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‘Facts that are declared proven’: sexual violence, forensic medicine, and the courtroom in early Francoist Spain

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>10/11/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Women's History Review
Issue number7
Number of pages21
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date16/04/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article examines the Spanish court system as a site for the secondary victimisation or ‘second rape’ of sexual assault victims under the right-wing, Catholic dictatorship of Francisco Franco in Spain. Medical evidence enjoyed a high level of prestige as a modern and ‘objective’ arbiter of truth in Francoist Spain, precisely because of widespread recognition of the legal system’s corruptible nature. As such, contemporary court records reveal how victims in fact sometimes sought out medical examinations, even before reporting sexual crimes to law enforcement. However, the discretional nature of the Francoist legal system, heavily reliant on character references, allowed investigating judges to exploit the ambiguities of medical evidence to fit their vision of who constituted the legitimate ‘victims’ and ‘perpetrators’ of sexual violence. Medical forensic evidence therefore served an important purpose in Francoist rape trials; this was not the pursuit of justice or reparations for victims, but rather to reinforce conservative, patriarchal societal structures while providing a veneer of legitimacy to an otherwise distrusted legal system.