Photo: Vanguardia

Amid the chaos of Venezuela, there are certain ignored topics. For some, it’s a matter of urgency and priority, and for others these problems simply don’t exist in our Latin American reality. Let me bring to the table, then, one of those: Violence against women based on discriminatory stereotypes.

The story starts at my favorite bar in Chacao, Caracas, a safe neighborhood compared to the rest of the city. A girl walks down the street at 11:00 p.m. when a squad car stops her, asks some questions and moves on. She then walks to where we are and, in fear and confusion, asks: “Where am I?”

She then walks to where we are and, in fear and confusion, asks: “Where am I?”

We answer, not really understanding what’s going on. She came closer, and I’ve never seen so much pain and terror in a face. We then realized something bad happened: her arms had scratches dripping blood, her legs couldn’t support her because she was shaking so bad, and her face was beat up. No evident wounds could amount to that much blood, and that was even weirder.

We took her inside, tried to comfort her and asked what happened. Between a helpless cry and genuine pain, I could hear two words: “kidnapped” and “raped”. Then she passed out.

A deep silence dawned on the bar. We were still trying to grasp what had just happened: the girl on the floor had just experienced the worst moment of her life. She depended on us for comfort, but how can you, a complete stranger, comfort an 18-year-old who just came back from hell?

We managed to wake her up and calm her as much as possible; she said a black SUV stopped right next to her when she was getting home (in a poor neighborhood west of Caracas), men took her forcefully inside and tried to rape her. She didn’t remember if they actually did it.

She depended on us for comfort, but how can you, a complete stranger, comfort an 18-year-old who just came back from hell?

We called the police and they never arrived, we dialed the local emergency assistance service and by the time they appeared, her family was already here. I can’t describe the sound of that mother crying while knowing, without the specifics, that someone had harmed her child.

How can a human being cause that much suffering to someone else? How can sex justify that?

Derived from this reality (which isn’t new, it has just been ignored), there’s an international commitment to end violence against women in America, the Belen Do Pará Convention. It’s a particular instrument that forces signatory states to prevent and sanction all types of violence against women, approaching situations from a gender perspective. The special vulnerability that women of low income in violent contexts suffer, requires particular measures from the State, including the development of structural solutions to tackle the cultural stereotypes inside discriminatory behaviors.

For example, I was discussing the other day with my grandmother and classmates about discrimination of women in Venezuela. There are recurrent arguments to deny this reality: Mothers are the authority in most families, women are partly to blame in domestic violence cases because they never report it to the authorities, and (this is the worst) there are more important things to solve right now.

Guys, women represent the authority in most families because men always leave. And beyond the infinite arguments that prevent women from reporting violence to the authorities, criminal behavior cannot be blamed on the victim. It’d be like saying that torture is bad, but it’s the people’s fault for protesting.

The special vulnerability that women of low income in violent contexts suffer, requires particular measures from the State.

Governments are obligated to guarantee a life without violence or discrimination for women, and there are certain standards to be respected: First, the complaint made to the police must be enough proof to start a diligent investigation with gender perspective; second, once a vulnerability is known, a legal structure strong enough to answer must be in place. The State must uphold its obligations by guaranteeing prosecution to criminals.

In our case, the government isn’t taking effective measures to prevent discrimination, especially to women in intersectionality (affected by more than one vulnerability factor); the police couldn’t care less about this girl, even after they stopped her and asked questions. No investigation, or protective actions whatsoever, no statements, nothing. I wonder if money (in this case, the victim’s poverty) could have been a factor, but this is how you build impunity.

That girl crying in a bar the day I turned 23 years old wasn’t only a victim of sexual violence. She’s a message from the chavista government for aggressors of all kinds:

As long as you don’t threaten our power, go to town on the people.

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  1. “How can a human being cause that much suffering to someone else? How can sex justify that?”

    The first question is very difficult to answer.

    The second however is simpler yet will lead to a horrible reality and that is that rape is rarely about sex, it about control and dominance, even when talking about date rape. It’s the rapist thinking they have the “right” to someone else’s body. It’s people who believe they are owed sex and that the victim is lesser than them that rape.

    And yes despite the fact that I wholeheartedly agree with you on almost everything you stated about how women are far worse off I purposely didn’t gendered my statement on rapists and victims because it affects more people than we will ever know.

    I feel sorry for the girl and for you and for every person in this hellhole that has to go through violence without the ability to go a single authority because they won’t show up or as it has happened to some being laughed at our faces.

