Police in Rio de Janeiro said they’re asking for charges to be filed against seven people in the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl.
The case has made international headlines because videos showing men posing with the unconscious victim were shared on social media.
The attack in May, which took place in an abandoned building in Rio’s Morro do Borao slum, shocked the world and became a symbol of the Brazil’s problem of violence against women.
Cristiana Bento,the officer overseeing the investigation, said evidence collected so far shows that three men and a minor took part in the actual gang rape, not 33 people as the victim initially suggested. Bento said she believes the victim’s statement was a “false memory,” perhaps the result of her drugged state during the attack or the trauma suffered.
The videos and other material that appeared on social media and message sharing sites alerted police to what happened and helped them in their investigation and to identify suspects.
Along with four men authorities believe were directly involved in the attack, Bento has asked for charges to be brought against two other people for allegedly helping circulate the videos online.
She is also seeking charges against a gang leader in the Rio de Janeiro slum where the rape took place for allegedly giving the attack his blessing.
Two suspects have been arrested and the rest remain at large.
Protesting ‘culture of rape’
Activists said the recent case has also highlighted an entrenched culture of rape and misogyny in Brazil, which allows the violation of women while blaming them for the crimes committed against them.
Despite video and photographic evidence of her abuse while unconscious, the 16-year-old faced a social media backlash, which included death threats, and attempts to undermine her victimhood, with allegations that she was a gangster’s prostitute who regularly traded sex for drugs.
Even the initial lead investigator, police chief Alessandro Thiers, suggested that the incident may have been consensual. Thiers has since been removed from the case and replaced with Cristiana Bento, who has stated that the video footage proved the girl had been collectively raped.
“She was the victim of sexual abuse, and she’s being victimized and judged here,” Bento said at a press conference last month. “This girl should be looked after.”