As the former soccer chief Luis Rubiales appeared in court on Friday to be probed for sexual assault for kissing national team player Jenni Hermoso on the lips, the High Court of Spain issued a restraining order to prevent him from approaching Hermoso. The injunction prohibits him from approaching Hermoso in any way.
The incident, which took place on August 20 in Sydney, Australia, at the medal ceremony following Spain’s women’s team’s victory at the World Cup, has sparked a controversy on the prevalence of sexism in Spanish sport and society, as well as protests that are analogous to the “Me Too” movement.
Rubiales, who is 46, claims that the kiss was voluntary, while Hermoso claims it was imposed on her.
According to a statement made by the court, the injunction prohibits Rubiales from making any attempts to get in touch with Hermoso or getting within 200 meters of her. The motion made by the prosecution that Rubiales should make a status report to the court every two weeks was denied by Judge Francisco de Jorge.
Rubiales, escorted out of the High Court in Madrid by his attorney Olga Tubau and dressed in a black suit over a white shirt, was present throughout the approximately one-hour-long investigational session held behind closed doors. He did not give an interview to the waiting members of the media.
According to a statement released by the prosecutor’s office, Rubiales vehemently refuted the allegations while on the stand.
Rubiales finally resigned as president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) on September 10. Before this, he had spent several weeks ignoring pleas to resign from players, legislators, and women’s groups.
However, he remains unrepentant and maintains that he acted with agreement during celebration and happiness.
While he was in court, local media claimed that female players, including the team that won the World Cup, intended to maintain their boycott of the national side until there were more changes in the set-up of the federation.
State prosecutor Marta Durantez Gil filed a court complaint after Hermoso told authorities that Rubiales kissed her on the mouth without her consent while holding her head with both hands. Millions saw this moment of people on television. Hermoso’s testimony led to the incident being broadcast on television.
After Hermoso stated that Rubiales and his entourage had pressured her and her relatives to pretend that she had accepted what had happened, the prosecutor added a possible crime of coercion to the list of possible offenses.
CONSENT IS ESSENTIAL
De Jorge is in charge of the inquiry, which, according to Spanish law, must come before any official charges and will determine whether or not the case will be tried. In that case, he faces a possible prison sentence of one to four years.
“In criminal proceedings, being able to prove consent becomes crucial,” said legal expert Gonzalo Jimenez, partner at the law firm Martinez Echevarria.
He stated that it was necessary to prove malice or intentions to make a sexual act that may be considered an assault and be punished.
De Jorge has given orders to the media, including the state-run television network TVE, to bring him footage of the incident as well as following recordings, such as the one in which the players are shown celebrating on a bus with Rubiales and referring to the kiss in a manner that seems to be in good fun. The probe may take a few months to complete.
We can back up everything that we mentioned in the beginning. “It was a kiss without consent; everyone saw the images,” Carla Vall, the attorney for Hermoso, told the reporters after the hearing.
This judicial case will also serve as a public test of the socialist coalition government’s signature “Only yes is yes” (Only yes is yes) law, which places permission at the center of sexual relations.
A social media movement centered on the hashtag “Se Acabó” (which translates to “It’s Over”) has garnered the support of a significant number of athletes, sports organizations, and politicians.
More than 80 of Spain’s best female players, including 23 world champions, have stated that they will not participate in international competition for their country until the RFEF management line-up and management philosophy are revised.
On Friday, the players informed the RFEF that they intended to maintain their boycott despite Rubiales’ decision to step down as team captain, even though Jorge Vilda was replaced as head coach by his assistant, Montse Tome.
Another blow was delivered to Spain’s male-dominated football establishment on Thursday when police detained three Real Madrid youth players on suspicion of disseminating a pornographic film featuring a minor. The video allegedly included the player’s underage girlfriend.
According to the Canary Islands police, the mother of a 16-year-old boy filed a complaint about the video, claiming that it had been recorded without her knowledge and that she did not know who had taken it.