Ombudsman calls for a "thorough investigation" of Institut del Teatre abuse and points to more cases

Ribó believes it is "evident" there has been "abuse and harassment" and asks centre to be proactive in seeking more victims and hearing reports from the past

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Students of the IT and other performing arts centres protesting in the streets of Barcelona this past February

BarcelonaCatalan ombudsman Rafael Ribó has been very forceful in his assessment of claims of sexual harassment and abuse of power at the Institut del Teatre uncovered by ARA in February: "It is clear that there have been situations of abuse of power, sexual harassment and even sexual abuse". In fact, Ribó explained that the Institut del Teatre has to "promote a thorough investigation" because the facts are "more extensive than what has been presented so far" and recommended that the Institut investigate the cases of former students who filed complaints and that the current protocol does not allow it to investigate. "It should be given a broader scope, include former students and responsibilities attributable to professionals," concluded Ribó, who believes that there has been "failures" by the center in its duty to "protect" students.

In this sense, ombudsman assistant Maria Jesus Larios, has asked the Institut to have a "proactive" attitude when investigating all possible cases that have occurred over the decades in the centre, seeking possible victims who have not taken the step of contacting the Institut in recent months. "It makes no sense that people who are not at the institution are not part of the investigation," said Larios, who gave an example to define how the institution could act: "The administration has the list of all students".

Ribó has put the institution in the limelight, but also some teachers who were aware of the situations that occurred at the Institut and did nothing to stop it: "For years there was a situation of knowledge and even some cases played out in public, and were communicated by students to teachers". Thus, despite the fact that part of the staff had knowledge of these situations "that violated the rights of students continuously over time", some teachers "did not act in accordance with students' right to be protected", explained the trustee, who has also recognised that it did not "act ex officio with due diligence" and that this breach of the protection of students can "constitute institutional violence". The duty of the administration when there is evidence of sexual harassment or abuse "cannot be subordinated to the existence of formal complaints," added Ribó.

Moral and economic reparation

Larios insisted that a way will have to be found for the institution to regain "trust" and that this happens in order to repair the damage suffered by students who suffered harassment and abuse: "What we recommend is reparation. It can be economic or moral, involves recognition of the facts, asking for forgiveness and psychological care"

The ombudsman has passed a series of recommendations to improve the response to the situations denounced on to both the Barcelona Education Consortium and the Barcelona Provincial Council, which the Institut del Teatre is dependent on. The Consortium welcomes the points made by the Ombudsman and has responded that it fully accepts them, while the Provincial Council has not yet made a statement.

In the appearance Ribó has also referred to the case of sexual abuse in Lleida's Aula de Teatre, which was also uncovered by ARA a year ago. In this case, according to the ombudsman, Lleida City Council and the centre have tried to respond to the needs of the students who suffered the abuses.