Argentina has been revolutionized since Tuesday following actress Thelma Fardín‘s allegations that another actor, Juan Darthés, raped her when she was 16 years old.
Although this is far from being the first accusation of the kind from and against a public figure – it is not even the first one against Darthés, who has recently received similar accusations from four other women – it is acting as a catalyst for a societal upheaval. The setting perhaps helped: Fardín made the accusation official in the context of a press conference called by an organization of Argentine actresses, whose members provided her with unrelenting support and who, in general, are staunch advocates and prominent figures of Argentina’s feminist movements.
Another significant factor are the circumstances: Fardín indicated that the event took place in 2009, when she was a minor – she was 16 years old – and when she, along with Darthés, was in Nicaragua touring with the cast of a TV show they both starred in, called Patito Feo (“Ugly Duckling”). In her video, she recounted that Darthés had non-consensual relations with her, and that she was only able to escape when a hotel worker knocked on the bedroom door.
Since her shocking allegations came to light on Tuesday, the accusation has completely dominated the conversation in Argentina ever since, and has triggered an avalanche of reactions and outcry. On social media, politicians (even President Macri), fellow actors, and other women came out to share both support and details of their own experiences with abuse, indicating that Fardín’s accusation encouraged them to speak out.
The story is complex and has many ramifications so, to try to wrap our minds around it all, let’s compartmentalize them and take a look one by one.
“I was 16 years old. I was a child. The only adult actor [on tour] was 45. One night, he started kissing my neck. I told him not to. He made me touch him and said ‘see what you do to me?’ talking about his erection. I kept saying no. He pushed aside my shorts and performed oral sex on me. I kept saying no. He stuck his fingers in me. I kept saying no. I told him ‘your children are my age.’ He did not care. He climbed up on top of me and penetrated me. At that moment, someone knocked on the door and I was able to leave the room. Because someone spoke out before me, I can do it today. And when I did, I found myself surrounded by people willing to support me, to look after me. Especially to give me love,” Fardín recounted in a video (posted above).
Her emotional message was followed by a series of local actors saying “Mirá cómo nos ponemos [which can be loosely translated to “look what you make us do” or “see what you do to us”) and is a direct response to Darthés’ alleged phrase,“Mirá cómo me ponés” while he was allegedly forcing himself upon Fardín], which became the hashtag used to denounce acts of sexual violence against women.
In an interview with Página 12 this week, Fardín explained why it took her so long to speak out: “As victims, we undergo a long process before we’re able to talk about it. To think that just 10 years ago, they were cutting women’s skirts on TV [in reference to Marcelo Tinelli’s massively popular show Bailando por un Sueño, in which he often snipped female participants’ skirts on the air]… Here’s to hoping that the objectification of women can change.”
Juan Darthés is a well-known telenovela actor in Argentina. And while this scandal has most certainly killed his career, it’s important to remember this isn’t the first accusation against him. Other actresses have called him out for inappropriate behavior in the past, claiming that he was a little too comfortable during kiss scenes.
Considering how this new revelation exploded on the media and social networks, he immediately took to Twitter to reject the accusation.
No es verdad lo que se dijo, por Dios! Es una locura, nunca sucedió eso. Por favor esperemos los tiempos de la justicia. Gracias @FernandBurlando por escucharme.
— Juan Darthés (@darthesjuan1) December 12, 2018
“My God, what was said is not true! This is crazy, that never happened. Please, let’s give the courts time to act. Thank you Fernando Burlando for listening to me,” Said Darthés.
Besides being outraged by the accusation, Darthes used his Twitter account to thank prominent attorney Fernando Burlando, in reference to the fact that Ana Rosenfeld, a lawyer who usually represents celebrities, had stepped down as his attorney a few hours before the accusation came to light. Darthés is now being represented by Burlando, who, ironically, is at the same time representing the women accusing Rodrigo Eguillor, a 24-year-old man who made the media rounds last week after being accused of abuse and rape and quickly became Argentina’s public enemy number one.
In an interview, Burlando requested his client be given the benefit of the doubt. “I met Juan, I think I know who he is. I could be wrong, but he has the perfect family. I insist. I want to see him and then I will see what I do. Today I feel like the captain of the Titanic. I will be the last to jump ship.” “And what if there is conclusive proof?” he was asked. “I would be disgusted and would not represent him anymore,” he replied.
