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Opinion

A letter from a Latina immigrant to her rapist

Leticia Soto, an undocumented immigrant, was raped by her supervisor in a Los Angeles building where she worked as a janitor. Soto's is one of many cases of migrant women who are sexually assaulted while working late at night. In California, these incidents are brought to light in by a campaign called "End Rape on the Night Shift."
15 Sep 2016 – 3:04 PM EDT

Remember me? I am the invisible woman. I am the woman you raped that night nine years ago. I am the woman whose body you marked with your punches, scratches and bites while you raped me. I still carry the scars of your bites on my breasts. Since that night, I have lived with a festering wound in my soul, with a body that carries fear.

Remember me? I was someone long before you took my body, which did not belong to you. You never knew who Leticia was and is because you never saw me as a human being. I was a woman who had already lived through achievements and challenges. I am a single mother who worked in Mexico City to support her three children. I am a woman who would sacrifice everything for her children. Like many others, one day I sought hope in "The North." I naively believed I would find the "American Dream" for myself and my children. And it was that hope that took me to the building where you worked.

Remember me? I was that happy and hopeful woman who arrived at the building with the dream of honest work and to give children a decent life. I remember my first day like it was yesterday. I felt lucky and enthusiastic. I imagined myself singing through the hallways of prestigious skyscrapers in Los Angeles. I arrived on time, with my uniform washed and ironed, ready to clean the offices and toilets of the wealthiest, most educated people, and perhaps even some celebrities.

Remember me? Remember the first words out of your mouth when you first saw me? I do. You said, “They finally sent me something good.” With those six words I felt all my illusions collapse.

I am the woman who always avoided you in the hallways. The woman you ogled, from head to toe, with your devil eyes. The woman you approached in isolated parts of the building, suddenly appearing behind her like a ghost.

Remember me? I remember you. I remember the day you came over to where I was cleaning and you asked me, " Is your insurance good, Leticia? Are you an illegal?" I felt a shiver go through my whole body, and I knew my life would change. But I held on. You continued with the intimidation, and told me, “No one likes illegals here. They are nothing, garbage. How many illegals wouldn't want what you have here?”

Remember me? That's when, at that very instant, on a dark and cold night, I finally knew that the day I dreaded so much had arrived. I remember your words, and your devil eyes, when you said, "Today is the day you are going to give me the best you have. I can't wait any more to make you mine."


Remember me? You dropped your pants. You grabbed my breasts, ripping my uniform. I still remember the sound of the buttons ripping off and falling on the floor. I was fighting you, and you were trying to take off my bra. You almost broke my arm, trying to take it off. Remember the bra? It fastened in front, and you couldn't get it off. Now it seems absurd, but while I still had that bra on I had some hope that this wasn't happening, that it wouldn't happen. But it happened. You finally did it, and the bra hung from my left arm.

I covered my breasts with my hands, and that's when you pulled my hair and threw me to the ground. I screamed, "NO! NO! NO!" But you said, "No one will hear you." You were on top of me. You were very heavy and I couldn't move. The more I struggled, the angrier you became, first trying to kiss me by force and then biting me. "Relax and you will like it, and I will let you keep working here, and I will make sure you always have your job. Shut up," you told me. You put your hands over my mouth, but I was still fighting, and I bit you.

Remember me? You told me, "You bit me, you bitch," and the punches started. With your breath on my neck, you punched me in the head. Again. And again. After the third punch I blacked out. I remember the sound of my head hitting the floor. I felt the pain, but I couldn't move. I was frozen. I felt your hands taking off my pants and then I felt you penetrating me. I still remember the smell of your disgusting breath on my ear while you took what was not yours.

Remember me? I felt horrible scratches when you dug your nails under my breasts with your hands. I couldn't move my body. Like a rabid dog, you bit my left breast with savage force. I will never forget the violent force of your hands on my breasts, obsessed with them like a wild dog that found its first meal.

Remember my screams? My screams, which filled the offices the wealthiest, most educated people, and perhaps even some celebrities. But no one could hear me, because they don't work at midnight. The pain was unbearable. My screams mixed with my pain. When you were done, I could finally move. "Damn you," I screamed at you. "Why did you do this?"

"Because sluts like you always want some," you said. And I told you, "I'm going to report you. I'm going to the police." You answered, "Oh sure, take this. Call them now," and gave me your cell. "You know what, why don't I call them and tell them what you did to me? You're the one who is going to be deported. No one will believe you."

Remember me? That's when I got the urge to run away, to escape. But my sense of responsibility hit me, and the only thing I could think of was to hand over the keys to the office. How ironic, don't you think? That after you forced yourself violently inside me, raping me and committing a crime, I was thinking about not breaking your contract.

Perhaps my subconscious was trying to protect what little dignity I had left, perhaps that showed the fear and control you always had over me as my supervisor. Or maybe I thought you would use any excuse to call the police and have me deported.

I remember that I threw the keys at you with what little force I had left and ran away as I put on my clothes. I left in tears, your sweat and smell marking me. I thought only of my children, alone at home.

When I finally got to the lobby, I just looked for the exit doors. I felt dirty, just like you told me, like garbage that smells, an illegal who no one in this country wants.

I walked a long time and finally got to a bus stop. I was like a zombie. I got off the bus on Wilshire and Alvarado. I walked for almost one hour. Near my house I noticed a black car was following me. Two men got out and threatened me, pushed me around and told me, "Stay quiet." They told me to say nothing, or they would find me and kill me. Do you know them? Were they your relatives? Maybe your cousins? I still wonder about that.

Remember me? You took what was not yours. I bathed with hot water for hours, trying to wash away your scratches and bites. I scrubbed hard, trying to get you off me. When I came out of the bathroom my children were awake. I had to help them get ready for school. It was six in the morning. "What's wrong mami?" they asked me. "Nothing, children," I said.

Remember me? I didn't know what to do. Finally, shaking, I picked up the phone and called the company. I told the woman in human resources that you had attacked me and that you had assaulted me. They told me that no, that they had never received any complaints about you, that you were a good supervisor and that if I didn't want to go back to the same building working for you, there would be no work for me.

Remember me? I stopped working. I fell into a depression that even today I find hard to overcome. I was desperate because I couldn't feed my children and I was defeated, inside and out.

Remember me? I got to the point where every day I could only think of suicide. But how could I leave without my children? And would I have the strength to take them with me to heaven?

Remember me? Unfortunately, I remember you.

You harassed me.

You threatened me.

You groped me.

You forced me.

You hurt me.

You punished me.

You punched me.

You penetrated me.

You marked me.

You raped me.

You almost killed me. But you didn't succeed. And you didn't break me.

I lived nine years in silence. And I didn't report you to the authorities. I never went to a hospital, afraid they would call police. I never went to the police, afraid they would call immigration. And we all know what happens when immigration comes knocking – separation from your children, and deportation.

You didn't pay for your crime. And I never had a day in court when I could read this letter to you.

Unfortunately, I'm not a student at a prestigious university. I don't work in an important profession. I'm still just a janitor, working the night shift.

I decided to break my silence because I have a daughter, and if this happens to her someday, I want her to know that she's not garbage. That she does not have to remain silent, because the world will listen to her and will believe her. That she has rights.

With this letter, I start a new journey to take back my life and heal the wounds that will always be with me, but which do not define who I am.

I am a brave woman, an activist, an immigrant. I am a survivor.

And on behalf of myself and all the other invisible cleaning women on the night shift, today I tell you, “Enough!”

Humbly yours,

Leticia Soto

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