One year after the Lleida Aula de Teatre case: "I won't forget, but it won't stop me from being happy"
The women who reported the incident a year ago explain what it has meant to take this step forward
BarcelonaIt all started when Goretti stood up at a meeting of Dones a Escena and said what she had been keeping for herself for 15 years: "In our city there has also been abuse". Next to her was Marta. Both had been abused by Antonio Gómez when they were teenagers. The two now remember the process that began that day before a group of colleagues in the performing arts that led to the complaint against Gómez and another teacher. A process that accelerated a year ago with an article in the ARA that explained the 20 years of abuses in the Aula de Teatre de Lleida, which Isabel Coixet has now turned into a documentary.
There were two of them, but they ended up being nine. They formed their circle, a space of complicity that became a refuge. They are a group of girls who have created a deep bond, who have made a painful but at the same time healing journey together. "When one girl says "I can't take it anymore", the others say "it's okay, we're here", says Marta. And when doubts and fears came, there was always Dones a Escena. "They were our shield, without them we wouldn't be here", says Goretti.
Since the case broke out, they have had to devote a lot of "time and effort" to move forward: conversations with the City Council, testifying to the commission of inquiry and now leaving their testimony in a documentary piece to help "people who we know still suffer or have suffered". An emotional toll that would be rewarded if they managed to reopen the case, but above all if it helped to make visible a widespread phenomenon. "Imagine the value our stories would have if they served as a witness for other people".
Nevertheless, taking the step, first explaining the story and finally coming forward -even though they all did theatre and some of them still practice it-, has not been easy at all: "Now we explain our life, we are not behind a character", says Marta. "At the beginning it was very difficult for me to take on the word victim, but naming it, what I was so afraid of, has brought me a lot of peace. Now I feel comfortable talking about it, the other day in a training I said: "I am a survivor". I have used it to inspire other people".
"By talking you feel heard, you know you are not the only one. Sharing the memory makes it less painful, keeping it inside and keeping silent makes it harder", says Goretti. Despite the fact that doing so implies placing oneself at the centre of a debate full of impulses. And even more so in a small town: "Often they end up judging us, not the abuser".
When they think about the response they have received after reporting the facts, they both remember a phrase that another of the girls, Sònia, always repeats: "It is as painful what Antonio did to us as, 20 years later, that they tell us that they didn't know anything". They have seen with a certain "frustration" how the case of the Institut de Teatre meant a tsunami of reactions and the beginning of a change, while with the case of the Aula everything is moving very slowly. "What else do we have to do?" they ask. "We've waited for 20 years, we can't wait any longer", asks Marta, who sees how little by little "the oil stain" that they themselves helped to spread is getting bigger: people are losing their fear of breaking the silence. Two months ago, last March, the Aula issued a statement apologising to the women, and a mediation process has begun with the Paeria (the Lleida Town Hall).
"We are nine normal w"
Proof of this change was the demonstration in Lleida on 5 March, with half a thousand people shouting "enough" under the slogan "This is not theater." "It was restorative, it was the social response we needed", says Goretti. "We saw that we can begin to close the circle, that there are people who have taken our testimony", says Marta. They have also seen changes in their environment. Not only because of the messages from former classmates apologising for not having realised what was happening in the classroom, but also because many people, such as a group of men in the sector, "after reading the article have checked themselves, looking to see if they have hurt anyone".
The girls arrived at the first -virtual- meeting with Coixet with many doubts. About the "what and the how". Especially the how. But "we talked to her and we said yes very quickly, she didn't want to know anything about what had happened to us, because she had already read about it, and we felt listened to". "We are nine normal girls", Goretti sums up. "We are not sad girls who spend our lives crying" and this is exactly what they saw that Coixet wanted to explain, says Marta: "I don't forget Antonio, nor do I forgive him, but he won't stop me from moving on with my life and being happy".