After only 17 minutes of Brazil’s first preparation match for the upcoming Copa América, star forward Neymar hobbled off the field in tears. In the early hours of Thursday morning, it was announced that he had torn ligaments in his right ankle and was cut from the Brazilian national squad. The injury capped off one of the most turbulent and scandal-ridden weeks in the 27-year-old’s career, and there is the promise of more upheaval to come.
The following article contains details of an alleged sex crime, which some readers may find upsetting.
On May 31, a Brazilian woman registered a police report in São Paulo, accusing Neymar of having raped her when the two met in Paris on May 15. According to the complaint, the footballer met the accuser on Instagram and she was invited to visit Neymar in Paris. On May 15, Neymar arrived at the hotel, “apparently drunk, and they began talking, fondling each other, until a given moment when Neymar became aggressive, and using violence, committed a sexual act against the will of the victim.”
Despite the alleged crime having taken place in France, the principle of extraterritoriality in Brazil’s penal code means that the case will be handled by Brazilian police, as it was reported in the country, and both the accuser and accused are Brazilian citizens.
According to Brazilian legislation, rape carries a penalty of six to ten years imprisonment, increased to eight to 12 years in the case of grievous bodily harm.
The following day, June 1, the police report was leaked to the press. That afternoon, Neymar da Silva Santos, the footballer’s father, gave a live interview to sensational true-crime news show Brasil Urgente, defending his son’s innocence. He claimed their relations were consensual, and that Neymar Jr. was being set up.
He claimed that the accuser and her lawyer had tried to extort the family before the case reached the press. “They had the gall to come to my house … they asked for money. When they said why, it was hush money to keep the girl quiet,” said Neymar Sr.
The player’s staff reported they would sue the accuser for defamation, a crime which in Brazil carries a jail sentence of six months to two years.
In that same television show, the full name of the accuser was released by presenter José Luiz Datena, in what is a clear breach of police confidentiality, as the case is under seal. Though the woman has since spoken to the press, The Brazilian Report does not believe it to be prudent to release the name of alleged victims of sex crimes.
The same day, Neymar published a video on his Instagram account (where he has 119 million followers) showing screenshots from the WhatsApp Messenger conversation between himself and his accuser. The video showed that the two exchanged nude images of the accuser, which are partially blurred and do not contain the woman’s face.
While ESPN Brasil reported that the release of the video was given the all-clear by Neymar’s lawyers, civil police in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation to a potential cybercrime committed by the footballer, as Brazilian law states that divulging nude or pornographic images of a third-party without consent is a crime carrying a one to five year jail sentence.
The case unravels
On Monday, a report from a medical examination carried out on the accuser was released. The exam, held on May 21, showed that the woman had bruises and scratches on her buttocks, as well as presenting symptoms of stomach problems, anxiety, and depression.
Meanwhile, with the Brazilian national team training together in Rio de Janeiro, head coach Tite gave a press conference saying that he will not judge Neymar and that the player is “technically indispensable” to the squad.
A further twist came that afternoon, when the accuser’s former lawyer spoke to the media, claiming that the alleged victim had changed her story, originally intending to sue Neymar for physical assault, and not for rape. However, in yet another breach of confidentiality in the case, the accuser’s current lawyer revealed an exchange of messages between the former lawyer and the women, in which she states she was “beaten and raped” by Neymar.
The accuser speaks
As the Brazil team prepared to take the field in a friendly match against Qatar, with Neymar in the starting line-up, an interview with his accuser was aired on national television. This was the first public statement from the women, in which she gave further details of the alleged assault. The content of her interview may be distressing for some readers.
“He began to hit me, and at first it was OK, but then it started to hurt a lot. I said ‘stop, it’s hurting,’ and he apologized.”
“Then I asked if he had brought contraceptives, he said no, so I said that nothing else would happen. He didn’t say anything, he turned me over and committed the [sexual] act, and kept hitting my buttocks violently … I said ‘stop, stop, stop,’ but he didn’t say anything, he just acted.”
The accuser’s defense team also handed over a video recorded by the woman, which allegedly depicts the player being confronted about having assaulted the accuser.
On Wednesday evening, Neymar tore ligaments in his ankle during Brazil’s match against Qatar and will miss the entire Copa América tournament, which is due to start on June 14. He is expected to give his testimony to the police in the coming days.