A young woman known only as Itzel has been exonerated of possible charges after struggling with a rapist for his knife and killing him. The killing brought an end to a two-hour ordeal in which she was kidnapped and assaulted in public upon leaving her school. Whether the death of the rapist is to be celebrated is for each person to decide. What is not in doubt is that, as she has related in media interviews, she struggled and screamed throughout the ordeal, which took place on one of the busiest streets in the south of Mexico City, near one of the busiest subway stations, and across the street from a police station, and that no one came to her aid—not even in a risk-free way, like yelling or calling on someone else to intervene directly. And after liberating herself from her aggressor, still screaming for help, no one stopped to talk to her.
And the opportunistic—though correct, in its sordid context—decision not to press charges against Itzel brings an end to the post-rape ordeal of pending imprisonment. Two years ago, mayor and former police chief Miguel Ángel Mancera kept Yakiri Rubio in jail for several weeks in similar circumstances. This time, since the mayor is a presidential candidate, he apparently did not want to give thinking people another excuse to attack him. But that opportunism did not stop the police from taking Itzel to a holding tank and not to an emergency room when they picked her up that night.
What no one counted on was that Itzel is part of a new generation of women who know how to defend themselves, physically, verbally, and strategically. When I heard her speak on the radio, I thought: “She expresses herself extremely well, better than most people of any age. But I’ll be she’s underage, because she was leaving school and there are no universities in that area.” And yes, she was 15 then and turned 16 this week. She spoke of her right to wear “light clothing” because it was hot out and because she wanted to. There are times when, in the aftermath of an atrocity, political will and communicative ability make a difference. The mother of Emmett Till comes to mind. When her son was lynched for flirting, she spoke out and demanded an open casket funeral. Let us hope that Itzel’s example is a turning point against sexual violence in this country where six or seven women are killed per day and where people who intervene in the constant cases of male-on-female violence (often between partners) that we witness on the street and in subway stations are told: “Mind your own business. This doesn’t have affect you.”