Colombia’s women march to “break the silence” of gender based violence

Latin America

Colombia's women march to "break the silence" of gender based violence

In Colombia, reports of violence against women are on the rise. So, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, protesters took to the streets of Bogota – to raise awareness – and encourage women to “break the silence” – that so often surrounds cases of domestic abuse.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports.

Colombia’s women are marching to say ‘no’ to gender based violence.

The numbers are alarming. Colombia’s Institute of Legal Medicine says it’s tracked the crimes, and that 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.

But those are only the cases that are reported. That is why one Colombian campaign is calling for men and women to “break the silence.”

Maria Paula La Rotta was in an abusive relationship. When a friend convinced her to report the physical abuse, she found a system that discouraged her.

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

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

Among female victims of homicide, Colombia’s Institute of Legal Medicine says law enforcement is often led to those closest to the victim.

“Who are the perpetrators of their deaths? In second place they are partners, 104 solved cases this year the partner was responsible for her death, in third place family members and after that people they may know,” Carlos Valdez, Director of the Colombia Institute of Legal said.

Maria Paula La Rotta hopes the social media hashtag campaign “Romper El Silencio,” in English, “break the silence” will encourage women to find their voices – and their strength.

“We don’t want women just to denounce the aggression, we want them to tell someone, listen this is happening to me, what can I do What should I do So that they can break that cycle of submission that 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.