“Gender-based violence is systematically being questioned throughout a fallacy”

miguel lorente

Forensic doctor, since 2008 Lorente is the delegate of the Spanish government for Gender-based Violence.

In an article of yours recently published in Pikara Magazine entitled “El posmachismo está aquí”( Post male-chauvinism is here) you state that “The critical reaction towards equality is not very different from those that took place before when trying to put an end to privileges of blood, religion or race”. What privileges do you think you have for being a man today in Spain?

I think I am a little different man in this sense. Since I was a child I was aware of the privileges that I had for being the son of a rural town doctor, but I did not want them because they did not depend on me. I wanted to be more myself in the sense of being one more, to be able to keep in touch with more people, to break the norms of behaviour that were supposed I would have followed for being the son of the doctor, for being a man.

Nevertheless men do have privileges, the fundamental of which is being a man in an unequal society. It is not the fact of obtaining certain things as much as that all of them are designed so that there are men who can benefit from them. This does not mean that all men do it, but we have an added value, especially as far as the concept of authority as a reference is regarded.

When I’ve talked about gender-based violence my words have had more weight and credibility than those of many women with more experience and knowledge. Not to mention that delegating certain elements of care and affection to the woman and profiting from this situation without ever questioning why something doesn’t work is an injustice that we cannot allow neither as a society nor as men. There should be no situation where a man doesn’t have to take responsibility for the simple fact of being one.

How do you deal with this in your private life?

I think we, as men, need to resign our privileges and to take on our responsibilities. From a personal point of view there is nothing my wife and I have in common that is not the responsibility of both of us.

Equality needs to be a value and not only an arithmetic operation. People are understanding that equality is equating, that is to adopt a similar position before a reference that, moreover, would be a masculine one. The evolution of society has tended to bring the women to the men’s place but not the other way around. This situation makes it easy for equality as a value to exist in similar circumstances, but if we don’t do a transfer in the contrary sense we are strengthening the male model and giving it legitimacy.

We need to transmit feminine references to men and to act in the name of equality.

Is a parallel change at the top level also needed?

More than that, the main responsibility to achieve it as a common reference that doesn’t suppose discrimination and rejection (because many times you feel a little questioned as a man for not following your traditional roles) belongs to the institutions.

Do you consider yourself as a feminist?

Yes, even if I don’t claim the name but the philosophy behind it.

In the Pikara magazine’s article you also say that “when men hear talking of abusers they think this reference is common to any of them but when they hear talking of equality they think it only refers to women”. Why is it so?

When men hear talking of abusers deep down they know it is a further step of what injustice of inequality means and before questioning ideas of this normality they try to stop the reflection from taking place. There are many men who exert their power in a very close border from violence and they identify with the abuser, also by responding with camaraderie so to protect ‘one of us’. The evaluation of women as inferiors makes feel men authorized to respond in a generic way before the actions women are carrying out by presenting them as interested and against men.

Most of the soundness of the model relies on the cohesion that there has been inside the social structure, where women have also did their part by acting as submissive mothers and wives without questioning it. This has allowed inequality to become naturalized but as the reference is changing, and this is what the posmachismo has detected, there is an attempt to keep cohesion among men on one hand and among women on the other. Men attacked by women and therefore in need of responding in an hostile manner.

Listening to you it seems there is a conspiracy…

When a man acts with a very common strategy of isolation, by trying to confront the woman with her external sources of support, by holding her accountable for everything, he has neither handbook nor common web page but he does have a myth in which women are wicked and evil. It is a common answer to many men on a myth that at the same time is nourished by the media, TV and so on.

As a doctor you have theorized on gender-based violence and have described many things that happen inside and around it. How did you decide to look into the issue?

I suppose I had the seed of that child who didn’t like things based on inequality, but it was when I started working as a forensic doctor that I really understood what happens. I had to recognize women who had suffered violence by their partners. They would turn to court or forensic clinics saying ‘my husband hits me in a regular way but today he has gone too far’. I used this sentence for a first book of mine (Mi marido me pega lo normal, Editorial Ares y Mares, 2001) because it stroke me how in such violent situations there was a criticism towards the amount of violence but not to the fact of suffering from it.

