A local council initiative has been hailed as a ground-breaking policy advance by victims’ rights campaigners.
Santa Rosa council in La Pampa’s capital city became the first authority in the country – and, as far as we know, in the world – to implement a groundbreaking new policy in which the victims of domestic violence are offered their aggressor’s job.
Thanks to this initiative, Valeria Juárez, 34, is embarking on a fresh career in the parks department after suffering years of torment at the hands of her next-door neighbour and former partner Héctor Fabián Mendoza.
“This has marked the closing of one door and opening of another. I lived in fear, I was psychologically tormented, I couldn’t sleep at night, and now I am trying just to be as happy as I can possibly be,” the mother-of-three told the Times. “It’s a huge relief, I’ve got a stable job and I can feed my kids.”
Valeria was bringing up two children as a sole parent after a previous relationship broke down when she turned to Mendoza, 41. She soon fell pregnant, but he turned violent, even before their daughter Emilia was born seven years ago.
“He turned into another person when he got angry,” she shuddered. “We only lived together for a few months, but I got a court order forcing him out of my house. He was still living next door with his son, coming round whenever he decided to. I lost count of the number of complaints I made to the police.”
The abuse reached a peak in March 2018, when Mendoza barged into Valeria’s house and threatened her with a knife: this time, crucially, there were witnesses: two friends who were visiting. He was jailed for two years for threatening behaviour aggravated by use of a weapon in September 2019.
Valeria’s new job is the result of ruling 6305/20 (Article 9) issued by Santa Rosa council, where Mendoza worked as a gardener. It decrees that in the event of an employee being convicted of domestic violence, they lose their job, and it can be offered to their victim.
The policy was introduced as an extra clause to the Ley Micaela law which was being implemented nationwide, and was the initiative of a group of councillors in the FrePam alliance of radicals, socialists and Partido del Frente.
One of its authors, Claudia Giorgis, told the Times: “Getting this into law is very important. It has been a long process and it wasn’t easy. We passed the legislation in January and only recently is Valeria starting work.
“I don’t know if we can say we are celebrating, when so many women are still [in] vulnerable [situations], but we are content with what we’ve achieved.
“Often the victim is left to one side by the legal process, but this is a form of reparations for someone who hasn’t got work, and is suffering economically as well as from domestic violence.
“We hope we can be pioneers, causing repercussions across the country. This is something which can be replicated in many different areas.”
Giorgis added that the FrePam group was now proposing the initiative be introduced as law across the province of La Pampa.
Local activist Lenny Caceres, director of the Diario Digital Feminino, said: “This is marvellous, it’s an excellent measure.
“I would like to see this introduced as a national law for Argentina, applied not just to local councils, as it is here, but to private enterprises as well.”
Anti-gender violence NGO Ahora Que Sí Nos Ven (“Now they can see us") also applauded the initiative.
Spokeswoman Analia Morra said: “The reparations and above all the way of helping somebody to recuperate their autonomy is a great step forward.
“There are some public positions where when someone dies the children have priority, as part of the patrimony, so perhaps it was easier for us to extend the concept in Argentina.
“Five years ago, we couldn’t have done the work we do now. Ni Una Menos was a tipping point where women said ‘Enough is Enough’. The transformation in the culture takes a long time, but it’s changing.”
Valeria says she’s looking forward to moving on with her life and putting the nightmare behind her.
“A month ago I would have broken down talking to you about what I went through, and I was one of the lucky ones. I had my own house, so when the violence began I put the brakes on, and threw him out. Many women depend economically on their partners. If they leave them, they have nowhere to go, they’re out on the street,” she said in an interview.
“Today I’m celebrating going into work, but there are many women who are continuing to suffer much worse than I did. I hope other councils follow this example here and across the world, because it’s a worldwide problem.”