Maite, barely fourteen years old, in the care of the government of Spain’s Valencia region, and living in a residential home, suffered the misfortune of not only being sexually abused by one her caretakers but also being discredited to protect her abuser. Significantly, the perpetator in question was the then husband of Monica Oltra, the left-wing, feminist vice president of Valencia and head of the ministries of equality and social matters, which oversaw group homes.
Maite’s fight to be believed resulted not only in the conviction of her abuser but also in charges against his political enablers, including Oltra herself, who resigned from her political posts on June 21st to concentrate on her legal defence. She will face trial in July.
“They turned their backs on me,” Maite told Spanish media of the treatment she received.
In 2017, she informed one of the social workers at her residential home that Luis Ramírez Icardi, another social worker and Oltra’s then husband, entered her room at night and masturbated with her hand while she pretended to be asleep out of fear and shame, but no one believed her. She was transferred to another group home while her abuser remained at his post and the matter was dropped.
But her teenage boyfriend urged her to go to the police. She did, and despite pressure from Oltra’s ministry not to refer the allegations to the prosecutor’s office, the police followed through with an investigation and formal charges. In 2019, Icardi was sentenced to five years in prison. After a retrial, he was again found guilty in 2020. In the sentence, the judge noted that the administration had not protected Maite and that there existed a “parallel investigation” to the official one—the parallel proceedings having been designed to discredit the girl.
According to a further investigation, when the prosecutor’s office decided to pursue the case, Oltra, with other high-ranking officials and the help of civil servants, opened a separate investigation, which included commissioning a psychological report on Maite from the Espill Institute, which deemed her version of events “not very credible.” When Maite was called to testify in Icardi’s trial, the administration, still her guardians, took her to court in handcuffs, a sign of their continued efforts to undermine her testimony.
After her abuser’s conviction, Maite accused the administration of trying to silence and discredit her. The Spanish Right, led by Gobiernate, an organization started by VOX co-founder and outspoken journalist Cristina Seguí, stepped up to her defence and pushed for the investigation that has now led to charges not only against Oltra, but also thirteen others from the ministry of equality headed by the left-wing politician.
“What is important is the cover-up arranged in order to avoid the need for a proper investigation of the facts and the failed duty of protection to the minor,” the judge ruled in opening the charges. He added that, taken together, these constituted “a secondary victimization” on top of the sexual abuse that was committed in the first place.
The case also involves the use of public funds for a private interest—namely, the political protection of Oltra from her ex-husband’s crimes.
The day before Oltra resigned from all her political posts, the police searched the offices of her department for further evidence. Seguí told El Debate that she believes there are multiple cases like Maite’s that she hopes will come to light as the investigation continues.