The women and girls who escape or survive an assault know, or know something about, who the harassers, rapists, batterers and serial killers are. Survivors also give us insights into how to resist. A better understanding is needed about how acting from one's emotion, voice, persistence, ingenuity and training, but above all the use of multiple active strategies can protect women and girls.

I will be posting information here from news articles.

If you have any articles or insights to add your help would be deeply appreciated!

Woman Tells Of Escape From Alleged Serial Killer

CBC  |  Posted: 06/26/2012 1:14 pm Updated: 06/26/2012 3:44 pm

A Winnipeg woman who claims she was attacked by alleged serial killer Shawn Lamb says she is lucky to be alive — but she's angry that police didn't seem to care when she tipped them off about his violent behaviour.

It was a frigid January night earlier this year when 29-year-old Denise, a sex-trade worker who lived on the streets and sold her body in exchange for crack cocaine, was looking for a warm place to get high.

She knocked at the door of her friend's apartment suite. The friend wasn't home but a neighbour, Shawn Lamb, was. Denise says he invited her inside and they shared some crack that she had just scored.

But he wanted more, said Denise, who didn't want her last name published.

"He was forcing himself on me and I fought him off me and I told him if he don't let me out of this house that I'm going to smash up your house," she said, adding her street survival instincts took over.

"Forget this I'm not going to let this guy do this to me — rape me. I'm not going to let this guy do this because I have been through this so many times on the street and out there I'm a fighter."

She says she fought him off, screaming, kicking, punching, and escaped, running out the door and down the stairs.

Shortly after that she entered a sobriety program, in part because of the disappearance of her friend Carolyn Sinclair, whose body was found near a city dumpster in March.

Like Denise, Sinclair was battling a drug addiction and worked in the sex trade to support her habit.

On Monday, Winnipeg police announced that Lamb, 52, is charged with three counts of second-degree murder in connection to the deaths of women reported missing within the last year.

One of those is Sinclair, who was 25.

The others are Tanya Jane Nepinak, 31, and Lorna Blacksmith, 18.

Lengthy record

Lamb, who is originally from Ontario, has an extensive criminal record extending across four provinces.

Since 1979, he has had 109 convictions in Ontario, Alberta, B.C. and Manitoba. In the latter, Lamb has 45 convictions since 2002 for everything from robbery to forgery, fraud, and uttering threats.

Most recently he was charged with sexual assault in May and again this month. When Lamb was picked up on June 21, that was when police say they learned of his alleged connection to the three homicides.

The news of Lamb's arrest angered Denise, who says she has been sober since her January encounter with the alleged serial killer.

After Sinclair's body was found, Denise and others told police about Lamb's violent behavior and their suspicions he could have something to do with missing women cases.

"I had a gut feeling [he might have been involved]. I thought, 'Oh my God.' I was enraged. My stomach was twisted," Denise said.

But police officers just shrugged her off, she said. She never filed a formal complaint with police.

"It made me feel enraged, as if my voice wasn't heard and it wasn't looked upon and other people made reports of him too," she said.

But Denise said she is relieved she did not become another homicide statistic.

"I thank God every day for letting me live, for letting me survive that [encounter]," she said.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2012/06/26/mb-sex-assa...

Please read this study (attachment below) about reducing sexual assault of women students by taking a series of workshops in women's self defense.

Sexual Assault Resistance Program for University Women
New England Journal of Medicine, 2015

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16yo girl fights off man in daylight attack on Brisbane's northside
By Rebecca Hyam, 23 Jan 2019

Aerial photo of satellite map showing Kittabilla Street at Chermside West.
Photo: A 16-year-old girl was dragged into bushes in Kittabilla Street, near the intersection with Craigslea Street. (Google Maps)

A 16-year-old girl has been pulled into bushes and assaulted in a brazen attack on Brisbane's northside.
Key points:

The teenager managed to fight off the attacker, kicking him before running away
He was described as a Caucasian man in his 20s-30s, roughly 185cm tall
Police want to speak to anyone who noticed a man acting suspiciously in the area

Police said the girl was walking along a footpath on Kittabilla Street, near the intersection with Craigslea Street at Chermside West, just after midday on Wednesday, when a man approached her.

