If you suspect that you have been the victim of a chemical submission rape, what should you do?

Chemical submission sex crimes are on the rise. This has been highlighted by different experts over the last few months in which this type of crime has come to light. Many women do not know what to do or what steps to take when they suspect they have been raped by this method. The majority who have gone through this experience and seek help end up recounting an ordeal of procedures, setbacks, insecurities and even mistreatment by institutions that should be perfectly coordinated to serve them with the greatest efficiency and without the process ending up re-victimizing them. For this reason, most women do not report these attacks.

This was revealed this Wednesday by a group of women who presented more than 100,000 signatures to the Ministry of Justice demanding that a clear and unified protocol be launched that coordinates three legs: health, police and Justice.

Many victims of chemical submission rape they are not even clear what has happened to them, so they take time to react or seek help. In Public We wanted to put white on black some issues related to these attacks, as well as answer questions that many victims need to know.

What is chemical submission rape?

It is a sexual assault in which the victim has been given some type of drug or substance that puts her to sleep or prevents her from making autonomous and conscious decisions. These drugs not only incapacitate her to make decisions, but in most cases they prevent her from having memories of what she has experienced. Many women who have suffered this type of aggression reported having lost their memory for a few hours, not remembering what happened, or having only a few isolated memories or images, known as flashbacks.

Is it a consensual relationship?

No. In no case, not being able to refuse an assault due to being under the influence of substances can be considered as a consensual sexual act, because the woman could not give her approval. It is a crime punishable by law. But nevertheless, the Penal Code does not consider it an assault (what most people would understand as rape), but as sexual abuse. For there to be sexual assault, the rule requires that there must have been violence or intimidation towards the victim and the Penal Code interprets that in the assault on a person disabled by the effects of drugs, these circumstances do not occur.

The Organic Law of comprehensive guarantee of sexual freedom (better known as the Law of only yes is yes) that is being processed in Parliament, proposes to eliminate the concept of sexual abuse, so that any act not expressly consented to be considered a violation. The new law proposes to eliminate the need to prove violence and intimidation and puts the express consent of the victim to that relationship at the center. An interpretation already contained in some international treaties ratified by our country, such as the Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe, which must be considered as an internal norm once approved by the Cortes.

However, the law of only yes is yes It has not yet been approved and its articles are being debated and receiving amendments, which is why for now these types of crimes continue to be considered abuses.

How do I know that I have suffered a chemical submission rape?

This is not a trivial question. Most of the victims of this crime are not aware of what has happened to them. The action of drugs or substances often leave gaps of several hours in the brain. It is common for them to wake up in places or conditions that they cannot explain or with body and vaginal pains for which they have no answers. Many do not report or do so late, because they don’t know how to explain what may have happened to them. They know that they were in one place and that suddenly everything has faded to black. Some claim to have fleeting memories or that these memories, known as flashbacks appear over time or in specific psychological therapies.

The recommendation of the experts in sexual violence is that when a woman has this type of gaps, which are not normally compatible with a simple drunkenness, they immediately go to a reference health center for this violence. The sooner the better, because the substances that cause this submission they have a quick effect on the body, but they are quickly eliminated. The recommendation is that they ask for help before more than 24 hours have elapsed so that the pertinent tests can be done that demonstrate the presence of toxins in the body and so that a protocol of possible sexual abuse is carried out, looking for evidence that proves it, such as bodily injuries or traces of semen on the body.

What do I have or do not have to do if I have suspicions?

Various health experts on sexual assault affirm Public, that in case of suspicion, go to a reference medical center as soon as possible. Among the recommendations they highlight the importance of not showering, not changing underwear, do not rinse your mouth or brush your teeth. There may be traces of semen if there had been an oral sexual assault or traces of the substance that caused the chemical submission.

What if it takes me a long time to notice and ask for help?

Many victims of this type of aggression do not report it or seek help because they are not clear about what has happened to them or because of a deep sense of guilt. But various experts say that the term “late” is very relative. If the woman takes time to get to a court or hospital, there are other tests that can be done to determine if she has suffered a chemical submission.

