Works in Progress | Domestic Violence & the Coronavirus Lockdowns
Juntas Somos Todas [Together, We Are All]
I put a rose against the wall of the graveyard, beside hundreds of others on the altar. Candles illuminated countless names and crosses that spanned the entirety of the wall. Every flower represented a womxn who had either been murdered or was missing, all victims of gender-based violence. Behind me was the roar of thousands of women, muxes¹, and children, who had taken to the streets in protest of the increasing number of sisters, daughters, and friends who have gone missing, the fear they feel every day to be next, and the indifference shown by the Mexican government. No men were allowed to participate in the march. The percussion of pots and pans banging and the echoing of chants vibrated through the pavement. Almost everyone was shielded with sunglasses, scarves and bandanas hiding their faces. A sea of womxn spanned as far as the eye could see.
As we moved through our camino with the force and power of a great storm, women in droves pulled out concealed spray paint and stencils to defile the walls of the city with denunciations and cries for awareness. Bank windows were smashed, government vehicles demolished, and every wall we passed was marked with the faces of local men–los violadores. The police dared not attempt to stop the masses. They stood and watched from a distance, some of them seemingly understanding of the show of public rage.
Marching through the streets of Oaxaca, Mexico on March 8th for International Women’s Day feels like a lifetime ago. Days before global coronavirus shutdowns, the sweat and tears of others brushed past me in a wave of bodies that flooded the city. In that moment, womxn proved to the state that they hold immense power, and demanded that their pain no longer go unacknowledged. At the time of the march, there had been 24 femicides in Oaxaca and a total of 267 in all of Mexico since the beginning of the year, in just a little over two months. With mandatory stay-at-home orders implemented almost immediately following the protest, femicide cases have increased by over 200–bringing the number of women murdered in Mexico within the first quarter of the year to almost twice what it was just five years ago.
It is important to note that domestic violence is deeply prevalent in the United States, as well. Long-standing patriarchal structures encourage misogyny in our society, our government, and our homes. One in four women in the U.S. suffers severe physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner, and countless others at the hands of bosses, family members, or complete strangers². The statistics concerning violence against indigenous womxn and the prevalence of impunity for perpetrators is especially disturbing.
In quarantine, women and girls suffering domestic violence have lost their autonomy and freedom of mobility. The support systems that helped them find strength and refuge–even just the ability to talk with someone about their experiences–have all but eroded. Reported cases of domestic child abuse have decreased substantially, with children home from school across the nation³. The walls of their homes do not represent safety and security, but a cage that locks them in with their abusers.
Governments around the world have attempted to combat the spread of Covid-19 with confinement and increased police violence, bringing other pandemics to the surface: domestic abuse, economic inequality, racial violence, to name a few. These pandemics of state