The risk of sexual assaults by chemical submission among young acquaintances: "I did not remember anything when I woke up"

The risk of sexual assaults by chemical submission among young acquaintances: "I did not remember anything when I woke up"

The risk of sexual assaults by chemical submission among young acquaintances: "I did not remember anything when I woke up"

“When rapes appear in movies, the typical thing is that the victim is a girl who is walking down the street and then an unknown man grabs her from behind, but there are many types of rape. It can also happen to you in an environment where you think you are safe, among acquaintances, as it has happened to me”, says Sara. This wake-up call, addressed directly to other young girls like her, is verbalized after spending four months processing a painful mix of sensations: overwhelm, fear, sadness, shame, guilt, disgust and, above all, impotence. Lots of helplessness.

Recounting the sexual assault she suffered this summer hurts her because it means reliving that pain, but the 18-year-old has decided to tell about her experience with the sole purpose, she says, of raising awareness about the increase in chemical submission among young people and to help other girls know what to do if they find themselves in a similar situation.

In her case, there was what the experts define as "proactive chemical submission", that is, her aggressor administered a chemical substance to her without her knowledge, something that, according to other young people and confirmed by several experts in sexual violence, is too frequent. currently.

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Assaulted at a friends party: "I woke up with different clothes"

During the long conversation with this medium, the exercise that Sara (fictitious name) tries to do to protect herself from her own story is to narrate the episode of sexual assault suffered in a "mechanical" way, as if the memory were not hers, as if she told someone else's experience. However, at times the young woman stops in the story and it is the silences that express that the anguish is still deeply rooted in her body.

“A friend from university invited me to a house that she had rented with other friends to spend the weekend. Other friends and acquaintances of hers were also there. At night we had a kind of party, with music, and everything went well. In general, I hardly drink, I don't like it, but I had a drink because I saw the others more animated. I went to get the second one and after that I don't remember anything else”, says Sara, who lives in Madrid.

At least five hours would pass until the next morning, but in the girl's head there is a kind of "void" about what happened in that time.

“When I woke up the first thing I did was look at myself and I saw that I had different clothes than the ones I wore during the day. She didn't remember anything. I went to the bathroom and noticed that it hurt (when urinating). I started to get very scared. I asked my friend and they told me that she had left me with one. I told them: 'It's a lie, isn't it? I started to get overwhelmed in an incredible way. They came to me as a 'flashback' but I wasn't able to remember anything well and I couldn't find my clothes”, she explains.

Confusion prevents recognizing oneself as a victim and denouncing

The young woman then stops to point out that, when she goes out partying, she is always "the one in charge, the one she controls." That is why, between fear and anguish, shame and guilt were mixed at that moment. She insistently apologized to her friend because she was very worried about her, she says, "the impression of her" that she might have gotten from her.

"I wouldn't stop crying and I explained to her all the time that I'm not like that, but, since my friend had never seen me drunk, she thought I acted like that because of the alcohol (...) Then I also started to be very afraid of the not knowing which of them it was that I had supposedly slept with. He did not know if he had used a condom. I felt dirty, I just wanted to get home and take a shower,” Sara recalls.

El riesgo de las agresiones sexuales por sumisión química entre jóvenes conocidos:

The next thing was to ask them to send him "the instagram" of the alleged aggressor, who had been introduced to him the night before, and her phone number. She wrote to him on WhatsApp and he told her, laughing, that she was "very blind from alcohol" (emphasizing that it was because of alcohol) and offered to pay her for the "morning after pill" so that she would stay "calmer".

The young woman was not able to accuse him directly because at that time she did not recognize herself as a victim and because she felt that she "had no evidence." For the same reasons and due to ignorance, she did not go to the hospital or file a complaint.

“It's not about living in fear, but since we can't change how they act, it can at least help us to be aware that this is real and know how to act. It has happened to me in a place where I felt safe, in a house to which a friend invited me and where there were people who seemed trustworthy (...) Lately I also see many girls on my networks who say ' Be careful because in such a club they are putting drugs in the drinks,'” laments Sara, who is receiving psychological help to deal with the trauma.

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According to data from the Ministry of the Interior, so far this year there have been 49 complaints of sexual assaults in which drugs or drugs have been supplied to the victim without her knowledge. They are 75% more than in the total for the year 2015 (when there were 28), a figure that, explained from that department, "goes in parallel with the increase in crimes against sexual freedom and indemnity" that has been experienced in the last years. In any case, the statistics do not quite match reality, according to experts.

