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An Assaulted Woman Takes Her Case Public — And Gets Threatened For It


We're going to spend next few minutes talking about the conditions many women face simply walking down the street. On March 8, which happened to be International Women's Day, journalist Andrea Noel was walking in Mexico City wearing a summer dress. Video footage from a nearby security camera shows what happened next. A stranger ran up behind her, pulled down her underwear and knocked her down. Andrea Noel decided to file a police report and posted the security footage on her social media accounts. What happened next made the story news across Mexico. Along with support, Andrea Noel also received hundreds of explicit death threats, rape threats and comments criticizing her for the whole episode. Andrea Noel landed in New York a few days ago, so I called her there, and I asked her if the threats were the reason she left Mexico so abruptly.

ANDREA NOEL: Yeah, for the most part. When the death threats started flooding in, they were coming in by the hundreds, and several organizations encouraged me to leave the country.

MARTIN: You have been getting supportive comments and there are - been a number of articles written where people have taken the question seriously. But the people who criticize you for this, what are they saying? What is the basis of it?

NOEL: For the most part that women should know their place. And their place is on the floor or wherever man chooses to put them. A second aspect of it is, you know, you're lucky this time you - they only touched you. Sorry about that, next time I'm going to rape you.

MARTIN: What was it that caused you to feel that the situation was serious enough that you had to leave, at least temporarily?

NOEL: I had an incident at my home, several nights ago. Basically, I was sitting in my living room, which is on a second-story apartment, working on my computer. And all of a sudden there's a laser-beam on my forehead. And, you know, I looked out the window, it was coming from a white BMW with tinted windows and several people in the car. It was something that I couldn't chalk up to paranoia, and I had to consider it as a sign that I was being targeted.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, there were some comments on social media that I saw that implied that the reason, or the main reason, that the media in Mexico are paying attention to your case - and I do want to emphasize, this has been a big story, heavily covered across a number of news organizations. And some people are saying, oh, that's only because you're an American woman and because you're blonde, to boot. And I wonder what you think about that or how you react to that.

NOEL: I'm not exactly sure what the reasons are - I think one of them was just that I even went through the effort of getting the video and filing the police report. I think that was something that is very rarely seen. But now what it's come down to is it doesn't really matter to me why people would want to speak to me about this issue. What matters is that the issue has been brought up. What happened is what I had hoped for, that the focus would shift towards the thousands of other women who suffer similar aggressions every single day. So I'm glad that I've been able to use these platforms to bring up the broader issue, which is that women have it tough, have it very tough, in Mexico and in Latin America.

MARTIN: Andrea Noel is a freelance journalist based in Mexico City. Her work has been published on Fusion and Vice Media, and we spoke with her in New York. Andrea Noel, thanks so much for speaking with us.

NOEL: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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