Where is Nevenka Fernandez now? Economist fled Spain after winning sexual harassment suit against mayor in 2002
Before #MeToo helped millions of women, a 26-year-old Spanish woman dared to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against a mayor and win it too
For the first time in the history of Spain, one woman, Nevenka Fernandez, dared to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against a politician in the early 2000s. However, even though she won the case against Ismael Alvarez, the mayor of Spanish city Ponferrada, she continued to be harassed by his supporters and as a result, she had to leave her hometown and emigrate to London.
Netflix's latest docuseries, 'Nevenka: Breaking the Silence', looks at a historic sexual harassment lawsuit that a woman filed against a politician in Spain. In 2002, Alvarez became the first Spanish politician to be convicted of sexual harassment. However, for Fernandez, the battle was not over. Over three chapters, the Netflix docuseries examines what is popularly known as the "Nevenka case" when a 20-something woman filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the mayor of a Spanish city and was slut-shamed by the city's people as well as during the trial.
What was the 'Nevenka case'?
Before social media was available for women across the world to talk about all the injustices they had faced, one 26-year-old councilwoman in the city of Ponferrada dared to file a sexual harassment complaint against the mayor of the city, telling the press, "I have dignity." The case made history because it resulted in the first time a Spanish politician, Ismael Alvarez, was convicted of sexual harassment. But this was only a veiled victory for Fernandez. Fernandez went through what she describes as "hell" as she pursued the case. Alvarez had even sent a letter to the residents of the city to explain his version of the events.
During the trial, Jose Luis Garcia Ancos, the chief prosecutor of the Superior Court of Justice compared her to a Hipercor (a Spanish chain of hypermarkets) employee, whose boss touches her ass and she has to put up with it because "she brings bread to her children". Fernandez did not obtain reparation or recognition as a victim, and worst of all, the residents of the city did not show any solidarity.
Alvarez was slapped with a fine and compensation to be paid to Fernandez, which was cut down later, but the day the sentencing was made public, thousands of residents of the city of Ponferrada took to the street in protest. The residents were protesting in support of their disgraced mayor, who had resigned on receiving the sentence, and continued to slut-shame Fernandez.
Where is Nevenka Fernandez now?
Fernandez continued to be harassed, even after she moved to Madrid and lived at the home of her boyfriend's parents. Alvarez's supporters found her and began making threatening calls. One anonymous caller told her, "We are going to shoot you but we are not going to kill you, so when you go out, try to look well to both sides." What frightened her more was that Ismael Alvarez also found her, and Fernandez said in a radio interview, "Everyone who knows this man knows what he is capable of." She continued to say that Alvarez was capable of doing anything and that he almost killed her.
As the media and neighborhood harassment of Fernandez continued, she made the decision to emigrate to London. Nobody would give her work and her family had to close their business and leave Ponferrada. Fernandez plunged into loneliness. Today, Fernandez lives in a town near London where she practices her profession as an economist. She is now happily married and is a mother.
'Nevenka: Breaking the Silence' is available to stream on Netflix on March 5.