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Cynthia Arvide – WNN Features
(WNN) Mexico City, MEXICO: Ignored by her local police force Nancy Rojo Pastelín didn’t find justice until her story became popular on social media. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook in Mexico is now transforming and changing the way a growing number of people, especially women, report injustice.
In a region where too many police departments depend on political favours, selective enforcement of the law and a lack of transparency, women can face large obstacles reporting crimes. But things are changing as social media empowers women to speak-out about injustice.
After exposing her case to a local police unit, Nancy Rojo Pastelín, a 28-year-old fashion designer living in Mexico City, finally received the attention she deserved. Assistance came only after exposing her case as a victim of sexual harassment on YouTube.
On January 22, 2012, Pastelín decided to seek help directly from police authorities as she tried in vain to deal with a sexual harasser who was becoming more and more intimidating. Instead of receiving the appropriate help from the police, Nancy was told not to “exaggerate” her claim. She was also told that unless her harasser “touched, grabbed or raped” her there was nothing the police could or would do to help her.
Mexico City isn’t the only place where women and girls are subjected to harassment. Women and girls worldwide can be bothered and degraded at school, work or on the streets. “A study in the USA found that 83 per cent of girls in grades 8 to 11 (aged around 12 to 16) in public schools experienced some form of sexual harassment,” says Amnesty International.
Some form of sexual harassment can be found in every country in the world. Asia too has its share of cases.
To help with the constant sex-harassment his sister has received on the streets in Delhi, India, Manu Chopra a 16-year-old doting younger brother, invented a protective device for his sister to wear to help her deal with any aggressive and inappropriate touching from men on the street.
The device is worn just like a wristwatch. Amazingly it can deliver a sharp electric shock to any harasser who comes ‘too close.’ Triggered by a ‘fear reaction’ charted by a sharp rise in the heartbeat of its wearer, the device works when it is pressed against an assailant’s skin. In the next year this innovative protective device may be available to the public after it goes through testing and further product development.
The use of Twitter, YouTube and Facebook in making ‘live’ reports is growing worldwide; and women are beginning to feel stronger than ever before. Outraged by the lack of appropriate police response and fearing that her attacker could become more extreme, Pastelín decided to tell her story on the largest media format available – using YouTube to reach the world through a four-minute narrated video.
Starting in 2005 by three former Paypal employees Jawed Karim, Chad Hurley and Steve Chin, YouTube is now a 1.65 billion dollar (USD) subsidiary company of Google. It started with the idea that video media is perfect media to use for those who want to speak out and share their experience.
Reporting crime, especially sexual harassment, fits perfect with YouTube, as well as Twitter and Facebook. Many people don’t know exactly what sexual harassment is. Sexual harassment is considered any ‘unwanted’ sexual advance. It can be spoken, and also non-spoken, and can include any type of unwanted physical contact, especially in severe cases where clothing may be ripped or completely pulled off a victim’s body. It can also include being physically held back against a wall or held down on the ground against one’s will.
If a woman does make a report as a victim of sexual harassment, they often suffer in silence before sharing their experience. To share her report on being a victim of sexual harassment Pastelín titled her YouTube video: “Where is the law for us women?”
In her attempt to get the largest audience possible to hear about her personal experience, Pastelín also placed a link to her video on her Twitter account and on Facebook where it went viral in less than 24 hours, reaching followers, friends and several renowned journalists. In no time Pastelín had thousands of YouTube video views and countless retweets bringing in thousands of comments about her plight to Facebook and Twitter.
Sharing her angst about the unnamed man who repeatedly leered and watched her from a building in front of her apartment Pastelín shared her story online. This is the same man, outlined Pastelín, who had been verbally aggressive with her on the street and who had stalked her in the parking lot in front of her building numerous times as he “half-naked” touched himself “in a grotesque manner,” calling out obscene remarks.
After making an official report, Pastelín tweeted that she had just called the police. She also tried to take a picture of her assailant with her cellphone camera. “20 minutes and there’s still no police patrol… if my life was in danger I would be dead,” she posted in a Twitter tweet on January 22. But when the police finally arrived for Nancy, “They couldn’t do anything because he was inside [located on] private property,” highlighted Pastelín in her YouTube video.
Thinking at the very least her harasser could be detained for a few hours, which would slow down his behavior after she gave her report to the nearest police office, Pastelín was told instead by police authorities that she didn’t have a case.
They said “I wasn’t forced to ‘look’ and that his attentions were only ‘flirtatious comments,’” shared Nancy. She was also told she would have to wait until her assailant “became more aggressive,” said Pastelín. Or until he “tied me up, beat or raped me,” she continued.
The police made it clear they would not act unless Pastelín’s harasser’s ‘comments’ turned into ‘life-endangering’ physical violence.
“The worst thing is that it was a woman who told me this…,” Pastelín tweeted, sharing the response of the woman at the local Office of the Public Prosecutor who interviewed her when she first tried to report her case.
“This is why people don’t report crimes…,” explained Nancy.
“I would just like to say to all women that we must do something because it’s incredible that our justice system in Mexico cannot solve anything until we are aggressed in such a way that it can leave us with a permanent trauma,” she continued.
Although her video has been taken offline as her case against her ‘offender’ unfolds, Nancy Pastelín’s video has been watched by more than 321,457 people (Pastelín’s numbers). But not all of the attention she has received has been positive.
“I blocked the video, as well as all of my online profiles (blog, Facebook, etc.), for security reasons,” Pastelín said recently in a statement to WNN – Women News Network. “While I received alot of support, some people were also making bad use of my content (such as photomontages, remixes, etc.). I put the video out there when I needed to be listened [to]. Once that happened, I care more about my safety,” continued Pastelín. “…now there’s a precedent. People know what they can do if there are not taken seriously by an authority”.
Two days after her case spread throughout the world via social media, members from the news media in Mexico began to contact Pastelín. She was also contacted by several women’s rights organizations, as well as television networks, radio and print media, inside and outside Mexico.