The attorney went on to say that he does not rule out conducting psychological and psychiatric evaluation to determine whether Darthés is in his right mind. Moreover, he hinted that Darthés had to be hospitalized as a result of the accusation and its reverberations. “He is overwhelmed,” Burlando said.
Other Actors’ Reactions
Besides the multiple expressions of support that Fardín received from colleagues, there were other reactions to the scandal that can be divided into two sub-groups: those coming from the people who worked with both Darthés and Fardín on Patito Feo, and those who defended him in the past as rumours about his alleged behavior grew and now regret having done so.
In the first case, A-list actors of the likes of Gastón Soffritti and Brenda Asnicar came out to support Fardín.
— BRENDA ASNICAR – (@Asnicar__Brenda) December 12, 2018
“I’m in Colombia. It pains me so much to not be able to join you today Thelma, and also to know that I was so close and so far away at the same time. Stay strong!,” reads Asnicar’s Tweet.
There are many more in the latter group. Celebrities who had come out to support Darthés when local actress Calu Rivero accused him of harassment last year, now backtracked on their previous statements and apologized for their actions. Some of those include Eugenia “China” Suárez, Sebastián Estevanez, Facundo Arana, Lali Espósito, Gerardo Romano, and Eva de Dominici.
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Defendí en su momento a una persona en la que confiaba mucho. Lo consideraba un amigo, uno de esos compañeros excepcionales que siempre me ayudó y se portó de maravilla con mi familia y conmigo. En su momento pensé que Calu estaba confundida por las incomodidades de una escena. Y como yo personalmente viví el abuso de poder viniendo de mujeres (porque también pasa) y mi familia y yo sentíamos tanto cariño por la persona denunciada, no le creí, o no quise creer. Pero luego me fui enterando de otras cosas, de mujeres que sufrieron situaciones similares, hasta que me enteré lo de Thelma y la llamé. Yo también formé parte de esas giras, tenía 12 años en ese momento y mi padre solía pedirle a ese mismo hombre que me cuide, y él lo hizo siempre. Hablando por teléfono con Thelma me puse a llorar, se me rompió el corazón. Porque esa no era la persona que yo conocí, sentí una decepción enorme, y se me vino encima la responsabilidad de haber defendido públicamente a la persona incorrecta. Ahí pedí mis disculpas en privado y luego públicamente, por lo cual me pelee fuertemente con un familiar que me acusó de haber traicionado a un amigo, diciendo que estaba seguro de que él sería incapaz de hacer algo así, que la chica algo habrá provocado. Ahí entendí de donde venía mi razonamiento de mierda. Somos todos hijos del patriarcado que nos ha incorporado dudar primero de la mujer, nos metieron un chip machista en la cabeza y así nos fuimos culpando entre mujeres, permitiendo que nos denigren libremente, aceptando ser parte del juego, somos las brujas. El patriarcado nos ha cagado la vida tanto a mujeres como a hombres y nos ha podrido la mente. Nos quisieron enemistar y hoy estamos abrazadas. #MIRACOMONOSPONEMOS #SEVAACAER ?
De Dominici did so in an Instagram post: “I defended a person that I trusted a lot. I considered him to be a friend, one of those exceptional companions who always helped me and was amazing with me and my family. Back then, I thought Calu was confused about the awkwardness of a scene. And since I personally lived situations of abuse of power from women (it happens too) I did not believe her, or did not want to believe her. But then I found out about other things. Until I found out about Thelma’s situation and called her. I was also part of those tours. I was 12 years old back then and my father used to tell that same man to look after me, and he always did.”
The Domino Effect
Fardín’s accusation led many others to reveal they had been victims of abuse. Local journalists Romina Manguel and María Julia Oliván publicly revealed this week that they had been harassed, but the number of women who do not have a platform of the kind and sought out help to address their own situations was immense.
The City government indicated that on the day of the accusation, the number of calls to the #144 help line, set up to report gender-based violence episodes, increased by 33 percent compared to the previous day. And on Wednesday, there were twice as many calls compared to the same day last week.
