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ARGENTINA | 15-12-2018 07:31

Allegations spark Argentina’s own #MeToo moment

Rape allegations against TV actor Juan Darthés inspire solidarity across social media and beyond, as supporters and fellow victims of sexual harassment and assault unite through one simple hashtag: #MiraComoNosPonemos.

It took a fourth sexual assault accusation on Tuesday against a highprofile television actor to achieve what many are describing as a watershed moment in Argentina’s battle to tackle violence against women.

Actress Thelma Fardín’s explosive rape accusations against former costar Juan Darthés prompted a wave of outrage across Argentina’s media, on the streets and particularly on social media this week.

As hundreds of thousands of people showed their solidarity with victims of sexual harassment and violence online, leading some to compare the uprising with last year’s #MeToo movement, a new phrase, ‘Mira como nos ponemos,’ (which loosely translates as “Look at what you do to us”) entered the national lexicon. And it looks like it will be with us for some time to come.

This new scandal comes just two weeks after the controversial acquittal in the coastal city of Mar del Plata of three men accused of raping and killing Lucía Pérez, a 16-year-old whose murder prompted widespread protests in 2016 and led to the country’s first-ever Women’s March tackling violence against women.

Fardín made her allegations public on Tuesday during a press conference organised by the Actrices Argentinas activist group. In an emotional prerecorded video, she described an alleged incident that took place in 2009, alleging Darthés had sexually assaulted her and raped her in a hotel room in Nicaragua.

Fardín, who praised the support of her colleagues in the video for giving her the strength to speak out against the alleged abuse, said that she had lived with the incident for the last nine years, but was inspired to speak up when she heard others had also made claims against the actor.

She said she had filed a criminal complaint with gender violence prosecutors in the Central American country.

In comments to the press, Darthés’ lawyer, Fernando Burlando, said that the actor “denies the facts categorically and will appear in Nicaragua” to defend himself.

Less than 24 hours later, however, Burlando resigned his position, following in the footsteps of celebrity Ana Rosenfeld, who had stepped down as the actor’s lawyer the day before.

Darthés also strongly denied the allegations in a post on Twitter in which he thanked Burlando for listening to his side of the story.

“It is not true what was said, for God’s sake!” he wrote. “It’s crazy, it never happened.”

ALLEGATIONS

Fardín accused the actor of attacking her during a touring production of the successful children’s TV programm Patito Feo (“Ugly Duckling). Fardin was 16 years old at the time and far from home on location in Managua. Darthés was the only adult actor on set, then aged 45.

Fardín claims that Darthés began kissing her on the neck when they were in his hotel room on May 17, 2009, at the Holiday Inn Hotel in the Nicaraguan capital.

She says she told him to stop, but said instead the actor grabbed her hand and made her touch his erection, saying: “Mirá como me pones (roughly: “Look at what you do to me”).”

“Then, he threw me on the bed, he pulled down my little shorts and started to give me oral sex,” she alleged, speaking through tears, adding that she had repeatedly told him “No.”

“I told him ‘Your children are my age,’” she recalled in the video. “But he did not care, he climbed on top of me.”

“[Then] he put his fingers in me and then he penetrated me,” she added.

She says that a hotel employee then knocked on the door to deliver something and that she had managed to escape her alleged attacker.

A copy of the complaint, published by Infobae this week, details the allegations in similar language, whilst adding that Darthés allegedly penetrated her vagina without using a condom. It also explains that in April 2018, Fardín visited an Argentine government agency specialised in violence against women, but that she was told by a prosecutor, Mariela Labozzeta, that Argentine officials could not investigate a case that occurred outside its sovereign national territory.

It was suggested that Fardín travel to Nicaragua to denounce the alleged crime after having met with representatives from the Nicaraguan government in Argentina.

DENIAL

On Thursday, Darthés surfaced to offer his side of the story in an interview with primetime television journalist Mauro Viale. He likened the situation he was going through to death.

“It never happened, it never existed. I’m dead, indignant, angry. It’s incredible”, he said. “I’m dead in society, my career is dead, which I don’t care about. The only thing I care about are my children and wife”.

“I was the one who got her out of my room. I was the one who said: ‘You’re the age of my children,’” he added. “I don’t know what is up with her version of events. I neither raped nor assaulted anybody. She knocked on my door to swap her entry card and I told her she had to go.”

“She insinuated that I give her a kiss,” he claimed.

