Turning a Blind Eye to Domestic Violence
Just writing out that title makes me cringe. You’re probably wondering why the hell I would even consider doing that, turning a blind eye to domestic violence.
Down here in Guatemala, domestic violence is common, very common, and I hate to say it, but the norm here as well. Everyone knows it happens. Some do something about it, more so though, most don’t.
It’s the culture. It’s just the way it is. Does it make it right? Nope, of course not. Is there anything that can be done about it? Very little.
Here’s my story.
Last year a friend and I took a long walk to the nearby town. It’s an adorable little place and I love going there. It was recently painted (yes, the buildings mostly all have fabulous full colour artwork on them) and the people are just so friendly.
On our walk down one of the streets I could hear a man beating his wife. Imagine the sounds of a fist hitting a woman and her screaming in pain. I was horrified. Having grown up in a house of violence, I know that sound all too well and all my emotions went into overdrive.
This couple was on the roof of a two story apartment. It was a covered patio type area which is why we could hear it as clear as a bell. My friend wanted to keep walking but I insisted we stop and maybe try to get help.
“Iva” he urged me, “please let’s just keep walking. This is not our home or our territory. We are targets right now. Let’s go, come on. “ But I couldn’t. I froze in my shoes. I couldn’t leave this woman also now knowing full well I may be in danger too.
I just didn’t fucking care.
At that exact moment, a police pick up truck was rounding the corner and I flagged them down, much to my friend’s dismay. I yelled at him to translate for me and tell the police what was happening on the roof.
They stopped the truck, turned on the siren and got out. The man from the roof came to the edge and talked to the police a bit. The conversation lasted under 1 minute and went something like this:
Police: Is everything ok up there?
Man: Yes officer, we’re good up here.
Police: These people heard your wife cry is she ok?
Man: Yes officer, we’re having an argument and she’s crying. That’s all.
Police: Ok, have a good day.
That’s it. That’s all. I was horrified. My jaw dropped.
I urged the officer, please help her. He’s hurting her!!!
They drove away. And did nothing.
I felt defeated and so so so sad. And helpless. But not only that, my friend is right. This isn’t our home. We are strangers here and this is their culture, not ours. It still doesn’t make it right, it’s just the way it is.
Women are not held in high regard here. They are to be used, raped and beaten. Not all, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of them.
I did a wee bit of research on this and found this:
Almost 590 women were murdered in Guatemala between January and September this year (2017), bringing the total femicides over the past nine years to 7,273.
An average of 62 women are murdered every month — equal to 15 per week — in Guatemala, according to a damning new report released by the National Institute of Forensics. The victims were either shot (373), asphyxiated (144), stabbed (63) or dismembered (8).
Yet during the same period, the Public Ministry recorded only 176 complaints of femicide and 84 of attempted femicide. To date, only 82 people have been convicted — all of them men.
The report, released on Tuesday, also revealed that authorities registered more than 1,000 cases of girls under the age of 14 who were left pregnant after being raped.
Norma Cruz, director of the Guatemalan NGO Survivors Foundation, said femicide is responsible for a huge number of orphaned children. The NGO is calling on citizens to mobilize on November 23, the day of the Elimination of Violence against Women, to help raise awareness of the issue.
Guatemala — along with its neighboring countries El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico — is marred by one of the highest rates of femicide in the world.
Mind blowing. What’s worse, did you catch this line ‘to date, only 82 people have been convicted’? 590 women murdered, 82 convictions.
Is there anything I can do? Apparently very little. I tried. Even had the police beside me, and nothing. It’s all so frustrating and completely heartbreaking.
But this isn’t my country, this isn’t my home or my culture. I am a stranger in this land and all I can do is keep trying. Thankfully I haven’t been directly exposed to such violence again but if I am, I will, once again be a voice for her and try to help her.
How can I turn a blind eye? How can I ignore the screams and cries of a woman being beaten?
I won’t. And neither should you. Ever. ❤
I love you
Peace and Love
xo iva xo