France | Syringe attacks on the rise

(Marseille) Some 1,100 people have been stabbed in France since the beginning of the year, a phenomenon that has grown so rapidly in the country that there is cause for concern, especially given the resumption of summer festivals.

Posted at 6:00 am

Ilies Hagoug
special collaboration

On a May evening, when it was already very hot in Marseille, Diane*, 21, went out with thousands of other students to “relieve the pressure”. She fondly remembers the aperitif on the beach with her friends.

Bites weren’t a problem. “I always watch my glass, I know something can be poured in to submit chemicals. But the bites were borderline urban legends to me. »

A few hours later the party continued at the disco.

There were really a lot of people there. I was laughing with strangers in a hallway with not enough room to move, and that’s when I felt it.

Diane, victim of a syringe attack

An uncomfortable pinching sensation in the arm, painful but not worrisome. “I was a bit isolated from my friends in the evenings because I had to go to the bathroom. That’s when I realized what had just happened to me. In the bathroom mirror, Diane noticed that her arm was slightly bleeding.

Crossed in the hallway, a friend, like her, noticed the blood on her arm, then a circular trail, a red halo that was quickly interpreted as that of a sting. “It was fresh. And it got harder and harder to breathe. And when my boyfriend asked me if I was okay, I finally said no, I wasn’t. Her heart was pounding, dizziness, nausea.

However, Diane is anything but an isolated case. There have been hundreds of them in France in recent months.

Attacks are rapid and the perpetrators are rarely identified. The victims are apparently chosen at random, rather in a festive setting. A report by the Office for the Fight against Drugs (OFAST), the national police agency responsible for coordinating action against drug trafficking in France, cited at the end of June (latest available data) “around 850 reported facts” and almost as many complaints lodged on the territory. A fact, sometimes spanning multiple acts, is nearly 1100 people, roughly as many women as men, who have been listed. And a common thread between all these testimonies: no trace of drugs could be found on the victims. The motivations of the attackers remain unclear, to say the least.

After her sting, Diane was quickly rushed to the hospital. The symptoms there will disappear as quickly as they appeared. The small wound was identified as from a syringe, but after some examinations, doctors decided she was fine. He was prescribed preventive antiviral treatment for HIV, as well as toxicological and viral studies to find out the origin of the symptoms and to ensure that no harmful product had been injected.

Everything was negative. It was both reassuring because I was fine and depressing because I didn’t understand what had just happened to me.

Diana

The next day, when she went to the police station to file a complaint, the same lack of understanding prevailed. “The cop didn’t really know how to take my report. I think it’s an armed robbery, and I can’t help but tell myself that my assailant had bad intentions. I thought about sexual assault. »

Festival-goers under tension

The phenomenon is a cause for concern during this particularly festive period. Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak addressed the issue during a visit to Hellfest festival on June 25, saying it is “more of a psychosis than a real phenomenon” and a challenge launched on social media could be at the origin of the whole affair.

Still, festival-goers are on their guard. In Marseille, a magnet for party-goers, the bites heat up discussions in the evenings. “My friends and I have made it a habit to watch our drinks to make sure we don’t get high. It’s even worse there, sometimes I look over my shoulder,” says Jean Allard, a 20-year-old athlete, not reassured by the words of the authorities.

Moreover, in Marseille, the Safer system put in place during the biggest festival in the southern French city to limit the risk of sexual and gender-based violence in June would not have been infallible. Although no case of stabbing has been officially registered by the authorities, a young girl testified on France 3 television that she had been the victim of one of these mysterious attacks.

“Zero risk doesn’t exist, unfortunately, but we’re here to reduce it,” he hinted The press Marc Brielles, responsible for the Safer system.

* Fictitious first names to protect anonymity

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