Women victims of violence find refugee in Juarez

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CIUDAD JUAREZ – The doors of the building opened suddenly as Blanca, a 31-year old woman, came in nervous and desperate. Once again, she had been beaten by her husband.

Convinced by a neighbor to seek help, Blanca reached out to the Instituto Chihuahuense de la Mujer in Ciudad Juarez, an institute independent from the Mexican government that was created in 2002 as the city was rattled by the death of hundreds of women.

“It is a process that takes place slowly,” Blanca said. “It is not easy. However, one has to fight for oneself and for our children; to realize that life sometimes brings difficult situations, but there is always hope.”

The institute’s clear mission is to pursue politics that ensure women’s protection. It seeks to promote gender equality and guarantees a violence-free life for women.

“We help all the women who come to our office as well as those in different areas of the city through several locations,” said Ruth Ayala, human rights professor and regional coordinator for the Instituto Chihuahuense de la Mujer. “When a woman is a victim of violence she requires professional help including psychologists, medical examiners, and the integral and unconditional support of therapies that help the woman move forward.”

The institute offers help in three basic areas: social work, which is the first contact with the user, the legal area, where she will receive help with the process of their lawsuit, and the area of psychological therapy.

“Se van trabajando la autoestima, los límites con la persona que ejerce violencia, el empoderamiento, la independencia saludable, y la apreciación que se deben de tener como mujeres”, dijo Brisa Trejo del Centro de Justicia para las Mujeres. (©iStockphoto/RelaxFoto)

“We start working on self-esteem, the limits with the violence-prone person, self-empowerment, healthy independence, and the necessary appreciation as women,” said Brisa Trejo from Centro de Justicia para las Mujeres. (©iStockphoto/RelaxFoto)

“We are conscious of the woman’s need to move forward. We are aware of what is required after the process of divorce, after a process of a violent relationship,” Ayala added. “We seek to empower women, for her to be conscious that she is a free human being and she has rights.”

The importance of women being aware of programs such as this one, to be conscious and able to identify if she is experiencing violence, is particularly relevant in a society in which  male hegemony and patriarchal ideologies have shaped its behaviors.

“There is an area of gender training that consists of different workshops and talks in which we discuss the theme of violence against women,” said Berenice Aguilar, social communication coordinator for the Instituto Chihuahuense de la Mujer. “We also discuss violence while dating and sexual, verbal or psychological abuse, in relation to sexism and the dominant male.”

The reality is that violence against women is a clear issue in Juarez and although many of these cases have been obscured by the wave of violence that came to the city due to the drug war, local women continue to be victims of despotism, tyranny and gender related crimes.

“During the month of August about 35 women disappeared in the city,” Ayala said. “Many of them haven’t been found and others were killed or used for human trafficking.”

The coming together and support of government institutions has been a key element in the fight and effort to protect women.

“Among the available resources for women there is shelter within the justice department,” said Silvia Nájera, spokesperson of the Justice Center for Women of Ciudad Juarez. “Here we help women when it is necessary for her to leave her home because she is at risk.”

Providing a safe place in which women and their children can live temporality while they find a job, the Justice Center for Women is one more aid that consists of seven institutions dedicated to assist women who are victims of violence.

“The Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Social Development, the secretary in charge of women victims of gender related violence, the state DIF, the Secretary of Education, the Secretary of Culture and Sports, and the Secretary of Health are part of this project,” said Zulay Abbud, general coordinator of the Justice Center for Women. “Together we seek to help women in all ways possible and in one location, to avoid them going from one place to another.”

As part of this help it is necessary for women to receive psychological therapy to recover after a violent act and move forward with their personal and professional life.

“I attend to approximately 25 to 30 women per week,” said Brisa Trejo, one of the psychologists at the Justice Center for Women. “It is important for them to feel listened to, especially because most of them have gone through situations in which they have had to stay quiet.”

The therapies, which consist of approximately 20 sessions, focus on the internal resources of women, their phases from childhood, to adolescence, to adulthood. These are tools to help them understand that they can succeed.

“We start working on self-esteem, the limits with the violence-prone person, self-empowerment, healthy independence, and the necessary appreciation as women,” Trejo said.

Step by step, these women victims of violence in Juarez are rising to move on with their lives.

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Translated by Danya Hernandez

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