He put his hand over her mouth and dragged her into nearby bushes.

But the teenager fought back, struggling free and kicking the attacker before running away.

Police said the girl was not physically injured in the attack but was "naturally very distraught".
A computer-generated image of a Caucasian man wearing sunglasses and a black cap
Photo: Police said this man might be able to help them with their investigation. (Supplied: Queensland Police Service)

The man was last seen running along Buran Street in Chermside West.

He is described as Caucasian, aged in his late 20s to early 30s, approximately 185 centimetres tall, with a proportionate build and stubble on his face.

The man was wearing a white t-shirt, black shorts, a black baseball cap, and black-framed sunglasses with orange reflector lenses.

Police are appealing for anyone who noticed a man acting suspiciously or who seemed out of place in the suburb to come forward with information.

Shortly after 9:00pm on Wednesday, police released a computer-generated image of a person they believed could assist with their investigation.

Police are also asking for any motorists who may have driving in the area near the assault between 11:30am and 12:45pm on Wednesday, or any homeowners who live nearby and may have CCTV footage, to contact them.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-23/16yo-girl-fights-off-dayligh...

Girl, 15, Fights Off Attacker Who Attempted to Abduct Her While She Jogged: Police

December 5, 2018 - Inside Edition Staff

A Texas teen was forced to fight for her life when she was attacked by a man who attempted to abduct her as she was jogging, police said.

The 15-year-old girl was out for a run when a man in truck pulled alongside her on County Road 392 in Alvin about 9:20 p.m. Sunday, the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office said.

The man got out of his vehicle, a tan four-door early 2000s Chevrolet Silverado with Texas license plates, and approached the girl, whom he then wrapped his arms around, authorities said.

The girl screamed for help, and both she and her attacker fell to the ground, officials said. The girl fought the man off and he fled in his truck, police said.

The truck, which sits lower in the bed than in the front, was last seen traveling south on County Road 392 before turning to go east on County Road 184.

Police said the suspect was described as Hispanic with a medium complexion, and said he appeared to be in his late teens to early 20s. He stood between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-10 and weighed between 150 and 170 pounds. He was bald, but had a groomed black goatee and brown eyes.

At the time of the incident, the man wore a black hoodie, gray sweatpants and black Nike shoes with white bottoms.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call Investigator Jeff Mink with the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office at 979-864-2392, or to contact the Brazoria County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-460-2222.

Following a series of deaths of female runners, including Mollie Tibbetts in Iowa in July and Karina Vetrano in New York in 2016, authorities have urged women to remain vigilant while exercising.

After Tibbetts’ death, Inside Edition tested an arsenal of high-tech safety devices to determine their effectiveness. Correspondent Megan Alexander put to the test the LifeLine Response app, which uses GPS information to help emergency responders locate people who need them. When she dropped her phone, the app alerted police and let her know they were on their way.

In Inside Edition's test, it took just two minutes for police to arrive.

After Vetrano’s death, safety expert Kathleen Baty showed Inside Edition devices female joggers can use to protect themselves.

"Circle of Six is a great emergency app,” Baty said at the time. “You download the app and six of your contacts, and if something happens a simple press of the button sends a message to your contacts that says, ‘I need help.’ It also drops a GPS pin showing where you are.”

There is also the Tigerlady Self-Defense Claw, a device that fits inside a runner's hand. With a squeeze, a runner can punch or pierce an attacker with retractable spikes.

Baty also advises running with a buddy and first thing in the morning before everyone is out. She also had a key tip: Avoid listening to loud music.

“It's scary, you just never know,” Baty said. “It's a shame but women have to worry about this.”

https://www.insideedition.com/girl-15-fights-attacker-who-attempted...

Teen girl kidnapped near Landmark, Man., manages to escape her abductor
By Elisha Dacey Senior Online Producer Global News

Manitoba RCMP say a girl is safe after she was abducted while walking her dog Sunday.

