Why this story matters:
Isabel Ventura is a professor, sociologist and feminist scholar who has studied how the Portuguese judicial system deals with sexual and violent crimes against women in her latest book "Medusa no Palácio da Justiça ou Uma História da Violação Sexual” (no English version available yet, but the translation goes along the lines of "Medusa in the Justice Palace or a History of Sexual Violation"). Ventura analyzed court decisions and reached a frightening conclusion: women who are victims of these kind of crimes are usually not protected by the system.
In a world where women rights are still not respected fully and where gender equality is still a promise waiting to be fulfilled, news like this helps to put a finger on the problem and show what needs to be done.
When talking about sexual assault in Portugal, a 1989 judicial decision usually comes up: a court convicted two men for raping two young tourists who had hitchhiked with them, but not without stating that "the women were hitchhiking in the middle of the Iberian male hunting area," as if to say they were asking for it.
In her book -- and in this interview -- Ventura states that this is not a one-off event and explains how the judicial system does not protect women who have been victimized.
The problem, she claims, might be even connected to ideas that still exist in Portuguese society: "If the person has erotic charisma, he doesn't need to rape anyone; if he has money, he also doesn't need to rape -- he buys [sex]", she explains. That's why the sociologist does not believe a case like La Manada (the Wolf Pack), where five men were convicted of the lesser charge of sexual assault instead of rape, would provoke the same outrage in Portugal as it did in Spain.
Details from the story:
- Isabel Ventura is a Doctor of Sociology. She currently works as a lecturer at the Catholic University, in Oporto, teaching a course titled "Law and Gender: the sexual crime case."
- Her investigation has pointed out how court decisions seem to focus on thoroughly discussing the female body, such as the concept of virginity, or using very phallocentric descriptions.
- The judicial system does not encourage victims to come forward, she says. Only 11 in 100 women who press charges go all the way to a trial.
- Society does not believe the victim when the assaulter has social status or when they have had a previous relationship, Ventura points out.