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Pamplona launches anti-rape app for festival

July 5, 2018

In an effort to fight sexual assault at the running of the bulls festival, city leaders and police have launched a handy app. Pamplona has been rocked by the recent "Wolf Pack" case.

Crowds gathered tat the running of the bulls in 2017 in Pamplona, Spain
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Barrientos

Officials in the Spanish city of Pamplona are pushing back against calls for a boycott of its annual bull-running festival by seeking to reassure women that the event, which begins on Friday, will be safe to attend.

The campaign by Pamplona's city government comes in the wake of the controversial rape case acquittal  and release on bail of the members of the "Wolf Pack," a group of five men who assaulted a young woman during the festival in 2016.

Mentions of a boycott have circulated on social media — evidence of persistent anger over the attack. But city councilwoman for security and community, Itziar Gomez, said that women should have faith in the city's institutions.

Gomez and her colleagues at Pamplona's municipality have launched a campaign called "Pamplona — free from sexual harrassment."

"Faced with calls not to come to the festival, I would make a call to women that Pamplona is a city whose institutions and society have said they will not allow assaults," Gomez said. "This is a safe place with social, institutional and police support," she added.

Laura Berro, city councilwoman for equality and LGBTI issues in Pamplona, echoed Gomez's call and encouraged women to show up.

"Now more than ever we women have to fill the streets, fill the 'fiestas' and fill the night because you will have that assurance that there are women in the street with you," said Berro.

Read more: Berlin and beyond: #MeToo in Germany

City releases police app

Pamplona has been trying to clamp down on sexual assault at its famous festival since before the "Wolf Pack" case: It has been coordinating with thousands of police officers, specialized staff and helplines in dozens of languages to deal with such incidents.

But the high profile case has pushed city administrators to keep doing more. This year, the city has released a free smartphone app for women to report cases of sexual assault.

When used, the "AgreStop/EraStop" app sends a signal to police officers with the location of where the distress call was made.

Since it does not require a phone conversation, the app is supposed to make sexual harassment distress calls easier and enable a faster response from police officers.

Read more: #IamNotAfraidToSay: Victims of sexual assault in Ukraine and Russia break taboo

There are three options available on the app. The first option labeled "I'm suffering an assault" sends the immediate location signal to police. The second option "report an assault" connects witnesses with police and the third option "keep me company" allows the user to send his or her location to a friend, who would be able to track the person's movement to ensure he or she arrives home safely.

A nationwide problem

Spain was ranked 17th among European countries for the prevalence of sexual assault, according to Eurostat, with 18.6 assaults reported per 100,000 of the population in 2015. Since the year of the Wolf Pack assault, the figure has been climbing steadily.

Women's rights groups say the increase is due to an uptick in victims reporting these cases.

Spanish women have mobilized on the streets with slogans such as "I believe you, sister" and "Drunk and alone, I want to get home," to denounce sexual harassment and protest the way the legal system handles these cases.

jcg/aw (Reuters, EFE)

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