Travel

U.S. Warns of Sexual Assault Risk in Spain

MADRID — The United States Embassy in Madrid has warned that Americans visiting Spain are at a heightened threat as a result of of “a rise in sexual assault” in the nation in current years — a uncommon such countrywide alert for a European nation.

A security alert from the embassy this week comes at a time when the Spanish authorities are investigating a rape accusation filed by three American sisters in opposition to three Afghan males over occasions on New Year’s Eve in southeastern Spain. It additionally warned of the challenges that those that expertise sexual assault face when looking for justice in the Spanish authorized system.

The United States had beforehand issued journey warnings for Spain and different European nations over the chance of terrorism, significantly after a van assault on Barcelona’s most famous promenade killed 16 individuals in 2017. That warning was up to date final October after a secessionist battle in the Catalonia area spiraled into several nights of violence in Barcelona and different northeastern cities.

The embassy additionally issued a particular warning in September in opposition to a Seville-based tour operator who was accused of assaulting American college students.

In this occasion, the embassy mentioned it was responding to a rise in intercourse assaults “against young U.S. citizen visitors and students throughout Spain.” It cited information from Spain’s inside ministry however offered no particulars.

In response to the embassy’s alert, a spokesman for the Spanish inside ministry mentioned on Wednesday that Spain had one of the bottom intercourse crime charges in Europe and that the nation was actively combating such crime.

Spain is a extremely standard vacation spot for vacationers across the globe, with a report 83.7 million guests final 12 months, based on data released on Monday by its nationwide statistics workplace. That included over three million Americans, a 13 p.c enhance from the earlier 12 months.

Yet Spain has confronted stinging criticism over its dealing with of a number of high-profile sexual assault circumstances in current years, with girls’s rights activists charging that the nation’s judiciary is dominated by males who choose circumstances primarily based on defective concepts about points like what constitutes consent. Several verdicts have prompted road protests, together with some of the world’s largest marches on International Women’s Day.

The most contentious case got here to the fore in 2018, when a courtroom sentenced 5 males to jail for the “continuous sexual abuse” of an 18-year-old girl through the Pamplona bull-running competition, however cleared them of the extra severe cost of rape, which below Spanish regulation should contain violence or intimidation.

That verdict in opposition to the 5 males — who had filmed the assault utilizing a cellphone and who dubbed themselves the “wolf pack” — was overruled in June by Spain’s Supreme Court, which discovered them responsible of rape and elevated their jail sentences.

Yet in October, a case involving the sexual assault of an unconscious 14-year-old girl additionally resulted in the conviction of 5 males on a cost of sexual abuse fairly than rape, when that Spanish courtroom dominated that that they had not used violence.

That kind of distinction is a component of what led the American Embassy to difficulty its warning this week, warning that “U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault in Spain can find it very difficult to navigate the local criminal justice system, which differs significantly from the U.S. system.”

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