Sexual Offense–Spain soccer controversy: Luis Rubiales & player Jennifer Hermoso. Opinion: Virginia Domingo de la Fuente (Spain)–September 2023
The following is an opinion piece by RJI Global Advisory Council member Virgnia Domingo de la Fuente (Spain). Find the Spanish version of this opinion at the bottom of the post. Does restorative justice apply? Read on. (the original Spanish version of this article is at the end of this blog post)
RESTORATIVE JUSTICE TO ADDRESS SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN THE CASE OF LUIS
Virginia Domingo de la Fuente
Member of the Global Advisory Council of Restorative Justice International
President of the Scientific Society of Restorative Justice
The president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), Luis Rubiales, kissed the
player Jennifer Hermoso on the mouth at the medal ceremony after the 2023 World Cup
in Australia and New Zealand. An action that the player herself later admitted that she
had not liked it and that it caused a wave of criticism from different social and political
classes. Rubiales, after trying to downplay the fact, ended up apologizing
Everything that happened afterwards is a clear example of What things should not be
done in these cases in which there is sexual violence. Nothing that has been seen and
done has benefited the affected player and has also clouded what should be a
celebration for What was achieved.
WHAT CANNOT BE DONE IN CASES OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE
When the kiss occurred, many people automatically criticized what happened and
came out to defend the unacceptable nature of this action. Many “knights without cloak
or sword” began to cry out for what had happened and in defense of the player. Those
of you reading this will say that this is something good however, it seems that it is still
necessary for knights-errant to defend the honor of women. It is an act in itself that only
shows that micromachismos are in our daily lives and that we finally accept them as
This would only be an anecdote if it weren’t for the fact that they didn’t let the affected
person think about what happened, reflect on how she felt and what she needed. In
these types of actions, women affected do not always feel victims or damaged from the
beginning, due to these micromachismos we sometimes normalize behaviors that are
not normal and realizing this takes time. The media commotion with thousands of
people, including many men and many women giving their opinion, meant that the
player was forced to take the position of victim without having had time to reflect. But
the most incredible thing is that all the people seem to know what Jennifer needs and
above all it seems that they treat the player as a person who is not capable of deciding
for herself. This is what harms the most to the people who have suffered these damages,
the idea that the victims are incapable beings, who need protection and people to
defend them and claim their interests. Unfortunately we take power away from the
people who should have the most say in a case that affects them so directly.
What should have been done was to have talked to the player, given her time to think
about what happened and, above all, tried to take action once she had understood the
damage she had suffered and thought about how this had affected her.For days all the people have been talking about it and the player was forced to speak,
without thinking if she was ready for it or not. And finally, when she spoke, again the
micromachismos came to light in headlines like this one from a sports newspaper that
said: “Jenni drops Rubiales.”
A clear example of how the system, the institutions re-victimize the victims in general
but especially of sexual violence. Her silence is not respected, she is forced to position
herself as a victim even without knowing when she was, to later blame her for what
could happen to Mr. Rubiales. Everything reported has been re-victimizing because she
has been forced to take the role of victim without taking into account her needs and
expectations, and without giving her time, but also when she makes a statement, she is
blamed for the consequences of what may happen after that fact.
A nonsense that should make us rethink how to treat women who suffer sexual violence:
• Women must be given time to think, digest what happened, so that they can
understand that what happened is not normal, but without wanting to turn all
women into victims. A woman may feel damaged by what happened but she may
not feel like a victim. We cannot distribute roles, it should be the affected people
who assess their situation. This does not mean downplaying or minimizing what
happened, it tries to empower the woman so that she decides how she wants to
manage what she has suffered.
• We must stop thinking about women who suffer as incapable beings in need of
protection and defense. We do not need defenders, we need respect for the
times, our needs and our ability to value what we want.
• It is important that Media can be careful in how these damages are treated since
What finally occurred is that they end up re-victimizing the woman (even if after
the damage she did not feel like a victim, but only damaged by an event that
should never have happened) And she also ends up being blamed for what
happened or what may happen. These facts should be removed from the social
and media debate, above all, respecting the rights of the player to decide
whether or not she wants to report.
