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Women - If you are the victim of any crime or harassment on the Camino

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JohnnieWalker

Nunca se camina solo
Donating Member
#1
https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/women-if-you-are-the-victim-of-any-crime-or-harassment-on-the-camino.42721/

Members of the Forum will remember the above thread with this title which caused some heat a little while ago. I’d like to report on events since then.

First of all may I say that the intention of the original post was not to be gratuitously critical of the Spanish police or judicial system. It was in many ways a plea that we all take the issue of female pilgrims being harassed more seriously. The debate on the Forum opened the discussion on a number of other fronts.

The matter was raised with the National Police who were swift in saying that no matter any lacunas in the criminal code with respect to flashing and masturbating in public they have sufficient powers (not least under the child protection laws) to deal with individuals who harass female pilgrims in this way. They reiterate their encouragement to REPORT any such incidents to the police. Dialing 112 will give access to operators who speak English if this is required.

The police are even more aware now of concern in the pilgrim community about repeated reports in one or two areas along the Camino Frances and more recently on the Camino Ingles. I am sure we would all accept that they cannot patrol everywhere on the routes all of the time – however reporting as accurately as possible where incidents happen, giving a description of the perpetrator and for example details of car number plates would be very helpful.

Reporting any such incidents to the embassies of the home countries of pilgrims it seems is also welcome as in these times of cutbacks any pressure from whatever source to increase the resources of the police is welcome!

Secondly there is a Spanish doctoral student looking currently at the law around harassment of women in the workplace and more generally and she is very interested in following up the legal aspects of this issue.

The clear message is: if any pilgrim feels they are the target or victim of this kind of behavior they should report it immediately to the police – ask to speak with someone who speaks English if necessary. Also please email your embassy to also report what has happened.
 

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VNwalking

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2014, 2015)
St Olav/Francés (2016)
Baztanés/Francés (2017)
Ingles (July 2018)
#2
It good this is being taken seriously...and we peregrinas have to play our part, too.
In the past I've been one of those who's been guilty of 'just walking on by' and not saying anything to local authorities (twice). I thought flashing was too picayune a thing to report and assumed that nothing would be done anyway--which is a stupid thing to think, in retrospect. So if there is a 'next time' that won't be the way I deal with it, not anymore.
Thanks @JohnnieWalker, for this and for all you do!
 

JohnnieWalker

Nunca se camina solo
Donating Member
#3
It is regrettable that this important issue is in danger of becoming a debate about process rather than substance.

The issue is that there have been occasional problems of men exposing themselves to female pilgrims on parts of the Caminos Francés and Camino Inglés for some years.

In terms of process let me say that I have been in and around Santiago for 10 years now, seven of those working as a volunteer in the Pilgrims Office where several times a year pilgrims reported these incidents. They were of course always advised to report the matter to the police. A little time ago there were further reports that this has been recurring. Because I live here several members of the forum asked if I could raise the matter to see if anything could be done. Given my knowledge of public institutions I realize that they can have many competing priorities particularly in times of financial constraint and often it is important to point out the importance of issues. My Spanish friends were keen to help raise the matter. Therefore as well as everything else reported back to the Forum there have been conversations with people in the aldeas (villages) involved, with alcaldes (local mayors) and the Guardia Civil and National Police. It seems to me that this is a problem that can best be solved by a community approach. That’s where we are.

Now to the substance – the female pilgrims who have written to me are right in saying that they don’t need any more advice about personal safety, there is enough of that already. They also agree that we should continue to point up the importance of always reporting such incidents. And everyone who has emailed me supports the strategy adopted.

Hopefully by turning up the heat on this issue everyone involved will see the need to work towards a solution. I am sure on that we will all be agreed. Can we leave it at that please?
 

