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Say Their Names: Femicide is a growing issue, here’s why

In the changing domestic and international sphere, violence against women is a topic that continues to be acknowledged yet exceedingly brushed over amidst other concerns. Femicide, which is defined as the intentional killing of women on the basis of gender, is one example of a subject that has consistently affected women all over the world, yet is largely ignored.

The murder of Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year old Mexican-American Army specialist, has reawakened the conversation about gender-based violence in the military. Guillen disappeared from Fort Hood on April 22nd, and had expressed to her family that she was sexually harassed while in service. On June 30th, 2020, her remains were found.

A criminal complaint detailed that another soldier by the name of Aaron Robinson allegedly murdered Guillen with the help of his girlfriend, but on July 1st, he was found dead by suicide. His girlfriend and alleged accomplice has pleaded non-guilty, and is currently awaiting trail. Despite her tragic passing, Guillen’s story has inspired other women in the military to recount their experiences under the tag #IAmVanessaGuillen.

Guillen was a victim of femicide. While the dangerous and sometimes deadly patterns of gender-based violence in the military are not fully uncovered, making sure Guillen’s story is heard promotes accountability and continues to acknowledge the injustices that many cis and transgender women face.

While femicide continues to affect women throughout the country, collecting accurate data and information is difficult, as police and medical personal many times do not have access to the motive behind the killing.

However, there are still startling statistics from the information that is obtained surrounding femicide. The World Health Organization in an ongoing study details that over 35% of murders of women are committed by a partner. On the other hand, men are only murdered by an intimate partner in 5% of all instances.

In the case that a victim is not murdered by an intimate partner, many women may be killed and also sexually abused or assaulted before death. In the city of Ciudad Juarez on the Mexico-USA border, over 400 women in the last ten years have been brutally murdered in this way. Since 2001 in Guatemala, there has been over 500 femicides per year.

This begs the question, how do we, as a global and national population, begin protecting women and preventing instances of femicide from occurring?

The World Health Organization outlines that there is a need to strengthen surveillance and the collection of mortality data. By documenting the relationship between the victim and perpetrator, researchers can narrow down the patterns and behaviors that may lead to murder and abuse. With surveillance, the capacity of health-care providers to treat and identify domestic abuse and intimate partner violence must also be broadened.

Police and members of the criminal justice system must also be trained and sensitized on the topic of femicide, including reporting victim-perpetrator relationships of an intimate nature.

While femicide and violence against women is an issue that cannot be solved overnight, continued advocacy and activism is important in fighting for a safer future for our daughters, sisters, and mothers.

Rest in peace Vanessa Guillen, thank you for your service.

Sheila Martinez is a Cuban-American immigrant currently residing in Miami and attending Florida International University. She is studying International Relations and Political Science with a concentration in human rights and political transitions and is uniquely passionate about empowering women in her community. In the future, Sheila hopes to leverage her passion for representing the underprivileged through a life-long career in the public sector. Some of Sheila's hobbies include reading, going to the movies, and visiting museums.
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