String of Missing Teens Highlights Continuing Violence Against Women in Ciudad Juarez

Since 1993, countless women have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez, their bodies displaying signs of sexual abuse and torture, dumped in empty lots and ditches around the city. Most of the murders remain unsolved, even after the creation of a special prosecutor's office to look into the crimes. After a spike in media interest in the story back in 2006—culminating in 2007 with the publication of Daughters of Juarez, a book by journalist Teresa Rodriguez—these women were forgotten. Their deaths overshadowed by the relentless drug wars and the related violence that accompanies it, which has claimed the life of over 2,500 people in Ciudad Juarez alone since January, 2008.

But over the last 18 months, an eerily familiar pattern has emerged.  More than two dozen girls have vanished into thin air in Ciudad Juarez, ranging in age from 13 to 18.

Some key elements set this new set of crimes apart from the previous murders. The first female victims were almost all low-income factory workers and came from other parts of Mexico. And most importantly, the bodies were almost always recovered, showing signs of torture and abuse. This new group of young women who have gone missing are almost all local residents from stable, middle-income families, and none of their bodies have been found.

But there are some similarities that can not be ignored. All of the missing teens were slender, raven-haired and attractive and many were last seen downtown—causing some families to speculate that the same people may be behind the murders and disappearances.

And that's all that the families of the victims can do—speculate. Ricardo Alanis, the father of Monica Alanis, an 18-year-old college freshman who never came home from her exams told the LA Times, "There is no theory. There is no hypothesis. They don't have anything concrete after four months." In a cruel twist many family members report receiving dropped calls or calls from an unknown man, assuring them that their daughters were fine and had left of their own accord. But the families are not buying it.

Aiben Rivas, whose daughter Hilda was 16 when she disappeared nearly a year-and-a-half ago said, "She's in the hands of those people. I don't know who they are or where they are." Echoes Yolanda Saenz, whose daughter Brenda also went missing, "I just want to know what happened to her so I can find peace."