Two children against a monster: the rocky road to justice for victims of child sexual abuse in Mexico

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A protest for the femicide and rape of a 12-year-old girl, in August 2020, in Jalisco.  (Mexico)
A protest for the femicide and rape of a 12-year-old girl, in August 2020, in Jalisco. (Mexico)Fernando CarranzaFernando Carranza

The legal battle to bring an accused of child sexual abuse to justice has escalated to the Supreme Court of Mexico. The case: the former director of a school in Guanajuato against two students who have denounced him for sexual abuse. Roberto N. alleges that the crime of which he is accused prescribes after two years, as established by the state criminal code, that is, in that period of time the action ceases to be punishable. For this reason, recently the same defendant, a fugitive and with two arrest warrants, has requested that the matter be reviewed by the highest judicial court.

The First Chamber of the Supreme Court has taken up for the first time an issue related to the statute of limitations in sexual abuse of minors in the country, a dark area where federal laws collide with the laws of some states. Although the national criminal code and certain local regulations have recently eliminated the expiration date and statute of limitations in this type of crime as it goes against the best interests of children, the state codes of most entities still allow it.

In Guanajuato, a girl and a boy have been fighting for years against who they have denounced as their aggressor, the former director and owner of the Liceo de León school, whom they accuse of sexual abuse. Backed by their parents and their lawyer, the minors have dared to denounce the highest authority of their school in a State in which the penal code establishes that the crime prescribes after two years.

This lapse is contrary to the recent modifications to the federal criminal code and the general law for the protection of children and adolescents, which since last year establishes that “the expiration or prescription may not be declared to the detriment of children and adolescents. ”. As well as international treaties, such as the convention on the rights of the child, to which Mexico has been a signatory for more than 20 years.

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The resolution of the Mexican Supreme Court will mark a historical precedent in an invisible problem in the country, where for many years local laws have functioned as defense weapons for the accused, as explained in an interview with this newspaper by the lawyer for minors, Moisés Castillo ” It is very important and could benefit many people who have not reported the issue of prescription”, he points out.

the monster of silence

In Mexico, the first country in the world in sexual abuse of minors, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the black figure of complaints of sexual abuse exceeds 600,000 cases, according to calculations by the Association for the Comprehensive Development of Raped Persons (ADIVAC). Therefore, its president, Laura Martínez, highlights the importance of making the cases visible so that more people dare to denounce them. “It’s not just the case of Guanajuato, there are many more that are going through the same dynamic,” she says.

In the State of Durango, Monyca Peyro has broken her silence, but she has not yet been able to bring the father of her daughters to justice. Despite the fact that a medical report determined that his daughter had penetration injuries after returning from spending a weekend with her father, the man has not only not been prosecuted by the Durango authorities, but also continues to fight for the custody of the girls that the mother was able to recover thanks to the forensic report of the abuse.

“My story begins with the abduction of my daughters, due to that abduction I discovered the child sexual violence that my little girls were experiencing,” she explains. “It has been very difficult to access justice, and if my daughters’ access to justice has an expiration time, well, it will definitely affect them,” she says.

The mother points out that despite the fact that the girls pointed out the sexual violence, a judge determined that “the acts that bothered” her daughters “by the father were acts of care. It’s aberrant,” she exposes. From then on, she resorted to an injunction and now her hopes are pinned on a federal judge who is analyzing the case, since currently she only has provisional custody, for which she also lives in fear that at any moment her ex-husband could remove their girls.

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Towards a penalty commensurate with the seriousness of the crime

In the case that will be reviewed by the ministers, the legal fight began when the boy with initials RNM denounced the director of his school, Castillo recapitulates. “This complaint prospered in an arrest warrant that was following his path and a collegiate in the State of Guanajuato, in the city of León, established that it was firm,” he explains.

Some time later, the girl, with the initials AMAR, steeled herself to also file a complaint against the same school authority. “She was slow to verbalize the aggression. We approached her mother and her to ask her if she was in a position to file a complaint together with RNM and the girl at first refused”, she narrates. The lawyer emphasizes that this reaction is very common, since child sexual abuse causes “very strong psycho-emotional damage.”

The former director of the Liceo de León bases his defense on the time that passed between the complaint and the facts. However, the difficulty of reporting is one of the main obstacles faced by victims of sexual abuse in Mexico, Castillo points out. “That is quite worrying because they don’t dare to report it, not because they don’t want to. Many times the minor takes time to process and verbalize, ”he points out. “We have maintained that the crime does not prescribe because the time of the complaint goes in favor of the victim, not the sexual aggressor”, he highlights.

Beyond the prescription, the Penal Code for the State of Guanajuato establishes an “aggravated” prison sentence, for being a minor crime, from six months to two years in prison, indicates the lawyer. “A penalty that is totally absurd in the case of a serious crime like the one we are talking about, which harms the human rights of the minor to his normal psycho-emotional development and marks him for life,” he warns.

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In addition, it highlights that the guarantee of rights to minors by the State “must be palpable” in reality. “It may be in the Constitution, it may be in the code, but if it is not applicable in reality, it is a dead letter,” he stresses. “We are seeking the support of legislators to try to make a change in the legislation of the State of Guanajuato and aggravate the penalty so that it is homologated at the federal level,” he comments.

“We have to promote these legislative changes so that the deputies in Guanajuato can determine a sentence that is consistent with the seriousness of the crime.” The lawyer mentions that parents of children who have suffered abuse have told him that “if in the child’s mind it does not prescribe the damage due to the abuse he suffered, why is it going to prescribe for the sexual aggressor?”

For his part, he indicates that now the strategy to bring the former director to justice will be through the two cases against him. “And once he is captured, he must face his trial with all the legal guarantees, and if a judge finds him guilty he will have to serve a prison sentence without any guarantee to get out,” he exposes.

Roberto N. has two arrest warrants against him, a red card from Interpol and has been a fugitive for two years. But even from the shadows, he fights back. The last resource of his defense is now in the hands of the First Chamber of the Supreme Court. “We have fought against his resources so that all his legal resources are exhausted and we demand that the Prosecutor’s Office do its job and apprehend Roberto N. and present him before a control judge so that he can face a trial,” insists the lawyer.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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