The girl, 16, was walking her dog on Ste Anne’s Road southeast of Landmark, Man. at about 7 a.m. when a man drove his black pick-up truck beside her and offered her a ride. When she said no, he jumped out of the truck and forced her into it.

The driver continued to Road 45 N. about 2.5 KM away and the truck began to slow, said Sgt. Paul Manaigre of the Manitoba RCMP. “I think it was getting stuck, on a mud road as it might, I guess, being wet the last few days.”

LISTEN: Sgt. Paul Manaigre speaks to Global News Radio 680 CJOB about the abduction.

At this point, the teen managed to jump out of the truck and run to a nearby house. She suffered minor injuries, said police.

“It’s a traumatic experience for her,” said Manaigre. “Almost in a state of shock.”

Manitoba RCMP were called and detachments from Steinbach, St-Pierre-Jolys and the Police Dog Services unit responded, but weren’t able to find the man or the truck.

READ MORE: Police on the hunt for Burrows Avenue creep after girls escape safely

“The suspect is described as a clean-cut, 18-22-year-old male, approximately 5’8” with a medium build. He has a light-brown complexion, short black hair, and a round face,” said RCMP.

The truck is a black, older model 4-door pickup, with a dusty exterior and may have been repainted. The victim did not get the licence plate number.

“The dog, apparently, tried to intervene, I don’t know if it was by attacking or just trying to get in the way, she apparently may have pushed it away,” said Manaigre. The dog managed to run home and was not hurt.

READ MORE: Manitoba woman escapes kidnapper, RCMP hunting for suspect

“This is an extremely serious situation but we want to reassure the public that we are doing everything we can to track down the suspect.

“We are asking anyone who may have noticed a suspicious vehicle and driver in the area that matches the description provided to immediately contact police.”

This isn’t a typical crime for rural Manitoba, he added.

“In my 23 years of policing, I believe this is the first time I’ve come across this type of complaint.”

Major Crime Services are assisting with the ongoing investigation.

Anyone with information should call the St-Pierre-Jolys RCMP at 204-433-7433, call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477, or secure tip online at www.manitobacrimestoppers.com.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

https://globalnews.ca/news/5425475/teen-girl-kidnapped-near-landmar...

4-Year-Old Girl Escapes After Man Allegedly Snatches Her From Bed, Stuffs Her in Wooden Trunk

Thomas Dewald claimed he was searching the neighborhood for children living in "deplorable conditions"
By Christine Pelisek May 01, 2019

A Pennsylvania man is behind bars after he allegedly crept into a home, kidnapped a 4-year-old girl from her second-floor bedroom, bound her hands, wrists and ankles with tape and then stuffed her into a wooden trunk at his grandparents’ house.

Thomas Dewald, 20, allegedly told police that he had searched the neighborhood for children playing in their yards unsupervised and living in “deplorable conditions,” according to a criminal complaint obtained by PEOPLE.

Dewald was charged April 30 with multiple felony counts including kidnapping, burglary, false imprisonment, unlawful restraint and criminal trespass.

Police say the girl was somehow able to escape just hours after she was abducted and was found along a roadway close to Dewald’s grandparent’s home and about two and a half miles from her Washington Township home.

“She escaped but we don’t know how and all the circumstances with it yet,” Pennsylvania State Trooper Megan Frazer tells PEOPLE. “There are a lot of unanswered questions.”

The case came to light in the early-morning hours of April 25 when the girl’s father called police to report her missing. He told police he put his daughter to bed the night before around 7:30 p.m. He said he awoke around 3 a.m. and noticed that the door to her bedroom was cracked open and the front door was ajar.

The man said he searched the home before he called police. Police immediately began searching the area for the missing little girl who was eventually located at 10 am that morning.

Police, conducting a search of the surrounding neighborhoods, spoke to Dewald’s grandmother on April 29. The woman told police that she had gone into her grandson’s room to see if he made his bed when she “heard what sounded like a baby crying.”

“The female related the crying seemed to come from the wall with the air conditioning unit, in his bedroom,” the complaint states.

