Rape? For one Portuguese court it was mutual flirting

After passing out from drinking too much, a woman was raped by two men in a night club bathroom. The court convicted them of sexual abuse -- but opted for a suspended sentence due to the presence of alcohol and a "mutual flirting environment".

Catia Bruno
Cátia Bruno NewsMavens, Portugal
Rape? For one Portuguese court it was mutual flirting - NewsMavens
Vila Nova de Gaia, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Some people have been calling it the Portuguese "La Manada" case. Two men, a barman and a bouncer from a night club, raped a completely unconscious 26 year-old woman in a night club bathroom, after the bar closed for the night.

The court considered that there was enough evidence to prove the woman was raped and convicted the two men to more than four years in prison. What made this a controversial decision is the fact that the same court decided to suspend their sentence, claiming that there were plenty of mitigating circumstances: the environment of "mutual flirting" and "alcohol abuse" in the location where the criminal act happened, the fact the rapists and the victim knew each other and the absence of physical violence.

It is worth pointing out the victim was completely unconscious due to alcohol consumption and unable to defend herself or consent.

The next day, both men contacted the victim to stress that the sexual encounter had been consensual. "If you have regrets now, it's not my fault", one of them texted her. 

The case has created a stir amongst some circles in Portugal, aggravated by the fact that one of the deciding judges is currently President of the Judges' Union. A sentence like this is particularly relevant in a country where women are pressing charges for rape crimes more than ever (there has been a 20% increase from 2016 to 2017).

Are Portuguese courts trying to do justice to rape victims?

Details from the story:

  • The suspended sentence for four years in prison was upheld by an appeals court.
  • According to the prosecution, both men show no regret for their actions.
  • The court claims both men are "well integrated in society, professionally and in family matters" and also "have no criminal record". For the judges, that means they will likely not relapse, hence the suspended sentence.
  • A female judicial officer says off record that this is "the Portuguese La Manada". "It is revolting how courts always do this, acquitting the aggressors' behavior in cases of crimes against women", she says. 
  • Some law experts point out that the court didn't focus on the victim's situation. It was not even taken into account the effects the assault had on her psychologically -- a situation that the appeal court has criticized.
  • La Manada is the 2016 Spanish case in which 5 men raped an 18 year old girl and were sentenced only for lesser charges. It sparked a Europe-wide conversation about violence against women.
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