ACCOMPANIMENT TO WOMEN AND BOYS AND GIRLS, VICTIMS OF GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE
"We women are never wrong when we fight for our rights" - Judge Elizabeth Odio B.
Accompaniment to girls, boys and women, victims of gender-based violence
Violence against women is often considered private in character so it is rarely reported to the authorities. Most cases are not formally investigated, tried, or sanctioned by justice administration systems, so they remain in impunity.
Citizens in general, and women in particular, because of situations of discrimination and marginalization of a historic character, do not know their rights and how to exercise them, which makes them victims of different types of violence, such as institutional, physical, sexual, economic, social, and cultural, among others.
In a state and national context of high incidence of crimes of family violence, sexual, and femicide, we have the Gender Violence Program, with which we provide legal counsel and representation, strategic litigation in the national and international environment, legal literacy, and requests for protective measures for women, girls, and boys who are victims of gender violence, so that they can access justice.
As well, we contribute to their emotional strengthening, through psychosocial accompaniment and individual and group psychotherapy and technical attention. In addition, we are a pioneer organization in the integral attention of children, who are often invisible as direct victims of the gender violence in the couple.
To achieve this, the Gender Violence Program is made up of a team of lawyers and experts in the management of protective measures that are supported by a multidisciplinary team of psychologists, social workers, anthropologists, and sociologists, among others, who act under a human rights approach with a gender perspective.
Every year, on average, we fully accompany 70 women, 50 girls, and 50 boys, victims of gender violence, family violence, and/or sexual violence.
In addition, we annually provide around 500 evaluations and 40 urgent protection measures for women, girls, and boys who are in a high-risk situation due to the violence of which they are victims.
At CEDEHM, we accompany, with dignified treatment, women, girls, and boys, victims of gender violence, and provide them with quality respectful service. We seek to empower women to become aware of their rights, those of their daughters and sons, and to embark on a path of demanding to live with dignity.
When the women we accompany dare to denounce the gender violence of which they are victims, in addition to representing them legally, we offer them training and psychotherapeutical support, individual and / or group, to contribute to them being protagonists of their own legal processes and life projects.
With the above, we help women navigate cultural barriers and institutional adversities, as well as help their cases be reported in front of the relevant judicial authorities.
Legal literacy and humanrights education
After receiving and evaluating a new case, in collaboration with the Education area, we channel users to training sessions such as the workshop “Legal Responses to Gender Violence”, which includes training on their rights in the divorce process, custody rights, the guarding and custody of their daughters and sons, protection measures, and information on the accusatory penal system, among others.
Psychosocial support and psychological therapy
In conjunction with the area of Education, we refer women to the psychoeducational workshops that we have available. These workshops seek to identify the influence that the premises of gender have had on their self-concept and in the family relationships of which they are part; to transform these beliefs towards those more favorable for their personal development; as well as how to identify and denature violence in its different manifestations.
With the support of the Area of Psychosocial Accompaniment, we support users who require it with individual or group psychotherapy sessions (which we call “Reflection Groups”), to contribute to their mental health, as well as their strength, and emotional well-being. If necessary, the women, girls, and boys we accompany are referred to therapists who are experts in sexual and/or family violence.
The implementation of the criminal prosecution system has meant greater access to justice, but proper legal representation remains critical to obtaining fair sentences that also provide for the comprehensive reparation of damage. Despite progress on violence in the world, our institutions do not have the necessary staff or budget for their optimal functioning.
As part of our legal representation strategy, we offer counseling and legal accompaniment to the women, girls, and boys we benefit. To achieve this, we first conduct initial interviews with women who are victims of gender violence to detect the level of risk, provide emotional support, advice and refer to some institution or manage protection measures if necessary.
Some of these women, particularly those whose legal process we litigate from the organization, are referred to therapists who are experts in sexual and/or family violence.
