After ‘Wolf Pack’ Case, Campaigns Against Sexual Assault Take Over Spain Bull Fest

Alvaro BarrientosAP Images

This year’s San Fermin festival, which kicked off on Friday, melds the topic of sexual abuse into celebrations and bull runs that claim nine days and eight nights.

The Associated Press reported that the tally of sexual assaults during the festivities in Pamplona, a city in northern Spain, has risen from just two a decade ago to 22 in 2017. The “Wolf Pack” incident of 2016, when five men filmed themselves gang raping an 18-year-old woman, drew international attention and sparked outrage.

A provincial court struck down the rape charges against the five “Wolf Pack” members, who received nine years behind bars on lesser charges of sexual abuse.

“I don’t want my city to be known as a place for rampant sexual abuse or the torture of animals,” said Jana Uriz, a 32-year-old local animal-rights activist who demands a “sexual-abuse free” festival.

The episode has remained in the spotlight with the government launching a revision of the sentences. Only last month it reignited criticism when the perpetrators were released on bail pending a decision on their appeal.

While calls for a boycott have reverberated on social media, Pamplona officials took measures to create a safer festival this year. Police surveillance intensified, 24-hour hotlines opened and a mobile app launched to allow for instant reporting of abuse, sending the exact location of the victim to the police.

Yet, these initiatives did not stop hundreds of women from taking to the streets on Wednesday night to protest patriarchy.

“Fear needs to change sides,” said Naia Mira.

Deutsche Welle reported that Spain ranks 17th among its European peers for the prevalence of sexual assaults, which amounted to 18.6 cases per 100,000 residents in 2015. Since the “Wolf Pack” incident, the number has gone up, according to Eurostat.

Galvanized by their own #MeToo movement, Spanish women have united around slogans such as “I believe you, sister” and “Drunk and alone, I want to get home” to fight sexual harassment and spur judicial overhauls in the way sexual crimes are handled.

The city of Pamplona has launched its own grass-roots campaign, called “Pamplona – free from sexual harassment.”

“Now more than ever we women have to fill the streets, fill the ‘fiestas’ and fill the night because you will have that assurance that there are women in the street with you,” said Laura Berro, Pamplona city councilwoman for equality and LGBTI rights.