August 31, 1997 in Nation/World

Teenage Rape Victim Gets Justice - In Death Government Agency Acts Two Months After Suicide

Anita Snow Associated Press
 

Sixteen-year-old Yessica Diaz Cazares was on her way to the market when she was gang-raped.

Three months later, after repeatedly recounting the story to officials, allegedly suffering threats from her attackers and pressure from authorities to drop the charges, she took an overdose of pills and died on the way to the hospital.

Partial justice finally arrived for Yessica this week - two months after her family says she killed herself rather than endure the shame and mistreatment that followed her rape.

In an unusually harsh statement, the government’s National Human Rights Commission recommended late Thursday that Durango State Attorney General Francisco Arroyo Herrera be fired for negligence in the case.

On Friday, Arroyo stepped down, citing “personal reasons.” He was replaced by Ismael Mejorado Olague.

The Durango state attorney general’s office also announced late Thursday that one of Yessica’s attackers was arrested in the Pacific resort of Mazatlan.

The man, identified as Pedro Rodriguez Gomez and also known as Jesus Gomez, told the Televisa television network that he was innocent and had turned himself in to clear his name. Two other suspects remain at large.

Phone calls seeking comment from Arroyo’s office were not returned Friday.

Human rights ombudsman Mireille Roccatti also recommended that investigations be opened against a long list of state officials for their handling of the case. Yessica’s mother, sister and niece claim they were tortured in an attempt to get them to drop the rape charges.

Roccatti also recommended that Yessica’s family be compensated and that a center be set up to help crime victims in Durango.

The ruling was the result of a campaign by Yessica’s mother, Maria Eugenia Cazares de Diaz, who filed numerous complaints with state and federal authorities and human rights officials. She even collected signatures for a petition and sent it to President Ernesto Zedillo’s wife.

“I had always understood that one has to struggle to give bread to their children. I understood that we have to struggle to give them an education,” Cazares told the daily El Universal. “But I didn’t know that we also had to struggle to get them justice.”

Yessica’s story is an extreme one even in a heavily Roman Catholic and male-dominated society where chaste women are valued and rape victims are often ignored, ridiculed or even blamed for inviting attack.

She reported being gang-raped by three men on her way to the market in Durango, where she often helped her sister sell clothes. Her family says she made her first suicide attempt later that evening.

Ashamed, Yessica took more than a day to tell her family what had happened, Cazares told El Universal.

She became increasingly depressed in the following months as authorities made her recount the story over and over again, and then tried to force her to drop the charges, her mother said.

Cazares said that the family began receiving threats from advocates of the attackers, “telling me that I should remember that I have other children.”

“Yessica heard everything and began to cry,” Cazares recalled. She said, “See, mama. You can’t do anything. They are going to do something to my brothers and sisters.”

She killed herself two days later.


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