On Friday, reports came out of Jerez that MotoGP rider Hector Barbera had been arrested for assaulting his girlfriend. With the case handled by Spain’s special domestic violence courts, Barbera received a sentence of six months in jail, while his girlfriend also received five months in jail, as she was also found guilty of assaulting Barbera in the exchange. With details of the event seemingly under lock and key by the court’s proceedings, speculation has been rife about the incident.
Hoping to set the record straight, Barbera has released a clarifying statement via his Facebook page, though it does little to shed more light on the situation, and reinforces some very disturbing notions already held about misogyny in Spain, and by proxy MotoGP as well. Stressing that he himself was a victim, as was found by the court, Barbera adds that he would “never think on hurting or damaging any person, no matter woman or men, ” and is adamant that he is “firmly against any type of mistreatment or abuse to anyone.”
That is an interesting statement considering that Barbera’s presumably now ex-girlfriend, identified only by her initials D.P., was sent to the hospital with visible bruising because of Barbera’s own actions. To be fair, Barbera’s own injuries have not been a topic of much discussion, and he is presumed to have suffered some form of battery as well, which presumably makes what he did more justifiable — at least, that seems to be the point Barbera is trying to make in his statement.
Looking at the story from American eyes and predispositions, a man assaulting a woman, whether provoked or not, is automatically cast as the guilty party — it is perhaps the one ironic role-reversal in America’s own battle with sexism and misogyny in its socio-legal systems. As one of my legal colleagues said to me, “a speedy trial, and both parties getting punished? That would never happen here in the United States.” Quite right.
The issue has been an interesting one to follow in the MotoGP paddock, as well as through the Spanish media. While we will likely never know the full extent of what really transpired in that Jerez hotel room, not to mention that ascertaining the “guilt” of what occurred can only be speculated to by media outlets, including us here at Asphalt & Rubber, it is interesting to note the asterisks offered by many Spanish publications that this was “only a lover’s quarrel” and not a case of actual domestic abuse, as well as Barbera’s own description that what happened was “just been a simple couple discussion.” As if such a distinction can rationally be made outside of the 1920’s.
While our own culture automatically condemns Barbera’s actions, rightfully or not (for a moment, would you think differently about the situation if it came out that D.P. lunged at Barbera with a knife, and her injuries were the result of Hector’s self-defence?), it is interesting to note the counterpoint in the Spanish treatment of the event.
In a country that is rife with a serious domestic violence issue, so much so that a fast-track legal system has been put in place to combat its growth, both parties in this incident are found to share the guilt, and are given by American standards, a slap on the wrist for their transgressions. Even more appalling to our senses is that those jail sentences have already been commuted to 14 months of community service.
From my own mind, trained in both American and international jurisprudence, it has hard to fathom that a state like Spain can at one point say that it is committed to turning around an epidemic of domestic violence, and then hands out a punishment for a high-profile crime that is more on par with misdemeanor vandalism. I learned long ago that laws are made by the people they govern, and while the relativist point-of-view says that you cannot pass judgment on them, those laws are still by definition a reflection of the societies that create them.
While I admonish our own American preconceptions to automatically assume the male at fault in a domestic violence incidents, it is even more troubling for me to see the handling of a case like Barbera’s end with such a resolution, knowing full well that there are likely thousands more that will occur this year without such a high level of public scrutiny.
In the end, Barbera’s arrest and sentencing with his girlfriend speaks to a larger cultural issue in Spain regarding misogyny, and while much of that is outside what one would expect from a motorcycle publication such as ours, and easily goes beyond the microcosm of the MotoGP paddock — we have to remember the criticism that Grand Prix motorcycle racing very much so is Spain at this point in time. We like to pretend that our passion of motorcycling doesn’t exist in the dramas of real life, but in earnest, the truth is the other way around.
When I think about how this sport reacts to an event like Barbera’s, and what that says about us as a two-wheeled community, I think too to what my good colleague David Emmett pointed out upon hearing the news of Barbera’s arrest and sentencing. “So I asked about homophobia in the paddock, and had one person deny that they had ever noticed homophobia or misogyny in the paddock. Then a rider gets arrested for beating up his girlfriend. Connect the dots.” Barbera’s statement is below, for your dot-connecting.
Valencia, 12th May 2013
After all the facts happened yesterday, Hector Barbera would like to provide his own version to clarify to all media communication the way they really occurred.
Hector Barbera’s declaration:
About the information that have been published in different press media , I want to clarify with this communication how the facts occurred in the night of the 9th of May.
I obviously do not feel proud at all of what happened, and I want to express my apologizes to all people, specially to my family, my friends and sport team members.
In this procedure, I must assume my duties and responsabilities, but, I feel myself (as also stated the Court) as a attacked and affected part.
After the opportune denouncements, we strictly follow the protocol marked by the law for that kind of facts. Once in the Court, both parts declared and were visited by the medical examiner, who certified the injuries I had. In any case and been respectful I renounce to provide more details about this. Lately both parts accepted the Jerez Court resolution.
Me and my previous couple have accepted immediately this Court resolution as an attempt to conclude not only with this legal procedure but also with the unfair social and media treatment I have suffered undeservedly with opinions and statements which are far away from reality, all based in rumors not verified.
In my family we are three kids, two girls and one boy, we grown together, learning the values of respect, fairness and love, I would never think on hurting or damaging any person, no matter woman or men. I am firmly against any type of mistreatement or abuse to anyone.
To me this matter is now definitely closed forever and just want to dedicate all my efforts to my sport career as I have been doing till now. I refer to my Press and legal advisors if required.
Source: Hector Barbera (Facebook); Photo: Red Bull