Wednesday, October 20

Two years in jail for a lieutenant colonel for sexually harassing a corporal via Telegram | Spain

Military women during an act at the El Goloso base (Madrid).
Military women during an act at the El Goloso base (Madrid).Uly Martin

A lieutenant colonel, assigned to the Defense General Staff, has been sentenced to two years and three months in prison for sexually and professionally harassing a first corporal to whom he sent, via Telegram, a video with obscene propositions that she rejected, according to a ruling issued by the Central Military Court. In retaliation, the spiteful command set about harassing her at her work, which made her on the verge of “collapsing psychologically.”

In February 2017, at the direction of her superior, the corporal first installed the Telegram messaging application on her mobile. The lieutenant colonel had told him that “it offered greater possibilities than WhatsApp.” The advantage was that, with a tool called “secret chat”, messages with programmed self-destruction can be sent using a timer so that, once opened by the receiver and after the allotted time, they disappear without a trace and without the possibility of recovery. , collect the sentence.

Until that moment, the messages that the two had exchanged on WhatsApp were normal, although with “excessive familiarity and confidence given the difference in military employment between the two,” the ruling adds.

The officer, who accessed the corporal’s mobile because it was on the unit’s alert list, called her with the nickname witch, He commented on his profile photos, asked about his children and offered him days off or easy hours. She responded “out of courtesy or deference to her superior, who was always dealing with you, despite feeling uncomfortable with certain communications,” says the sentence, which clarifies that it was once she who took the initiative.

On February 8, 2017, when the corporal was “visibly upset and tearful” from an argument with her husband, the lieutenant colonel invited her to the cafeteria. He told her that “she was very pretty, very smart and a very good worker” and urged her to leave her husband.

After this conversation, the content of the communications “increased in tone”, according to the sentence, and included more personal issues. It was on September 12, at six in the morning, after the secret Telegram application had been installed, when she received an audio and video message, self-destructing in one minute, in which the lieutenant colonel was seen in front of the mirror of a bath, with a T-shirt that he took off to remain naked, while saying “the time has come for you to know that this is yours if you want it”, while touching his genitals and masturbating.

That day, the corporal first went to her superior’s office, “she faced him and told him never to send him messages of such content and that he had been wrong about her.” He responded by asking her forgiveness and assuring that he had mistaken the recipient when sending it.

However, from that moment on, “he radically changed his dealings with the corporal first, to whom he stopped speaking, ordered a drastic reduction of the functions he had been exercising and adopted a series of decisions that negatively affected his work environment ”, Explains the sentence. Specifically, she phoned the head of the unit where she had been stationed to ask about her health problems at that time; It made it difficult for him to correct a withdrawal that was mistakenly attributed to a common contingency, when he was a professional, which meant he lost money; He tried to exclude her from a course for which she had been appointed and which she ended up quitting even though it was beneficial for her professional advancement; and ordered that the substitutions of a civil servant always be done by her, which prevented her from scheduling her vacations. When, in application of the protocol against sexual harassment, she was commissioned to another unit, the lieutenant colonel requested her transfer to that unit.

The corporal never thought of denouncing her superior. In December 2017, after a conference on sexual harassment held in her unit, she asked the lieutenant colonel who had given it for support and he was alarmed to find her “anguished, with great fear and great suffering, on the verge of collapsing psychologically.”

As a result of the harassment she suffered, the corporal was first treated for anxiety and depression. In February 2019, five specialists from the Gómez Ulla Military Hospital diagnosed that he suffered from a “depressed mood, apathy and intense anxiety”; as well as feelings of “hopelessness and guilt.”

The internal investigation, “useless or disturbing”

The court agrees with the convicted lieutenant colonel that the prior information on this case made by the Army did not meet the minimum guarantees and declared it null. He does not agree, however, as he intended, to annul the judicial investigation, since he understands that, despite that, it was not contaminated. The judges wonder why an internal investigation was ordered when it was clear from the outset that it was an alleged crime and not a mere disciplinary offense. “As in similar cases, the prior information ordered by the military command is absolutely useless in the best of cases, when not disturbing because it provides an occasion for the disappearance or alteration of evidence,” warns the sentence.

Although the Telegram video could not be recovered, the court gave full credence to the victim’s testimony. His lawyer, Antonio Suárez-Valdés, believes that it is a “novel sentence” that enshrines “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment in the Armed Forces.

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