The Women of Atenco

When President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico was still a governor, he ordered a crackdown on protesters that led to the brutal sexual assault of dozens of women. The victims took their case to international human rights officials, who are now demanding an investigation across the entire chain of command in Mexico. That would probably mean investigating the president, Mr. Peña Nieto. These are the 11 plaintiffs, and their words.

“I made the conscious decision to survive, to be alive and well today, to feel pretty again, to love me and see me in the mirror and recognize the person I saw. It was that they stole from me, my way of being, of loving, of feeling.”

Patricia Torres Linares, 33

“The stigma that falls upon you is terrible. My boyfriend didn’t want to be with me, friends used to treat me as if I was going to break all the time, as if I was made of glass. I had to come to terms with the fact people — my family included — didn’t know how to treat me.”

Norma Aidé Jiménez Osorio, 33

“I have not overcome it, not even a little. It is something that haunts me and you don’t survive. It stays with you. I could never tell my son and my father of the fact I was raped by not one but several policemen, because they would have gone mad.”

Maria Patricia Romero Hernández, 48

“My life plans were ruined. After what happened I had no short- or long-term plans, I just figured out how to get my life back together, to regain trust and hope that this world wasn’t a horrible place.”

Bárbara Italia Méndez Moreno, 37

“This process of 10 years has been very difficult and at the same time very beautiful. Regardless of the fact we started it so hurt, so broken, physically and emotionally, we had and held each other and we didn’t let it destroy us.”

Mariana Selvas Gómez, 32

“They took the most valuable thing from me, which is time, because no one would sell their time, not even one second for a thousand dollars. You can’t ever get that time back.”

Suhelen Gabriela Cuevas Jaramillo, 30

“The fact we are going to the Inter-American Court is a way of accepting that we were really affected. It was not an accident but rather a state practice towards social movements, and the people in general, and it is a step forward into putting an end to all of this.”

Georgina Edith Rosales Gutiérrez, 60

“The stigma is very harsh. I didn’t go to college. What am I supposed to do? Because of the criminal record no one would give me a job recommendation.”

Yolanda Muñoz Diosdada, 56

“My kids were emotionally destabilized by what happened. My son, who was 8 at the time, promised he would become a lawyer to get me out of jail. My youngest daughter used to draw policemen with blood all over them. She was 6 years old then.”

Cristina Sánchez Hernández, 50

“That has been the hardest, most enraging part of this entire process, watching those who attacked us go free. I was full of anger, thinking nothing happens, even when you find the guilty party, the very person who attacked you, they walk away free.”

Ana María Velasco Rodríguez, 43

“It hurts to know that the Claudia of before Atenco is gone. She was someone who would fight for equality and for other people’s rights, and she did it without fear. Now, I am scared all the time.”

Claudia Hernández Martínez, 33

Daniel Berehulak is a freelance photographer on assignment for The New York Times in Mexico.

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