Our delegation spent Wednesday night relaxing at the Fuentes Georginas hot springs in Xela. Early Thursday morning, we departed for Guatemala City. En route to the capital, we met with the Survivors’ Foundation (Fundación Sobrevivientes), a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that aims to eradicate all forms of violence and impunity in crimes against women.
Survivors’ Foundation has extensive programs: psycho-social support for victims’ families and survivors of domestic and sexual violence, legal services that include representation for survivors and denouncements for victims of femicides (the official term for killing a woman). The Foundation also operates a 24-hour shelter, and conducts political advocacy on behalf of victims and family members.
Survivors’ Foundation has an intriguing origins story. Norma Cruz, whose daughter was a victim of sexual violence, founded Survivors’ Foundation in 2001 following her struggles to hold her daughter’s abuser accountable in Guatemala’s legal system. On Thursday, Norma Cruz and a member of the legal staff spoke with our delegation about the femicides in Guatemala, the Foundations legal advocacy work, and ongoing challenges involved in trying to eliminate violence against women. The Foundation, which is larger than many of the organizations we met with, has a staff of twelve including two lawyers. Norma Cruz and the lawyer were fascinating to listen to, and I enjoyed observing the excitement and engagement of my fellow delegates, many of whom have backgrounds in issues involving gender, Latin America, and international law.
Norma revealed that many women and families who are victims or survivors do not come forward for many years after the crime, or come forward at all. The goal of their denouncements is to increase access to justice, yet this advocacy sometimes places staff’s safety at risk. Norma addressed the breadth of impunity in Guatemala’s legal system through sad and disturbing examples of the Foundation’s cases. One such example involving a man who committed violent acts against a woman’s body, was of young woman whose uncle repeatedly molested her. After some years, the woman, who was in a new relationship, told her uncle to stop abusing her because she had a boyfriend. Her uncle then lured her to a hotel, where raped and murdered her. He mutilated her body, disposing her vagina in the hotel sink. Yet when this horrific fact was revealed in the court room, the legal defense argued that this murder was not a femicide, the uncle had mutilated the young woman’s body because he was simply “disposing the evidence.”
Survivors’ Foundation works closely with survivors and victims’ families. Norma pointed out that “we see violence in different ways,” which is why services are integrated and address the psycho-social process of breaking relationships with the oppressor. Norma and the member of the legal team both emphasized how each case they work with has unique complexities. Our visit concluded with a tour of the Foundation, which let us explore the Foundations comprehensive services.
Learn more about The Survivors’ Foundation and Femicide in Guatemala
1. Fundación Sobrevivientes. http://sobrevivientes.org/ This is the official website for The Survivors’ Foundation. To translate the website into English, I recommend using the Google Chrome Browser’s translation feature.
2. Bautista, Kimberly. Justice for my Sister. http://www.justiceformysister.com/ Kimberly Bautista’s documentary film “Justice for my Sister” Rebecca’s quest for justice for her sister Adela’s death at the hands of her ex-boyfriend. The trailer features a scene in the Survivors’ Foundation office.