Darthés said he plans to travel to Nicaragua to clear his name.

It is the fourth time since November 2017 that Darthés has been accused of sexually assaulting a female co-star, following allegations from Calu Rivero, Anita Coacci and Natalia Juncos.

The actress spoke out again on Thursday following Darthés’ interview, responding and describing it on Twitter as “violence against women on a symbolic level. There is a threat [contained in his statements] in which he transfers responsibility for his actions on us, the victims.”

In earlier Tweets during the week, she thanked her followers for their support.

“Thank you is not enough. We will have to invent a word to capture all the things I’m feeling right now... For now, I say Thank you for listening, for believing me and above all, for continuing to make noise,” she wrote.

The actress said it “took her a lot to accept” that she was raped. “I didn’t even use that word [for years].”

She described Darthés attitude towards her during the alleged incident as an attempt to mark “his territory on my career, my body, my confidence and my talent.”

“’Look what you do to me’, is not the only phrase this guy left me. ‘You’ll always have work; wherever I go, you go’, which is some kind of macabre proposal.”

AWAKENING

Fardín’s accusations dominated news bulletins throughout the week and prompted the massive spread of #MiraComoNosPonemos, a protest hashtag with strong echoes of the #MeToo movement in the United States.

It was estimated to have appeared in an estimated 900,000 tweets in the first 24 hours following the release of Fardín’s video. The phrase can be loosely translated as “Look at what you do to us,” and is a reference to the phrase allegedly uttered by Darthés during the alleged attack.

The movement encourages women to share their own experiences of sexual assault and links the actress’ allegations of alleged assault against Darthés.

One alleged victim, actress Calu Rivero, appeared in court on Wednesday for a hearing into defamation allegations Darthés lodged against her following accusations she made in November 2017 that he sexaully assaulted her.

An emotional Rivero said outside court that “today is a day in which women finally win.” She lamented the fact that Darthés had not attended the hearing.

Rivero’s allegation date back to the 2012 production of television series Dulce Amor. Soon after she told entertainment reporter Catalina Dlugi of her alleged experience with Darthés, fellow actresses Anita Coacci and Natalia Juncos also spoke out with similar accusations against the actor.

At the time, their claims met with mixed reactions among fellow actors, journalists and TV fans, some of whom began backtracking on their previous statements this week after Fardín’s shocking description of events in Nicaragua.

The country’s politicians have also switched on.

“Our commitment is to work toward eradicating all forms of violence against women,” President Mauricio Macri said in a Twitter post in which he confirmed the government would discontinue a public awareness campaign on the issue that features Juan Darthés.

“In respect of the complaint made by Thelma Fardín against Juan Darthés we have decided to drop the advertising campaign about violence against women which the accused took part in,” he wrote.

Calls to the Buenos Aires City 144 gender-based violence hotline doubled during in the 24 hours following Fardin’s statement, Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rordríguez Larreta announced Wednesday during a television interview.

“What she said has set an example, to the point in which today [Wednesday] calls to 144 have doubled for this kind of case. Thelma’s bravery is inspiring many other women to do the same,” he told the TN news network.

The debate reached Congress too. At the beginning of a session in the Senate on Wedneday, tens of lawmakers put signs on their desks that read: #MiraComoNosPonemos.

WOMEN’S MOVEMENT

The mood for change in Argentina regarding the treatment of women has changed dramatically since 2016 when the rape and murder of 16-year-old Lucía Pérez on a Mar del Plata beach sent shockwaves through society. It prompted widespread protests across the country and led to the country’s first Women’s March.

In a decision that upset many, a criminal court in the coastal seaside city acquitted a group of men accused of the Pérez crime in early December. Judges from Mar del Plata’s Oral Criminal Court No. 1 acquitted the three individuals — Matías Farías, Juan Pablo Offidani, and Alejandro Maciel — of sexual abuse and femicide charges, suggesting Pérez’s body did not show signs of rape.

The court instead found Farías, 25, and Offidani, 43, guilty of supplying drugs to a minor. They were sentenced to eight years in prison and a AR$135,000-fine.

“We have to reverse this decision in honour of all of them,” Marcela Montero, Pérez’s mother said at a rally last week in Buenos Aires, referring to women who have suffered similar attacks.

A recent study found 895 femicides were committed in Argentina over the last three years, meaning one woman is killed every 29 hours.

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