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Human rights lawyer supports victims

Human rights lawyer Patricia Colchero and YJI Senior Reporter Regina López during their zoom interview.

MEXICO CITY – In Mexico, the most common place where women are victims of sexual violence are in their own homes, according to human rights lawyer Patricia Colchero.

Colchero used to work for the Mexican government’s National System for the Integral Protection of Boys and Girls. Her main task was to prevent and fight against sexual violence. 

The first thing any victim should do after being assaulted is to get themselves out of the place where their aggressor is, advised Colchero.

“The victim has to take matters in their own hands, because it is likely a sexual violence victim may become a femicide victim,” said Colchero, stressing that the victim has to get help.

Her main job as a human rights lawyer, Colchero explained, is to guide the victim through the process of reporting the assault to the authorities – and to be with them every step of the way.

First, she has to file the report to the public ministry and interview the victim so she can know every detail of what happened.

“It is important to actively listen to the victim without any prejudice,” said Colchero, “because sometimes public ministries do have them.” 

Then, she will take the victim to every institution that can help them, whether that be medical or psychological assistance. 

The last stop will be the Executive Commission of Attention to Victims, where she will explain to the person their legal status and how she will be able to help them.

The specific law that will protect the victim is the General Law of Victims, which establishes the victim’s rights of any felony, no matter who they are.

In particular for women, there is the General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence, which lists all kinds of violence against women and the actions authorities must take.

Sometimes these laws are not applied properly in the small towns of Mexico, Colchero said. The main reasons for this, according to Colchero, are the backward preconceptions in Mexican culture which result in impunity for the men who commit these atrocities.

“That’s why the number of sexual violence cases hasn’t descended, because the authorities do not sanction those responsible,” Colchero said.

Another result of these retrogressive preconceptions is the lack of institutions or specific laws for the LGBTQ+ community.

“The best way to support them is to get them proper access to justice,” said Colchero.

In general, the best way people can support is by denouncing the crimes.

But as attorney Colchero said, one person “can’t do much.”

She said it is the state’s responsibility to provide spaces where women can take refuge, and where there is capable staff who can take care of them. 

In 2019, after the first three months of Mexican President López Obrador’s term, almost a third of the budget destined to women refugees was cut.

Between underfunded refugees and the coronavirus, 98.6% of violent crimes against women committed in 2020 weren’t reported, according to the National Survey of Urban Public Safety.

People must recognize the little sexist acts that can lead to bigger damage. Changing our culture through education is the only way to prevent these crimes from happening and from being dismissed.

“There are few steps from discrimination to violence,” said Colchero. 

Regina López is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

This article is part of the No one is safe project about sexual assault around the world. It is being published in five parts of six article each on Mondays and Thursday, beginning Nov. 29, 2021. For links to the published project, click below.

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