Written by Este

Monday, January 10th, 2022

The second week of the Achi Women’s Case on sexual violence began with further expert testimony from two psychologists who are university professors and one visual artist.

First to speak was Monica Esmeralda Pinzón González, a social psychologist and university professor who presented her psychosocial research and analysis of the case. Through her work with 35 of the women, she outlined the many ways in which the sexual violence they experienced severely and irreversibly impacted their life projects. Through the combination of economic losses, stigma, and the lack of opportunity to mourn and process the violence they experienced, impeded their ability to resume a normal life. Furthermore, given that the Indigenous Achi culture holds the body as sacred, the sexual violence led to a traumatic rupture of their social fabric. As a result, many of the survivors continue to experience the ripples of the violence in the form of “susto” or “fear”.  The impact of the violence they faced has manifested in familial and societal fractures as a result of the interrupted cultural mourning process.

Taken January 4th in front of the Supreme Court of Justice during a ceremony and press conference for the commencement of the trial Photo Credits: Este Chep

The next expert witness to present was Marlon Edwin Geovany Arriaga, a visual artist with thirty years of experience culminating in dozens of expert reports. Marlon presented a visual infographic investigation of the accounts of violence shared by 35 women in the case. The objective of his report was to present a visualization of the behaviour reflected in the data shared by the women. The report demonstrated that although the ages of those who experienced sexual violence in the case ranged from as young as 12 to 53, the largest concentration of women who were target to the violence were between the ages of 20 and 25 years of age. The data also highlighted other relevant patterns including the fact that a concentration of incidents of sexual violence occurred around the military compound in Rabinal, that one-third of the women faced repeated aggressions, and that 94% of the women suffered sexual violence at the hands of two aggressors or more. The report also highlighted that 4 of the cases of sexual violence included women who were minors at the time of the offence and that in all of those cases, the violence was carried out by two men or more. The offences also happened in clusters concentrated in the 2nd half of 1982, the 2nd half of 1983, and the 1st half of 1984.

Part of the Infographic report prepared by Marlon Edwin Geovany Arriaga. Details that 94% of the women suffered sexual violence at the hands of two aggressors or more. (Credit: Verdad y Justicia)

Last on the stand was Ana Carolina Melgar Garzaro, a psychologist and university professor who conducted clinical examinations of 34 of the women to gauge their mental state and competency. Her conclusions highlighted that in all cases, the women experienced significant trauma and showed signs of post-traumatic stress and depression. She highlighted that the women’s individual responses to the violence they experienced though sometimes manifested in different ways, fell within clinically reasonable responses to trauma and that the obstacles sustained through impunity, injustice, and their inability to find humanity were a determinant factor in the challenges the women had to face and overcome. The report stated that the women had to make significant efforts to adapt themselves to a life that they had to start from zero, given that the sexual violence they endured meant not only a loss of their futures but also a loss of their bodies. Unable to mourn their experiences, the trauma they held continued to impact their daily lives.

Day 6 of the trial will resume Tuesday, January 11th at 8:30 am Guatemala time. We will continue to keep you informed and bring you updates.

Read the report back for day 4 here.

Read the report back for day 6 here.