Spanish Big Brother under fire over handling of alleged rape

A court is investigating a former contestant over an alleged assault on the show in 2017

The Spanish version of the reality TV show Big Brother is under fire for its handling of an alleged sexual assault during the filming of the programme.

A court is investigating José María López Pérez, who was expelled from GH Revolution in November 2017 because the show's producers believed he had had non-consensual sex with Carlota Prado, a fellow participant.

In the programme, members of the public live together in a house for several weeks without having contact with the outside world.

López and Prado, both in their mid-20s, had reportedly become a couple during the filming of the programme, which took place in Guadalix de la Sierra, near Madrid. One night, after a party in the house, Ms Prado went to a bedroom and lay down after having several drinks. López then joined her, underneath a duvet, and appeared to have sex with her while she was unconscious.


The next day, Ms Prado appeared to be unaware of what had happened. However, in the so-called “confession room”, where participants talk to a camera about their experiences, she was shown footage of what had happened, causing her to break down in tears.

Mr López, meanwhile, was expelled from the house on the grounds of “intolerable behaviour”.

Details of the case have emerged in recent days, after El Confidencial news site posted the video of Prado watching the footage. The programme makers are now facing questions over why they allowed the alleged assault to take place when it was being filmed and why they then showed the video of it to the victim.

"It's as if she is being assaulted all over again, because she didn't know she was the victim of an assault in the first place," Elena Hermo, an expert in gender violence, told El País newspaper.

Staff suspicions

In a statement, Endemol Shine Group, which owns the company that produces the programme, said that staff who were on duty that night “suspected that an incident had taken place and they informed the programme’s executive producers”.

The statement added that the footage in which Ms Prado is shown the incident had not been intended to be broadcast but that “in hindsight we regret that the conversation in which Carlota was informed took place in the confession room”.

Although Ms Prado initially decided not to press charges against Mr López, she changed her mind and a Madrid court has been investigating. López, who has insisted he is innocent, could face a prison sentence if found guilty of sexual assault.

Several companies have reportedly withdrawn their sponsorship of the programme in recent days.

This is not the first time Spain's Big Brother has courted controversy over assault claims. In 2001, a baker from Catalonia, Carlos Navarro, was expelled from the house for assaulting a fellow participant, Fayna Betancourt. The couple later married but separated last year, with Betancourt accusing him of physical abuse.

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Spain