Subsequently, we work on the design of a bold, comprehensive, and creative strategy of psycho-juridic accompaniment to cases, and paradigmatic situations of systemic violations of the human rights of women, girls, and boys, so that they can access justice with fair sentences and resolutions that favor the integral reparation of the damage.
For these purposes, we invoke within legal processes the national standards and international instruments that Mexico has ratified in the field of human rights and those relating to the prohibition of discrimination, as well as the prevention, sanction, and eradication of violence against women.
In the CEDEHM, we have identified three key areas in which women require appropriate support, protection, and representation: legal advice, legal representation in family trials, and the request for protective measures.
We are a pioneer organization in litigation within the accusatory penal system at the national level, as well as in the representation of the rights of the victims of gender violence. We handle cases of femicides, sexual offenses, family violence, abduction and retention of girls and boys, and incompliance with alimony.
Through strategic litigation, we practice legal counsel and legal defense, offering special and innovative evidence. By participating in the hearings, we call for greater protection for the human rights of victims. We demand special protection and comprehensive reparation for those we represent.
Since 2007, we have incorporated evidence and experts with a gender perspective that favor sentences with appropriate sanctions. We have also managed to get moral damage of the victims recognized at the appeal stage. Similarly, we have made the voices of girls and boys heard which has contributed to the awareness of the justice workers, who have recognized them as direct victims of gender violence.
Family law litigation
In addition to being victims of gender crimes, girls, boys, and women are often immersed in family disputes because of their role as wives, mothers, sons, or daughters. That is why we know the importance of exercising legal representation both from the perspective of criminal and family law.
For this reason, we provide legal representation of women, girls, and boys in legal proceedings before family courts, through comprehensive defense in matters of contentious divorces, alimony procedures, paternity recognition trials, guardianship and custody of daughters and sons and cohabitations.
These legal processes identify the violence that, even after separation, men continue to exercise against women, their daughters, and sons. Therefore, we carry out on several occasions the recovery of children who are in the custody of men who have exercised violence against their partners and who, as a way of perpetuating it, take away their daughters and sons to increase and prolong their pain and suffering. Special care is also taken when girls and boys are under the protection of some public institution.
In cases of serious human rights violations where we have exhausted all legal remedies in our country without obtaining favorable results, we turn to international bodies to seek truth, justice, and comprehensive redress.
In this sense, when we file complaints or petitions with international mechanisms, we seek that through a particular case, structural situations can be resolved and that actions are implemented that allow similar events not to continue to be committed.
At the international level, the CEDEHM is linked to various local, national, and international organizations.
In CEDEHM, we also make the request for protective measures. Unlike other legal processes, these function as preventive tools to prevent or stem the likely escalation of violence towards victims and prevent irreparable harm such as femicide.
Protection orders have been listed by the United Nations as one of the most effective legal resources for women who are victims of violence. These measures are acts of protection and urgent application in the function of the best interest of the victim, being fundamentally precautionary and preventive. Among the protective measures that are carried out are: separation of people, restriction orders, police surveillance, and shelter, among others.
As a general rule, we seek to promote protection measures for beneficiaries in vulnerable situations. In the same way, we seek to standardize the criteria of judges in the granting of these measures.
Rubí Marisol Frayre Escobedo,16 years old, disappeared at the end of August, 2008. Her mother, Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, who until then was a mother dedicated to her daughters and sons, nurse, and entrepreneur, left everything to become the principal researcher on her daughter’s femicide. Thanks to the evidence she collected on her own, it was possible to determine that Rubi was murdered by her romantic partner, Sergio Rafael Barraza Bocanegra, who by then had already fled Chihuahua.
With her own resources, Marisela located Sergio in Fresnillo, Zacatecas, where he was arrested in June 2009; and transferred to Juárez City to face trial in the recently premiered Criminal Justice System. During the trial, Sergio confessed he was the author of the crime and indicated the burial place of Rubi’s remains. In her declaration, Marisela expressed that she was there because she wanted her daughter’s femicide to be the last in Chihuahua. Despite the evidence collected, and even though Sergio pleaded guilty, the Court acquitted and released the confessed killer in April 2010.
