spain was determined as a suitable location for delegates to learn from. During this time, participants were able to better understand the Spanish model towards preventing gender-based violence (GBV) and protecting victims, including victims of sexualized violence. In particular, participants received in-depth knowledge of how institutions and organizations are implementing unique measures to combat gender-based violence, as well as what could be improved.

Participants began the study visit at the GBV Coordination Unit, General Directorate of Equality of Madrid’s Government. During this visit, participants learned of how the region of Madrid is implementing measures to support and protect victims of GBV, including the several different non-residential and residential services which specialize in various forms of violence against women. Following this, participants visited WAVE Member office, Aspacia, to better understand how Spanish law is implemented, including how different agencies such as the police work with organizations to ensure effective protection. Specifics of Spanish law regarding sexualized violence were clarified, and shortcomings were explained, such as limits of the health system in providing forensics.

The Cimascam Sexual Assault Center (which provides support such as general counselling, legal assistance during the judicial procedures and treatment for complete recovery, training, awareness activities, and psychological care to victim of sexualized violence) welcomed the delegation to their center in the afternoon. In addition to offering a brief tour of the facilities, participants were able to ask questions specifically about the center’s specialized work in the field of supporting victims of sexualized violence as well as Spanish definitions and procedures for violations of various forms of sexualized violence. The shortcomings of definitions regarding sexualized violence in Spain were also discussed, such as the definition of rape, which requires the use of ‘violence or intimidation’.

Interestingly, this same evening there was a public protest in the centre of Madrid (Monday, November 4th) which participants of the working group attended. Hundreds of protesters gathered after a Barcelona court cleared five men of sexual assault charges, ruling that the crime did not fit the legal definition of rape because the unconscious teenage victim did not fight back.

On the second day, participants were welcomed by the specialized GBV police unit, Grupo Luna, which is renowned for its specialist and coordinated model focusing on supporting victims of GBV. Participants learned about the structure of Grupo Luna, how risk assessment is carried out, how the police cooperate with other agencies in the city, how staff are trained on the topic of GBV, the process for instituting emergency barring orders, and how the police unit engages with campaigning and awareness-raising to combat stereotypes which perpetuate GBV in the region. Afterwards, participants visited the magistrate specialized court on gender-based violence. Judge Lucia Ruano Rodriguez offered important insight into the functioning of Madrid’s specialized court, highlighting great achievements during her time serving as a feminist judge in Spain, but also challenges which need to be overcome, particularly as societal norms and practices evolve.

Written by Kelly Blank, WAVE Working Group on sexualized violence coordinator