The story of terror after punctures in nightclubs that seeks to "discipline" women

There are still more unknowns than certainties about punctures to women in nightlife venues that have accumulated in recent days. Complaints are being investigated in up to nine communities, with Catalonia in the lead with twenty of them, while the police still do not know the motivations behind the events. At the moment, there are no other associated crimes such as sexual assault or robbery, but the phenomenon itself and the way of dealing with it are fueling the story of fear and the feeling of insecurity with which women have been socialized since childhood.

"We need to know what happens in the phenomenon of the puncture, we do not know if there are substances in certain cases, but it is a serious fact because we are expelled from places of fun and leisure where we want to be", assured this Wednesday the Minister of Justice, Pilar Llop.

The available data indicates that 23 complaints have been registered in Catalonia, followed by Euskadi, with 12, and another ten in Andalusia. Those of Cantabria, Aragon, the Valencian Community, the Balearic Islands, Navarra and Castilla-La Mancha are added. In none of the cases, except one, have traces of chemical substances been found in the bodies of the victims and most report having suffered dizziness, vomiting or loss of control. Although there are some complainants, the vast majority are young women in leisure spaces, as has already been reported in other European countries such as France or the United Kingdom, where the authorities 1,300 complaints were registered in six months.

Words like "alarm", "psychosis", "wave" or "fear" have been installed these days in the headlines that address the situation. "You have to be very cautious when analyzing it, but what seems to be clear is that there is a gender bias and it is evident that a social alarm is being generated, once again this promotion of sexual terror that somehow makes We women get messages of danger in the public space again and the idea of ​​fragility and vulnerability is perpetuated," says the expert psychologist in victimology and sexual violence, Alba Alfageme.

Ana Burgos agrees with her, a researcher at Noctámbulas, an observatory that studies sexual violence in nightlife and drug use environments. "Regardless of whether or not there is chemical submission, it is being a strategy of indoctrination of women because it scares us and generates panic. The objective is to discipline women, control them and order them according to the patriarchal system it has understood: they in space domestic and subdued, they in the public space and free," says the expert, who calls for caution and wait for conclusive data and the future of the investigations so as not to fuel the alarm.

To deal with it, from the Federation of Young Women they demand that both institutions and entertainment venues activate protocols (which several communities and venues have already activated) that "focus on prevention and on aggressors" with the aim of "not generate this fear in women when it comes to going out", explains its president, Ada Santana. "For this, chemical submission is not necessary, it is enough to create fear, so we must claim that the nightlife spaces are also ours and our only concern must be to have a good time and not be worried about whether they are going to drug us, to puncture or to put something in the cup," he continues.

What the experts ask to avoid is that it contributes to social alarm, especially through media coverage. It is what the researcher Nerea Barjola called "the story of sexual terror" after analyzing in depth the murder of Miriam, Toñi and Desirée in 1992, known as the Alcàsser case. The expert concluded that, as many women who were young at the time remember, he was in charge of disseminating on a large scale that narrative that ended up determining behavior patterns for women in which there are limits (hitchhiking, going out alone) that they should not cross.

Fear of aggression It is something that accompanies women since they are little. "Let me know when you arrive", "are you coming with someone?", "have the keys ready when you get closer to the portal" or "be careful with the glass" are common messages that they usually receive since they were girls and practically never stop repeating themselves.

Alfageme calls it "the pedagogy of fear" in which "we have been educated." And in that framework the specialists place the punctures. "Although at the moment the data we have refer to the fact that there is no other associated crime, it is fueling that feeling of insecurity that in itself is already a form of patriarchal structural violence. And we cannot minimize that."

A few days ago, Dr. Guillermo Burillo, coordinator of the Toxicology group of the Spanish Society of Emergency and Emergency Medicine (SEMES), expressed himself along the same lines, for whom "the medical evidence and the complaints do not allow us to deny the possibility of that we are facing people who dedicate themselves to DJing just to generate fear".

For Burgos, it is part of a "global and structural violence": "Women learn from a young age that we are aggressive, from when the boys in class called us foul to the comments received on the street, touching, aggression or, as now, pricks. They are control strategies of our freedom and sexuality".

The experts do not deny the reality of sexist violence, but they do criticize "the normalization" of fear. "It is even said that it is normal for us to do things to increase our sense of security because more things happen to us, but that is naturalizing it. And no, it is not normal. These phenomena, such as punctures, what they do is add more artillery to our feeling of insecurity so that we accept it: 'It's normal, because women...', reflects Alfageme.

But how can we not perpetuate the discourse of sexual terror and at the same time not minimize the facts? "Informing rigorously, being prudent, explaining what the institutions are doing and saying that it is normal for women to feel this way and to be afraid, not just counting the complaints one by one," Alfageme believes.

Burgos assures that fear "is natural", but is committed to putting "feminist management tools" on the table and messages far removed from "that paralyzing panic that tames us" because "this does not really inform us of the dangers to which because we are women we have to face each other".

Experts also claim not just focus on one type of violence and, above all, not to oversize it in relation to other more invisible ones. "It is very comfortable socially to criticize a very spectacular specific modus operandi like this, but to ignore or overshadow most of the violence and, specifically, sexual violence," explains Burgos. According to data from a recent study in which four Spanish public universities participated, 80% of sexual assaults were committed by acquaintances of the victim and in six out of ten cases the events occurred in a home.

"The messages of fear that we grow up with tend to focus on what we do when we go out at night, but the reality is that many more things happen to us at work or at home. What happens is that socially we focus on the speech in leisure spaces because it connects more with the myths we have about violence and that is where punctures come into play, which reproduce these myths very well: in nightlife places, by strangers, uncontrollably...", says Alfageme , professor of psychology at the University of Girona and author of When we scream our names (Universe).

On the contrary, continues the expert, "we must work on the pedagogy of security": "This can happen to us, but there is another reality, so invisible, that it is not the public space, and that they have also told us that it is a safe space. If we don't focus on all types of violence, we are somehow feeding that patriarchal myth that the aggressors are the others, those who don't know us, and not your father, your neighbor or your boyfriend. and we are left with only one frame, it will be difficult for us to identify and confront the entire violent structure with women", emphasizes the psychologist.

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