Faced with this resolution, Marisela carried out a series of protests against the authorities of the Government of the State of Chihuahua and demanded that Sergio be arrested and brought back to trial. When the decision was appealed and the acquittal was overturned, a conviction was achieved in the second instance, but by then Sergio had fled and was a fugitive of justice.
It was then that Marisela began a tenacious and tireless struggle to demand his apprehension, so she took a series of actions in her pursuit of justice. She toured the country, headed marches, held multiple protests and met with representatives of different levels of government. On three occasions, she found Sergio on her own and demanded his detention, without getting a response from the authorities. She confronted former Governor César Duarte and denounced the collusion between the authorities and members of organized crime. She repeatedly faced death threats from her daughter’s femicide family. She had warned the authorities that she would be killed if they did nothing to protect her and that her death would be the shame of the government.
On the night of Thursday, December 16, 2010, Marisela was murdered in the presence of her family in front of the gates of the Government Palace of the State of Chihuahua, while doing a sit-in and demanding justice for the femicide of her daughter Rubi. The last four years of her life will mark forever the history of our entity and the criminal prosecution system in Mexico, and show before the whole world the impunity that prevails in our country.
As soon as Marisela’s murder was committed, the risk spread to the rest of her family. During the hours after her assassination, an armed commando set fire to the lumberyard of the activist’s romantic partner, while her brother-in-law, Manuel Monge, disappeared and was subsequently killed. Therefore, it was necessary to advance the funeral of Marisela, which was originally scheduled for the Sunday immediately after her death.
Faced with prevailing danger, members of Marisela’s nuclear family had to flee Mexico. They are currently in the process of applying for political asylum, a problem that has also not been addressed by the Mexican State.
In October 2012, the Attorney General of the State of Chihuahua presented José Enrique Jiménez Zavala, alias “the Wicked”, as alleged material killer of Marisela. In November of the same year, authorities confirmed that Sergio Barraza, Rubi’s killer, was killed in a confrontation between the military and organized crime on a road in the south of Zacatecas state. Two years later, in December 2014, it was reported that “the Wicked” was strangled to death in his cell while awaiting conviction for Marisela’s murder.
In the absence of reparation and justice, on June 24, 2019, the CEDEHM, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and the organization Mexicans in Exile (Mex-en-Ex), presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) the case of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz. From this application, Marisela’s family and the applicant organizations seek to overcome the obstacles imposed in Mexico in the search for justice and to prevent situations of this nature continue being presented.
The petition issued to the IACHR will allow the Inter-American System of Human Rights to document human rights violations committed against Rubí, Marisela, and 17 members of her family. These include the lack of protection that set off the sexist violence against Rubi, the subsequent murder and disappearance of the young woman, as well as the lack of investigation or analysis of these facts. Added to this is the lack of guarantees for Marisela Escobedo to exercise her role as a human rights defender safely, which facilitated her murder and triggered the forced displacement of her family after her death.
Our organizations request that the Mexican State be declared internationally responsible for the violations, omissions, negligence, and impunity that resulted in the murder of Marisela Escobedo, the femicide of her daughter Rubí, and the displacement of the family of both women to the United States.
Cases of homicide in self-defense
At the CEDEHM, we have had the opportunity to accompany women victims of family violence, physical, psycological, economic, or and/or sexual by their respective partners – violence that was also cyclical and systemic- and that were arrested and imprisoned for depriving their assailants of life, in an act of legtimate self defense and under the well-founded fear of the danger they faced in their lives and integrity.
With the legal representation of the CEDEHM, we were able to demonstrate that, in fact, these women acted without malice, premeditation, treachery, betrayal, or cruelty and that they only did so in self defense to repel a real aggression, current and imminent, with the only purpose of protecting and defending their lives.
In all cases, the women were acquitted and found not guilty, so they were able to regain their freedom to continue their recovery with their respective families.
