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What to do if you’re in an abusive relationship in Spain

Aside from physical violence, emotional abuse, intimidation, stalking and deprivation of freedom are also forms of violence. So what does Spanish law say, and what steps can you take if you're in an abusive relationship in Spain?

Love shouldn't hurt abusive relationship spain
If you've been a victim of gender violence in Spain, here are the steps you can take. Photo: Sydney Sims/Unsplash

Men’s violence against women is one of the biggest crime and societal problems in Spain. But combating isn’t easy, not least because it often happens behind closed doors.

On Thursday November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, thousands of protesters marched through Madrid and Barcelona demanding “urgent and firm action” to combat men’s violence against women.

While the pandemic has seen a decrease in general crime, the number of gender violence cases has shot up. In the first nine months of 2021, there were 12,638 reports of crimes against sexual freedom and indemnity. That’s 9.2 percent more than in the same period in 2019, according to data from Spain’s Interior Ministry.

A staggering 78 percent of women over the age of 16 who have been victims of physical violence don’t report it to the police.

If you’ve been a victim of gender violence, here are the steps you can take.

What should I do if I’m in an emergency?

Firstly, if you are in an emergency situation you can contact the police and emergency services at the following numbers:

Emergency services: 112

Policía Nacional (National Police Corps): 091

Guardia Civil (Civil Guard): 062

Where can I seek help and advice?

If you are not sure what kind of help you need, the first thing to do if you are in an abusive relationship is call the free confidential helpline 016, a public service available 24/7 where you can speak to professionals with guaranteed confidentiality in 53 different languages. You can also email [email protected] or WhatsApp 600 000 016. 

The service is provided by the government’s committee against gender violence (Delegación del Gobierno contra la Violencia de Género), which has a dedicated website with information and resources. 

If you are a minor and you think family member may be a victim of gender violence you can call ANAR (Ayuda a niños y adolescentes en riesgo), on 900 20 20 10.

The Equality Ministry’s WRAP website (web de recursos de apoyo y prevención ante casos de violencia de género), has a search tool for finding all the NGOs, women’s associations, police stations and courts closest to you.

For a guide of your rights as a victim of gender violence in Spain, the Ministry also provides a document in several languages including English, HERE.

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What happens when I report someone to the police?

Making a formal complaint (denuncia) for gender violence is considered a significant threat to safety and should therefore result in the immediate detention of the aggressor.

The detention can last up to 72 hours until a formal judicial deposition is made. After this period, the judge can then either let the accused go or issue a restraining order. Breaking the restraining order will result in a new complaint with more serious legal consequences.

If you live with your aggressor, the restraining order means they will not be able to return to the shared home and will be deprived of the custody of any children you have together. He will not be able to claim joint custody until a criminal trial ruling is issued, which can take several years.

It will also result in the loss of the right to obtain public subsidies, and they will be included in the Central Registry of Abusers.

Can I get financial support?

The Comprehensive Law of Protection Measures against Gender Violence (Ley Integral de Medidas de Protección contra la Violencia de Généro) includes financial support for women who have been victims of gender violence.

Women who are not able to find a job or participate in training courses can have access to financial support provided in the form of a single payment, representing the equivalent of six months of unemployment benefits.

These benefits are currently managed by the different autonomous communities.

How do I ask for help without my abuser knowing?
If you want to call for help without attracting the attention of your abuser, you can make the hand gesture indicated in the photo below on a video call, so the person you a talking to can call for help. 
The 016 helpline, as indicated below, doesn’t leave a trace on your phone so you can call without worrying about it appearing on your call history.

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Spain police start wearing bodycams to boost security

Spanish police have begun wearing body cameras to record their interactions with the public in a move aimed at ensuring greater security that is gaining ground in Europe and the US.

Spain police start wearing bodycams to boost security

The interior ministry said the bodycam was launched Monday and would be “rolled out on a gradual basis to all police officers”, without saying how many were involved in the initial stages.

Spain’s TVE public television said the tiny cameras were being attached to the officers’ uniforms and could be activated either manually or automatically.

The main Spanish police union JUPOL hailed the move on Twitter, saying it was in response to “a request that the union has been making”.

“It will guarantee security, both for us to avoid any kind of misrepresentation of our interventions, as well as for the public, who will be able to clearly see the police’s professionalism and that there is no abuse of power nor excesses,” union spokesman Pablo Pérez told TVE.

Forces in Europe and the United States are increasingly turning to such technology to boost transparency following a string of fatal shootings and other claims against police over the past decade.

“The cameras are being used under public safety protocols in order to record everything that happens in the event of an unwarranted offence during an operation,” Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska told TVE ahead of the rollout.

“If they are activated, it is to guarantee security and really be transparent so that the officers’ actions can be seen and checked,” the minister said.

“This means security for both the police and the public,” he added, suggesting that in time, they would also be available to Spain’s Guardia Civil rural police force.

France began trialling bodycams, known as “pedestrian cameras”, in 2013
before a gradual rollout in 2015 in a move welcomed by police, but greeted with scepticism by rights groups who said there was no guarantee they would be always activated.

Police in London and New York also began pilot schemes in 2014 with credit-card-sized cameras clipped onto their uniforms with the technology gradually deployed over the following years.

But the cameras have had mixed success. The absence of any legal obligation governing their use can also limit their scope to uncover police misconduct.