‘This violence is modeled in every level of society’ Growing concern in Little Village over gender-based violence

After the deaths and disappearances of women in Little Village, activists are calling on the Cook County judicial system to create a femicide charge to prosecute those responsible and distinguish these crimes as gender-based.

Community members in the Little Village Community Council and their associated organization Las Valientes —- which translates to The Brave Ones — are the main activists standing in favor of creating a femicide charge.

“We have noticed that these things have been going on [for years],” said Baltazar Enriquez, the Little Village Community Council president. 

He said the community has recently started pushing for more government attention to the cases and the creation of femicide charges. 

“In the past, we’ve had girls sexually assaulted and some raped, and we have never had a community alert,” Enriquez said. 

These events and the lack of community alerts prompted Little Village to form the Las Valientes group in April 2020.

 Little Village is also frustrated by the perceived lack of attention from political figures. Rosa Chacon, a 21-year-old Little Village resident, was killed near Ald. Michael Rodriguez’s office, according to Enriquez. He said there has not been an issued apology yet.

Despite multiple requests for comment from The DePaulia, Ald. Rodriguez was not available for comment.

Femicide is a legal charge used in many areas of the world like Mexico and other Latin American countries, but the U.S. does not have a law recognizing it, according to CNN

North and South America have the second-highest rate of femicide, according to United Nations (UN) data.

Anaa Mulk, a senior in the women and gender studies program at DePaul, said adding a femicide charge shows that misogyny plays a part in violence. 

“I think if you were to make a femicide charge it would be taken more seriously because it would [demonstrate] the gravity [that] it is gender-based,” Mulk said. 

Femme Defensa — a group formed in 2019 in an effort to protect women in Pilsen and Little Village against attempted abductions and van stalking — member said violence towards Black and brown women is historical.

“Since the first colonizer set foot in the Americas, the abduction, rape, trade, mutilation [and] disappearance of our brown femme bodies has been commonplace,” a member of Femme Defensa said. The member did not wish to be named. 

Enriquez said that Las Valientes and the Little Village Community Council are also trying to break down misogyny.

According to women’s rights attorney Tamara Holder, violence against women flows down from other decisions and issues regarding women in the U.S.

“The United States is supposed to be this beacon of the gold standard for women’s rights. Unfortunately, that’s not what it is,” said Holder. “When you see the SCOTUS stripping away [abortion] that has been established as a women’s right, what flows down are laws that are created to protect women.” 

Holder said that if Johnson passed femicide legislation in Chicago, it could have a substantial impact for the city and nationwide. 

“If [Brandon Johnson] really cared about the women of this city who have been subjected to sexual assault and violence at the hands of men, [passing femicide legalization means] he could also be a leader in womens rights in the city which would send a message across the country. He could really stand for women.” 

“We are trying to [protect] our women from the machismo that has been endured and taught to us men for generations,” Enriquez said.

Homicide cases are much less likely to be solved if a victim is Black or Latine, according to reporting by CBS News. The Femme Defensa member said that the police are also a part of the broader problem of gender-based violence. 

“The ‘authorities’ are part of the problem and further bathe our communities in violence,” the Femme Defensa member said. “They are not allies in the pursuit of freedom or safety for women, femmes, youth [or] society.” 

A Chicago I-Team report found that 90% of all domestic violence allegations against police by their partners or children go undisciplined. The I-Team report also found almost one complaint of domestic violence has been filed per day since 2000. 

A Femme Defensa spokesperson said dismantling rape culture and preventing the violence against women seen in the Southwest Side must come from other humanitarian ventures as well.

“Our entire rape and domination culture needs to be dismantled,” the spokesperson said. “[It’s] systemic and not something [Little Village] can tackle in isolation. This violence is modeled in every level of society, [even with]our president  [and how he treats] people at the border and beyond [and] our courts in the way they dispense of people.”