Crime & Justice

16 Sex-crime allegations not enough to open a criminal case in Peru

By Alvaro Mellizo

Lima, Sep 17 (efe-epa).- Sixteen women with no ties to one another were allegedly sexually abused by Peruvian theater director and drama instructor Guillermo Castrillon, but a prosecutor has elected not to launch a criminal investigation because the purported victims are not sufficiently traumatized.

The women did not report the incidents immediately afterward and show no outward signs of deep emotional or physical scars today, and for prosecutor Marcos Guzman Baca that was justification enough for shelving the case.

The current stance of the Attorney General’s Office would effectively bury what could be Peru’s first sexual abuse class-action criminal lawsuit.

Castrillon worked for years as a theater director and drama instructor despite not having the necessary qualifications.

During his classes, he allegedly used “techniques” that included having the actresses disrobe in front of him, running his hands over their bodies and putting his penis between their buttocks or inserting his fingers in their vaginas.

He also allegedly penetrated a woman who had lost consciousness at his home during a party and burst into the room of an apartment mate and masturbated alongside her bed.

But the prosecutor’s resolution, to which Efe gained access, determined that none of those incidents constitutes a probable crime.

This is because in most cases the victims – all of whom were adults at the time – do not show emotional effects “compatible” with the allegations; and in the cases in which an emotional impact is apparent, expert analysis is unable to show that it is “explicitly” due to sexual abuse.

The fact that some of the alleged victims did not express their non-consent during the incident in question, did not immediately denounce what happened or maintained a cordial relationship with their purported aggressor also implies, according to the resolution, that they either had consented to the sexual act or did not exhibit “reasonable” behavior for a sexual abuse victim.

“Lodging a complaint already is a hard step that most women prefer not to take because society is going to judge us from the outset,” Daniela Rotalde, one of Castrillon’s alleged victims, told Efe.

Rotalde and the other accusers started coming forward three years ago, initially via social media and later through complaints filed with the AG’s office with assistance from Peru’s Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations.

She said the legal response they received came from a prosecutor with a “male-chauvinist perspective on what abuse is.”

“It’s a sad message. There’s been progress in legislation, in society, to see how a case of abuse should be understood, the existing factors that determine that (a person) is a victim … But it’s seems like the AG’s office hasn’t learned anything. They’re taking away our right to an investigation and coming to a decision even before evaluating the evidence,” Rotalde said.

After the case was shelved, several of the victims decided to publicly denounce a situation they see as “crazy, backward, machista and absurd,” she added.

“We’ve called for a new investigation to be carried out by another prosecutor’s office. We number 15 accusers. They need to evaluate each of the cases to see which ones will proceed to a criminal complaint. This resolution rejected different cases for the same reasons,” Rotalde said.

An e-mail from Castrillon in which he acknowledged an act of abuse and asked forgiveness also was dismissed as evidence on the grounds that the recipient of the message had not witnessed the incident.

Peru’s women and vulnerable populations minister, Rosario Sasieta, told Efe that her portfolio, which is representing the complainants, is challenging the prosecutor’s decision and is still hopeful the accusations will lead to a formal criminal complaint.

The entire matter provokes “profound indignation,” she said, calling the allegations “a systematic case of sexual violence” and “a clear demonstration of the absence of a specialized justice system with a gender focus.”

It also reveals the need to work directly with prosecutors to ensure cases of violence are adequately addressed, including the “eradication of stereotypes from accusation to sentence.”

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