From rape accusation to pornography revenge.

By: Érika Andreassy, ​​of the National Secretariat of Women of the PSTU, Brazil


The rape accusation that weighs on Neymar and the coverage given to the case by the press and  social networks show once again the degree of machismo that permeates soccer , the media and  Brazilian society. From the disclosure to the press, last June 1, of the complaint made the previous day by Najila Trindade in the 6th Delegation for the Defense of Women, of Santo Amaro, in São Paulo, where she accused the attacker of Paris Saint Germain of rape and physical assault, what followed was a show of horrors, with the right to pornography revenge, invasion of privacy, persecution, moral judgment, and huge play down of violence against women.

It is clear that because of the popularity of the player and the seriousness of the accusation, it would be assumed that the impact would be great. However, Neymar’s reaction to the accusation and the way it affected public opinion in general reveals how much we still need to advance in the fight against machismo and gender violence and how much the gains we have had until now are threatened.


According to the story told in the complaint, the event occurred on May 15 in Paris, where Najila would have traveled at the invitation of Neymar, with the expenses paid, after they met through social networks and exchanged messages on WhatsApp for some time. That version is affirmed by the player, who alleges that the relationship was consensual and that he would be the victim of an extortion attempt. To “prove his innocence”, Neymar decided to publish a video on Instagram in which he shows prints of conversations between them that show, in addition to messages of sexual connotation, intimate photos of the young woman.

Even when the disclosure of the video has generated the opening of police investigations to determine possible digital crime, for Néjila the havoc was already done. As it usually happens in this kind of case , her behavior came to be questioned and several people came out in defense of the player. From relatives to playmates, to music personalities and Neymar fans, there was no lack of people who, in their desire to support him, insulted her and claimed that she would only be accusing the player to get money. His own identity, which had initially been kept secret, was revealed on national television by tv presenter, José Luiz Datena (who is  being prosecuted for sexual harassment by a former work colleague), after revealing all his machismo and misogyny. Najila’s privacy was invaded, her finances revealed, her life exposed wide open.And as was to be expected, President Bolsonaro, whose demonstrations of machismo seem to have no limits, not only stated that he believed in Neymar’s version but went to visit him in the hospital [due to an injury to his right ankle] and even took a picture by his side to show his support. And as if that were not enough, the Partido de la Causa Operaria  (PCO) published an article in defense of the player.

Crime and Punishment

The accusation against Neymar is serious; Rape is a serious matter that demands a rigorous investigation and, if proven, an exemplary punishment. However, until the investigation is concluded it would be light to say beforehand that the player is guilty . Like any other person in the same situation, Neymar also has the right to defense and the principle of presumption of innocence, that is, to present his version of the facts and to be considered innocent until proven otherwise. Those principles are a way of ensuring that no one is unfairly accused of a crime they did not commit.But if in relation to the crime of rape weighs only a suspicion on Neymar, the same cannot be said about the use of revenge pornography made by the player against Najila.There are different ways and means to defend against an accusation like that, and the player chose one of the most perverse, macho and violent forms of defense. He chose precisely to attack the woman who denounced him, violating her privacy, publicizing private conversations between them, including fragments of evident sexual connotation, and intimate photos of the young woman for thousands of Internet users.Neymar did not choose to take the images to the authorities investigating the case and wait for the truth to be restored,he chose to expose Najila to the internet moral tribunal . He did not do it to defend himself, but because he knew the different consequences that would have for both, being that in her case, the exposure of the video led several people to question  the veracity of the story , arguing that she had no right to become the rape victim because she “would have offered herself ” to the player during the conversation.By violating the privacy of a woman who, in addition to having been a possible victim of rape, did not authorize the publication of those images, the player committed what is known as “revenge pornography”, that is, a form of violence in which the privacy of another is exposed on  Internet without authorization, with the obvious purpose of revenge. That is exactly what Neymar did: he violated the privacy of Najila and exposed it to millions of people on the Internet.

Fear and silence

It is not uncommon for defendants of abuse to try to defend themselves using the woman’s sexual life to discredit her, associating the image of the victim with a sexual predator and, in cases involving a famous person, of someone interested in money. The fact that countless people agree with this thesis and reproduce it is an evidence of the moral judgment that women are subjected to when they decide to denounce, which is why many women victims of sexual abuse prefer silence.Rape crime is one of the least reported, according to the Brazilian Forum of Public Security. The record of violations is estimated at 35%, but, according to the IPEA, that percentage may be even lower, since, according to the investigation “Rape in Brazil, an X-ray according to Health data”, about 10 % of cases are reported. That is not a reality only of Brazil. The Department of Justice of the United States produced a study and verified that in 2010, only 35% of the victims in the United States reported the crime to the police. Already the Australian Institute of Criminology published a study on women’s safety, where it verified that only 15% of victims of  sexual violence reported the incident to the police, in the twelve-month period prior to the results of the investigation.While it is true that not all reports of rape are true, it is unquestionable that the overwhelming majority is. An U.S. survey that analyzed ten years of data, for example, concluded that 9 out of 10 reports of rape are true and, although there is no study similar to that conducted by specialists in our country, the similarity in the data referring to the reports is a strong indication that Brazil does not differ so much from the United States when the issue is sexual violence.

