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Unveiling the Silent Horror: Confronting Gender Violence to Halt Femicides

-Editorial

In the United States, femicide – the gender-based killing of women – is often erroneously perceived as an issue primarily affecting low-income countries. Contrary to this misconception, the harsh reality is that, among high-income nations, the U.S. bears the brunt of femicide cases, with a staggering 70% occurring within its borders.

To put this into perspective, on a global scale, the U.S. ranks 34th for intentional female homicides, with a rate of 2.6 killings per 100,000 women. Furthermore, within the U.S., almost three women fall victim to intimate partner violence daily. Tragically, as exemplified by the case of Aszia Johnson, women in the U.S. are predominantly killed by men they know, often by current or former intimate partners.

In 2018, an alarming 92% of intimate partner female homicides were committed by acquaintances, with 63% attributed to current husbands, boyfriends, or ex-husbands. These shocking statistics underscore the misogyny underpinning these heinous acts of violence. In the United States, as in many countries worldwide, women are being murdered simply because they are women.

The link between gender and violence becomes even more apparent when examining male homicide demographics. Men are considerably more likely to be killed by strangers, with strangers accounting for 29% of male homicide victims compared to only 10% of female victims. While it is true that some men are tragically murdered by their female partners, intimate partner violence contributes to only about 5% of male homicides, often in cases where women act in self-defense against their abusive male partners.

Such crimes often occur, with many being initially perceived as domestic violence. Thus, what may appear on the surface is a seemingly content family of five dining at a restaurant, projecting an image of a perfect couple, a dream that many aspire to achieve. However, concealed behind closed doors is an untold tale of brutality that can culminate in rape, assault, or even the gravest tragedy of all – death.

A poignant example is the incident that unfolded on October 20, 2021, when the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office received a call for a welfare check at a residence on McConnell Road in Imperial, California, expressing concerns about the safety of an adult female.

Upon arriving at the location, deputies discovered a lifeless woman on the living room floor. Subsequent investigations revealed her identity as Rose Jaime Campos, a 43-year-old soul. The Imperial Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division promptly descended on the scene to unravel the circumstances surrounding her tragic death.

Thoroughly and diligently, the Criminal Investigations Division pursued every lead, conclusively categorizing the case as a homicide. With compelling evidence in hand, they forwarded a criminal complaint to the Imperial County District Attorney’s Office, leading to the issuance of a no-bail arrest warrant for Antonio Campos, charged with the murder of Rose Jaime Campos.

In a cruel twist of fate, Rose had dedicated her life to assisting victims of violent crimes at the Sure Helpline Crisis Center in El Centro, California. Margaret Sauza, executive director of Sure Helpline Crisis Center, lamented, “She persistently confided in us about her ex-husband’s relentless stalking. She claimed he would never grant her respite. I urged her to obtain a restraining order against him. Tragically, she intended to do so on the day he took her life.”

Antonio Campos now awaits trial, with Rose’s journal serving as a crucial testament in the pre-trial proceedings. In one harrowing entry, Rose Jaime Campos disclosed her ordeal and her intention to seek a restraining order against Antonio Campos Ramirez due to years of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.

The tragic outcome of her story underscores the urgent need to address femicide as a type of hate crime, where women are victimized solely because of their gender.

Ethic Media Service’s “Stop The Hate” initiative, funded by the California State Library (CSL) in collaboration with the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs (CAPIAA), strives to raise awareness about gender violence and illuminate the ray of hope that persists even in the darkest of times while showcasing available support resources.

Gender violence and femicide remain deeply unsettling issues that cast long shadows over our communities and shatter the foundations of families. In Imperial County, these problems have gained prominence due to their alarming ubiquity and catastrophic aftermath, highlighting that domestic violence can lead to fatalities.

Margaret Sauza, herself a survivor of domestic violence, empathizes with women paralyzed by fear when confronted with the prospect of leaving abusive relationships. She acknowledges that Latina women, in particular, often remain unaware of their rights and the protections available to them, as fear of homelessness or immigration status shackles them to their abusers, who brandish threats of child custody loss.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sure Helpline Center witnessed a surge in domestic violence cases, with help-seekers seeking assistance week after week. Children, caught in the midst of such turmoil, bear the heaviest toll, witnessing violence that perpetuates the cycle. The imperative for increased educational programs to educate children from a young age, assuring them that they are not to blame and that the cycle can be halted, is clearer than ever.

George Marquez, the Imperial County District Attorney who assumed office in January 2023, is tirelessly bolstering his legal team to foster community confidence in the D.A.’s office. The district attorney plays a pivotal role in addressing domestic violence cases and ensuring that justice prevails, as they are responsible for prosecuting individuals accused of domestic violence offenses.

Marquez unequivocally states, “In our community, there is no place for hate or gender violence. I will not tolerate it.” He advises victims to report incidents to the police, triggering a chain of events where police investigators and agencies initiate criminal complaints that are then reviewed by the District Attorney’s Office.

The Victim-Witness Program of the Office of the District Attorney stands as a pillar of support for victims and witnesses, striving to ease their journey through the justice system, reducing the difficulties and burdens they face. This program includes trained and experienced advocates who stand by victims, witnesses, and their families, offering support during and beyond the criminal justice process.

WomanHaven of Imperial Valley commits itself to a holistic response to domestic violence, stalking, and human trafficking. Their mission encompasses Community Outreach and education, Prevention, Intervention, Client Support Services, Safety, and Shelter Services. WomanHaven’s Emergency Shelters provides a sanctuary with fully furnished rooms, delivering crucial assistance to women, children, and men as they confront the aftermath of domestic violence.

Gina Vargas, Executive Director of WomanHaven, laments the fatal transformation of conflicts into murder-suicides and the tendency to believe that they can ‘fix’ an abusive partner, thereby endangering themselves further. She underscores that domestic violence transcends economic barriers, affecting individuals across all income levels.

The WomanHaven Walk-In Center is instrumental in assisting domestic violence victims, guiding them to make informed decisions about their lives. The Housing Department strives to assist families or individuals struggling with rent payments or barriers to secure housing, tailoring individual plans that address their unique needs and housing-related obstacles. WomanHaven’s Violence Prevention program extends to English and Spanish anger management group classes. These classes benefit individuals, male and female, who have perpetrated violence against their partners or children, or recognized their unhealthy responses to anger, seeking to improve their communication skills.

In every instance, violence against women persists as a stark and pressing social issue that demands immediate and sustained action. The harrowing cases of femicides and gender-based violence underscore the urgent need for comprehensive measures to halt this deeply troubling trend. The path to progress lies in enhanced awareness, community education, robust support services, and stringent legal measures. By recognizing diverse forms of abuse, from physical to emotional and financial, and by identifying the signs of abusive relationships, we can collectively work to build a society where violence against women is unequivocally unacceptable. Together, we share the responsibility to challenge and change the beliefs and behaviors perpetuating domestic abuse, securing a safer world for all.

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