Women’s organizations react to the preliminary settlement within the case of Héctor O’Neill: “This is pure impunity”

The preliminary settlement introduced this Wednesday within the case for sexual harassment and gender violence towards the previous mayor of Guaynabo Hector O’Neill Garcia has raised a constant query amongst feminist organizations and protectors of victims of the wave of sexist violence in Puerto Rico: “Who won here?”

That was the preliminary query that was raised Vilmarie Rivera Sierra, president of the National Network of Shelters for Gender Violence, who regretted that the end result of this judicial course of evidences the fact of many victims, who’re compelled to face exhausting circumstances, with none area to heal the emotional injury.

“That is the best deal in the world… the best deal for any aggressor. This is pure impunity. This seems to me to be detrimental to the message being sent to the victims once again. (It is) that, if you are brave and decide not to be silent, if (the aggressor) has purchasing power, he will go unpunished, “he said in an interview with The new day.

O’Neill Garcia pleaded guilty to four counts in the case against him since 2017 for violations of Law 54 on Prevention and Intervention with Domestic Violence and two other charges for sexual harassment in employment and negligence in the line of duty.

Two of the charges were reclassified: one for sexual assault in a relationship (article 3.5 of Law 54) that changed to article 3.1 (abuse in a relationship), as well as a violation of the Government Ethics Law.

“It is sad and unfortunate. As a country I believe that, in the midst of a state of emergency, these are the things that have to make us reflect, if this is what we aspire for survivors. If once we manage to knock on the judicial door, later it will fade through all the wrongs that are made, “added Rivera Sierra.

He asked the victims, however, to step forward and confront their aggressors: “It’s worth it.”

In 2016, a complaint filed by an agent of the Guaynabo Municipal Police against the then mayor came to light. At that time, she alleged that O’Neill García sexually assaulted her and took retaliatory measures against her after ending a relationship.

During the preliminary hearing for this case, held in March 2018, the victim declared through tears: “I don’t want to see it, honorable, please.” The relationship took place between 2009 and 2014. According to the woman, the pattern of harassment continued at the end of 2018.

For its part, Zoan Davila, spokesperson for the Feminist Collective under Construction, echoed the expressions of Rivera Sierra and questioned the delays in the process that, in his opinion, only benefited the aggressor.

“For us, what happened today does not really represent any kind of justice for the survivor of these acts of sexual violence suffered by the former mayor, and not necessarily because at the end of the day she will not be serving jail time. I think that the injustice is clearly seen because we see a process where the needs of the survivors are not focused, nor a process that is fair to them, ”he mentioned.

Read extra: Héctor O’Neill pleads responsible in case of gender violence and sexual harassment

He added that the slowness of the method prevented the sufferer from closing the chapter and looking for therapeutic. In truth, Leticia Pabón Ortiz, of the Office of the Independent Special Prosecutor (Opfei), acknowledged that lately the sufferer has suffered a deterioration in her psychological state.

“It cannot be that we are talking about a criminal process that has lasted three years, and that those three years and those delays in that process have been clearly aimed at benefiting Mr. Héctor O’Neill, despite all the charges against him and the information that was known about those crimes that had been committed, ”mentioned Dávila.

According to Opfei, the sufferer agrees with the preliminary settlement. However, Rivera Sierra confused that this can be as a result of he bought uninterested in the method.

“The victims have to face judicial processes where they are re-victimized, number one and number two, it makes them tire, they have to relive their experience and they cancel the hearings, they lengthen the process. They are long cases that make the person gradually give way to a certain point. What this woman did was give in “, express.

The Procurator for Women, Lersy Boria Vizcarrondo, acknowledged the fatigue of the victims in a separate interview, lamenting that the victims in many cases “feel that their lives are ending in life.”

“It is clear that we have a victim who, after everything that the Héctor O’Neill case implies has happened, that victim has been suffering for many years, and when he decided to go out and be able to claim within all that it implies, he also went through a process very long, tortuous, where this woman is revictimized as happens with so many cases. It is a process where our victims get tired, they have no hope ”, he commented.

He explained that now the process of healing the damage that was done to the injured begins. In passing, he called on those victims of gender violence on the island to take the step and seek help, on the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

“Here the focus is on rehabilitation and unconditional support for this person who suffered for so long and who today can start a new life by closing this chapter. An appeal to our victims of any manifestation of violence, who count on the Office of the Prosecutor. We are going to go to all of them, up to the last consequences, to vindicate the rights of our women ”, assured.

O’Neill Garcia, 76, was referred by the Justice Department to Opfei on May 1, 2017. At that time it was found that he may have incurred 20 violations of the law, including some of the crimes for which he pleaded guilty in the preliminary agreement four years later.

The former mayor was dealing with one other lawsuit by a second municipal worker for lewd acts that was dismissed in 2019. The sentencing listening to within the case by which he pleaded responsible immediately was scheduled for February 18, 2022.

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