A recent report asserts that nearly 46 percent of all female firefighters in Chile have been abused by the institution. Yo Te Creo! presented these figures to the Lower House’s Emergency, Disaster and Fire Commission. To date, firefighters is the institution best valued by Chileans.
A report on gender violence among firefighters indicates that 46 percent of Chile’s female firefighters have suffered sexual abuse within the institution and 13 individuals have been raped. The report also indicates that 9 percent of respondents have considered self-harm or suicide.
The report was issued by Yo Te Creo! (I Believe You!), a foundation that seeks to prevent gender-based discrimination and abuse through education, advice, and management. The study, conducted by Yo Te Creo!’s member and resident doctor of psychiatry, Claudio López Núñez, interviewed a total of 392 firefighters, between the ages of 15 and 50, which represent 5 percent of the total among the national fire department, according to the figures provided by the National Board of Firefighters of Chile in 2019.
Marco Hormazábal, a collaborator with Yo Te Creo!, delivered the findings to the Emergency, Disasters and Firefighters Commission of the Chamber of Representatives. As many as 85 percent (334) of the female firefighters interviewed said they had suffered violence, harassment, or abuse of non-sexual nature. When specifically asked about sexual harassment, defined as “non-concentrated sexual requirements made by a member of greater or equal hierarchy,” 64 percent (250) said they had experienced it.
Regarding physical violence, 10 percent said they had suffered some type of direct physical aggression, and 12 of those surveyed said they had a degree of disability. When speaking to the consequences caused by these events, 9 percent said they had suffered suicidal thoughts, 22 percent had sought pharmacological therapy and 19 percent, some type of psychological intervention.
Highly hierarchical body
Biobio Chile had access to the physical report, adding that 29 percent of “fire departments have disciplined women who have reported these events and even imposed sanctions in 18 percent of the cases.”
The profile of the aggressor was also defined: the study reflects that in 74 percent of the cases the aggressor was another higher-ranking firefighter. This situation is “troubling,” says Hormazábal, because to speak of firefighters is to speak of a highly hierarchical body.
María José Abud, Undersecretary of Women and Gender Equity, thanked the foundation for its work and emphasized that this is “a reality that is not different from various institutions in the country,” circumstances she called, “worrying,” echoing Hormazábal.
Even so, Abud said, progress has been made, such as the creation of a Protocol for the Fire Departments of Chile in case of complaints of sexual harassment and/or abuse or a change in the statute of firefighters of Santiago, among others.
No women allowed
But the president of the commission, Representative Marite Orsini, responded to Abud’s statements by underscoring that “unfortunately the data tells us that they [the steps towards progress] have not been effective.” “What is the point of the Santiago fire brigade modifying the statute in terms of nondiscrimination, when half of the companies of the Stgo corps discriminate in terms of access and do not even allow women to enter the ranks?”, she wrote.
Orsini stressed that there are currently 48 companies that prohibit women from their ranks, such as the Estación Central, to which she added, “I don’t know if there is another body that does not allow the entry of women into the country.”
Bomberos de Chile (the country’s firefighter institution) is the highest rated institution in the country, according to the Cadem survey published in May. It has a 99 percent approval rating in Chile.
Nelson Quiroz is Chile Today´s photographer. He also writes about youth culture and fashion, and often contributes with photo series during marches and protests.