The U.S. Embassy in Spain has issued a new security alert warning Americans about the “steady increase” in the number of sexual assaults in the country over the past five years.
The figures, based on information provided by the Spanish Ministry of Interior, “includes a rise in sexual assault against young U.S. citizen visitors and students throughout Spain,” the embassy says.
“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,” the message states.
American officials are advising citizens to drink responsibly and travel with friends or family members.
Last month, three U.S. women in the city of Murcia alleged that they were sexually assaulted at a New Year’s Eve party, the BBC reported, citing the El Pais newspaper.
In November, the streets of Spain were filled with protesters – mostly women of all ages – as they demanded the country’s laws be changed after five men were acquitted of raping an unconscious 14-year-old girl.
The court found that because the victim had drunk alcohol and smoked marijuana before the attack, she “could not accept or reject the sexual relations.” The men, it said, were therefore able to have sex with her without using violence or intimidation – an element required under Spanish law for a crime to be a sexual assault or rape.
The assault took place in 2016 in Manresa, a town in northeastern Spain, at an abandoned factory where a group of young people had been drinking and using drugs.
Fox News' Lucia I. Suarez Sang and the Associated Press contributed to this report.