The ‘vicarious violence’ is behind the crime in Tenerife: what does this aggression mean and how is it reflected in Spanish criminal law?

The bleak discovery in the sea of ​​the body of one of the girls of Tenerife It has returned the disappearance of the minors to what it always was: a crime of sexist violence and, more specifically, vicarious violence. What does the expression vicarious violence mean? What particular characteristics does it have? Is it contemplated in the Penal Code?

The vicarious violence is described as a form of physical or psychological aggression by which one person attacks another with the aim of causing pain to another. In the case of sexist violence, it’s how you have to name everything pain inflicted by fathers on children with the ultimate aim of hurting mothers.

The psychologist Sonia Vaccaro was among the first to use the term after discovering that Violence against women is sometimes displaced to everything (or those) to which the woman is attached or cares. Vaccaro defends that children are used because “judicially an individual knows that he has no rights over his wife / partner, but you do know that you retain (and will retain until you come of age) power and rights over your daughters and sons. For this reason, he transforms them into objects to continue the abuse and violence. “

Vicarious violence can manifest itself in different degrees, from the instrumentalization of minors until parricide, like the murders of Moaña, from Oza, that of Jose Breton and now, predictably, that of little Anna and Olivia.

Forms of vicarious violence are also threatening to take away the children in the event of a divorce, prevent children from communicating with their mother, neglect them in their maintenance or instrumentalize them so that they become aggressive.

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Killed during visitation

Since 2013, the date on which they began to be included in the official sexist crime statistics, at least 39 boys and girls have been murdered by their parents, still not counting the girls Anna and Olivia. In most cases these crimes have occurred while the minor was with his father during visitation. The murder took the lives of the children and caused unspeakable harm to their mothers. However, vicarious violence is not yet listed in the Penal Code.

Childhood and gender violence law

The Ombudsman, Francisco Marugán, it takes years warning against vicarious violence suffered by the children of battered women and demanding reinforcement of the mechanisms that our legal system already has to better protection of children. Marugán celebrated a few months ago that vicarious violence had been taken into account in the drafting of the new Child protection law.

The law, which takes effect on June 24, stipulates that now the judge will suspend the visitation regime when an order of protection for gender violence is issued and there are indications that the children have witnessed or suffered abuse.

However, the Ombudsman recalled that it is essential that judges and prosecutors exercise extreme care on the increased risk to which the sons and daughters of women victims of gender violence are subjected during divorce proceedings, adopting whatever provision is necessary to remove them from danger or avoid harm.

The Ombudsman has been claiming for years a dual approach, gender and childhood, to fight against sexist violence and he has asserted on numerous occasions that “an abuser can never be a good father.”

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For her part, the Government’s general director of childhood, Violeta Assiego, recalls that the sons and daughters of battered women have been recognized victims of gender violence since 2015 and believes that the new children’s law also places emphasis on their protection. “Especially in the right of children to be heard, something that is not being entirely key or integral in judicial processes.” For Assiego, the problem is “the application of the few rules that exist, which order the teams to do their work with clear guidelines and far from interpretations with macho biases.”

Legislation against vicarious violence: mothers as victims

In addition to prevention in minors, what also fails is the protection a posteriori of the mothers after their children are killed, they are not considered victims because the damage was done to third parties.

In 2016, in Moaña, Galicia, the father of Candela and Amaia, aged 9 and 14, killed his daughters with an electric saw and a knife. He was sentenced to a reviewable permanent prison. Just a year later, in the nearby Oza, other father murdered his son with a shovel 11 years old.

In 2021, the Galician Parliament has briefly parked its differences to admit for processing a BNG bill which will make Galician legislation the first to recognize vicarious violence in its own law, so that the mothers of these minors they are provided with the necessary coverage and support.

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As a background, Andalusia, in 2018, extended the recognition of victims of gender violence to women who suffer vicarious violence for having their sons and / or daughters been murdered for causing them harm and suffering. And the state pact mentions vicarious violence, but does not develop its prevention.


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