Luis Rubiales’ forced kiss on World Cup player Jenni Hermoso’s lips was the subject of a preliminary investigation, according to Spanish prosecutors, who said it may have been a case of “sexual assault.”
“Prosecutors from the National Court have opened a preliminary investigation to look into the facts, which could constitute an offence of sexual assault,” a court statement said.
Under Spanish law, sexual assault encompasses a wide range of offenses, each with a distinct punishment, from online abuse and leering to rape.
The statement claimed that they would also get in touch with Hermoso to give her an opportunity to launch a lawsuit within 15 days.
On August 20, the day Spain won the Women’s World Cup in Sydney, Rubiales forcedly kissed Hermoso on the lips during the medal ceremony, setting off a furious outcry.
Hermoso later said the unwanted kiss had left her feeling “vulnerable and like the victim of an assault”, with a statement on social media describing it as “an impulsive, macho act, out of place and with no type of consent on my part”.
The court said it was opening the investigation in light of the “unequivocal nature” of her statements, saying it was necessary “to determine their legal significance”.
“Given the public statements made by Jennifer Hermoso, the sexual act she was subjected to by (Luis) Rubiales was not consensual,” the court statement said.
Legal experts would also contact the player “to offer her the option of legal action, giving her the chance to contact National Court prosecutors within 15 days for information about her rights as a victim of an alleged sexual assault… should she wish to file a complaint”, it said.
“In order to proceed with a case for sexual assault, harassment or sexual abuse, it will be necessary for the injured party or their legal representative to file suit, or the public prosecutors’ office,” the statement said.
If Hermoso decides not to file suit, it will make it “difficult” for prosecutors to press ahead with the case, legal experts said
So far, the court said it had received several complaints about Rubiales’ kiss, which without consent constitutes an offence of sexual assault under Spain’s recently-updated criminal code.
None were filed by Hermoso.
FIFA suspended Rubiales as president of Spain’s RFEF football federation at the weekend, and he could face further sanctions in Spain with the country’s sports administrative court, the TAD, meeting on Monday to examine the complaints against him.