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Sexual Crimes Committed by Minors in Spain and Italy Are Soaring, but Why?

Just a few months ago, police were investigating four gang rapes in a shopping centre in the Spanish city of Badalona.

The alarm was raised by the mother of one of the girls. Her 11-year-old daughter had been raped by six minors in the toilets of the shopping centre. Three of them were under 14 and therefore not criminally liable, and another was never identified.

The judge sentenced two of them – one of whom had threatened the victim’s brother – to juvenile detention. The last was given a suspended sentence.

The Badalona case, which shocked the country because of the impunity of the minors, is just one example of the thousands of sexual crimes that reach the juvenile courts.

Both Spain and Italy are concerned by these cases and, in particular, by the phenomenon of gang rape, which has caused social alarm.

Spain has the highest number of minors convicted of sexual offences since records began.

The number of sexual offences committed by young people aged between 14 and 17 has risen by 14% in one year.

The figure is even higher in Italy, where the number rose by 15.7%, according to a report by the Central Police Directorate.

Pornography instead of sex education

A look at the figures shows that men commit more crimes than women. In Spain, 76% of the crimes were committed by men, while 23% were committed by women.

The same is true in Italy, where around 90% of victims of sexual violence are women and girls.

This was confirmed to Euronews by José Ramón Bernácer, a juvenile judge in Toledo, central Spain, who has been hearing such cases for 17 years.

“We have more and more boys in juvenile detention centres for crimes against sexual freedom and more and more convictions for this type of crime,” he says.

The judge says the number of such cases he has heard has doubled in the last six years.

Asked why, he points to a problem of sexuality. “There is a lack of sex education, for which we adults may be responsible. This is reflected in this type of crime,” says Bernácer.

Many young people end up reproducing aggressive and “macho” patterns.

“Children who have no sexual education or experience watch porn films made for adults and they confuse what sex is,” María Rosario Gomis, a psychologist specialising in gender violence and post-traumatic stress disorder, told Euronews.

“Since they don’t have anything to compare it with, they assimilate aggressive pornography and think that’s what sexuality is,” she added.

The psychologist, who has been treating victims of sexual violence in France and Spain for 39 years, is pleased to see that admitting to being a victim of sexual violence is no longer as taboo as it used to be. More and more people are coming forward.

“As society has raised awareness, we have realised that there are an awful lot of cases. Statistically, it’s crazy, but we didn’t know before because it just wasn’t counted,” says Gomis.

Experts point out that this double phenomenon, both the reproduction of aggressive attitudes learned from pornography and the fact that reporting is no longer a taboo, has contributed to the increase in figures.

Eldar Emric/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved.

A sense of impunity?

Both the case of the gang rapes in Badalona, in which the minors were released, and others with a similar outcome, have created a sense of impunity in society towards this type of act.

“The children keep saying: ‘We can’t go to prison’. They believe that their actions have no consequences,” says the psychologist.

While some experts agree with this view, others claim that “it’s not real”.

“Society wants us to be tougher on minors, but it is sending a contradictory message by becoming increasingly permissive and overprotective. Parents say they want to be tougher, except when it comes to their children,” explains the juvenile court judge.

Since Spain’s controversial new rape law came into force last November, the measures that can be imposed on minors have become harsher.

Adolescents over the age of 14 can be sentenced to between 1 and 8 years in a juvenile detention centre.

“The law is tough enough. I do not believe that tougher penalties would lead to a reduction in crimes against sexual freedom. It is not a question of changing the penal code, but of changing the sexual education that we give to young people,” adds the judge.

There are few opportunities for minors who have been convicted to receive ongoing therapeutic care.

The judge says that in his province there is only one psychologist, one social worker and one educator. The lack of resources means that professionals are overworked.

“More and more crimes against sexual freedom are committed by minors, which means that more and more resources have to be allocated, both inside and outside the centres.”

Source: Euro News