CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – Maria took her four children, left her house and entered one of the two secret shelters for mistreated women in Ciudad Juarez, on the US-Mexico border, where now she is trying to leave behind the 17 years of domestic violence she endured.
“I suffered psychological and physical violence, humiliations, being pushed around, I couldn’t go out, I couldn’t put on outfits, there was nothing more for me than to stay locked up in the house,” Maria told EFE in the National Shelters Network center.
Maria and her children are just a few days shy of their third month in the shelter, and during that time she has received psychological help and has been preparing to make a new start now that she has gotten out from under her husband’s domestic abuse.
Ciudad Juarez is notorious for the spate of murders of women that marked the 1990s.
The violence against women has not declined in this city if we take into account the more than 2,000 arrests for domestic violence during the past year, although the real figures are not known because many cases are not reported.
Maria, not her real name, told EFE that for 17 years she put up with her husband’s violence, saying that now she is aware of the abuse that she suffered.
“I said that I had to endure it for my kids because what was I going to do all alone with my children? However, you can certainly move on, and here you can realize that you can get by alone,” she said.
She noted that her “attacker” prevented her from working and going out of the house alone and that most of the time she was locked in and, if she did go out, then her mother-in-law, who was her neighbor, would report that to her husband and he would mistreat her.
Maria’s two small children leave the shelter to attend school under the care of the institution’s personnel and the other two remain with her as part of the security policy that includes keeping the shelter’s location secret.
Security is so tight that the women wear blindfolds so that they will not learn the exact location of the shelter, the director of the No Violence civil association director, Elia Orrantia, told EFE.
Since the shelter opened its doors in 2003 it has attended to 642 women, and if their children are included the total number of people who have passed through the facility stands at 1,861.
Including Maria, the shelter currently houses 11 women and 24 children, and all of them help out in terms of the chores, food preparation, cleaning, doing laundry and childcare, Orrantia said.