Argentine actor convicted of rape in landmark MeToo case

Three countries collaborated in the case against Juan Darthés, who was 45 when he assaulted Thelma Fardin. Her story galvanized Argentina’s feminist movement

Juan Darthés has been sentenced to six years in prison by the Brazilian judiciary for raping fellow actor Thelma Fardin in 2009. She was 16 and he was 45 at the time, on tour in Nicaragua for a TV show they both performed in called Patito Feo.

Darthés was acquitted in May 2023, but the decision was overturned on Monday by two out of three judges in the Brazilian Tribunal Federal de Segunda Instancia.

“This ruling has to be a message of hope for anyone suffering any kind of abuse,” said Thelma Fardin in a press conference held at Amnesty International Argentina’s headquarters in Buenos Aires on Monday evening. Despite the judicial win, she said would not forget those who did not get justice. “Even if you think it’s hard, even if the person is powerful and has many tools at their disposal. There is a possibility of reparation in the judiciary, as is my case today. And above all, there is a possibility of reparation that involves all of us as a society, which is what we all have to continue building from a place of empathy.” 

“If you have someone who tells you their story, who is next to you and chooses to tell you their pain, empathize. Don’t ask them why it took so long for them to speak up: justice also has to be built by every one of us and we have a responsibility in that sense,” she said.

In 2018, emboldened by stories from other female colleagues speaking out against Darthés, Fardin filed a lawsuit in Nicaragua and went public. She received widespread support and her story galvanized Argentina’s feminist community, becoming the country’s landmark MeToo case. It sparked a massive social media campaign with the hashtag #MiraComoNosPonemos. The phrase broadly means “This is how we get” in Spanish, taking ownership of what Darthés said to Fardin during the assault (Mirá como me ponés or “Look what you do to me”). At the time, Darthés enjoyed widespread popularity and was perceived as a gallant sweetheart by the Argentine public.

“The justice system has finally said he’s guilty. The justice system has finally listened to my word and believes me and by believing me, believes many others. Thanks to the enormous movement that supported me, which meant I was able to speak, to break the silence, to move beyond the immense pain that violence had wrought on me and let me move forward and build a life without that huge weight on me. And today you can imagine, I weigh a lot less,” said Fardin, visibly emotional. 

Although the abuse happened in Nicaragua and both Fardin and Darthés are Argentine, the case was tried in Brazil because he is also a Brazilian citizen. He moved there with his family immediately after the allegations were made. Nicaragua called for Darthés’ extradition in 2019, but Brazil does not extradite its citizens and the São Paulo Public Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation in 2021.

“We’re used to seeing international cooperation in drug trafficking and criminal cases but sexual assault is a serious crime too and it’s unprecedented that three public prosecutor’s offices in Argentina, Nicaragua, and Brazil worked together to procure the evidence and take it to trial,” said Martín Arias Duval, Fardin’s legal representative in Argentina who described Monday’s ruling as a “beacon of hope.” “It’s a practice we hope will be repeated across our region.”

Darthés was acquitted in May 2023 by Federal Judge Fernando Toledo Carneiro. At the time, he ruled that the investigation had not confirmed that Fardin had been penetrated — a requirement for conviction under Brazilian law at the time of the assault, changed later in 2010 — although the ruling acknowledged certain aspects of the sexual assault had been proven.

Photo: Tomás Ramírez Labrousse, Amnesty International Argentina

“What the judges of the court have now decided is that this first judge did not know the case and had probably never presided over a sexual assault case. Clearly, it was a trial by a federal justice who did not know abuse cases and judged the evidence of an abuse case according to the evidentiary standard of other types of crimes such as corruption,” said Carla Andrade Junqueira, Fardin’s legal representative in Brazil. She said she had felt shame when the first sentence was handed down in 2023 and could now feel proud.

“Brazil’s current legal precedent states that in cases of sexual abuse, the victim’s word is fundamentally important, principally when it’s consistent with the rest of the collected evidence. That’s what the judiciary understood: we had robust evidence that left no doubt as to who had committed the crime and any other demand made on a victim of sexual abuse totally violates any international convention on women and children’s rights,” Andrade Junqueira concluded. 

Arias Duval told journalists that Darthés will be able to appeal the decision but, without revealing details on each judge’s decision, the ruling was “very blunt and robust.”

“Although this is a moment to focus on the gigantic step forward made by the judiciary, we also want to express our concern for everything that happened over the course of the whole process. The justice systems have a lot to learn and the process itself was extremely revictimizing,” said Paola García Rey, joint director of Amnesty International Argentina, citing that only 15.5% of reported sexual assaults end in a conviction in Argentina (according to the country’s Specialist Fiscal Unit in Violence Against Women). In Brazil, the figure is around 1%, according to the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA, by its Portuguese initials).

“Thelma was subjected to nine examinations: three in Nicaragua, five in Argentina, and one in Brazil, dedicating every moment to digging into her private life and family. Instead of looking at the body of evidence, the judiciary looked for cracks in her testimony.”

García Rey pointed out that while Fardin had to testify three times, Darthés was only called once and he refused to answer any questions on that occasion. She also highlighted the intense abuse Fardin underwent — from Darthés, from society, and online — since publicly coming forward back in 2018. 

But Fardin told the press that she never considered giving up.

“I never sought revenge or reprisals. What I wanted was to reconnect with the 16-year-old girl that I was and give her some form of reparation,” she said. “I wanted to be able to look my friends’ daughters in the eyes and tell them I did everything I could to pave the way for a fairer future for girls and teenagers.”

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