In the light of other cases in which the proceedings of women victims of gender violence of have been criminalized, who act in self defense, we reiterate that it is obligatory of the State to ensure that the justice workers are fully trained in the field of human rights, family violence, and the perspective of gender, for a proper imparting of justice.
Chapter #3 of the series “From Victims to Victimizers. Women in Self-Defense” from Communication and Information for the Woman SCO (CIMAC for its acronym in Spanish).
We accompanied 11 Rarámuri girls, five of whom were victims of aggravated and qualified rape and four of aggravated and qualified sexual abuse: crimes that were committed by their teacher when they were in fourth grade. In February 2019, the professor was found guilty of these crimes and in the sentence; he was given a sentence of 88 years and nine months in prison.
This case is emblematic, since access to justice could be guaranteed for a group of girls in the situation of vulnerability, since they were indigenous children, residents of an economically and socially marginalized community, in which they were victims of sexual offences committed by their then teacher, a figure of authority and trust. For this reason, it represents a precedent in the fight against impunity and in access to justice in terms of violence and crimes of gender.
During the process of legal representation of this case, through a specialised expertise in psychosocial matters, it was possible to demonstrate before the High Court of Justice of the State that the consequences of these criminal acts do not necessarily affect just the victims, but also permeate the community environment.
Because sexual violence has an impact on victims, their families, and their immediate community, since the CEDEHM received the case in June 2015, we have provided comprehensive accompaniment and attention to legal and psychosocial areas so that victims can restore their life projects. In addition, we accompany their families and school community with psychoeducational workshops to prevent and detect child sexual abuse.
In order for cases like this not to be repeated, the State at its different levels must implement measures aimed at preventing these acts and, in general, design and implement a comprehensive policy to ensure that indigenous girls, boys, and women, victims of violence of the entity, have timely access to justice. It is also necessary to design an education plan to supervise the State’s hostels and schools of education to ensure that they are spaces free of violence, especially sexual, against girls and boys.
From the CEDEHM, we call on the State and educational institutions to train in the detection and prevention of child sexual abuse; to include comprehensive sexual education programs for children and adolescents; to put the testimony of victims before that of any other figure of authority, and to act in a timely manner in reporting cases of sexual abuse or rape.
See here the press release in reference to the conviction obtained in reference to the Arareco case.
Hester van Nierop
In September 1998, Hester Van Nierop, a 28-year-old Dutch woman traveling from Mexico to the United States, died of femicide in Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua. After six months, the authorities had not carried out the corresponding investigation, nor had they gathered more information that would allow the identification and location of the culprit.
The tireless perseverance of her family led to the detention of the murderer. Her mother, Arsène Van Nierop, knew of the work of the CEDEHM. In 2007, together with the organization Casa Amiga Esther Chávez Cano in Ciudad Juárez, we began the legal representation of the case. We accompanied Hester’s family in the search and in the subsequent prosecution of the femicide. In coadjuvancy with the United Kingdom of the Netherlands Embassy in Mexico, we fought until we got a conviction of the killer.
In January 2014, Hester’s killer was arrested at the Mexican border. American police identified him by the profile described and his distinguishing features. He was deported and handed over to the Mexican authorities. From that moment on, he was placed in custody. In December 2015 a judge from Chihuahua handed down a sentence and the killer was sentenced to 35 years in prison. At the trial, the statement of one of the main witnesses was decisive.
The Ambassador of the Netherlands in Mexico communicated the news to Hester’s family in the Netherlands. The Fundación Hester created in 2005 by Arsène Van Nierop with the aim of denouncing and preventing violence against women in the north of Mexico, appreciated the efforts of the authorities and considered the condemnation as a first step towards justice. Hester’s mother recounts that, “if I had not had the support of the CEDEHM, my daughter’s killer would never have been tried.”