Asked about the increase in chemical submission in nightlife venues and the #DenunciaTuBar movement, the Government delegate against Gender Violence, Victoria Rosell, pointed out that the complaints only "are showing us 11% of the reality of sexual violence " and also from the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences of Spain (INTCF) affirm that there is "underreporting" in these cases.

"What we have been able to verify is that the number of cases received of crimes against sexual freedom in which we are requested to investigate chemical substances has increased. Above all, the number of requests has increased within the context that we call chemical vulnerability, that is, opportunistic chemical submission where the aggressor takes advantage of the state of the victim after the voluntary consumption of psychoactive substances," says Begoña Bravo, head of the Chemistry Service of the Madrid department of the INTCF.

Concern in the university environment: "There are students who come to ask for help"

From the Equality area of ​​the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) they affirm that aggressions by chemical submission, both those of a proactive type and those of an opportunistic type, are growing among young people.

"We are very concerned about the issue of chemical submission, obviously. It is not that there have been cases on campus, but students who have come to the Equality Unit to ask for help have suffered. We from the psychological care device and from the social care device we accompany them, but the complaint has to be filed with the Police and they do not always want to do it", explains Isabel Tajahuerce, professor and delegate of the Rector for Equality at the UCM.

Due to the increase in cases, this university has decided to start recording sexual assaults and is developing a specific action guide. In addition, they have organized some workshops on chemical submission in which they explain to students how chemical agents manipulate people's will and how they should proceed if they believe that they themselves or a classmate may have been a victim.

"We do not only work on chemical submission through drugs, but also on what has traditionally been the great chemical submission, alcohol, which leads to a state in which consent cannot be given (...) This is also happening now and what alarms us is that many times these attacks take place in the immediate environment of the victim, that is, between supposed friends", adds Tajahuerce, who asks himself: "What kind of masculinity is being built when you assault a friend or a colleague because she was drugged or because she has drunk excessively and cannot give that consent? What is happening?

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Also at the University of Valencia (UV) they have been giving this type of training to students for a few months within the framework of a project called 'NOSUM'. In addition, they put into practice with the students a personal 'kit' for the detection of the drug GHB (known as liquid ecstasy), which has been recently developed by the MODeLic research group of the same university.

Empar Vengut, pharmacist and member of the ScienceFlows research group in Scientific Communication at the UV, claims to be "surprised" by the number of cases of chemical submission that she has known in this time. Not all the victims have suffered sexual abuse or assault, she points out, but there are many who have detected having been intoxicated without knowing for what purpose.

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“There are people (mostly girls) who have written to us because it had happened to them and others who had some known case. Even some friends of mine with whom I had not spoken for a long time told me that this summer it had happened to them. By talking about it openly, you see that there are more people who have suffered it,” says Vengut.

This researcher assumes that the premeditated use of these drugs can sometimes occur between acquaintances and says: "In some workshops we did, they told us that in Fallas this was the order of the day, but it was no longer just for abuse or aggression. sexual, but of fun, that is, your friends put something in your glass and you didn't know it. One commented on it and the others said 'yes, yes, it's true'”.

Substances of "easy access" on the internet

In cases of premeditated chemical submission, the most frequent substances, according to Bravo, are those that have hypnotic action, such as benzodiazepines. In opportunistic or mixed submission, the most common substances are ethyl alcohol, cocaine or cannabis, sometimes combined "with the victim's own pharmacological treatments" such as antidepressants, antipsychotics or antihistamines.

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Dr. Gabriela Peña y Lillo, who works in the emergency department of the Infanta Leonor Hospital, warns that "there are substances that have no taste, smell or color" and that they are "the perfect product for submission" because they generate the effects that are sought "without the need to be supplied at high levels." Plus, she says, "they can be bought online and are easily accessible to young people."

Since many of these drugs, such as GHB or scopolamine (known as burundanga), disappear very quickly from the body, this and other health agencies emphasize the importance of acting quickly in the face of any suspicion.

"It is important that if someone believes that they have suffered an attack of this type, they come to the hospital as soon as possible. They have to know that we are here to help them, not to inspect or judge", emphasizes Dr. Ana Martínez Virto, President of the Commission of Violence of the La Paz University Hospital, who perceives an increase in chemical submission for different purposes since 2015.

Finally, Peña y Lillo emphasizes the importance of improving health protocols for sexual violence in order to avoid "revictimization" and asks to focus on the root of the problem: "Although we are focused on giving support and protection to Victims we have to try to solve what is happening with young people who are buying substances to abuse or sexually assault. We will have to do an analysis and rethink what education we are giving these young people, "concludes the doctor.