Ada Rico, head of La Casa Del Encuentro NGO and director of the Argentine Observatory of Femicides said that “we have a team of 12 volunteers, but had to get more people to meet the demand. There are a lot of women calling, even mothers with children.”
“It is extremely important for them to know they are not alone, and that society is supporting them. It does not matter how long it has been, what matters is giving visibility to the issue and working on it,” Rico added.
In fact, Darthés was accused on Thursday by another woman, who assured he abused her when she was 18 years old. Lawyer Raquel Hermida, who revealed this new case, indicated that her client “is not an actress, but was member of the production team.” “She will file the charges when she is mentally ready to,” she added. This marks the fifth accusation against Darthés.
Across social media, #MiraComoNosPonemos became a viral sensation. On Twitter, the hashtag dominated feeds in Argentina and beyond, with users sharing their own experiences with abuse, expressing support for Thelma and other victims, and calling out the hypocrisy and double-standard that was trickling in. At the time this article was being written, the hashtag had been used in over 160,000 posts on Instagram.
Reactions in the Political World
President Mauricio Macri took to Twitter to say that, out of respect following the accusations, the administration pulled a year-old ad from the government against gender-based violence in which Darthés himself was featured. Moreover, he assured that “the government is committed to eradicating all forms of violence against women.”
El compromiso es trabajar para erradicar todas las formas de violencia contra las mujeres.
— Mauricio Macri (@mauriciomacri) December 12, 2018
Many came out to criticize the government for only doing it now, even though Darthés had already been accused by three other women.
In a radio interview on Wednesday, Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal made reference to the case. “I was moved, same as everyone who saw the video. It was extremely brave. Sometimes, daring to speak out saves other women. That is what I think was most valuable. As a woman, I stand with her and I’m there siding with she who makes the accusation,” Vidal said.
The accusation also made it to the Senate, where several lawmakers from all caucuses showed solidarity with Fardín by displaying signs reading “Mirá Como Nos Ponemos.” Different senators also delivered messages supporting Fardín and against gender-based violence.
However, in this case there were also people recalling that some of the senators who displayed the sign also voted against the bill to legalize abortion in Argentina, preventing women from deciding over their own bodies.
Oia, miren a los #senadorespercha @tolourtubey y @espinolacamau que votaron a favor de la muerte de mujeres en abortos clandestinos con el cartelito de #MiraComosNosPonemos ¿No saben cómo nos ponemos? pic.twitter.com/elzgUNstou
— ? Ingrid Beck ? (@soyingridbeck) December 12, 2018
After making the headlines throughout Argentina, the story was quickly picked up by several media outlets around the world, including the New York Times. The feminist media collective Periodistas Argentinas shared some of these highlights on its Instagram account in the following post:
The Legal Case
The crime of which Darthés was accused on Tuesday has not exceeded the statute of limitations. In Nicaragua, that happens after 10 years, and it’s been nine since that day. Even though Argentine Ambassador to Nicaragua, Marcelo Valle Fonrouge, said that “an Argentine judge will continue with the case,” Fardín’s lawyer told Página 12 that this will not be the case, and that Argentine courts will only be able to collaborate.
In Nicaragua, rapists can receive sentences ranging between eight and 12 years, but they can be increased to 20 years if there are aggravating factors. As this case unfolds, Darthés was supposed to attend a hearing in another case, in which he had accused Calu Rivero of slander, as a result of her previous accusation against him. He did not show up to court.
Talking to the press outside the courthouse, Rivero said: “I am extremely emotional because I see you and I feel this is a day in which women win. I think it is amazing. I feel extremely powerful, I feel safe, heard, protected, and I thank you very much. The only thing I expect is action. We cannot take this anymore,” she said, with tears in her eyes.
Rivero’s words echo those of Fardín, who thanked everyone who supported her via a long Twitter thread on Wednesday, but also of millions of women throughout the country and the world.
GRACIAS no me alcanza, vamos a tener que inventar una palabra para dimensionar lo que siento con lo que está sucediendo… Por ahora les digo GRACIAS por escuchar, por creer y sobre todo, por seguir haciendo ruido.
— Thelma Fardin (@soythelmafardin) December 12, 2018
If you or someone you know has been a victim of gender violence, you can call the free #144 helpline, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.