The body of 22-year-old Lesby Berlin Osorio was discovered on the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) on May 4, 2017. Shortly afterward, the Twitter hashtag #SiMeMatan (If They Kill Me) exploded online in Mexico in anger over statements made by Mexico City authorities in charge of finding justice for Berlin Osorio.
The officials failed to give any information about the possible motive of the crime or advances in the investigation, but did offer details about the victim's personal life that seemed to insinuate she was to blame for the violence that took her life.
Twitter users shared the screenshots of the public prosecutor's office's tweets:
Son nuestras autoridades una de las principales razones por las que la violencia persiste. BASTA de culpar a las víctimas. #SiMeMatan pic.twitter.com/oHAWRH6OFe
— Bárbara Terremoto (@TorresBrbara) May 5, 2017
Tweet: Our authorities are one of the main reasons why the violence persists. ENOUGH with blaming the victims.
Image: Tweets from the Mexico City Public Prosecutor's Office:
-Around 04:00 hrs he [Lesby's partner] decided to leave and was followed by the woman [Lesby] with whom he had an argument. It was the last thing he knew of her.
-On the day it all happened, the couple hung out with some friends at CU [UNAM's campus], where they consumed alcohol and drugs.
-The boyfriend, with whom she lived, says he works in the maintenance department of High School #6
Independent news site Sopitas summarized how the public prosecutor's office released information about Berlin Osorio's death and cited two more of the official statements:
La narrativa en que se revictimiza y minimiza a la joven Lesby vino desde nuestras propias autoridades capitalinas. En la cuenta de Twitter de la Procuraduría General de Justicia de la Ciudad de México (PGJCDMX) se publicaron varios mensajes sobre el caso: sin tacto, echándole la culpa a la víctima y como justificando lo que le pasó. “La mujer hallada sin vida en jardines de las instalaciones de la UNAM fue identificada por familiares”, inició el lamentable relato. “Su madre y novio aseguraron que ella ya no estudiaba desde 2014 y dejó sus clases en CCH Sur, donde debía materias”, continuó la dependencia dirigida por Rodolfo Ríos.
The narrative which revictimizes and minimizes young Lesby came from our own capital's authorities. The Mexico City Public Prosecutor's Office Twitter feed posted different messages about the case: tone-deaf, blaming the victim and justifying what happened. “The woman found dead in the gardens of the UNAM campus was identified by relatives,” began the deplorable thread. “Her mother and boyfriend confirmed that she had not studied since 2014 and left her classes at the College of Sciences and Humanities South Campus, where she was failing some courses,” continued the report delivered by Rodolfo Ríos.
‘If they kill me, they will slander and criminalize me’
In response, women began to tweet using #SiMeMatan, anticipating with irony the “faults” that they thought authorities and the media would use to blame them if they were murdered. The hashtag trended globally with tens of thousands of messages.
Several hours into the wave of criticism, the city's public prosecutor, Rodolfo Ríos, posted on his Twitter feed that the tweets published by the agency were “inappropriate” and added:
He instruido se retiren de inmediato de las redes, toda vez que son contrarios a protocolos y principios de la @PGJDF_CDMX
— Rodolfo Ríos (@rodolforiosg) May 5, 2017
I have instructed that they be removed immediately from all social networks, since they are against the protocols and values of the Mexico City Public Prosecutor's Office.
The #SiMeMatan reaction had made its point clear. Below are several of the tweets:
#SiMeMatan Vivo en concubinato desde hace 9 años,tengo 3 hijos de 2 diferentes hombres.Bebo mucha cerveza y siempre he sido dueña de mi vida
— Ixchel Cisneros (@Chelawuera) May 5, 2017
If they kill me. I've been cohabitating for 9 years, I have 3 kids with 2 different men. I drink a lot of beer and have always been the boss of my life
#SiMeMatan dirán que aborté, que mis hijas nacieron x cesárea, que las dejaba en la guardería todo el día, que vi por mi y no sólo por ellas
— Mala Madre (@malamadremx) May 5, 2017
If they kill me, they will say that I had an abortion, that my daughters were born by a cesarean section, that I left them at daycare all day, that I look after myself and not just for them
#SiMeMatan dirán que me lo busqué, qué hacía allí, mira sus tatuajes, sus cicatrices, le gustaba la mala vida, no es nadie, solo una mujer.
— Fernanda Melchor (@fffmelchor) May 5, 2017
If they kill me, they'll say that I was looking for it, what was I doing there, look at her tattoos, her scars, she liked the thug life, she's nobody, just a woman.
#SiMeMatan fue por feminista, por usar leggings, porq me gusta caminar sola en la tarde y porq tengo amigos hombres. Andaba en malos pasos.
— Malú (@maluflores) May 5, 2017
If they kill me, it was for being a feminist, for using leggings, because I like to walk alone late and because I have male friends. I was up to no good.
