New campaign in Colombia urges female victims of violence to ‘Break the Silence’

Latin America

New campaign in Colombia urges female victims of violence to 'Break the Silence'

Marchers around the world are calling for the elimination of violence against women. 

Those in Colombia face some of the worst global violence. Officials there say six women every hour are abused by their partners. And, that many are too afraid – or ashamed – to talk about it.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports on a campaign aimed at getting victims to speak out and how officials in Bogota are using technology in hopes of breaking the cycle.

A smartphone application called, SofiaAPP, functions like a regular calculator. But if you put in a secret code, the app could save lives.

Once activated, SofiaApp quickly connects women to police and emergency phone numbers. With just a tap of a button, an alert can be sent to three of your pre-registered contacts. It also connects you to a 24/7 hotline in Bogota for victims of gender violence.

Colombia’s women are marching to say ‘no’ to gender based violence. The numbers are alarming. Colombia’s Institute of Legal Medicine tracks the crimes.

It says so far this year, 35,690 women have suffered violence at the hands of a family member or intimate partner. That’s an act of aggression about every 12 minutes.

And those are only the cases that are reported. That is why a new Colombian campaign is calling for men and women to “Romper El Silencio” or “break the silence.”

Maria Paula La Rotta was in an abusive relationship. When a friend convinced her to report the violence, she ran into a system that discouraged her.      

“When I arrived at the police station, they asked me if I realized what I was doing, that he could spend up to 16 years in jail,” said La Rotta. “So I didn’t do it, because I was emotionally drained and I didn’t want to feel responsible for putting him behind bars.”

She continued to live with her abuser until February of this year when she gathered the courage to leave him and go public. She published photos that show the brutality she suffered from her partner, a college professor.

Colombia’s Institute of Legal Medicine says police investigating the murder of woman often find the trail leading to those closest to the victim.

“Who are the perpetrators? Most often, they are partners,” said Carlos Valdez, director of the Colombia Institute of Legal. “In more a hundred of the homicides this year, the partner was responsible. In many other cases, the killers are family members.”

Maria Paula La Rotta hopes the social media hashtag campaign #RomperElSilencio, which means, “break the silence,” will encourage women to find their voices – and their strength.

“We don’t want women to just denounce violence,” said La Rotta. “We want them to tell someone, to say, ‘listen–this is happening to me, what should I do?’ So they can break the cycle of submission they are in.”

While breaking the cycle may be difficult and, at times, dangerous, experts recommend family and friends provide consistent opportunities for their loved ones to ask for help.

Laura Carlsen on causes of gender-based violence in Mexico

Violence against women is an issue worldwide, but especially so in Mexico. Drug and gang related violence regularly targets women, forcing the government to create special tools like “gender alerts” to combat the issue. Laura Carlsen, director of the America’s program at the Center for International Policy, discusses violence against women in Mexico with CGTN’s Susan Roberts.