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In the early hours of the 14th of January, on Big Brother Brazil (BBB), the program with the largest audience in the country, there took place “a rape on live television, without anyone doing anything about it”. The comment comes from Alê, a feminist blogger who was disgusted by the passivity of the biggest television network in the country, TV Globo, when she witnessed the event. Alongside her, thousands of other internet users voiced their outrage.
After partying on Saturday night, BBB contestant Monique Amin, a 23-year-old student, went to her bedroom. Having consumed alcohol – as is encouraged by “Globo itself (…) in copious measures” – Monique got into bed, clearly drunk. Daniel Echaniz, a model aged 31, went with Monique and lay down next to her on the bed. Moments later, he appears to be making sexual movements towards her. However, as the program itself has admitted, Monique was not awake, and it was therefore impossible for her to consent to any sexual activity.
Blogger Leticia Fernandez shared the news stream that the premium version of BBB showed at the time:
Está rolando o clima entre Daniel e Monique debaixo do edredom. Ele se mexe, parece acariciar a sister, mas a loira não se move.
As you'd expect, the video of the event was not available on the internet for very long. Videos on YouTube were removed “for violating YouTube's policy on content involving nudity or sex”.
Love is a beautiful thing … machismo is not
The events didn't receive any immediate response on television, except for the comments of the program's presenter, Pedro Bial, who said – after viewers had been shown a video that, according to several Twitter users, had been edited to diminish the impact of the events – that “love is a beautiful thing”. However, the size of the backlash on the internet was inversely proportional to the televised response. The topic was discussed on blogs, news sites, Twitter and Facebook.
On Twitter, many people suggested that “it might be a hoax to increase the ratings”, according to blogger Rosangela Basso.
Ana Marques, known as Morango, a former participant of the show, criticized the handling of the events, saying that she herself felt violated:
Esperei ouvir de Bial, jornalista e pai de uma filha que tem a idade de Monique, um manifesto de repúdio à atitude de Daniel que servisse de exemplo. Também esperei do “BBB” uma edição minimamente transparente e depois, um posicionamento. Mas foi o contrário.
Though opinions on sexual abuse in BBB were almost unanimous across the social networks, there were also internet users who saw the case from a different perspective.
Journalist Sara Martinez (@sarafcmartinez) complained of the spread of comments such as “she was drunk / she deserved it / she's a slut / the guy is black, so it was bound to happen”. While several people shared photos of the Slut Walk [en] protests in Brazil, journalist and writer Nina Lemos, shocked by Pedro Bial's statement, summarized the day's events as “cynicism and machismo”:
Chocante é (…) também o machismo que correu solto na internet o dia inteiro ao se falar do caso. “Quem bebe além da conta não tem do que reclamar no dia seguinte. Se quer respeito, aprende a beber”, escreveu um blogueiro com milhares de seguidores.
More than just an incident on a reality show, what happened between Daniel and Monique also raises important questions related to sexual behaviour and education in Brazil.
Alex Castro, from the Papo de Homem (Men's Chat) blog, wrote an article based on “the following rule: if there's any doubt, don't rape”:
Estamos há séculos ensinando as meninas como se vestir e como agir – para a segurança delas, claro! Mas talvez fosse a hora de ensinar os meninos como não-estuprar. (…) entre esses pais que controlam as saias das filhas com tanta ênfase e afico, quantos já usaram a MESMA ênfase e o mesmo afinco para controlar os hormônios e os impulsos dos filhos? Para ter uma conversa franca e aberta sobre estupro e escolha?
In just a few hours his article gathered “3 thousand likes on Facebook, 850 RTs (retweets), 160 comments, and was read 80 thousand times”, as he reported on his private profile on Facebook.
In the same vein as “it's not women who need to learn to avoid and protect themselves against rape, it's men who need to learn that they must not rape”, the collective blog Biscate Social Club furthered the debate on rape, stating:
Estupro não é sexo. Estupro não é uma vontade incontrolável de dar prazer à outra pessoa mesmo que ela não saiba que quer muito isso. Estupro não é um favor, não é um acidente, não é uma empolgação. Estupro é uma violência que decorre de uma relação de poder. No estupro, aproveita-se da vulnerabilidade do outro.
Applying the law to a “reality show”
As journalist Natalia Mendes wrote in a special article for the Nota de Rodapé (Footer) blog, it was only “after the mobilization on the social networks and the #DanielExpulso (#EvictDaniel) hashtag reaching first place in Twitter's Trending Topics” that the program's producers took action.
It was only in the episode on Monday 16th January that Globo decided to make its move. Not specifically mentioning what happened, Pedro Bial said that Daniel had broken the show's rules and had therefore been evicted. Federal Public Defender Francisco had already stated on Twitter that it was Globo's duty to do so, reinforcing the use of article 215 of the Penal Code regarding rape of a vulnerable person, explaining “that the instigation of the action does not depend on the victim”, as the action would be assumed.
Maíra Mano explains in her blog why the actions can be considered a crime:
Segundo o artigo 213 da lei 12.015, de 2009, é estupro “constranger alguém, mediante violência ou grave ameaça, a ter conjunção carnal ou a praticar ou permitir que com ele se pratique outro ato libidinoso”. (…) também é preciso mencionar o artigo 215, que fala sobre violação sexual mediante fraude e estupro de vulnerável na modalidade em que a vítima está impossibilitada, por outro meio, de oferecer resistência.
On Tuesday 17th January, the presenter spoke again on the program about the case, and confirmed TV Globo's statement that both Daniel and Monique were conscious on the Saturday night, even despite Monique “possibly suffering from alcoholic amnesia” having previously claimed that she didn't remember what had happened. Globo itself announced on the 17th that both of them had denied rape in statements to the police.
It would not be the first time that a case of sexual abuse has occurred in a Big Brother reality show. The website Operamundi details a similar case in South Africa, in which although “many people demanded that the student be held legally responsible for his actions”:
os dois seguiram no programa até o final. Após votação popular, Richard ganhou o BB da África do Sul e faturou o grande prêmio — Ofunneka ficou em segundo.
Ana flávia Ramos, from the Tab na Rede (Tab on the Net) blog, leaves us with a question:
O histórico de barbaridades no BBB já não é novo, mas quais serão os limites do programa após um suposto estupro em cadeia nacional? Como será interpretada pelas autoridades públicas e pelos telespectadores a omissão da Globo diante do caso?