It will not be too late for child victims of abuse to report their attackers in Spain. The country’s Congress on Thursday (20) approved its first child violence protection law, which, among other measures, extends the statute of limitations for these cases and prevents victims from leaving more traumatized in a possible process.
The legislation has gained momentum after a letter from British pianist James Rhodes who publicly denounced being abused by a teacher at his school. Based in Madrid, Rhodes asked Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to sponsor the child protection legislation.
In the text, published in 2018, the pianist said that the way in which the legal system dealt with child abuse in Spain prevented reparation for this violence, on which he could express his opinion as he had been “raped on several occasions. ” in his childhood. – which led him to several suicide attempts and years of hospitalization.
According to Rhodes, government action was needed to prevent similar stories from happening again. “Even though we don’t see it with our own eyes, right now a child is being raped. It always happens, ”he wrote.
According to the Spanish government, recorded crimes against minors exceeded 40,000 in 2019, and children and adolescents are around half of the victims of sexual assault. Campaigners say the numbers are much higher because most cases do not reach the police. It is estimated that about 8% of men and 20% of women have experienced at least one episode of sexual abuse as a child.
Spanish children begin to be subjected to violence on average at the age of 9 and a half, according to a study by the Anar Foundation (Help for children and young people at risk) and those who asked for help took at least two years to gain courage and do it. the complaint. The average age of the victims was 11.5 years, in 23,312 cases analyzed by Anar.
Sexual abuse was at the root of 88.6% of complaints received by the entity in its helplines, between 2008 and 2019. According to the foundation, cases of violence against children have increased at a higher rate at 10% per year in Spain over the past decade. In a third of them, injuries occur and in almost 7%, more serious injuries, such as fractures.
According to the organization, the law recently approved in Spain should facilitate the prevention of violence and its early detection. The project creates protocols for schools, sports clubs, training centers and other youth institutions and sets up channels through which children and young people can be heard. It also prohibits unaccompanied minors – such as young immigrants arriving alone in Spain – from being naked during medical or police examinations.
Based on research that indicates that child victims of sexual violence take years to overcome trauma and develop sufficient maturity and courage to cope with their abuser, the reporting deadline now begins at age 35, and no longer at 18. from 5 to 20 years after this limit, that is to say when the victim is 40 years old or, in more serious cases, 55 years old.
In her letter, Rhodes suggested that boys and girls who are victims of rape should be heard in private and always assuming they are telling the truth, which has been incorporated into the law.
In order to prevent children from having to relive the violence in several testimonies (what experts call revictimization), the text specifies that minors under the age of 14 must be heard only once, during investigation. In Brazil, the single testimony modality became federal law in 2017.
The law requires the government to propose within one year a project to create investigative bodies and courts specializing in violence against children. The text was approved by 297 votes in favor and 52 against, from the far-right Vox party, which deemed it “contrary to the family”.