“It’s been 11 months since we took that plane to Nicaragua. With my heart in my hand, the strength and the conviction that these things had to be done differently, and the certainty that the placement of shame had to change,” reflected actress and activist Thelma Fardín on her Instagram page on Thursday, accompanying a photo of herself and a close friend on a plane.
Her poignant words came shortly after the Nicaraguan government announced on Wednesday that it issued a formal arrest warrant for actor Juan Darthés on charges of aggravated rape.
In December 2018, Fardín famously and publicly broke her silence, detailing accusations against the national heart throb. Flanked by members of the Actrices Argentinas group, she alleged that Darthés had sexually assaulted and raped her back in May 2009, when both were on tour with the cast of the popular children’s television programme Patito Feo (“Ugly Duckling) in Managua, Nicaragua.
Fardín was only 16 at the time of the alleged attack. Darthés was 45.
Days before the press conference, Fardín had travelled to Nicaragua to file a criminal complaint before the prosecutor's office. Since that explosive event, which prompted headlines across the world, Darthés has been living, or, what some might call in hiding, in Brazil. The two countries don’t have an extradition agreement, which would facilitate and compel Brazilian law enforcement to hand over Darthés. Therefore, Interpol, the international police organisation, must intervene.
"There is no extradition between Nicaragua and Brazil, but the process has to be exhausted [first]," said Eilyn Cruz, Fardín's lawyer, told the AFP news agency in an interview.
According to the complaint, the actor allegedly abused the trust gained from working together and took advantage of the age difference between the two. Darthés could face between 12 to 15 years in prison if found guilty, added Cruz, a 41-year-old lawyer and former prosecutor.
"There is psychological, psychiatric, medical, witness and documentary evidence" that supports the complaint, Cruz told AFP, who said that among the witnesses are those who worked alongside the two actors.
Once Darthés' address in Brazil is identified, his extradition will be requested, a step that will then see Brazil decide whether the actor is "extraditable," Cruz added.
If extradition does not proceed, Darthés "will be imprisoned for the rest of his life in Brazil, with an arrest warrant against him for an open investigation in Nicaragua," said the lawyer, who added he would not be able to leave Brazil.
Despite concerns over his potential extradition or not , the warrant moves Fardín "one step closer to justice." She said as much in a press conference on Thursday morning, again flanked by Actrices Argentinas, the feminist group that has ardently supported her ever since she first went public, in which she thanked supporters and addressed the pain and vulnerability associated with coming out as a victim.
The details of her particular story were harrowing. “One night he started kissing my neck, and I said no. He grabbed my hand and demanded I touch him and he said, ‘Look what you do to me,’ forcing me to touch his erection,” she described in a pre-recorded video broadcasted during the conference in December, when she first denounced her former colleague.
Three other women had come forward with similar accusations against Darthés, but none had generated the public outcry sparked by Fardín's revelations. Just 24 hours after the explosive allegations were first aired, a movement denouncing sexual harassment and sexual assault swept through social networks, using the simple hashtag: #MiraComoNosPonemos.
The phrase roughly translates to “Look what you made me do.” It intended to echo what Darthés himself said during the alleged attack, according to Fardín, as well as combat the blame often placed on victims of sexual assault.
The Argentine movement, which erupted in the wake of the allegations, echoed the #MeToo movement that denounced violations against women in the United States and sought to highlight the widespread prevalence of such actions in the workplace and wider society. Within the first 24 hours, around 920,000 tweets had been posted using the hashtag, while a report on Perfil.com said posts denouncing alleged crimes and harassment had been engaged with more than 1.8 million times on social networks in that same time frame.
While the power of this movement is striking, Fardín’s message has been consistent: this is more than one case against one man. It’s a call for sweeping systemic overhaul that will empower and protect women, destigmatise victims and guarantee the justice system prosecutes perpetrators.
“Together, we managed to turn traumatic personal experiences into a political event and make it a trigger for our demands against impunity, the cruel silence and the loneliness that’s part of our daily lives,” she said in her closing remarks on Thursday.
“We will do whatever possible to move forward and to make sure the law and the truth prevail. We have a historical, political and social obligation to fight to do so.”
On Thursday, Actrices Argentinas appealed to Brazilian feminist organisations, asking for their help in bringing Darthés to court.
"We have to organise, this complaint works with zero resources, everything is voluntary, [and] we need support in Brazil," said Cruz.
"As he [Darthés] was born in Brazil, he is enjoying protection because Brazil does not extradite its nationals for criminal reasons. We need to arbitrate all measures so that the trial is carried out in that country," added the lawyer.