Esther Chávez Cano’s Columns in El DIario

1

Rape, an Act of Extreme Sadism by Esther Chávez Cano

El Diario, September 13, 1995

Rape is an act of extreme cruelty, a reflection of an accumulation of hate that the man carries inside of himself. It is the most brutal aggression that a human being can receive from another; it causes severe injury to the person’s liberty, physical integrity, mental health and sometimes to life itself.

In this border city, several young women have recently died at the hands of one or several individuals who, making use of their physical strength, have raped and murdered them.

It could have been you, your sister or your daughter, but this time it was other innocents who paid too high of a price for the hatred that the society, the family or others had planted in the hearts of these individuals.

Esther Chavez Cano

Esther Chávez Cano (Courtesy of Victor Munoz)

Despite the fact that we are about to enter the 21st century, there are still many who believe that the victim is guilty of inciting the rapist, without considering that a high number of infants and very old women also suffer this aggression. And surely they also ignore the fact that 27% of rapes occur inside the houses of the victims, 15% in public places and 14% in the home of the rapist and 8% in the workplace and that in most cases, the victim is a family member or acquaintance of the rapist.

We also know that there are cases committed against men, but 94% of all rapes are against women, regardless of age or social condition.

Physical strength is necessary to rape a woman, thus young girls and women are the principal victims of this serious crime. Even when they survive, the victims suffer serious consequences if they do not receive psychological treatment.

We cannot make excuses for the aggressor because of miniskirts, low cut necklines, flirting or licentiousness. Rape is not the result of sexual urgency, rather, it is an act of violence and hate against oneself and against women.

The problem has deep cultural roots. Women are educated to be a sexual object for the use and appreciation of men. Little boys are not raised to show respect for women.

Women receive various kinds of attacks on a daily basis. In the labor force, she is a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. In the home, she too frequently is mistreated while at the same time, often being blamed for the disintegration of the family. Meanwhile, men are not taught to collaborate more closely in the education of the children and other domestic chores.

Through television and cinema, young men are presented with an idealized view of family and personal life that over-values material things and when confronted with reality it causes a deep sense of frustration that cannot be remedied with prison or other punitive measures.

The promiscuity, malnutrition, lack of education that exists for many of our families damages the bodies and the spirits of our children and youth.

The child lives in terror of being caught between the frustrations of the parents. The child often suffers in his own body from the violence of the father or a “substitute.” Each year of life brings a new frustration that often culminates in the child joining a gang—having experienced a complete lack of attention in school or in the family.

A murderer is on the loose. It could be a friend or respectable parent whose sick mind drives him to take the lives of so many young women. Or it could be an adult, abandoned by his parents at an early age or an unwanted child, perhaps a child conceived in rape, but many other women are in danger of falling into his sick hands.

We cry for Esmeralda Leyva, Maria del Rocio Cordero, Gladys Yaneth Fierro, Elizabeth Castro, Silvia Helena Rivera and many other unidentified women. Above all, we must come together to demand respect for all women.

This most conflictive city needs an agency to attend to sexual crimes, run exclusively by women—a dream and struggle of the 8th of March organization—an agency that will help the victims of violence to present their cases without suffering new aggressions from doctors and police who much too frequently consider the victim guilty.

We must understand that rape is an act of murderous aggression, born in self-hatred and carried out in an abhorrent manner, its root causes unknown to the man who commits the crime. And we distance ourselves from a sense of culpability and add to the damage caused to so many women.

It is necessary to create respect for the weakest ones—children, women and old people—and to teach, educate and campaign to raise awareness of the value of all life, the Divine Gift.

We must never forget that violence is an act of sadism.

*****

Liliana: The Sorrowful Face of Juárez by Esther Chávez Cano

El Diario, Thursday, July 6, 2000

One after another, shovelfuls of hard dry dirt fell onto Liliana’s coffin. She is one more on a long list of young, poor women who have been raped and murdered here on the border. The tears of her family accompanied the dry thuds of the earth falling on the simple wooden coffin.

At the cemetery, other empty graves waited, perhaps for the next victim’s body, poor like Liliana, murdered by one or several individuals who get away with murdering young women and girls, sheltered by the impunity that has ruled in our city for too many years.

One, twenty, thirty, two hundred or more women have been thrown out onto the dry earth of our borderland, the same desert that buries them in the midst of the sorrow of their parents and the many families who have suffered this same agony. Sorrow, lack of comprehension of these deaths, injustice and society’s indifference makes them brothers and sisters in pain.

These dozens and dozens of families will no longer be the happy, enterprising, humble, hard working—many of them migrants to this city—people they were, dreaming of a better life.

They came to this border full of hope and now, without hope, they cling to the desert that has swallowed up their daughter, sister or partner. They struggle to obtain justice.

But, will there be any justice for these poor women and men?

The prisons are full of juveniles, petty thieves, alcoholic murderers, small-time drug pushers and “mules,” gang members without hope, graffiti artists who refuse to be invisible. Meanwhile, white-collar thieves enjoy their ill-gotten profits in tranquility. Murderers are protected by those who should enforce the law. Mafia bosses are sheltered by the authorities, bankers are untouchable and a young upper class of smugglers and traffickers scoff at the justice system.

And poor women are left unprotected inside and outside of their homes. Those who lack the economic and social resources needed to obtain justice, those who dreamed and worked for their own survival, those who had their lives taken away from them little by little—humiliated, tortured, violated. To satisfy their thirst for power, their murderers took away their last breath and then tossed them away like garbage. After all, there are many more women like them.

And justice? The authorities repeat over and over, “the investigations are going well,” while they sit for 24 hours before beginning to search for a missing girl, searches that are always interrupted for reasons such as: there are no vehicles, there is no gasoline, we are making progress…meanwhile, they pursue other crimes that might produce more dividends.

At this moment, we have just elected a new president. The people and only the people have spoken and said “No” to the same old system. Vicente Fox promised in his campaign and in his acceptance speech on July 2 that he would put an end to insecurity and corruption and would pay attention to the demands of the poor.

We are waiting for the fulfillment of these promises. We will not accept authoritarian pronouncements and false campaign promises. The new government must pay attention to citizens’ demands and not cloister themselves with their personal agendas.

We will make demands of this new government. “Not one more dead woman.” No more destroyed homes and families, living in sorrow and rage for the loss of their loved one. We demand respect, security, tolerance, a civil society. And our citizens—women and men—have demonstrated that we have the necessary strength to change our country’s destiny.

We want a Juárez that is secure for our young women and men. We want families united in happiness and hope and not in pain and disillusion.

We want no more women beaten, raped, or murdered. No more girls and boys suffering incest. No more whole families trying to survive on insufficient wages, carrying with them the inheritance of hunger and malnutrition passed down to them by their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

We hope that the sorrow endured by Liliana’s family and of the families of so many young women who have been massacred will unite us in calling for an end to impunity. We want tranquility, peace and security. We are prepared to demand it, but also to contribute our little grain of sand in the difficult task that lies ahead for Mexico.

Rest in peace, Liliana Holguin de Santiago.

_____

Editor’s note: Translations to the original Esther Chávez Cano’s columns were made by Molly Molloy, reference librarian and Latin American and Borderlands subject specialist at New Mexico State University.

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