VNwalking

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2014, 2015)
St Olav/Francés (2016)
Baztanés/Francés (2017)
Ingles (July 2018)
#5
Hopefully by turning up the heat on this issue everyone involved will see the need to work towards a solution. I am sure on that we will all be agreed. Can we leave it at that please?
Yes, and gratefully, @JohnnieWalker.
I am surprised that there is any controversy at all about this. As a woman who walks a lot of the time alone and who has experienced this kind of 'harmless' behaviour twice, I hope there is effective work toward a solution and applaud your initiative--and all initiatives--to keep the heat turned up about it.
Thank you. And thank you for bringing it here.

I'd like to say that there's a law from last year (2015) that punishes obscene flashing with a fine between 100 and 600 Euros. That new law was used by the Civil Guard to arrest on July 2016 a guy that masturbated in front of a German pilgrim on the Camino del Norte. No idea how it ended the case though.
@Castillian, while I don't understand your points of controversy, and don't want further 'stir' about this, I do thank you for sharing this one piece of information, because this is a change.
If there is any law on the books, it's more likely that we as pilgrims will report and that perpetrators will be brought to court. If you find out what has happened in this case, I for one would be interested to know.
 

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Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata.
#6
@JohnnieWalker I really commend you for trying to get something done. Thank you. In this recent post we had a number of members reporting a lack of response to problems reported by several victims. We have also had threads in the past about problems with flashers. As this forum represents a tiny proportion of pilgrims on the camino (and an even smaller proportion of the total population of Spain) you can be sure the real world issue is much larger.

The world seems to be divided between those who see a problem and act - and those who just argue.
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Camino(s) past & future
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
#7
First, I don't want to seem to minimize the suffering of anyone. Next, I am not blaming victims in anyway. Third, I recognize recent tragic deaths of pilgrims. But I also think we may be occasionally too critical of Spain's efforts. I have been on the receiving end of unwelcome behavior in just about every country through which I've traveled or in which I've lived (including and most often my own). The two exceptions--not counting our own military, I was never bothered in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, nor Iraq. And the only ones who bothered me in Spain were pilgrims. If all police have to go on is "kind of tall, dark hair, then he drove off in a red car" there is only so much they can do. If they are told "he didn't do anything but he kept following me and trying to get my attention,' in a country where locals are always getting pilgrims attention in order to turn them to the right path, or suggest a shortcut, or advertise their cafe/albergue...well. If travel constraints means the victim will not stay until the trial is over...I think a cash-strapped police and legal system might not prosecute a trial they will not win (and without the victim, they will not win it). If you think about it, how much unwanted attention would you get walking alone through isolated and sometimes rough areas in your home country, and if you went to police with limited info and refused to testify at trial, how would they respond?
Women should be alert if walking alone in the type of setting they probably wouldn't be alone in back home. They should report any incidents if they are emotionally able, and if not they should not be criticized. N.B. emotionally unable, not just because reporting be inconvenient, is what gives the pass. Otherwise, if you want to see change be part of it and report. We should understand that sometimes there is not much authorities can do, with what we are able or willing to give them. Maybe we should be asking ourselves what more we can do to help with this problem, not just what more Spain can do.

I think the Camino is a safe place, remarkably so considering the number of people who walk it unable to speak the language, known to be carrying money/iphones/nooks/expensive cameras/expensive gear/etc, and at least a few walking semi-inebriated/hungover. I lived in a recently gentrified part of Baltimore city. For the first few years, crime was remarkably low. Then it exploded, based I think on two things: people realized if you were going to break in or rob someone, the money was in Federal Hill; also, the bars were there, and it's easier to rob someone (young adults who drove to Federal Hill to drink) walking alone at 2 am back to their car in a strange part of the city. At a community meeting, one of our foot patrol officers said if he saw one more Garmin or iPhone left in a car at 3 am he would knock on every rowhouse door until the owner was found and came down to retrieve it. Flashers will go to the Camino like they go to parks in large cities. Robbers like to choose targets with valuables. In any country, and the police struggle in all of them.
 