    Everything thing needs to change and I wish I had a solution but lately I just want to burn everything down

  2. “The government isn’t taking effective measures to prevent discrimination”

    Yet this isn’t a government, is it?

    Dictatirships always discriminate. They don’t just -not prevent it-, they thrive on it.

    It’s not that “there are bigger or more important things to do first”. It’s more that, although it’s important to discuss plans and expose the cause and consequences of problems going forward, nothing can be done while Chavismo remains in power. Same with gay rights or any other civil rights movement. Under a dictatorship we are not civilians, we are not citizens. If we want this, and many other problems solved, Chavismo must be buried.

  3. Todays decision to designate Delcy as Vicepresident in substitution of El Aissami should be celebrated by all who champion womens equal rights , at last a woman occupies one of the country’s top offices, something to make all women proud…., the regime has definitely proven its feminist credentials……would someone like Ledezma have made a better choice ?? of course not ..he is a male and Delcy is a woman , the difference is fundamental…!! hurray for president Maduro for having had the courage to make the decision !!

    • Except she is poopoo caca pile of evil sinister derp. But, other than that, what you say.

    • While I was reading about the restructuring of the regime’s cabinet, the only thing that came to mind was the analogy of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

    • Naming Delcy VP did not stop the kidnappers from doing anything to this girl.

      Policies must be analyzed as a whole. And a personalist political -chavista- fight for power is not a relevant influence in the struggle against discriminatory stereotypes that justify and encourage violence against women.

      Those excuses send the same message of impunity I talked about in the article: yes, that poor kid suffered that, but we don`t care because the VP is a woman.

  4. Unfortunately and sadly women have been subjected to rape/ violence throughout history and though we like to think of ourselves as more civilized and evolved nowdays there is still that brutish segment of the male population among us that view women as lesser beings…always have and probably always will. In a collapsing society such as Venezuela where the fear of legal consequences is minimized the attacks on women are sure to increase. One more part of the great tragedy.

  5. I will not pretend to know what influence nature or nurture have but as the saying goes; “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    For how intelligent we are as a species it has been proven time and again that a not small portion of the population is willing to or happily act inhumanly.

    Well written article, travesty that the subject even has to be broached.

  6. Thoughtful and well written article.

    The regime is complicit in these crimes as a result of corruption, ineptitude, indifference and widespread impunity. But additionally, rape is a state sponsored form of terror in Venezuela, as is documented in the recent OAS Report on Venezuela and Crimes Against Humanity. It fell to that level of depravity under Chavez, with the Afiuni case, and it has not looked back since.

  7. 98% of violent crimes in the world are committed by testosterone high young males , very seldom by women , biology has made males more violent prone than women , more aggresive and violent ……it is part of human beings animal inheritance ……, goes back to our evollutionary past , in early times males had to compete to mate , weak males couldnt get women to mate with him so only the most aggresive and bodily strong males could reproduce …….civilized values have for centuries struggled to make men less violent , less given to find proud gratification in exhibiting their capacity to inflict bodily pain on others …..women have had a big role in developing a civilization that condems violence , but the struggle is endless , and no matter how much progress is made some atavic call still has some young males (or their wannabe elder cousins) mistreat women as a sign of their muscular ‘superiority’……. !! This is a shame on mankind…….!!

    • Good observations, Bill.

      It is all about balance and tradeoffs. For humans, males must be aggressive and violent enough to defend the tribe, but cooperative enough to respect social hierarchy and work together.

      In peacetime, young males flooded with testosterone are a danger to society and themselves. We require very tight social controls on their behavior. However, in wartime, they are indispensable.

  8. Venezuela is a land of immigrants. The vast majority of Venezuelans had ancestors who came at one time or another. Therefore, your options are

    1. Emigrate. Your ancestors did it. Now its your turn. That way, anyone who stays is by default content with Chavismo. Get robbed? Raped? Murdered? Starving to death? Can’t find medicine? iVIVA LA REVOLUCION!

    2. Pick up a gun and change things. If something is worth living for, its worth dying for. So either die on your feet, or live on your knees.

    • As you can read in the article, violence against women is a complex reality. The cause of it is not who raises men, but a handful of factors. That is precisely what calls for bigger -structural- measures to change discriminatory cultural stereotypes that are rooted in our society.

      This can only be possible with the commitment of the State to take such measures and fight impunity.

    • Actually, in many households in “popular” sectors, single mothers tend to pamper their male children because they themselves have been raised with that sort of mindset, while the female children are encouraged to “find a man that feeds them”


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