One of the things that shocks most of the tourists when they come to the Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona is that although there is a lot of alcohol involved in the party, there is almost no violence. Locals have always been proud of this. The vibe in town is of celebration and not of violence. As we are a small community where everybody knows everybody I never thought that my wife, my daughter, or any women at all needed to be protected. It never crossed my mind that I needed to be worried.
PAMPLONA, A CITY AGAINST SEXUAL HARASSMENT
On July 7, 2016 we woke up to a terrible nightmare. It was the first time a girl reported that she had been raped during the festival. Five assholes (sorry for that) from out of town drugged and raped her. These five animals were captured and placed in prison to wait for their trial. This trial was all over the media in Spain because it was not as simple as five guys against one girl. The issue is that there are images of the five guys and the girl looking for hotel rooms. As they didn´t find any rooms in town, they did it in the street.
So, was it rape or consensual sex? Call me old-fashioned, but five guys and one girl? To me that is rape, and if there are drugs involved, it is even more clear. The unfortunate outcome of all this was that the judge did not consider this situation a rape, and the five guys were let off free of charge.
When the verdict came out, it was the same time of the beginning of the #metoo movement all around the world. In Spain, we all marched in the streets against this verdict, it was unacceptable. All public pressure persuaded the city of Pamplona to sue the guys directly in a civil case. This second time, they were found guilty.
But that was not enough. We needed to create a system so girls and women would feel safe. It was then, that the “NO MEANS NO” movement started in Pamplona. At the beginning it was a citizens’ initiative, but our city hall and many local companies quickly joined the movement.
A lot has changed since 2016
Many things have changed thanks to this:
– The police procedures in case of sexual abuse have sped up drastically. In less than 30 minutes after a girl reports an assault, there are two patrols searching the streets for the culprits.
– All the tests that are required in a hospital are now performed only by female medical professionals.
– To me, the most impressive initiative is the “red pin”. You will find people in Pamplona wearing one on their shirts, a red open-hand pin. Whoever wears this pin is making a promise to help any woman in need of help and get her to a safe place— a home, a hotel, no matter how far it is. A girl just has to grab your hand and ask you to walk her home.
It was three o’clock in the morning on July 12th, 2018, when I was walking back home, after a long day at work, when a stranger suddenly grabbed my hand and said “walk me home” It was not just those three words, it was how she said them. There was both fear and relief, all in those 3 words.
This woman—we’ll call her María— also finishing her long day at work. As she was walking home, she realized that a weird guy was following her. It was then that she saw the red pin I was wearing. The guy vanished when he saw her walking with somebody. We immediately reported the situation to the police, and after a couple of cups of chamomile tea, I accompanied her home.
The week before the Running of the Bulls, over 20,000 pins are given away in Pamplona´s main square. We take this issue very seriously. We want women coming to Pamplona willing to have fun and not be afraid.
It is my wish that my daughter never feels unsafe, but if she does, I hope there is a “red open hand” willing to walk her home.