This December has been Spain’s worst month for gender-based violence in 20 years, with 13 women being killed in the span of 28 days and a further case still being investigated by police.
At least six of the incidents happened after complaints had already been filed. Spain’s government has grown increasingly concerned by the worsening situation — indeed, the highest number of gender-based murders since records began in 2003.
The country’s interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, has expressed his “deep frustration” at the “unusual and terrible proliferation” of such crimes and has ordered security forces to maximise the protection of the victims.
There are 723 women who are currently deemed to be at an elevated risk of domestic violence and a total of 31,161 who are included in Spanish authorities’ gender violence monitoring system.
Equality ministry holds crisis meeting
This December has seen an already tragic situation go from bad to worse, as the incidence of violence against women has become even more heightened in the past few weeks. A total of six fatalities and two other serious injuries being recorded since Christmas Eve.
The Equality ministry, which on Wednesday assembled its crisis committee for the first time, had already explained how the holidays are a particularly dangerous time for women who suffer abuse, and has called on institutions and the wider public to be “alert” during this particularly fraught time of year.
The ministry, working together with other government departments, sent the country a clear message. On Thursday, they announced how Spain has a law banning gender violence and that its protocols are among the world’s most advanced, but that there still happened to be cracks in the system that warranted further attention.
They also insisted that gender violence is not just a matter for the state to resolve, but society as well.
The holidays, for instance, result in potential victims often having to spend more time in close contact with their abusers, as the government’s former delegate against gender violence, Miguel Lorento, explained to the EFE agency.
Lorento also noted how possible family interferences over Christmas can make some men feel like their authority is being diminished.
“People spend more time together, don’t need to go to work or take children to school, thus allowing conflicts to continue… with violence becoming worse,” Lorente stressed, noting how male abusers react negatively to the presence of family and friends in their partners’ lives.
All this notwithstanding, interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, maintained that the crimes recorded these days “do not reflect any temporal trend or other kind of pattern”, although he does believe that one can speak of the “sawtooth” phenomenon, whereby cases peak in a particularly short period of time.
The timeline of a dark week
At least eight assaults on women have taken place since Christmas Eve, with six killed and two hospitalised.
The first took place in Granada last Saturday, after a 29-year-old man shot his wife in front of their two underage children. The victim remains in the ICU of a Granada hospital, while police are still trying to find the aggressor, who had not been reported to the police prior to the incident.
Christmas Day saw a further two assaults take place. The first happened in Matamala de Almazán, which saw Castilla y León’s emergency service receive a call alerting them to a fire in a residential home. A 44-year-old woman’s body was found inside the house, and the autopsy revealed she had suffered a violent fate.
The victim in question had pressed charges against her ex-partner only three days before her death, although evidence would seem to suggest the man happened to be in another town when the attack took place. The deceased woman’s neighbour — who made the emergency call and had been with her that night — was arrested as a suspect.
Police are now investigating their relationship to determine if they were a couple or just friends, and to evaluate whether the crime could be considered an example of gender violence.
That same day, a 32-year-old woman in La Rioja fell to her death from the second floor and remains in a critical condition in hospital. Police arrested her partner, a 45-year-old man, on suspicion of attempted murder.
The last confirmed killing happened on 26 December in Barcelona. A 69-year-old man was arrested for allegedly murdering his 88-year-old partner, whose body displayed marks of violence. The accused assailant, who had not been previously flagged by police, called emergency services himself.
The following day, a 45-year-old man stabbed his partner in their bar in Bilbao. He was arrested after phoning police the next morning to confess to the crime. The government delegation is still collecting evidence to ascertain whether it also constitutes yet another example of gender-based violence.
Three women murdered in under 24 hours
In the span of under 24 hours between Wednesday and Thursday, a further three women have been murdered.
The first, 34, was merely a week away from giving birth. She was stabbed to death on the night of 28 December by her 52-year-old ex-partner in Toledo.
The victim had two underage children and the alleged killer had a history of domestic violence. The murder is also being investigated as another possible case of gender violence.
That same day, a 37-year-old man in Madrid stabbed his ex-partner’s 20-year-old daughter, against whom he had a restraining order. The suspect later attempted to kill himself with the same weapon.
This Thursday, national police arrested a 22-year-old man in connection with the death of his partner, who fell from the sixth floor in Benidorm. Sources familiar with the investigation informed EFE of the man’s arrest to determine whether he is responsible for her death.