Mother that strangled her rapist, sentenced to prison

On Monday, a Mexico State Court found 23-year-old Roxana Ruiz guilty of homicide with “excessive use of legitimate defense” for strangling a man to death with a t-shirt after he raped her.

She was sentenced to six years and two months in prison and ordered to pay over $16,000 in restitution to the family of her attacker. The decision has sparked protests and backlash, with Ruiz’s defense attorney Ángel Carrera calling it “discriminatory” and stating that it sends the message that women don’t have the right to defend themselves. Women’s rights activists have also criticized the ruling, pointing to Mexico’s poor track record of holding accused rapists accountable.

Ruiz’s story began in May 2021, when she was selling French fries in Nezahualcoyotl, a municipality with an ongoing gender alert for femicides and forced disappearances of women. She met a man she had seen around the neighborhood and, after hanging out, agreed to let him sleep on a mattress on the floor. He then allegedly hit her, tore off her clothes and raped her. In the struggle that followed, Ruiz grabbed a T-shirt and used it to strangle the man.

Outside the courtroom, supporters held signs and chanted “Justice!”, and a tearful Ruiz thanked those who had supported her through the judicial process. She also spoke to the crowd, stating she was thinking of her 4-year-old son and hoping to see him again.

Ruiz’s case has highlighted the prevalence of gender-based violence in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. Angelica Ospina, gender fellow for International Crisis Group in Mexico, said she worries that the sentencing may empower victimizers while discouraging women from reporting violence or defending themselves. Government data shows that nearly half of Mexican women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. Ultimately, Ospina said, the case demonstrates how normal and accepted gender-based violence is in the country.