Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Brazil: Update--American Tourist, 21, Gang-Raped in Rio, French Male Companion, 23, Severely Beaten

According to The New York Times, and as a follow-up to my posting of yesterday (April 1), concerning the gang-rape of an American tourist, 21, by three assailants, as well as a severe beating sustained by her French partner, 23, shortly after midnight on Friday (March 29), the couple was abducted, assaulted and robbed.

Additionally, the male partner was beaten with a lead pipe and forced to watch his girlfriend being repeatedly raped.

Subsequent to the gang-rape, the couple was forced to use bank cards to withdraw money from their accounts before the assailants finally freed them at a bus station on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. 

While the couple was traveling on a collectivo late on Saturday night, the driver and two other suspects forced other passengers out of the van (which picks up passengers along the street and can seat about a dozen people) and began taking turns raping the American student as other suspects took over the driving. 

After the couple were freed about 0600 hours on Saturday and left at a bus station, the woman was taken to two public hospitals for treatment, including the administering of a cocktail of drugs containing the morning-after pill, to prevent pregnancy, and other medications to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

COMMENT: Knowing Rio as well as I do, after covering Latin America for roughly 25 years, I was stunned when the city was selected to host not only the 2014 World Cup, but the 2016 Olympics as well. Rio is a city abundant with unchecked violence and ineffective and corrupt policing.

Two suspects were arrested over the weekend, one of whom reportedly confessed to the rape of the 21-year-old woman. Police said she had been in Brazil on a student visa. A third suspect was arrested on Monday night (April 1).

The gang-rape follows closely to recent gang-rape of a Swiss tourist in India and the attempted rape of an American tourist there as well, not to mention the gang-rape and murder of an Indian medical student, 23,
in December 2012, on a moving bus in New Delhi.
As reported previously, roughly 35% of female tourists who had planned to visit India have cancelled their reservations.

The rape victim in the nicident described above left Brazil after registering the crime and undergoing preliminary medical treatment, while her French companion remained in Rio, where he is cooperating with the police.

The two suspects who were apprehended over the weekend were arrested after investigators tracked purchases made with the victims’ credit cards, which were stolen by the assailants, and examined images obtained from security cameras at a filling station and convenience store where the men had stopped to buy energy drinks and whiskey.

Interestingly, a Brazilian student, 21, said she had similarly been held for an hour and raped by the same men on March 23, after boarding the van they had used. Two police officials in charge of investigating the March 23 case were abruptly removed from their posts on Monday (April 1).

More broadly, reports of forcible rape in Brazil have risen dramatically since 2009, when the nation’s criminal code was changed to expand the legal definition of rape to include crimes involving anal penetration. 

More than 5,300 people, about 90% of whom are women, registered cases of rape in the first six months of 2012, an increase of more than 150% since 2009. 

For the benefit of our readers, the following suggestions are offered in terms of reducing the risk of sexual assault and rape:

1. Don't drink alcoholic beverages to the excess, particularly at night and in countries that are unfamiliar to you;

2. Don't frequent bars or taverns alone, as it is a common practice on the part of sexual predators
to use date-rape drugs to immobilize victims;

3. Consider taking a self-defense course from a reputable police agency or security firm;

4. Women alone should travel in the company of others whenever possible;

5. Avoid walking in poorly illuminated areas;

6. For women, identify the threat of sexual assault and rape before you decide to visit a specific country;

7. For women, consider traveling safely in small groups of women: 


Stay in safe, reputable accommodations;

9. Learn about the neighborhoods you'll be traveling in: Get a map and study it. Know where safe places are to go to in an emergency; and

10. Find potential travel partners through professional associations and clubs that are reputable and respected.