10/21/11 – There have been a series of accusations made in regards to the Women United Against Violence (Mujeres Unidas Contra La Violencia) shelter in Ciudad Juárez, that was run by director Soledad Griensen. The shelter was designed to help and protect women who were victims of domestic violence and who were rehabilitating from substance abuse. According to the recent accusations leveled at the center, however, the shelter was “like hell” as Griensen forced the women who were there to prostitute themselves, while Griensen would pocket the money from the men. The accusations also state that the women and their children were mistreated and punished if they did not obey the director. In addition, women were forced to pay if they wanted to leave the shelter. When the police were conducting an investigation into the matter, they found pornographic material in the shelter and interviewed the women inside. Although Griensen was believed to be a very benevolent woman who always fought for the rights of women and was known for her charity work, sources state that inside the shelter she was a different person.
There have been rumors that Women United Against Violence was part of the National Network of Shelters (Red Nacional de Refugios, RNR), which is a network that manages shelters throughout Mexico serving women and children who have been victims of violence. According to the RNR website, the goal of the RNR is to “unify and represent the interests of the refuges of the country, to reinforce their goal of preventing and interrupting the cycle of violence—therefore promoting gender equality and the defense of the human rights of women and their children.” However, in a report released by the RNR, all claims stating that the shelter managed by Griensen was part of its organization were denied. Rosa Maria Salazar Rivera, director of the RNR, states that all 67 shelters under her network’s umbrella, which does not include Women United Against Violence, are closely monitored and abide by the laws and mission of the RNR. “The RNR does not have any sort of relationship with the shelter Women United Against Violence, and the RNR disapproves the treatment that the women in that shelter received,” Salazar said. “We ask the authorities to act immediately against the individuals responsible for these unfortunate events.”
While authorities continue to investigate the case, Griensen is being held on human trafficking charges, and possibly abuse and deprivation of liberty charges down the road.