She told police she didn’t know where the crying was coming from and had wanted to talk to Dewald about it but he had already left for work.

Police searched the home and discovered a large wooden chest directly under the air conditioning unit in the bedroom.

“Several large strips of long blonde hair (similar to the hair on the [victim]) was located inside the wooden chest in the bedroom,” the complaint states.

Police also found several large strips of black tape which contained shoe print impressions as well as dirt, grass and long blond hair.

Dewald came home during the search and allegedly admitted that he kidnapped the girl. He also allegedly admitted that he entered the child’s home through an unlocked front door and was there for about an hour before he kidnapped her.

He told police that his plan was to take the girl’s older brother but he “would have been too heavy to take,” the complaint reads.

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

Dewald said he took the child to his residence where he bound her with tape and placed her in the wooden chest in his bedroom, informing her that he would come back at noon, the complaint states.

He allegedly told police he returned later and the girl was gone.

Dewald is being held without bail in Franklin County Jail.

His preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 14. It is unclear if he has retained an attorney.

https://people.com/crime/man-charged-with-snatching-4-year-old-girl...

Woman fends of three men who try to steal her car with her 3 year old child in it:

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-england-birmingham-49441159/woman-fe...

Chalk Back: Kenyan women fight back against street harassment
By Esther Akello Ogola Women's Affairs Journalist, BBC News, Nairobi, 9 December 2019

Image copyright PLAN International
Image caption Girls in Kibera say they face street harassment on a daily basis

Young women and girls in Kibera, one of Africa's largest informal settlements, are writing their street harassment experiences on roads and canvasses to highlight the damaging nature of sexual harassment.

Warning: Some readers may find part of this article distressing

Zubeida Yusuf has lived in Kibera, in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, all her life, and for as long as she can remember, street harassment has been a part of her life.

"Men will say things like: 'You're very fat. Is your mother a butcher? Did God use his last piece of clay on you because you have large breasts and a big behind.'

"It's a lot for us to take in when we walk out here (in the streets)," says the 22-year-old.

But over time, Ms Yusuf has learnt to fight back and she is helping other women in Kibera claim their voices back in situations where some women say they feel powerless.

Using chalk and markers, in a campaign dubbed "Chalk Back", Ms Yusuf and other girls and women are writing down their experiences of street harassment.

The campaign, they hope, will spur conversations around the damaging nature of street sexual harassment.

"Nowadays, when the men insult me, I stop and ask them to their faces, why they are insulting me. However, for underage girls fighting back may be harder," she says.

"That's why campaigns like these are important. More of us need to push back and tell people it is not okay to speak to women this way."
Shocking messages

"Respect my body," one message on the road screams.

Others, written in Swahili, reveal more disturbing messages.
Image caption The impact of street harassment some girls say can be emotionally distressing

"Unaringa, wewe ni vajo" (You think you are too good for us, yet you're still a virgin).

"Chura hii" (slang for prostitute, which also means frog in Swahili).

Caroline Mwikali, who is 20 years old and also a Kibera resident, confesses some of the slurs used against her have cut deeper than the perpetrators realise.

"You really can't walk down these streets without a man saying something nasty to you. Sometimes we're even likened to animals.

"It affects one's self esteem. When I sit by myself, I wonder: 'Am I really as worthless or as ugly as that person has said I am?'"
Image copyright Photo/Plan International
Image caption Women say rampant street harassment makes them feel unsafe to

But it's not just the emotional cost of street harassment that is the problem.
No-go areas for women

According to the UN, the lack of conclusive and comparative national data and policies on street harassment within countries is one among many of the challenges when it comes to combating the problem and ensuring the safety of girls and women in public spaces.

A 2019 Plan International street harassment survey of five cities revealed that less than one in 10 of the women and girls interviewed reported their experiences to the authorities.

This is because women were unsure of what exactly authorities could do, and whether street harassment could be termed as a "serious" crime.

Experts agree that street harassment continues to curtail women's participation in public spaces socially and economically. Often, women are forced to modify their behaviour to fit in.