Machismo in the sports environment

The Neymar case also exposes a reality that is very common, although it is rarely treated seriously: violence against women in sports media. In the 2018 World Cup the subject surfaced after sexist videos involving fans ended up on Internet, causing enormous outrage.Female sports journalists have also denounced harassment at work and there are many cases of famous athletes who became involved in sexual scandals, or reports of sexual abuse of athletes by coaches or other team members.In 2017, for example, the Milan court sentenced the attacker Robinho to nine years in prison for “group sexual violence” against a 22-year-old Albanian girl in a nightclub in the Italian city in 2013.The Sao Paulo coach, Cuca, meanwhile, was involved in a rape accusation when he was still a professional player.Playing for Grêmio, in 1987 Cuca was accused, along with three other teammates , of participating in the collective rape of a 14-year-old teenager in Switzerland, where they were taking part in an excursion, and they were detained for almost a month.Last year, Larry Nassar, physician of the American gymnastics team was sentenced to more than 100 years in prison for sexual abuse, including allegations that started with Olympic champions like Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles.Pernambucana swimmer Joanna Maranhão,holder of eight medals in the Pan-American Games, revealed that in 2008 she was sexually molested by Eugenio Miranda, her coach, when she was only nine years old. She prosecuted the abuser, won, but the crime had already prescribed, therefore Miranda was not imprisoned.All these cases show how much machismo prevails in the sports environment and how much that can have very serious consequences for women.

“Neymar da Penha” law [1]

As if all this were not enough, on June 6, after the repercussion of the case, five congressmen presented and disseminated bills that increase the penalty for those who make false accusations about foul crimes or those related to sexual dignity; four of them are members of PSL [Bolsonaro’s party]: Enéias Reis (Minas Gerais), Heitor Freire (Ceará), Carlos Jordy (Rio de Janeiro) and Cabo Junior Amaral (Minas Gerais); and one from PSDB, Celos Sabino (Pará).Heitor Freire published a video on Twitter in which he said  “the alleged victims of rape report the crime to the police, which mobilizes a contingent and time around a story that does not exist.” “We are seeing here the case of Neymar, who before being investigated was already being considered guilty,” he said.Eduardo Bolsonaro (PSL San Pablo), although he was not the author of any of the projects, praised the initiatives. Also on Twitter, the president’s son declared: “Believe it, there are wicked women who make a career like that,” he said about false accusations of sexual crimes.Senator Flávio Bolsonaro (PSL Rio de Janeiro) took advantage of the repercussion of the case to disseminate a project of his authorship, presented on March 26 in the Senate, with the same intention.

It is worth noting that, in Brazil, the law already provides for punishment for those who make slanderous denunciations, but what these Bill proposes is that the penalty for that crime be increased by up to a third in cases in which the false accusation is referenced to sexual crimes, like rape. In fact, lying allegations are somewhat indefensible, but the emergence of bills like these is worrisome. That’s because rape crimes present a great difficulty for evidence gathering. Innumerable processes are filed for that reason, since the overwhelming majority of rapes occur between four walls, without witnesses, and the evidence collected on the body of the victim is not always conclusive. The investigation at the place of rape is also complicated and, often, it is not even carried out.

How to distinguish the cases in which there was slanderous accusation from those in which simply enough evidence was not gathered? That is where the problem lies, in the case of PL 3369/19, authored by deputy Carlos Jordy, for example, there is a fragment in which “it is emphasized that the slanderous accusation will only be set when the innocence of the indicted or accused was proven. , either by judicial or administrative decision, by declaring innocence, or by filing the police investigation “, that is, it implies that, if there was a filed case , that means that the complaint was slanderous. In addition, to justify the idea that many women lie that they were raped to persecute a certain man, the text raises the thesis of the so-called “Potiphar’s  syndrome”, explaining the biblical passage that talks about a general’s spouse who, when she was rejected by a slave, she accused him of rape, in addition to arguing that in cases of rape complaints, many men are condemned by justice even when there is no evidence, because according to the project the word of the woman has great weight.

On the other hand, as the text is presented on the assumption that it is necessary to prove the bad faith of the complainant, giving the notion that the lack of evidence would prove that the complaint is slanderous, adopting such parameters as a rule or indicative that a complaint  was slanderous, especially in cases such as crimes against sexual dignity, whose majority is filed just for lack of evidence, would muzzle women and reinforce crimes of rape. One thing is complaints without sufficient evidence to prove the crime, another very different is evident complaints in bad faith. Confusing both is very serious and can have dire consequences for the lives of thousands of women, and even children who are victims of sexual violence.Not coincidentally, the proposals are known as “Neymar de Penha “ in social networks , in reference to the Maria da Penha Law. Besides being an attack on women’s rights, it  represents a real mockery.

[1] The Maria da Penha Law creates mechanisms to diminish domestic and family violence against women.

Article published in Natalia Estrada.