The first approximation was purely a scientific one to define those signs as a syndrome, which I called syndrome of aggression towards the woman, but afterwards I realized that behind it there was a whole social and cultural framework that allowed violence towards women to be reproduced systematically, that the response to it was similar and even that society played it down instead of questioning and fighting it.

Many Spanish feminists consider that the fact that the Ministry of Equality has become a State secretary under the Ministry of Health, Social Politics and Equality not only makes the issue associated with some kind of sickness, but also makes it harder for gender issues to be addressed by the government with the same authority and credibility they have in recent years. What do you think about it?

It is true that it’s not the same to speak as a minister rather than as a state secretary. It was a hard decision for a government that had bet on it but it is to be seen as a situation derived from specific circumstances.

The merger with the ministry of health is to be seen in terms of public health, that is, it is healthier for a society to have certain values. Besides that, most of the policies to achieve it go through detection. Since both the structure and the budget have remained the same, the policies will be carried out with the same strength. We need to show that equality is above circumstances and that achievements will be the ones justifying the policies set in motion.

What is the main difficulty you find while carrying out your job as the government’s delegate for gender based-violence?

Ignorance of the roots of gender-based violence, of the individual responsibility to end with it and the resistance to know. In Spain every year around 70 women die because of it and there is neither social reaction nor support to the policies against it. If they would have been 70 bakers or doctors, the country would be stirred up.

Last year in Spain more women were killed by their partners compared to 2009. Is it a relevant figure and what are the possible reasons for it?

Yes, it is. The rises and falls take place because there are elements that affect the given situation. In 2010 we had two main references. The first, the campaign on false complaints that has questioned women and reinforced aggressors. The second has to do with a study that is being carrying out on an imitation effect for which many aggressors who are planning to murder their partners feel reinforced when they see cases in the media, especially on TV.

In 2010 we had five concentration periods of murders, something that did not occur the previous years.

What do you think should change in the way of covering these news for this not to happen?

Not to give anecdotal information, not to justify violence by saying it was a crime of passion, that he was very jealous, under medical treatment or had had a drink, not to normalize the situation by showing the neighbour saying he was a very nice man, a hard worker and good father.  All this takes importance away from the crime that has taken place without sending critical messages against this kind of violence.

Even if in the last three years the number of gender-based violence complaints has increased by 17%, relinquishments have grown by 46,4%. In your opinion, who are responsible for this?

The context, the fact of not being told, when one already feels insecure because of the violence suffered, ‘go on, I am on your side’ but ‘think about it, you are going to put to jail the father of your children’ has a big influence on it. And the emotional dependence. When the crisis of the last aggression is over, because of the cognitive distortion of the reality and all that violence produces, one sees things in a different way.

And if to this all you add the idea that society does not really believe you are an ill-treated woman, the doubt increases and is translated into passivity, even relinquishment.

And does this lack of confidence also exist among lawyers and in general in the courts to which an ill-treated woman might turn to, right?

Since it is in the society, of course it also affects professionals.

How is it translated?

Some lawyers’ make use of the article 416 of the Ley de Enjuiciamiento Criminal (Crime Indictment Law), which allows a woman not to declare against her husband (also the defendant’s sons and brothers, among others, can avoid declaring) to influence her so that she doesn’t go on. Of course, if one with all her doubts go to court and the first thing she is told is ‘you don’t have to declare against your husband, if you do it no one will stop this but if you relinquish now nothing has occurred’ well, it is harder to go on.

Out of the total number of gender-based violence complaints, which percentage do false complaints represent?

There are two studies, on of the Consejo General del Poder Judicial (General Council of the Judicial Power), according to which they represent 0.18% and one of the Fiscalía General del Estado (National Public Prosecutors’ Office) which talks about the 0.018%. A percentage immensely lower than in any other crime (those related to burglaries represent 30% of the total complaints). That is, gender-based violence is systematically being questioned throughout a fallacy.

Spanish version

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