"There are certain places and scenarios I avoid. When I see a large group of men congregated somewhere, I won't pass there," says Ms Mwikali.

"There are also places, especially in the evening that will never find me outside. Women have been raped in some of these areas."
You may also be interested in:

In pictures: Global protests denounce violence against women
'Talking boxes' help girls break their silence on abuse
The teenager fighting school bus sex pests

As the world continues to mark days of activism against gender-based violence, women around the world have been marching to demand more action and justice when it comes to such crimes.
Image copyright PLAN International
Image caption Some men have also picked up the chalk

As Ms Mwikali and other women continue to write on the streets, some men gather around. They confess that the women's revelations of the impact of street harassment has been eye-opening.

"Our mentality for a long time has been that we are entitled to women. We think if we talk to a girl she must talk back. We didn't know that it was not OK until recently. We are slowly learning," says 25-year-old Wilson Maina.

"I think we know better now. We have been enlightened about issues surrounding sexual and gender-based violence and how to deal with it," 26-year-old Jairus Omulando adds.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50606965?fbclid=IwAR3gUMkOEJ5...

San Joaquin County Sherrif

Dec 26, 2019

A victim is safe thanks to the McDonald's crew at the Flag City location in Lodi. On 12/24/19, shortly after 2 P.M. a woman went into the McDonald's restaurant and told an employee at the counter to call 9-1-1. She also gave the employee the license plate of the vehicle that she was traveling in and asked them to hide her. After the woman used the restroom she attempted to place an order at the counter, but the suspect, Eduardo Valenzuela was nearby and demanded she use the drive- thru.
While in the drive thru, she mouthed to an employee, "HELP ME." Just then, deputies arrived and spoke with employees inside the restaurant, they rushed them out the door telling them that the woman needing help was in the drive-thru line. The woman was driving her vehicle, with Mr. Valenzuela in the passenger seat when deputies ordered her to pull over.

During the investigation, deputies comforted the shaken woman and discovered that Valenzuela had been violent with her in the past. On this day he told her to take him to visit his family and threatened her life, stating he would use a firearm. A firearm was located in the trunk of the vehicle (stolen out of state).

Eduardo Valenzuela was booked in the San Joaquin County Jail for criminal threats, stolen property, and felon(prohibited person) in possession of a firearm.

18-Year-Old Martial Art Expert Girl From Bengal Beats Up Three Men Who Attempted To Sexually Assault Her
by Katerina Papakyriakopoulou Monday, April 30, 2018

At a time when crimes against women see a steady rise, self-defense has become an urgency. Women have taken their safety into their hands, and many have invested their time in learning the proper form of self-defense so they can protect themselves from predators. Nevertheless, merely learning martial arts isn't enough a, to apply your knowledge, you also need to keep your head together, which is also challenging.

A prime example of that was recently set by an 18-year-old girl who taught a lesson to three men who tried to assault her sexually. The girl, Priyanka Singha Roy was walking to a shop at Kamarpara, Sainthia municipality, in West Bengal with her younger sister when the men attempted to assault them.

The three men made lewd remarks at her and blocked her way. One of them allegedly held her hand too. The girl, who started learning martial arts 10 months ago, warned the men to back off, according to police reports.

When they didn’t listen, she overpowered and beat them up. The girl's mother told Hindustan Times,

"MY DAUGHTER IS A KEEN STUDENT OF MARTIAL ARTS. THE YOUTHS WERE NOT AWARE OF HER SKILLS. MY DAUGHTER INITIALLY ASKED THEM TO RESTRAIN THEMSELVES, BUT THEY PAID NO HEED AND CONTINUED WITH THEIR LEWD BEHAVIOUR. THEN SHE BEAT THEM UP. "

Anirban Sen, a resident, witnessed the girl’s ferocity first-hand. He saw the goons lying on the ground. He said,

“AFTER HEARING A COMMOTION, WE RUSHED TO THE AREA AND FOUND THAT THE GIRL HAD PUT THE THREE YOUTHS ON THE GROUND. SHE TOLD US THAT SHE PUNISHED THEM FOR MISBEHAVING WITH HER. HER COURAGE WILL INSPIRE OTHERS IN THE AREA.”