VNwalking

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2014, 2015)
St Olav/Francés (2016)
Baztanés/Francés (2017)
Ingles (July 2018)
#8
You make some good points, @Smallest Sparrow.
Maybe we should be asking ourselves what more we can do to help with this problem, not just what more Spain can do.
Even as we ask for greater responsiveness, we also have to take responsibility for our own well-being.

So I think that it's important that we educate ourselves (as the thread is doing). And I feel a lot of respect and appreciation for people like @JohnniwWalker who keep the discussion going in official realms. Things like this all too easily end up on the back burner.
 

wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-Santiago-Finistera-Muxia. April/May 2012
Sarria-Santiago Sept. 2013
SJPP - Almost Orrison April 2014
#10
The important thing to remember about this thread IMO is to Report Report Report, that will have more impact localy than long debates on the finer points of the law.
 

jirit

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2007,
Via Francigena Italy, 2008,
Jakobsweg Austria 2010,
Camino Frances 2011,
Le Puy to Lourdes 2012,
Via de la Plata 2013,
Future:
Ökumenischer (Via Regia), Germany,
Lycian Way, Turkey
#11
We can research, and debate the various nuances of Spanish law but I like the KISS principle (keep it simple Sally and Sam)

Common sense should prevail.

If a woman or man is offended, assaulted, or attacked physically, or verbally, by somebody or something they witness, tell the authorities.
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
#12
There have been several posts with inaccurate or misleading information about the current status of the law (including some by me). I have deleted those posts, have deleted some of the tangential bickering, and am going to lock the thread so it will serve its original purpose -- to provide an update on the changing legal system and to remind women to REPORT REPORT REPORT.

But before closing the thread, I took the liberty of providing a description of the current status of flashing under the laws of Spain as explained to me by a Spanish national prosecutor. Things have changed since 2015, and this post describes those changes.

The penal code (criminal law) only punishes flashing when it is done before minors or the handicapped. The new law from 2015, the Law of Citizen Security, is not a criminal law. It is what in Spain is referred to as an administrative law. Flashing/exhibitionism under that law is catagorized as a “minor infraction” and carries with it a fine of 100 to 600 euros. All people of any age or ability level are protected under that law. But noone can be arrested or detained by the police for a minor infraction. (If the perpetrator doesn’t carry ID with him when stopped, though, he can be brought into the station, but technically that is not because of the infraction but because of the lack of ID).

The administrative law prohibits “attempts against sexual freedom” or incidents that “cause damage to your sexuality.” It took me a while to understand how flashing me can harm my sexuality or my sexual freedom, but my friend explained it in these terms, though I am translating here: “We are all free to enjoy our own sexuality so long as we respect the sexuality of others. If someone masturbates in my presence against my will, he is infringing on my sexual freedom because he is obliging me to watch it. No one has the right to upset my own “sexual equilibrium” without my consent."

This new law accomplished a couple of changes in Spain. Before the law, each municipality had the option to pass its own administrative ordinance against flashing (or not). This new law applies throughout Spain. It also standardizes the fine levels – from 100 to 600 euros. Before this law, even in those cities with ordinances against flashing, the fines were laughable, she remembers some of 20-30 euros.

So here are my take-aways from all this tedious legal minutia. One, authorities now have the power to punish flashing on the Camino, though the penalties may not be as high as some would like. Two, the drumbeat of report, report, report is even more pertinent now, because as of 2015 there is a written law that can form the basis of real action. As John's post indicates, there is still work to be done to make sure that the authorities take this seriously. Finally, and also as John has suggested, if these penalties do not have an impact on the problem, alternative campaigns, including pressure to change the law, seem likely.

If you have a factual update to report in connection with these efforts, please PM me, JohnnieWalker, or the moderators, and we will add that information. The arguments and incorrect information did nothing to advance the important content contained in this post. This thread will be limited to factual statements about relevant updates. Thanks, buen camino, Laurie
 
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