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Year! Review! Read our 2022 Year in Retrospect Issue!

Stop silencing intimate partner violence cases

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OCTOBER 20, 2022

Content warning: discussions of domestic violence and intimate partner violence.

Vanessa Rodriguez-Cermeno was a 22-year-old graduate from Solano Community College. She was the treasurer of the student government at SCC and a regular volunteer at campus events. She was a certified nursing assistant and an ophthalmic technician. She was a daughter, a friend and a health care worker. She was a Latine woman with an education, a career and a bright future ahead of her. But none of that mattered to Jose Guardado-Lara, her 21-year-old boyfriend who was arrested on suspicion of stabbing her multiple times with a knife. 

This occured on D Street, close to 98th Avenue in Oakland, California, at around 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, during a heated argument inside her car. 

The Oakland Police Department, or OPD said she tried to fight back and managed to open the driver’s door to escape, but collapsed before fully exiting the vehicle. East Bay Times, a local newspaper covering the event, cited this incident as the “86th homicide Oakland police have investigated this year” and, exactly like other news outlets, failed to recognize intimate partner violence, or IPV, as the suspected cause, simply calling it a homicide. 

Rodriguez-Cermeno was murdered a month ago, and it is imperative to recognize that October is devoted to raising awareness of domestic violence and intimate partner violence, or DV and IPV. However, the lack of recognition of these social issues in media coverage is not only problematic and frightening, but also does not acknowledge the lives of those lost by DV and IPV. 

In broad terms, Rachel Jewkes defines IPV in “Intimate Partner Violence: causes and preventions” as physical, sexual and psychological abuse directed towards a woman by her male partner, while the Center for Disease Control, or CDC, defines it simply as “abuse or aggression that occurs in a romantic relationship.” Although most victims and survivors of IPV are women and most perpetrators are men, it is crucial to recognize the lack of representation of the LGBTQ+ community in literature studying IPV and DV. 

According to a 2017 CDC study, more than half of female homicides in the United States are perpetrated by a current or former intimate partner — yet, the media has historically silenced DV and IPV cases. It is outdated to believe household disputes leading to abuse should be dealt with at home. We do not live in the 1900s; even then, survivors and victims of DV and IPV should have had support. We need media outlets to reflect this. A great way to do this is by recognizing IPV and DV in the first place, and by adding a list of resources at the bottom of all coverage related to DV and IPV. 

Choice of words used in media outlets is also important. The current language perpetuates silence and stigma. For example, when KTVU covered Rodriguez-Cermeno’s death, their website stated a “a women in her 20s … was stabbed to death in Oakland” and that a “person of interest” was detained, while on YouTube the same media outlet titled its brief 33-second video as “20-something woman stabbed in Oakland.” 

To date, this video has more than 100,000 views, unquestionably perpetuating not only misinformation to thousands of viewers, but also failing to recognize her humanity. It does not take more than a couple minutes to research her age, and the suspected reason for her murder. This coverage shows a lack of interest that needs to be addressed.

Local Today stated that Guardado-Lara is facing murder charges; however, the California Penal Code section 273.5 makes DV and IPV a criminal offense. Despite this, we do not see this charge in his prosecution.We need recognition. We need to show people experiencing DV and IPV are not alone. We need to fight for those who need us, and to honor the lives of those who are enduring DV and IPV right now, and for those who did not survive it, like Rodriguez-Cermeno.

According to multiple local news outlets, Rodriguez-Cermeno and Guardado-Lara were in a romantic relationship for about a year. Although not much detail was given about their situation, Rodriguez-Cermeno’s death speaks the truth of our current time, that we live in a violent society where women are abused and murdered every day. Why do we care more about what the Kardashians eat for lunch daily? 

If you care about IPV and DV, speak up. If you see a disparity in media representation, email your local newspaper, talk about it with peers and colleagues, educate yourself and your community. Rodriguez-Cermeno’s life deserves recognition, and so do the more than three women murdered by their partners or husbands every day. If we do not recognize batterers and abusers, we silence the abuse women continue to face, predominantly in communities of color. 

We need to read about more than just “a 20-something woman stabbed in Oakland.” She is not here today, but I wish to honor her by raising awareness of the beautiful life lost prematurely. Rest in peace, Vanessa. 

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

Michelle Hamm is a current UC Berkeley senior studying sociology. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.

OCTOBER 20, 2022