Are the media in Spain scaring women?

Analysis: If there is as much terror against women as the government and media report, female tourists should be booking holidays to Greece and Italy.
By Matthew Bennett
Aug 05, 2022, 12:50 pm
Published: Aug 05, 2022, 12:32 pm

At the end of July, Cadena SER reported 90% of women in Spain were terrified of going out in case they were sexually assaulted, according to one study in Málaga. This week, the media is awash with stories of a new reason for ladies to worry in Spain, "spiking" with needles, apparently a craze imported from the UK.

"Spiking terror in nightclubs seeks to 'discipline' women", headlines El Diario today. "Home Secretary says 60 spiking of women complaints being investigated", writes ABC. "Spiking, the psychosis imported from Nottingham" is the title of a report in El Mundo: "I'm not going out to party anymore". "Terrified women, the first consequence of spiking in Spain: 'I'm not going out, I'm scared'" reads the headline in El País, which then tones things down a bit in the text because they're only talking about "dozens" of cases across the country, "and for now, none are related to sexual crimes".

"It's fear. And fear is enough for submission, to paralyse those who are feeling those needle pricks, women. To limit their movement and their space, to reduce their freedom", reads one line in that article.

If you happen to watch the lunchtime news on the state broadcaster, TVE, for more than a few days in a row, you will notice that every day there is a gender violence, murder, rape, assault or abuse story. This week they will surely do a segment on the new terror, spiking. (They don't only do this with violence against women, they did it, like a mechanical media hammer, with the Covid pandemic, the Canary Islands volcano and electricity prices, among other things).

If the national lunchtime news says so every day, if the government says so incessantly, and if online media write headlines saying so several times a day, then it must be true. 23 million women across Spain and the millions of female tourists who visit the country every year should be absolutely petrified. They should not even be venturing out on to the street to buy milk, never mind sunbathing in bikinis on the beach or partying until the sun comes up while drinking alcohol and having fun.

The only problem with all this is that, statistically and comparatively with other countries, Spain is one of the safest countries in the world for women (threads from 2018, 2019 and 2021). Murders per 100,000 women? El Salvador, 15.7; the Central African Republic, 10.4; Honduras, 10.2; Spain, 0.5. It can't get much lower. The highest absolute number of female murders annually? India, 17,101; Brazil, 4,649; Nigeria, 4,441; Spain, 121. The trendlines in Spain are approximately flat over the years and approximately twice as many men are murdered every year. More than 99% of men in Spain, foreigners or Spaniards, have no complaints made against them, are not sent to trial and are not convicted of crimes against women.

Now, while it is of course terrifying, traumatic or even deadly for those women who are unfortuante enough to be an actual victim, and while there will be some level of under-reporting or bad-reporting in the data, and some injustices as the different real cases wind their way through the imperfect criminal courts systems, are the statistics anywhere near suggesting that national reality in Spain approaches a situation in which 90% of women should be terrified of walking out of the door in the morning?

It is perfectly legitimate for the government, or a series of governments, to decide that violence against women is something they would like to try to reduce even further, but if several years of data and efforts and hundreds of millions of euros thrown at the problem have produced a flat trend on the results graph, those governments should at least be trying something different. And the media are free to write about anything they like, but have any of them asked if they are overdoing it with this issue, or is terrifying half the population too good a source of sensationalist clicks and ad revenue?

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