Domestic violence

Rocío Carrasco and the most silent violence

Celebrity's statements in an interview put on the table the difficulties of identifying and reporting psychological abuse

4 min
Rocío Carrasco in one of the images of the documentary.

BarcelonaThe interview with Rocío Carrasco and her overwhelming testimony explaining how she suffered various forms of violence from her former partner, Antonio David Flores, has generated a great deal of controversy. At the heart of Carrasco's account is a type of violence that is still unknown and very difficult to prove: psychological violence. We talked to experts on this issue and the importance that the celebrity's words, which has aroused plenty of sympathy, could have.

Podemos MP Irene Montero shows her support

What good has Rocío Carrasco's testimony done?

Alba Alfageme, a psychologist specialising in gender violence, believes that the interview in prime time "has great potential because it allows it to reach many homes". It puts the issue of gender violence on the table - "one out of every two women has suffered it; therefore, we have to take advantage of every loophole to talk about this issue," says Alfageme. Her message, says criminal lawyer Carla Vall, can reach "segments of society that are not familiar with this issue and where gender violence has often been trivialised". That is why she considers that Carrasco's testimony has been "a gift", because it has put the media spotlight on "a very deep testimony" and made it "mainstream". This has made it possible to talk about gender violence and has had a similar impact to that of Ana Orantes, who was murdered by her husband in 1997 shortly after stating on an Andalusian television programme that she was being abused.

Why do most complaints fail in court?

Along with child sexual abuse, psychological violence is the great failure in the fight against domestic violence, says Mon Tur, a family lawyer who specialises in divorce mediation. It is difficult for cases to be successful - she says - because apparently the insults and humiliations "leave no trace" and as the woman "is not inactive, it can be presented as a fight between two", despite the fact that psychological reports show a "syndrome comparable to that of post-traumatic shock disorder". For psychologist Alba Alfageme, the large number of cases that that fail is due to the fact that the judicial system "is not prepared to understand it" because it is "designed for criminal acts that have to do with strangers who commit a crime". From experience, Vall says that in court the victim "has no chance of winning" because they try to "dissolve psychological violence within a bad relationship or a conflictive relationship".

The risk, Alfageme warns, is that after the interview there have been talk shows "with unprofessional characters giving their opinions" and with popular polls asking viewers who they support: Carrasco or Flores, as if it were a football match. "I'm afraid that this is a bad example for women who want to report," she says. This is a point on which the family lawyer and member of Dones Juristes Natàlia Santandreu agrees, but she says that the context of the testimony is overcome by "a gesture of courage" that helps to break the silence: eight out of ten victims do not report.

What is parental alienation syndrome?

In her testimony, Carrasco talks about how her ex-husband made their children want nothing to do with her, a separation that, socially, made her appear as "a bad mother", an attribute that many women have earned when they have lost custody, says Mon Tur. Until recently, Spanish law criminalised as "parental alienation" the fact of instigating children to go against or not want to see the other parent, but the WHO has rejected this term. "It is an invention, a syndrome that does not exist," Santandreu stresses, and has been used to "blame abused mothers who prevented their children from seeing with the abusive father".

Why does the abuser hurt the children?

Tur claims that the children are "the vehicle, because the abuser knows that is what hurts the mother the most". According to official data, since 2013 in Spain 38 children have been killed by parents, mostly fathers. But violence against minors is not only physical, but they have also been recognised as direct victims of domestic violence for a decade. The use of children "is a very powerful weapon" to punish women, says Carla Vall.

Is a complaint credible years after the aggressions?

The fact of denouncing or even explaining that one is a victim of domestic violence is a hard process: on average it takes eight years between the events and the report. That is why it is important that the victim's close social circle is alert and accompanies her at all times. "If you have not intervened, you were partly responsible, and that is why the only way out is to minimise what the victim says and deny her testimony," argues Vall in relation to the "blindness" that society often has towards the victims. Accepting this means "facing a conflict" about how to relate to the victim and the aggressor.

Have the courts adapted to the treatment of this violence?

For Tur, the courts, rather than a solution, are a problem in the case of divorce, because they are "designed for the couple to hurt each other". The experts are forceful in agreeing that justice is many steps behind society. Santandreu speaks of conservatism "and of a very strong institutional violence" that makes it difficult for the gender perspective to take root, and Vall speaks directly of a "completely misogynist" outlook and points out that sociological Francoism "has impregnated the judiciary, the laws and the mechanisms of denunciation".