San Salvador, El Salvador
By Ulises Rodriguez
The clock on the wall marked four in the morning. It was a cold and wet Saturday in July, but I was sitting in the warm offices of El Salvador’s Red Cross. Suddenly, the relative calm and silence in the emergency unit was interrupted when the phone rang. The loud noise made me jump. The phone operator said: “What is your name? If you don’t identify yourself, we can’t help you.”
I went to the operator and asked him what was happening. He said that there had been a report of a woman who had been beaten, raped several times and then left for dead in a ditch. He said that they would take her to hospital because of the severity of her injuries and I asked to go along.
When I got to where she had been found, I saw a woman dressed in a baby blue dress that was dirty all over, with a face disfigured by the blows she had received. She was disoriented and her gaze seemed lost in a void. She kept on repeating that her name was Claudia.
The Red Cross volunteers told me that she had been raped by 11 men and that they had tried to strangle her. The volunteers took her gently by the hand and moved her to the ambulance. We arrived at a hospital so that she could receive medical attention, but the doctor on call scolded the volunteers for bringing in a person without identification. I was told that some doctors don’t attend to patients who don’t have ID.
Nevertheless, hospitals all over the country treat women every day who have been victims of some sort of violence. One of these women was Silvia, who worked in the central market of San Salvador until she was burned alive by her partner, a man with a long record of alcoholism and drug abuse.