RESTORATIVE JUSTICE HELPS TO MANAGE THESE DAMAGES IN A HEALING AND ABOVE
ALL RESPECTFUL WAY
Many times people think that restorative justice cannot be used for crimes of sexual
violence, a view that is precisely based on ideas such as that the victim could be harmed.
This makes us reflect again that we treat women who suffer these damages as incapable.
However, understanding that restorative justice is not just a joint meeting, we can design
a series of interventions so that women can heal and, if possible, the aggressors
understand the impact of their actions.But focusing on the people who suffer these damages, restorative justice has an
important role, as we have seen in the Ave Fénix program for victims of sexual violence
we are facilitating and in any case, this is demonstrated every time an intervention with
a restorative approach is carried out with victims of these crimes.
We are talking about a restorative intervention that does not replace nor is it equivalent
to other possible non-restorative measures such as psychological care. Restorative
justice is not therapy, however it has therapeutic effects, which is why it can be the ideal
complement to help people.
Whether we use an individual restorative justice program or manage harm through a
different restorative tools, the important thing about restorative justice is that we do not
decided for the people who have suffered harm. Restorative justice listens to those
affected, gives them a voice, and a series of possibilities to assess what they need to feel
repaired or at least respected after the harm.
The essential thing about restorative justice is that it provides spaces for storytelling and
for silence. Therefore, there is no pressure if victim does not speak, there is no
questioning why she does not want to tell her version, the silences are simply respected.
People will speak when they feel ready and in any case, it should not become something
that can be discussed by the entire society. In this narrative, when it occurs, people are
listened with empathy and above all it is not about judging, there is no advice, nor an
opinion, the owner of the story and the narrative is the woman. No one but her is the
protagonist. Once the person is ready to speak, the narrative gives us the opportunity to
tell our story, it gives us the idea of where we want to go, it creates a sense of what we
have experienced and gives us the opportunity to create ownership over our own story.
And for this storytelling we need support and safety (this safe space allows people to
share stories and avoid the danger of a single story). Single stories are generally created
by the aggressors and are aimed at minimizing or justifying what happened. But if we
force a person who has been assaulted to speak before they are ready, we can reinforce
this unique story and even make more arguments in its favor. (assumptions such as why
she hasn’t spoken yet, why she said what she said, why she didn’t do something else…
are reflections that victimize but also give “wings” to the story of the aggressor). In this
sense, restorative justice provides these spaces of security to challenge invisibility
(behind the damage there is a woman who is not incapable and does not need to be
defended), it gives confidence and, above all, it generates the possibility of expanding
the story. “This has happened to me, but I am much more than this”, in this case, she is
a player who has made history by winning a World Cup. Only in this way can we offer a
possibility of healing or if she does not feel like a victim, at least in this way we will show
respect for what she has experienced and give her the opportunity to tell how she feels
and what she needs if necessary to regain control of her life.
Restorative justice repairs people who repair communities that repair worlds and stories.
In this case and many others, we should not decide for the victims, we should offer
people different options and restorative care so that they can feel repaired and respected. From there this should transcend the community so that it can feel repaired
from the structural damage that systematically generates a society anchored in
patriarchy and erroneous values based on supposed gender differences.
Only in this way can we also repair the damage created by the system anchored in years
of inherited beliefs and thus we can prevent these acts of sexual violence from
continuing to be repeated.
For the hashtag it is over (similar to me too in EEUU) to make even more sense, we
should think about investing in more humane justice, stop deciding for the victims,
respect the spaces so they can decide what they want to do, not judge or question their
decisions and offer them restorative spaces to be able to tell their story, needs and
expectations. And this means stopping thinking that all restorative justice is reduced to
an encounter with the aggressor, that restorative justice is therapy and is done by
psychologists, or that restorative justice re-victimizes victims of sexual violence.
As we have seen, what harms victims is traditional justice, advocates who pressure
harmed people to do what they are supposed to do, and all the media that encourages
the harmed person to feel pressured and more victim if possible. As Kay Pranis says,
“Circles enable a process to live a direct experience of justice when there has been an
imbalance of power in relationships.” Circles are one of the restorative tools that we use
most when we carry out restorative interventions with victims or aggressors of sexual
violence. Circles can re-balance relationships and give a sense of justice.
Spanish version here: https://www.lawandtrends.com/noticias/penal/justicia-