About every six months, 20 of the ministry’s local missionaries see at least 100 cases of indigenous women and children who have suffered various types of abuse, he said. Many women are both physically and psychologically abused, he added.
Though its COVID-19 cases are suspected of being undercounted, Mexico along with Argentina and Colombia remains among the world’s top 15 countries in coronavirus infections. Most of its sexual abuse cases go unreported, and more are suspected amid the pandemic.
One indigenous woman in Mexico recently told a local missionary about an especially outrageous attack.
“The saddest thing was that she was sexually abused by her own son and her brother,” the ministry leader said. “Cases like this are not isolated, so all of our missionary women constantly attend to various situations of abuse of women and children. They minister to them and, on many occasions, they supply help with food, because the victims are repressed and rejected by their families and society if they complain.”
Helping to Heal
Studies have shown that most perpetrators of sexual crimes are known to their victims; in Mexico, the principal aggressors are male neighbors, family friends and relatives, with very few assaults reported to authorities, according to one study.
In some cases, the ministry leader said, the abuse combined with the perpetrator’s fear of being discovered can escalate to the point of threatening the victim’s life.
Tending to indigenous women’s needs is a key part of local missionaries’ efforts to serve and integrate into village society, a long-term process crucial for bringing the Gospel to tribes that have resisted it for 500 years. To gain acceptance in a given village, workers often set up small businesses or help others with their trades. Local missionaries plan to help indigenous women market their hand-woven clothing and hand-made crafts in an effort to raise their income and elevate local economies.
“Women are a most vulnerable group; it is about commercializing textiles and some handicrafts that we can send throughout the country and even abroad,” the leader said. “We have already done it on a small scale, but we want to improve it and thus be able to help more people.”