Amendments to Spain’s abuse laws

Spain’s Congreso de los Diputados recently voted overwhelmingly in favour of a comprehensive bill “El Proyecto de Ley Orgánica de protección integral a la infancia y la adolescencia frente a la violencia” in hopes of better protecting children from violence and abuse.

The proposed law covers a number of different matters, including homicide, human trafficking, sexual abuse, assault, crimes online, and various incitement offences (including incitement to commit suicide). The definition of what previously constituted “violence” has been expanded to include any type of physical or emotional abuse, including neglect. It also prohibits child migrants from being forced to strip and have their genitals examined in order for their age to be assessed.

The bill also extends the statute of limitations, so that any victim or survivor of physical or sexual abuse (where that abuse was perpetrated when the victim was a child) will have 15 years to report abuse from the age of 35. Previously, time started running from a child’s 18th birthday. Judicial processes will also alter with specific courts created for cases involving violence against children, and the bill further aims to minimise the impact of re-traumatisation by a victim or survivor having to recount their abusive experiences more than is absolutely necessary. As children and adolescents make up nearly 50% of all sexual abuse victims in Spain, this move has long been welcomed.

The changes to the law were put in motion following a campaign spearheaded by British pianist, James Rhodes. He himself is a Spanish resident and survivor of abuse, having been sexually abused as a child at a London school. He echoed many comments of other survivors and the findings of many inquiries around the world in that it takes victims and survivors a considerable period of time to feel ready to disclose their abusive experiences. He told Spanish broadcaster RTVE, “I was 35 before I was able to speak about my experience because there’s so much shame and blame with issues like this”.

At the time of writing, the bill is not yet law, however, it ought to be passed in the very near future by the Spanish Senado.


Written by Amanda Munro at BLM (amanda.muro@blmlaw.com)

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