Guest Article by Micha Green
On Wednesday May 29, Nancy Cárdenas Peña appeared in court to fight a defamation lawsuit filed by her former partner and abuser Alejandro Caceres.
Caceres is a former immigrant rights organizer and a known abuser in Austin, TX who was fired from the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership after his abuse against Peña came to light late last year. His opportunistic and chauvinist behavior towards other women organizers was published in a booklet in February by Popular Women’s Movement – Movimiento Feminino Popular, naming abusers and macktivists in organizing spaces. Rather than respond to the call to publicly admit his abuse and actively work to redeem himself, he is continuing his attacks in court.
This lawsuit is a blatant attempt by Caceres to punish his former partner for speaking out by dragging her through the court system and subjecting her to an onslaught of legal fees. Legal retaliation in an effort to make women regret coming forward about their abuse is all too common. Additionally, Caceres needlessly outed her abortion in the court documents.
Brazenly vengeful and flimsy in court, Caceres claimed to be filing for defamation because Peña’s social media “smear campaign” cost him his job and he had to seek treatment for mental health issues caused by the incident. Peña’s lawyer was quick to point out that she only went public well after Grassroots Leadership had completed its investigation and fired Caceres. In fact, it was Grassroots’ failure to make a statement in the first place that put the burden on Peña.
“And so, the burden of explaining and dispelling rumors that Alejandro continued to spread on the community fell to me. To describe my trauma, present receipts, and continue to relive this nightmare repeatedly. And so here I am,” Peña wrote in a post.
After her social media post was up, Grassroots did make a statement, but left Caceres’s name out of it completely while including Peña’s.
The basis of Caceres’s case was an attempt to paint Peña as crazy, vengeful, and attention-seeking, pointing to mental health issues prior to their relationship as a means to discredit her as a witness and dismiss all her statements of abuse as hyperbole. The toll of Caceres’s abuse on Peña’s mental health landed her on suicide watch, making his premise for the lawsuit, stress to his own mental health allegedly caused by her going public about his abusive actions, beyond hypocritical and backwards. Caceres is checking off every box on the abuser’s guide to punishing women who speak out.
After Caceres’s scumbag lawyer fumbled through a muddled timeline of events and tried to read a series of text exchanges from a year and a half before the incident under discussion, the judge told him he had already received the evidence they submitted and didn’t need it read to him. The judge later stated he didn’t think Peña’s testimony was necessary to be convinced of her credibility as a witness.
The judge did not make a ruling that day but has thirty days to make a decision or the action will be denied. Peña’s lawyer was optimistic.
As soon as the hearing adjourned, Caceres was rushed to the elevator by his lawyer and lone supporter, obviously squeamish under the glares of women who knew of his abuse.
Meanwhile, it was clear by the filled seats behind Peña in the courtroom that she has a community of friends and family as well as the support of the women of Austin.
Peña has bravely continued to fight and refused to be silenced. Because of her courage a precedent is being set: abusers will not get to punish women and escape the consequences of their actions. All over Austin, flyers from Popular Women’s Movement can be seen warning women of Alejandro Caceres and making it clear that abusers will not be allowed to feel comfortable or be tolerated in this community.