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What to do if you’re in an abusive relationship in Spain

Aside from physical violence, emotional abuse, intimidation, stalking and deprivation of freedom are also forms of violence. So what does Spanish law say, and what steps can you take if you're in an abusive relationship in Spain?

Love shouldn't hurt abusive relationship spain
If you've been a victim of gender violence in Spain, here are the steps you can take. Photo: Sydney Sims/Unsplash

Men’s violence against women is one of the biggest crime and societal problems in Spain. But combating isn’t easy, not least because it often happens behind closed doors.

On Thursday November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, thousands of protesters marched through Madrid and Barcelona demanding “urgent and firm action” to combat men’s violence against women.

While the pandemic has seen a decrease in general crime, the number of gender violence cases has shot up. In the first nine months of 2021, there were 12,638 reports of crimes against sexual freedom and indemnity. That’s 9.2 percent more than in the same period in 2019, according to data from Spain’s Interior Ministry.

A staggering 78 percent of women over the age of 16 who have been victims of physical violence don’t report it to the police.

If you’ve been a victim of gender violence, here are the steps you can take.

What should I do if I’m in an emergency?

Firstly, if you are in an emergency situation you can contact the police and emergency services at the following numbers:

Emergency services: 112

Policía Nacional (National Police Corps): 091

Guardia Civil (Civil Guard): 062

Where can I seek help and advice?

If you are not sure what kind of help you need, the first thing to do if you are in an abusive relationship is call the free confidential helpline 016, a public service available 24/7 where you can speak to professionals with guaranteed confidentiality in 53 different languages. You can also email [email protected] or WhatsApp 600 000 016. 

The service is provided by the government’s committee against gender violence (Delegación del Gobierno contra la Violencia de Género), which has a dedicated website with information and resources. 

If you are a minor and you think family member may be a victim of gender violence you can call ANAR (Ayuda a niños y adolescentes en riesgo), on 900 20 20 10.

The Equality Ministry’s WRAP website (web de recursos de apoyo y prevención ante casos de violencia de género), has a search tool for finding all the NGOs, women’s associations, police stations and courts closest to you.

For a guide of your rights as a victim of gender violence in Spain, the Ministry also provides a document in several languages including English, HERE.

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What happens when I report someone to the police?

Making a formal complaint (denuncia) for gender violence is considered a significant threat to safety and should therefore result in the immediate detention of the aggressor.

The detention can last up to 72 hours until a formal judicial deposition is made. After this period, the judge can then either let the accused go or issue a restraining order. Breaking the restraining order will result in a new complaint with more serious legal consequences.

If you live with your aggressor, the restraining order means they will not be able to return to the shared home and will be deprived of the custody of any children you have together. He will not be able to claim joint custody until a criminal trial ruling is issued, which can take several years.

It will also result in the loss of the right to obtain public subsidies, and they will be included in the Central Registry of Abusers.

Can I get financial support?

The Comprehensive Law of Protection Measures against Gender Violence (Ley Integral de Medidas de Protección contra la Violencia de Généro) includes financial support for women who have been victims of gender violence.

Women who are not able to find a job or participate in training courses can have access to financial support provided in the form of a single payment, representing the equivalent of six months of unemployment benefits.

These benefits are currently managed by the different autonomous communities.

How do I ask for help without my abuser knowing?
If you want to call for help without attracting the attention of your abuser, you can make the hand gesture indicated in the photo below on a video call, so the person you a talking to can call for help. 
The 016 helpline, as indicated below, doesn’t leave a trace on your phone so you can call without worrying about it appearing on your call history.

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Spain investigates mysterious ‘needle spiking’ attacks on women in nightclubs

Spanish police are investigating a string of cases of women being injected with possibly spiked syringes in crowded clubs, following similar incidents in Britain and France. However, no chemical trace has been found yet in the victims.

Spain investigates mysterious 'needle spiking' attacks on women in nightclubs

The worrying trend of ‘needle spiking’ (pinchazos in Spanish) in bars and nightclubs that has been seen across Europe in recent weeks has reached Spain.

The strange attacks, the first of which reportedly happened in October 2021 in the Scottish city of Dundee, can cause sudden dizziness, memory loss and then, usually the morning after, bruises caused by what experts believe are needle pricks.

In Spain, the first reports of these needle spiking attacks have been in the Basque Country, Catalonia, Andalusia, Aragon and Cantabria.

The Ertzaintza (Basque police) are investigating as many as a dozen neede spikings in bars and restaurants across the northern region in the last two weeks alone, while national police in Andalusia are investigating two women claiming to have been victims of ‘chemical submission’ due to needle spiking in a nightclub in El Puerto de Santa María in Cádiz.

Catalonia and the Basque Country are the regions where the largest number of cases have been reported so far, and the complaints are familiar: young women who feel a prick or sharp pain while dancing or waiting at the bar in a cramped environment, and then feel dizzy and disorientated and have a physical injection mark on their body.

Often the needle pricks are accompanied by memory loss.

Social panic

Worrying though the attacks are, it must be noted that scientists have only detected one case in Spain (in the northern region of Asturias) where the victim’s body was found to have a toxic substance present.

The victim in question was a minor, so it is unclear if they were in a bar or nightclub at the time. The 13-year-old girl reported a sharp pain in her leg, and later tested positive for liquid ecstasy after analysis at the Cabueñes Hospital.

But this seems to be the exception.

Physical needle pricks without any chemical or toxic traces have been the case in almost every other case across Europe.

By January 2022, in Britain there had already been already 1,300 complaints about needle attacks. Of these, zero cases were confirmed with chemical evidence.

In France, of 800 or so reported needle spiking cases, not a single chemical trace was found in any of the victims tests.

In the medical analysis of Spanish victims, according to police sources, no traces of toxic substances have been found besides the single case in Dijon.

Mireia Ventura, head of analysis at Energy Control, said in the Spanish press this week that “we do not deny that there are aggressions with something sharp, but this story that they [the victims] are inoculated drugs with a syringe in nightclubs sounds fanciful to us, there are several pieces that do not fit in.”

Not a single syringe has been found on any premises nor have any culprits been identified.

None of the dozens of recent victims in Spain have tested positive for toxic substances in medical tests, nor have they suffered sexual assault, harassment or theft.

As sociologist Robert Bartholomew wrote in ‘Psychology Today’, “anyone who believes she was drugged while on the go must be taken seriously and her claims thoroughly investigated. However, a recent wave of news involving syringes has all the characteristics of a social panic.”