The news went viral, and people are now lauding this teenager for having the courage to apply her knowledge to overpower her perpetrators.

The girl couldn't be contacted as she went to participate in her class 12 board exams. The accused men were identified as Amit Sahani, Dip Mandal, and Bhaskar Mandal, all in their mid-twenties. The police have now caught them.

This girl’s confidence and bravery will inspire many women and children to take an initiative and learn self-defense. You go, girl!

https://www.thinkinghumanity.com/2018/04/18-year-old-martial-art-ex...

Kidnapping Threat Is Higher For Native Women, So They're Learning Self-Defense

January 31, 2020, NPR

On a recent Saturday in Everett, Mass., Native American women have gathered to learn some self-defense techniques. Before the class starts, sage is burned and instructor Shanda Poitra smudges and asks any Native energies to be with her.

"I just prayed, in my mind, thanking [the] Creator for opportunities and being with me today and helping really get the point across today," Poitra says.

The point?

Native women have a basic right to protect themselves.

The women at this particular class come from tribes in Massachusetts, North Dakota and El Salvador. They learn how to recognize threats, how to de-escalate confrontational situations and how to strike an attacker in the groin.

The class culminates with Poitra teaching attendees how to defend themselves against someone who tries to sexually assault them while they're sleeping. She lies on her stomach on the floor and a man gets on top of her.

"I wait for his full body pressure to come on. Once his full body pressure is on me ..." Poitra says to the class, before pulling off what she calls "an explosive move."

While still on her stomach, Poitra lifts her right left toward her chest and leverages all of that accumulated weight. Then she heaves up.

"Knocking him off of me," she says. "It only works when all his weight is on me."

Not waiting

In November, President Trump signed an executive order called "Operation Lady Justice," which would create an interagency task force to look into why so many Native women's lives are disrupted or ended because of trauma.

According to research funded by the Department of Justice, in some instances, Native women are killed at a rate 10 times higher than the national average.

But Poitra said she's not waiting on the government to save her people.

"Historically, the government hasn't been very good to Native people," she says. "So I think it's that we start empowering ourselves and start turning it around ourselves."

Poitra is a survivor of domestic violence. She took a self-defense class and was able to get out of her situation. Now she wants to help other women from different tribes across the country.

Many who take the hours-long class — such as Kristen Wyman, who teared up while learning the techniques — find it both physically grueling and emotionally taxing.

"Almost as if my ancestors, my aunties, my grandmother — everybody was with me that knows what our women face," she says. "And just to see the power of that, in that scenario, was real."

The class is designed to be taught to Native women, by Native women. And Rachael Devaney told the group that aspect is important to her.

"It is so empowering learning from other Native people. That space is not available to us all the time," she told the group at the end of class. "To feel that kind of empowerment, connecting with you guys in that way is really amazing for me, just as a Native woman."

Native men participate in the class as well. Two of them wear football padding and very reinforced helmets.

Michael Davis of the Turtle Mountain Tribe, whose traditional name is Fire Spirit, said he volunteered because too many Native women have had their "fire" taken away through violence. He has seen it firsthand.

"I have an auntie who could've definitely benefited [from this class]," Davis says. "She might still be alive today if she would've known these tactics, or that she could empower herself to say no, to step away or maybe fought back one time and deterred him and maybe made him think twice."

At the end of class, a song is sung that memorializes the lives of all missing, murdered Indigenous women:

We will always remember you warrior women and leader women. You are in our hearts and minds.

The class itself is a mandate for Native women to keep their fires burning.

https://www.npr.org/2020/01/31/800822827/self-defense-classes-help-...

'City of Women': A refuge for Colombia's displaced
By Megan Janetsky Turbaco, Colombia, BBC, 16 February 2020

During Colombia's more than half-century armed conflict, bloodshed between left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and the country's military forced nearly eight million people to flee their homes.

Women and Afro-Colombians in particular faced greater levels of violence in the conflict and would often arrive in far-off cities with nothing and no-one.

