One of the men accused of the gang rape of a minor on Christmas Eve. | A. SEPULVEDA


The most recent annual report from the prosecution service in the Balearics indicates that in 2018 there was an increase from 49 to 80 in the number of sexual abuse cases involving children under the age of 16. There was also an increase from seven to 24 in the number of "sexual aggression" cases.

The chief prosecutor for the minors service, José Díaz Capa, says that there is "constant communication" with regard to the sexual exploitation of minors at protection centres, such as those provided by the Majorca Institute of Social Affairs. Legal sources suggest that whereas there used to be isolated cases, there is now a "genuine social phenomenon".

Some three years ago, there was a change in trend with regard to cases of abuse, aggression and exploitation involving teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18. Serafín Carballo of the Office for Childhood and Adolescence in the Balearics suggests that this is partly a cultural matter, e.g. compulsive use of social networks and because young people are more at home with these networks than their parents.

Another factor is gender-based violence. The courts are finding that victims are younger than before and that many of them end up in situations of exploitation.

Young females are offered inducements of a good life and clothes. The director of childhood and the family at the Council of Majorca, María Ángeles Fernández, explains that if a minor in the Council's care gets a new phone or new clothes, the alarm bells start ringing.

There is a view among experts in the field, therefore, that there is something of a social epidemic. Cases of abuse start with the most vulnerable teenagers but then they spread to the whole of society. A comparison is made with how it was with heroin in the 1990s.