Updated: Dec 29, 2021
My book, Women of Fire and Snow, is a collection of stories about women straddling the Mexican-American border, confronting violence and challenges from forced migration and femicide. While researching, I discovered the atrocious reality of gender violence.
When I first started writing these stories in 2017, the UN reported that nine women and girls were murdered every day in Mexico. Now, it is ten. Although worse for lower-income women, femicide spans all socio-economic classes and is exceptionally brutal; most victims are stabbed, strangled or drowned.
Femicide is not only vicious but intimate. Forty percent of women murdered in Mexico knew their killer. Exacerbating the problem is the systemic impunity in Mexico where 93% of crimes are never punished. Members of law enforcement at all levels engage in femicide; in March 2020, they attacked female protesters in various cities, arresting and assaulting some, using tear gas, and shooting four journalists in another.
Mexico has a problem, but it is not alone. The UN estimates that worldwide almost one in three girls and women will experience violence or sexual assault in their lifetime. Although boys and men also experience violence, there is a difference. Men and boys are victimized by violence on the streets and often during the commission of a crime. In disturbing contrast, a large majority of girls and women are victimized in the home, the place where one is supposed to feel safe and protected.
Because of economic, educational, and cultural reasons, a quarter of women worldwide will experience violence by an intimate partner or husband. Gender violence is worse in underdeveloped countries and in places where girls and women face genital mutilation and forced marriage.
In the US, one in three women are victims of assault or sexual violence, the same number worldwide. Although gender violence affects all women, regardless of race, class, or age, it is more frequent among transgender women and women of color. In addition, American Indian and Alaskan Native women experience violence at a higher rate, four out of every five.
In my stories, I never use graphic nor detailed descriptions of violent acts, but I do write about difficult issues, such as rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence. We cannot solve what we don’t acknowledge; we can’t help those who must hide or remain silent because of stigma, shame, threats, or lack of resources. My stories are factual and real but tempered with magical realism and mysticism as a way of sustaining hope.
I don’t know how to stop violence against women; the causes are complex and legion. But I do know that the tools of the patriarchy will not work. Instead, we need the feminine principles of equality, love, and acceptance that value all people.
The Center for Women’s Human Rights (CEDEHM) in Chihuahua, Mexico is a non-profit feminist organization providing resources, support, legal aid, and advocacy since 2005. All the presales’ profits of my book Woman of Fire and Snow will be donated to the CEDEHM.
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