Police are investigating whether more women may have been sexually assaulted by a group of men from the eastern Spanish province of Alicante, after they were caught earlier this month attacking a 19-year old girl. The suspects, who were arrested on January 1, have been dubbed “la manada de Callosa d’En Sarrià,” the latter a reference to their home town, and la manada meaning “the wolf pack” – echoing the name of the group of men involved in the Running of the Bulls sexual assault, a 2016 case that shocked Spain (see sidebar).
The four members of the gang were well known and feared in the seaside resort city of Benidorm
The four members of the Alicante gang were well known and feared in the seaside resort city of Benidorm, located around 20 kilometers from their homes. They are reported to have acted with impunity, committing a number of violent and sexual assaults. Such was their sense of being beyond the law that they took their latest victim to one of their homes, where they recorded the entire ordeal on their cellphones.
But it seems that even their own families had had enough of them, and it was the sister of one of the gang who reported them to the authorities. Since the arrests, the police and Civil Guard are hoping that more victims will come forward, given that the gang is already suspected of other assaults.
At a time when gender violence is at the center of political debate in Spain, and in the wake of the sexual assault and murder of 26-year-old Laura Luelmo, this latest case of sexual assault has echoes of the 2016 Running of the Bulls sexual assault case. A group of five men were found guilty of sexually abusing an 18-year-old at the 2016 Sanfermines fiestas in Pamplona, northern Spain. The defendants were tried for sexual assault (rape) but were found guilty of the lesser charge of sexual abuse, and handed nine-year prison sentences and a €50,000 fine. The case became known as La Manada (The Wolf Pack) after the name of the WhatsApp chat group used by the five men and other friends of theirs. One of the defendants was a member of the armed forces while another was a Civil Guard.
The girl who alerted the police was in the upper floor of the house where the assault allegedly took place, according to Civil Guard sources. At one point, she descended into the basement and found her brother and three of his friends – all aged between 19 and 24 years old – surrounding the victim, who was naked from the waist down. She immediately called the police, telling them what she had seen. On entering the property, the Civil Guard caught the men in the act – one of them was on top of the young woman, while another one was pulling up his pants as the officers arrived.
The four were arrested on January 1, and three days later a judge ordered them to be jailed, accusing them of one count of sexual assault and another two of sexual abuse. One of the suspects already has a criminal record for gender violence and sexually abusing a minor.
During the arrest, officers found that the attackers had recorded the assault on their cellphones. The videos show that the victim tried to escape the attack, but the state in which she was found – under the effects of alcohol, and possibly some kind of inhibitory drug – meant that she was unable to defend herself.
The police investigating the case have requested a complete toxicology report to confirm these suspicions, given that the victim did not remember what had happened and was clearly disoriented. “She could barely walk,” the investigators explained in a report. The results of these tests could take one or two months to arrive.
Police in nearby Villajoyosa and Callosa d’En Sarrià suspect that there are at least two more cases of sexual assaults carried out by the same individuals, given that they had similar characteristics. They are not ruling out more coming to light, given that possible victims may feel safer now that the suspects are behind bars.
In Spain, a total of 1,305 assaults with penetration were reported between January and September 2018, according to data from the Interior Ministry. That works out at five rapes a day, one ever four hours or so, representing a 23% increase on 2017.
Even so, Eurostat places Spain among the European countries with the lowest number of reports of rape. Of 32 countries analyzed by the European Union’s statistics office, it is 25th on the list. While in Sweden there were 56.8 rape reports for every 100,000 inhabitants in 2015, in Spain there were 2.65 reports, 20 times less.
English version by Simon Hunter.