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American Reporter's Assault Reveals How Common Sexual Violence Is in Mexico City

Screenshot of Andrea Noel discussing her sexual assault with El Universal.

Screenshot of Andrea Noel discussing her sexual assault with El Universal.

Independent American journalist Andrea Noel (who was previously the editorial coordinator for VICE News Latin America) reported she was the victim of a sexual assault by a stranger on the streets of Mexico City. The incident occurred on March 8, the day in which International Women’s Day was celebrated.

The attack took place in broad daylight in the district of Condesa, a trendy spot frequented by foreigners and tourists. As Noel was walking, the assailant came up from behind, pulled down her underwear, and lifted up her skirt before running away. After regaining her composure, Andrea sought out store owners in the surrounding area to ask if they had captured images of the assault on their security cameras.

After obtaining the videos, Noel went to the authorities to report what had happened and then shared this video on Twitter:

If anyone recognizes this moron, please identify him. Women should be able to walk safely. #HappyInternationalWomensDay

VICE News published a statement in which they condemned the attack, saying:

En VICE nos parece prioritario establecer un diálogo constante en torno a la violencia de género que se vive en este país, y éste sin duda es un ejemplo más de la persistencia diaria del fenómeno en México. Al enterarnos de los hechos, los miembros de VICE Media hemos expresado nuestro apoyo personalmente y como medio, por lo que estamos trabajando en una cobertura amplia que contextualice el fenómeno de la discriminación y el abuso sexual en México.

Here at VICE we believe that it is critical to establish a constant dialogue on the gender violence that is experienced in this country, and this is certainly a reflection of the daily persistence of this phenomenon within Mexico. Upon learning the facts, the members of VICE Media have expressed their support personally and we are also working on comprehensive coverage that contextualizes the phenomenon of discrimination and sexual abuse in Mexico.

In an interview with Mexico's El Universal TV, Noel commented that it was not the first time that she was a victim of crime in the Mexican capital and that in the past prosecutors have pressured her not to formalize her complaints.

Tres criminales violentos siguen en las calles ya que las autoridades callan a víctimas.

Three criminals remain in the streets while the authorities silence the victims.

In spite of the difficulties that she said she has faced trying to achieve justice, she maintained that she has no intention of returning to the United States:

Yo a México lo considero mi país más que a Estados Unidos, no pienso volver y si me voy, va a ser a fuerza ¿sabes?

I consider Mexico to be my country more than the United States, I will not go back and if I do go, it will be by force, you know?

Noel also referred to the cultural issues that surround sexual harassment in Mexico, including the implication that women should be submissive to men. A form of aggression is the piropo, a vulgar verbal advance towards women that occurs on a daily basis and is, sometimes, socially accepted.  

Professor and journalist Gabriel Páramo has said the following on this type of abuse:

Así, las mujeres se convierten en blancos, a veces sin que víctimas ni victimarios se den cuenta cabal, de expresiones que las colocan en un segundo plano, en objetos que están para ser admirados. Ya lo hemos hablado, los hombres mexicanos creemos que tenemos el derecho de juzgar a las mujeres por su apariencia.

La conclusión de mis alumnas, ambos grupos son mayoritariamente de mujeres, es que no debiera ser así, y tratan de mostrarlo en sus campañas #PodríasSerTú, en la que el objetivo es mostrar que el hostigamiento vulnera; y #nonosgustanlospiropos (aplican restricciones) en el que piden a los hombres dejar de opinar sobre mujeres con las que no tienen relaciones de ningún tipo.

Thus, women become targets, sometimes without either the victims or victimizers being fully aware of it, of expressions that place women second [to men], that turn them into objects to be admired. As we have already said, Mexican men believe that we have the right to judge a woman by her appearance.

The conclusion of my students, both groups are composed mostly by women, is that it should not be this way, and they try to demonstrate this in campaigns like #PodríasSerTú [#ItCouldBeYou], in which the goal is to show that harassment is a violation; and #nonosgustanlospiropos [#WeDontLikeYourCompliments] (restrictions apply) in which men are asked to refrain from expressing their opinions about woman with which they have no relations of any kind.

Sadly, sexual harassment on the streets of Mexico City is common, especially on public transportation which serves a lot of people. Although, as Global Voices has previously reported, a small number of passengers have begun to consent to these caresses and other touching by strangers, referred to as arrimón consensuado in Mexico, or consensual frotteurism.

In any case, it is unacceptable that violence and attacks against women in Mexico go unpunished, and it is an issue that we will continue to report.

Our work building bridges across cultures, languages and perspectives is more urgent than ever before.

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