#SiMeMatan me van a difamar y criminalizar. Va a ser por algo que hice o que no hice, da igual.
— Eréndira Derbez (@erederbez) May 5, 2017
If they kill me, they will slander and criminalize me. It will be for something that I did or did not do, it does not matter.
Some compared how crimes against women and men are treated:
La diferencia es que cuando matan a un hombre no sale el procurador general a decir que fue por borracho, por fiestero y por mal estudiante.
— Virginia ?️? (@Huishte) May 5, 2017
The difference is when they kill a man, the public prosecutor does not come forward to say that it was because the man was drunk, a party animal, and a bad student.
#SiMeMatan y estoy borracho y solo en una calle oscura, no me van a hacer culpable de mi propio asesinato, porque no soy mujer.
— Manuel Iris (@manueliris65) May 4, 2017
If they kill me and I'm drunk and alone in a dark street, I am not going to be to blame for my own murder because I am not a woman.
Others talked about what they hoped would happen beyond simple reactions:
#SiMeMatan ojalá la policía (y los medios) se enfoquen en mi asesino y no en mi ropa, mis estudios, mi trabajo o con quién me acuesto.
— Paola Villarreal (@paw) May 5, 2017
If they kill me I hope the police (and the media) focus on my murder and not on my clothes, my studies, my job, or who I sleep with.
#SiMeMatan busquen justicia para mí, no importa que tenga el cabello plata, que use lipstick rojo, que me guste el pogo y monte a caballo.
— ·Tristana Landeros· (@holatristana) May 4, 2017
If they kill me, find justice for me, without it mattering that I have platinum hair, that I use red lipstick, that I like pogo sticks and riding horses.
Journalist and scholar Gabriel Warkentin took note of the other Spanish-language hashtags against gender violence in Mexico that have trended globally:
O de cuando las mujeres (y los hombres aliados) deciden hablar.#Gracias
— Gabriela Warkentin (@warkentin) May 5, 2017
#IfTheyKillMe. #MyFirstHarassment. #WeWantUsAlive.
Or when women (and male allies) decide to speak. Thank you.
Same with women's rights group Luchadoras (Fighters), who invoked the call of the Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) feminist movement: “We want us alive.”
#SiMeMatan dirán que andaba en marchas gritando “Vivas nos queremos”.
— Luchadoras (@LuchadorasTV) May 5, 2017
If they kill me, they'll say that I went to marches yelling “We want us alive.”
Other women reflected on the significance behind every tweet:
Cada #SiMeMatan, aunque sea irónico, es un grito de miedo, angustia y rabia. Es real y está presente todo el tiempo.
— Karla Motte (@karlamotte) May 5, 2017
Every #IfTheyKillMe, although ironic, is a scream of fear, anguish and anger. It is real and it is present all of the time.
¿Saben qué es lo peor del HT #SiMeMatan? Detrás de cada tuit hay una mujer aterrada porque sabe que sí la pueden matar.
— ana gé (@anag_g) May 5, 2017
You know what's worse than hashtag #IfTheyKillMe? Behind every tweet there is a scared woman because she knows that she can be killed.
For her part, Twitter user Madame Déficit noted that on the UNAM campus — being a school that prides itself on its non-dependency from the government — it is difficult to have police presence. On other occasions, the arrival of police forces on campus (known as the Ciudad Universitaria, or University City) has provoked rejection and anger amongst some sectors of the student body.
#SiMeMatan en la UNAM será porque de acuerdo a la muy cacareada autonomía, la policía no entra a vigilar el campus. Piénsenle!
— Madame Déficit (@Alessia_mx) May 5, 2017
If they kill me at UNAM it will be because in accordance with its very boastful autonomy, the police don't come to patrol the campus. Think about it!
Violence against women and authorities’ inability to handle it are nothing new
In 2016, Global Voices published a series on articles to explore the problem of violence against women in Mexico, and in the capital city in particular. One of them told the story of a sexual assault — that has gone unpunished for 14 months — against American journalist Andrea Noel. On that occasion the government said they would attend to the problem, or rather create more offices that cost a lot and offer little to no tangible results.
After that case came to light, lawyer Fabiola Higareda, who specialized in gender and justice, pointed out in an interview for Global Voices that violence against women is in part due to the lack of strategies that focus on the perpetrators:
Es necesario que las estrategias tomen en consideración que la violencia de género no es un asunto exclusivo de mujeres violentadas, sino también de hombres generadores de violencia.
It's necessary that the strategies take into consideration that gender violence is not just exclusive to women who are victims of violence, but also men who generate such violence.
Beyond the legal gibberish of Mexican criminal investigations, Mexican society appears to be sending a message with all the tweets under the #SiMeMatan hashtag: Impunity already plagues the cases of women who experience or, like Lesby Berlin Osorio, die of violence. Let's not revictimize them too.