In an impoverished neighbourhood in the sweltering coastal city of Cartagena, a group of displaced women decided to do something about it.

They formed the League of Displaced Women and in 2003 began to construct their own community brick by brick: The City of Women.

The City, in the nearby municipality of Turbaco, is made up of 100 houses the women built with their own hands.

During Colombia's armed conflict, sexual violence and targeting of women were used to sow fear. Many of the women in the City are survivors of that violence.

It offers refuge to the women and their families who faced killings, rapes, threats and other violence both in their homes and during their displacement. All of the crimes against them remain in impunity.

That struggle has pushed them together and given them the power to push back against things like machismo, societal norms and stigmas against displaced people still prominent in much of the country.

"The war had taken our homes from us, it cut you from your customs, your dreams, your land."

Consuelo Villega Mendoza, 44, is from a town in the northern region of Sucre, and was forced to flee after paramilitaries began massacring communities near her home.

"It was only a matter of time until it happens to you," she said. "I left out of fear."

With her daughter she runs a restaurant out of the home she built. They are preparing mondongo, a Colombian soup.

"Being a part of the League of Displaced Women has helped me a lot because they have taught me how to move on. "

A plaque reading the "La Ciudad de las Mujeres" says that it turned the women's dream of a life with dignity into reality.

Women in the City have fought to get justice for the crimes committed against them, but all 159 cases of gender-based violence and displacement remain unresolved.

Alneris Orozco Caupo, 47, poses for a portrait in a mirror in her home in the City of Women. Originally from the north-western region of Cesar, she was forced to flee with her two young children more than 20 years ago due to the territorial conflict between paramilitaries and Farc rebels.

She proudly displays photos of her children graduating from high school and university, something she was never able to achieve due to the violence.

Elvia Bautista, 53, from the Córdoba region in Colombia shows a tiny hat she made out of fibres from the plants by her house.

Before she was forcibly displaced, she used to weave large traditional Colombian sombreros, but the plants from her home in Cordoba do not exist in the dry plains near Turbaco, so she does her best to weave and sell the small ones.

Erika Maria Gamarra Caro, 42, is from El Carmen de Bolívar and fled to Cartagena after members of her family were murdered during massacres carried out by right-wing paramilitaries as they fought left-wing Farc rebels.

She says that she was repeatedly sexually assaulted during her displacement but the League has helped her to recover.

"I realised I was a woman and that I had rights, and I began to demand them," she said. "Now, I'm not a shy woman, I'm not a woman unable to speak because of fear or the feeling that as a woman I'm not worth anything."

While building the homes, members of their community were killed, raped and threatened, but they say their finished city stands as a symbol of peaceful resistance.

Carmen Beluas, 45, fled from her home in Copey in the late 1990s after her husband was murdered by paramilitary forces who accused them of being affiliated with the guerrillas.

She left with her three children and arrived in Cartagena without knowing anyone. She says she will always remember how her husband was taken from her.

"It's something that will never go back to normal. I know I have my children, but there are still things I'll never forget."

Despite its name, the City of Women also has male residents. The women, often heads of household, created the city for their children and partners to live in and the community has grown as members started having their own families in the City of Women.

The husband and son of community leader Eidavis Montes care for her baby in the living room of her house.

Seven-year-old Shayla Monterlaza, the granddaughter of a displaced woman, studies in front of the community's school with her family.

The community is completely self-sufficient and has its own school, stores, restaurants and community centre for children like Shayla.

Eidavis Montes and fellow community leader Lubis Cardenas say the City has changed women's roles and outlook on life.
Image copyright Megan Janetsky

"Oftentimes women in the countryside are timid, they care for the children, tend to their husbands. If you don't know anything else you're always going to be in that role," Eidavis Montes says.

"This life we have created has taught me that I am a women with rights, that we can do other things."

As Colombia struggles to emerge from more than a half-century of armed conflict, the women in the city plan to tell their stories and seek justice before the country's transitional court system.

"This life we have created has taught me that I am a women with rights, that we can do other things, " Ms Montes adds.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-51443831

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