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IT'S TIME TO ACKNOWLEDGE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN NEW MEXICO

fajardo-image.jpgFrom intimate partner violence to sexual slavery, women are being brutally beaten, raped, and sold as chattel in our communities. The market for sex trafficking is thriving on the internet as women and girls can be bought and sold on a smartphone. New Mexico ranks 48th out of 50 states in the frequency of sexual assaults. (The state auditor says that one in four women will be raped in their lifetimes). And men in New Mexico are murdering women at an alarming rate-the state is unenviably third in the nation per capita in that respect. Yet law enforcement and the media have remained ambivalent to violence against women. Sadly, it's open season on women in New Mexico, as Jacquelyn Barela recently learned.

Jacquelyn was kidnapped and repeatedly raped by her captor, who held her for weeks-hog tied with tow chains-in an Albuquerque home. She was not an "alleged" victim or an "alleged" hostage, as KOAT reported yesterday. There is no reason to doubt her claim. Her 911 calls, in which she whispered her plea for help to an APD dispatcher, have already been released to the public. Her kidnapper has already pleaded guilty to false imprisonment, aggravated battery, and other crimes he committed against her. He was sentenced for five felonies over two months ago. These are no longer allegations.

While he held Jacquelyn hostage, her kidnapper, high on meth, beat and raped her so much that he bruised her lungs. He kept her chained in his bedroom-tow chains wrapped round her ankles and threaded through an eyehook bolted to his doorframe. And he kept her within an arm's length, or seated next to him in the car, whenever he transported her, as he did on February 27, 2016. Bernalillo County Sheriff's deputies pulled him over that night in a routine traffic stop. But he fled from police on foot, abandoning Jacquelyn with the vehicle. Jacquelyn told deputies that she was being held against her will and begged for a ride somewhere safe. But the police were too busy. They sent her away on foot and she was recaptured by her kidnapper and transported back to his bedroom.

Later, while pretending to sleep, Jacquelyn seized her moment and called 911. She explained that she had been kidnapped, begged for help, and whispered the address into the phone. Officers from the Albuquerque Police Department arrived on scene, knocked on the door, and left when nobody answered. Jacquelyn called 911 a second time and officers returned. They knocked a second time and, when the kidnapper did not answer, the officers distracted themselves with a stolen car investigation next door. A tow truck came to remove the stolen vehicles; no further effort was made to find Jacquelyn or her captor.

"As soon as I get the okay from God, you're dead," Jacquelyn's captor told her. He tortured her and shaved her head for being a "rat." He beat and raped her more violently than before. Jacquelyn eventually escaped on her own. When she contacted police in Valencia County, she was shaved bald, her eyes blacked from the abuse. Her kidnapper was finally arrested and has pleaded guilty to his crimes.

Jacquelyn's story is emblematic of broad social problems that are not being adequately addressed, or even acknowledged. Violent felonies that would ordinarily result in an immediate law enforcement response if committed against men are characterized as "civil matters" when women report to the police; accounts of stalking and domestic violence are met with bizarre skepticism; and police forces across the state are now prioritizing run-of-the-mill property crimes over the types of offenses that are likely to be committed against women.

Apparently law enforcement's attitude toward women who report violent offenses has affected the media as well. KOAT should be ashamed of its report, which aired yesterday, minimizing Jacquelyn's abuse and-impliedly at least-questioning whether she somehow consented to her treatment.

To read the lawsuit Jacquelyn has filed against the City of Albuquerque, click here. To read the police report, made on the day of Jacquelyn's escape, documenting that she was denied medical care and safe harbor despite reporting her kidnapping to BCSO, click here.

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