Crime & Justice

Survivors of acid attacks fight for justice in Mexico

By Cristina Sánchez Reyes

Mexico City, Jul 25 (EFE).- Elisa Xolalpa was just 18 years old when her boyfriend at the time tried to kill her for wanting to leave the violent relationship.

Over twenty years later, she is still fighting for justice, like many women in Mexico.

“The state does not give us the justice we deserve,” she tells Efe.

Elisa was not only a victim of attempted murder, but also of an acid attack that burnt 40% of her body.

“We have a son together,” she says.

It was 2001 when Elisa finally found the courage to tell her partner, Javier Edilberto, that she wanted to leave him. But Javier did not accept her decision and instead, kidnapped her, tied her to a pole, beat her and threw acid all over her.

“I was able to untie myself because the ropes had burned from the acid. I started to run and he was behind me saying that he was going to throw my body into the canal and that no one would ever find me,” she says.

Elisa immediately filed a report, but after years of not hearing back from the authorities, she gave up.

“I decided to stop searching, to stop fighting, because he had escaped and I thought he would never come back.”

For 19 years, Elisa heard nothing of Javier, until one day he came back for her.

“In August 2019, he found me and he started to assault and rape me again,” she says.

Two years after filing a second complaint, the attacker was found guilty for domestic violence and given a five year sentence with bail of 30,000 pesos ($1,500 dollars).

Together with the help of female activists, Elisa appealed the sentence and managed to increase the sentence to sven years in prison, although Javier was still not charged for attempted murder.

“It feels like these legal processes, rather than bringing us closer to justice, they bring us closer to giving up,” says Elisa.

According to Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI), there are at least 1,500 acid attacks every year around the world — 80% of which are on women and the majority in Latin America.

Not all victims of acid attacks survive.

Last week, Luz Raquel Padilla died after her neighbor burned her alive in a park in Guadalajara because, according to sources, he was annoyed by her autistic son’s tantrums.

“There has been an increase in gender violence, attempted femicides and acid attacks to disfigure women,” Mexican dermatologist Jade Linda Castellanos Castro says.

According to the doctor, the acid attacks are intended to scar and mark a woman’s face for life. “Those affected are beautiful young women whose lives and faces completely change after the attack,” she says.

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