Among them, analyze the existence of bruises in the body. Another, perhaps less well-known, is the analysis of the hair, since the substance accumulates there and can determine if at a specific moment you have been the victim of a submission. The recommendation is not to cut your hair and to take the test after one or three months from the moment in which it is suspected that you have suffered the aggression. This test, although it is in some medical protocols, is not usually done routinely. In many cases commissioned by judges to be carried out by forensic experts. However, on many occasions the judges do not request it because they mistakenly consider that too much time has elapsed since the events.

If I suspect that I have been a victim, where do I go?

Here the problems begin. In many autonomous communities there are reference hospitals where the tests are carried out with all the guarantees and where there are clear action protocols. In Madrid, the reference hospital is La Paz. In Barcelona it is the Clinic, for people over 16 years of age. Forensic doctors exist or are called so that the evidence has all the custody guarantees in case the victim decides to file a complaint and the chain of custody of the samples is not broken and that they serve in a possible trial.

The competences in health matters are transferred to the autonomous communities and in each one they work in a somewhat different way. One of the main problems, experts say, is that there is no single action protocol, but each region adapts it in its own way. That is why they demand a national one. Amnesty International also denounces that it is not about each autonomous community having a protocol, but that on many occasions there are different protocols by province and even by hospital within each region.

Is the complaint mandatory to be attended?

It is not necessary to file a complaint to be treated at a reference center and with all the guarantees. However, in order for a forensic doctor to go to extract key evidence and to guarantee the chain of custody of the same for a trial, the victim does have to file a complaint or state their intention to do so at the health center. Without this, the judges do not activate the forensic machinery.

The more samples and analyzes that are carried out shortly after the attack, the better. The lack of physical and medical evidence leaves the testimony of the victim as the only means of proof, who in many cases does not remember or has very partial memories of the attack.

These doubts and fragmented memories have the consequence that on many occasions the judges do not believe the victim, consider that the story is invented or assume that he has suffered “a bad binge” and file the proceedings. Most victims of sexual violence by chemical submission are not in a position to report or to make a reconstruction of the facts shortly after the assault occurred. Sometimes, and thanks to the help of psychologists, some go recovering memories This change in the statements has negative consequences in the courts.

Recently, the Minister of Justice stated that a common protocol is being worked on at the national level for the collection of samples in rape crimes and that it will allow them to be collected even if the victim does not report or decides to do so later. Said samples will remain in custody until the crime prescribes, thus giving victims the opportunity to file a complaint when they are prepared to face legal proceedings. But the measure has not yet been presented.

Where do I find out what I have to do?

This is another problem. There is no accessible public information, brochures or guides that resolve the doubts of a victim and many end up on a journey through health centers, hospitals, police stations… A situation that, as Amnesty International denounced in a report entitled xx xx in 2018, It supposes a re-victimization of the victims.

There are also no information campaigns at the national or even regional level. that make clear the steps to follow if you are the victim of a submission rape. The important thing is to know in your region or autonomous community which is the hospital reference center for this type of violence and go as soon as possible.
The experts demand that there be more training of the State Security Bodies, as well as of the health authorities, to identify these violations by submission and information campaigns towards the victims.

The Ministry of Equality has launched the creation of what are known as crisis centers against sexual violence. There will be one in each province and they will assist, advise and support the victims without the need to file complaints. But its start-up is scheduled for 2023.

How many women are victims of chemical submission?

The data indicates that rape using chemical substances to override the will of the victims is on the rise. Or at least more is reported and victims go to hospitals more often. There are no official data that allow us to know the real scope of these crimes. However, some hospitals specialized in this violence have given some figures. This is the case of the Barcelona Clinic. In a recent report, they revealed that 30% of victims of sexual assault are due to chemical submission. Of this percentage, the majority (55%) are under 25 years of age.

These estimates coincide with those made by the La Paz Hospital in Madrid, which calculates that 35% of the sexual assaults they receive are due to suspected submission by toxic substances.

However, these figures do not give a real vision of the problem. According to the macro-survey on violence against women carried out by the Ministry of Equality and published in 2020, only 8% of women who suffer sexual violence report it. This means that more than 80% of these attacks remain hidden and unprosecuted.

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