On May 31, 2011, the CEDEHM, in conjunction with Justice for Our Daughters and the Hester Foundation, filed Hester’s case with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, exposing the events that occurred to Hester, the development of the investigation and the deficiencies in it, as well as the human rights violated by the Mexican State. The State was notified of this request on October 17, 2016, receiving its first reply on March 29, 2017, in which the Mexican State claims to have carried out the investigation with due diligence, arguing that the procedure took so long because of the complexity of the procedure and not because of faults on the part of its institutions, noting in the same document that the petition of the victims was not admissible because it had not brought an internal appeal against the delay in investigations and access to justice.
After the study of the documents submitted by the victims and the Mexican State, the IACHR emited issues or reports declaring the petition in association with Articles 4, 5, 8, 24, and 25 of the American Convention admissible, in connection with articles 1.1 and 2; and Article 7 of the Convention of Belém do Pará; of the case Hester Suzanne Van Nierop and Family against the Mexican State. Proceeding to continue with the analysis of the substance of the matter.
In the CEDEHM, we carry out advocacy in public policy before the three powers of government for the benefit of women, girls, boys, and adolescents who are victims of gender violence. This advocacy is based on comprehensive actions with the perspective of gender and with a vision of childhood and adolescence that aim to guarantee and protect the human rights of women. In this sense, our advocacy work is aimed at the prevention of gender violence, the protection of the human rights of women, children, and adolescents, and the application of the highest standards of attention to gender violence in access to justice.
Similarly, together with partner organizations, we have carried out various activities such as the promotion of the adoption of the Chihuahua Declaration in Favor of Women, which involves a series of actions from the three executive, legislative, and judicial powers of Government of the State of Chihuahua, aimed at generating advances for the substantive equality of women, as well as improving the State’s response to violence. Based on this strategy, we currently support the design and implementation of measures to provide attention to the strategic axes that are addressed in the Declaration.
As part of our advocacy work, in 2011, in compliance with the recommendations issued to the Mexican State in the case of Paloma Escobar, the creation of the Prosecutor specialized in Attention to Women Víctims of Crime for Reasons of Gender of the State of Chihuahua (FEM for its acronym in Spanish) was achieved, with the aim of preventing and eliminating the revictimization of women from an integral attention approach. FEM is an institution created to investigate and prosecute crimes related to acts of violence against girls and women of the entity. This organ has under its responsibility the investigation and attention of cases of family violence, crimes that violate alimony obligations, crimes of a sexual character (harassment, bullying, abuse, and rape), reports of absence of girls and women, trafficking of persons (girls, boys, and women) and femicides.
Favorable resolutions for women, girls,and boys, victims of gender violence
At the CEDEHM, we have consolidated our capacity for strategic litigation by obtaining favorable resolutions for women, girls, and boys, victims of gender violence. In the sentences our arguments are taken up again; the distinct gender violence is made visible, recognized, and punished; the preponderance of the declarations of girls, boys, and women of sexual offenses is considered; and comprehensive damage repair and penalties for pedophiles are implemented.
In addition, we have helped to make visible the consequences of gender violence in couples, in daughters, and sons. In this sense, since our intervention, the resolutions have been favorable for the children involved: the assaults from which have been stopped, alimony has been granted to meet their needs and the harmony and emotional well-being of the family have been recovered. In certain cases, the judicial decision has respected the desire of daughters and sons not to see their father.
In 2019, we achieved 96% of family-friendly resolutions for women and 92% in criminal matters. These resolutions have been restorative and transformative. According to our beneficiaries, 70% of them were satisfied with the outcome. Women consider the resolution was fair to their requests because an aggressor or accused was convicted, has a sanction, and can no longer do them more damage, so they feel safe and liberated physically and emotionally. We have also managed to save the lives and integrity of hundreds of women by requesting and implementing protection measures on their behalf.
Our users believe that, because of our accompaniment, significant changes occurred in the attention received from the justice workers. Positive results that attribute to the advocacy capacity and professionalism of our team of lawyers and experts of the Gender Violence Program.
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