The rape of six Spanish women in the Mexican resort town of Acapulco last week drew a lot of media attention. But reading through different articles and listening to the television news, I was stunned to hear how this horrible crime is going to further tarnish Mexico’s reputation as a tourist destination.
The biggest stunner of all was when the mayor of Acapulco, Luis Walton, said the attack was “regrettable” because it would damage the city’s image, and that a crime like this could happen anywhere. Walton later apologized for his insensitive comments. But the media was just as bad. Most news reports found a way to turn this horrific tragedy into a conversation about Mexico, tourism and the war on drugs.
But what about the victims?
An article in the Guardian newspaper quotes Jorge Chabat, a security and drug analyst saying there are small gangs of organized crime that have been operating in Acapulco for years. But then the article goes on to mention the shooting of two Mexican tourists who refused to stop at a roadblock set up by the vigilante or community police in a small town outside Acapulco in an effort to curb crime.
What about the victims?
The Huffington Post quotes Mexico’s tourism secretary Juan Carlos Gonzalez saying, “We are really sorry about what happened with the Spanish tourists because … it is something that affects Mexico’s image.” Personally, I find these remarks not just as insensitive as those of the Mayor of Acapulco, but morally repugnant. Six Spanish women were raped at gunpoint by a gang of masked men, poor Mexico, he says. The Huffington post article goes on for paragraphs about Mexican tourism.
What about the victims?
Like the horrific gang rape and murder of an Indian medical student in New Delhi in December, the rapes in Mexico highlight a tremendous problem in our society: Violence against women. And like the comments of Acapulco’s mayor, this is something that could happen anywhere, but instead of looking at that statement as a way to diminish the severity of the crime, it should be looked upon as a fact that crimes against women are happening all over the world and far too frequently.
According to RAINN, (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) there are over 200,000 sexual abuse victims every year in the U.S. alone. United Nations statistics claim that in Mexico in 2010 there were 13.2 rapes per 100,000 people. But rape is considered the most under reported violent crime. And in places like Mexico where impunity and government corruption is rampant, one can only imagine the under reporting of such crimes there.
As the Huffington Post article points out, the night the six Spanish women were raped the manager of a nearby hotel heard shouting but did nothing because he felt it would be too dangerous. While this man could have done something to help, he did not because he understood the risk. In Mexico, and in places like Acapulco, criminal gangs are allowed to operate freely and the police are as corrupt as the criminals.
It is too easy for six Spanish women, or 60,000 dead Mexicans to become a statistic used by politicians and the media. All the victims of crimes are human beings, mothers, daughters and sisters. We need to remember that. Mexican officials can do all the “damage control” they want to help their tourist industry, but nothing will change until the country gets serious about security and demonstrates that it will not tolerate crime and corruption. Period.
Mexico, India and the rest of the world need to realize the severity of this issue. Governments need to allocate resources toward prevention, security, victim advocacy and education about violent crimes against women.
Until then we are all victims.