Originally appeared in Word in Black

Shanquella Robinson’s death shocked the nation and is keeping travelers and women on guard to stay safe. 

By Sherri Kolade and Rasha Almulaiki 

You already know her name. 

Shanquella Robinson.  

The bright, 25-year-old Charlotte woman who was tragically killed in Cabo, Mexico, while celebrating a friend’s birthday in late October with her reported friends, one of whom allegedly ended her life just 24 hours after arriving in Mexico.

Jealousy is as cruel as the grave and envy isn’t that far behind either. 

Were those the motivating factors behind the death of Robinson who had a big heart and was financially well off? Some are saying yes.  

Her parents were falsely notified that she died from alcohol intoxication, but an autopsy report, however an autopsy showed that she suffered a severe spinal cord injury and her neck vertebrae were misaligned.  

A video that was heavily circulated after her death revealed Robinson being brutally abused by a woman apparently in the rented home they were staying in, according to reports.  

One of the women in the group is a suspect in Robinson’s case, and Mexican prosecutors are requesting her extradition.  

Toxic Friends Forever? 

With one of Robinson’s friends a suspect, and with many murders nationwide being committed by someone the victim knows, it’s time to reexamine what toxic friendships really look like. 

Health.com reports that toxic friends can create a sometimes-devastating ripple effect

“When one friend is toxic, it can influence you, but you also have the ability to take some time away and interact with other friends,” said Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of “Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love.” In a bigger setting, people are more likely to succumb to “group act,” which intensifies these unhealthy behaviors. 

“People in a toxic group are more likely to act in toxic ways, even if that is not consistent with how they would act on their own,” Lombardo says. “In a sense, there is greater toxicity in the group.” 

According to CNN, femicide is the “deliberate murder of women because they are women” and an arrest warrant for it was issued last week, according to Daniel de la Rosa, the attorney general for Baja California Sur. 

Femicide or Homicide? 

The well-to-do Robinson, a businesswoman, model and social media influencer, died in October while vacationing at a Baja California Sur rental property. Black Information Network reported her death as being investigated in Mexico as femicide, a gender-motivated crime that has yet to be defined by U.S. legislation. 

Although authorities later changed the crime from femicide to homicide, there is still much justice to be done with female murder victims in Mexico and beyond.  

Femicides can fall into two categories: intimate, which refers to the killing of women by current or ex-partners, and non-intimate, a slaying in which women have had no intimate relationship with their killers. There could also be a history of violence and threats, or “if the victim was in community, for example, and if she was killed and her body was in public,” said Beatriz García Nice, who leads a gender-based violence initiative at the Wilson Center. 

Alejandra Marquez, a professor at Michigan State University, said the “feminicidos” crisis in Mexico first garnered national attention in the 1990s when hundreds of women were killed near the border. 

“There used to be this idea, especially in central Mexico, where it was like ‘women are getting killed over there at the border,’ but because it’s expanded all over the country, it’s sort of become this phenomenon that can no longer be ignored,” Marquez told CNN. 

In the U.S., there is no differentiation between femicide and homicide in criminal law. Mexico, however, is among at least 16 countries that consider femicide a specific crime. Though the U.S. doesn’t have legislation differentiating femicide from homicide, experts say killings targeting women are still happening across the nation. 

“Femicides happen all the time in the US, and many famous murder cases that we all have in our consciousness are actually femicide, but we don’t put that label on them,” said Dabney P. Evans, director of Emory University’s Center for Humanitarian Emergencies. “As a society, we need to recognize that these are not one-off deaths. These are, in fact, connected to patterns of masculine violence, and we need to think more closely about preventing that kind of violence.” 

Yet, while there are laws in place against femicide in Mexico, “the main problem is the execution,” García Nice said, noting that nearly 95 percent of femicide cases in Mexico go unpunished. 

“If you commit a crime of femicide, there’s really not that much of a chance for you to get convicted for it,” she said. “And that’s one of the reasons why we see that rates are still very, very high.” 

Be Prepared: Traveling Safely as Black Women 

As women of color, traveling alone or in a group is an experience saddled with an extra layer for caution due to potential risks of discrimination and personal safety, both domestically and abroad.  

Imani Elie is the founder and operator of Detroit Travel Company, a Black-owned independent travel agony, which also offers travel merchandise, concierge and event planning and management services.  

When recommending travel locations, Elie said she often suggests places she has visited more than once and had a good experience as a Black woman. 

“Belize is somewhere a lot of Black Americans can go and feel like they’re at home because there’re so many darker skinned people and natural Black people that are there,” said Elie. “It’s a very mixed country but English is one of their number one languages. I’d more than likely someone go to Central America, where I’ve had positive experiences.”  

Since 2016, Elie has advised new and experienced travelers from Detroit and other cities across the U.S. between the ages of 25 to 35, and most recently, women aged 35 to 44 on group travels.  

“Whether they are alone or in a group, I always want to make sure they’re in a reputable, well-established location, four or five stars if there’s a resort. Most people do like the all-inclusive option because it offers everything right there on location and they don’t have to leave. There are also options of private estates that have security and are gated with different services, like transportation.” 

Elie strongly advises people to consider properties that are run by a U.S.-based hospitality service or property management company.  

“We’ve seen situations in the last three years where locally owned, private residences don’t have security or safeguards put in place, like for carbon monoxide poisoning or unauthorized hidden cameras on site,” said Elie. “I want everyone to have the full transparency of their safety at the forefront of their mind at all times.” 

Another safety measure to keep in mind is to consume alcohol responsibly in public so that you are not vulnerable to scams. 

“You never want to stick out or be inebriated in public where you can’t take care of yourself,” said Elie.” It’s not necessarily for physical safety, but a financial risk.  Someone might try to scam you or upcharge you because they think you don’t know any better.”  

Before leaving the U.S. travelers should share their travel plans with a trusted emergency contact. Also, sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program system with the U.S. State Department to receive security updates and be registered in the system in case you need assistance.