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Latina candidate for Congress shares story of sexual abuse in a video

Sol Flores, the only woman in the Democratic primary in her Chicago area district, recounts the sexual assault she suffered as a child in a campaign video. The spot will air during the Oscars pre-show on March 4.
12 Feb 2018 – 09:57 AM EST
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A Chicago area candidate for Congress, who is the daughter of Puerto Ricans and the only woman in the Democratic primary race, is sharing her own Me Too story in a new campaign video.

Sol Flores, the founding executive director of La Casa Norte, a community group serving homeless youth and families in Chicago, says she was sexually abused when she was a girl by a man who lived with her family and would enter her room at night.

“He’d come in and get very close to me in the middle of the night, and he’d startle me awake,” she says in the video, which was partly filmed in her childhood bedroom. “Sometimes he’d be touching himself. Sometimes he tried to lift my nightgown and touch me and other things that I won’t share right now.”

In a statement to Univision, Flores said she hopes the video helps other Latinas see themselves in her, to “take back our voice and take back control of our bodies and stories.”

“Often times in the Latino community this type of abuse is swept under the rug. Far too often girls are not believed,” she said. “We want people to know that we are no longer just victims. In fact, we are survivors. While terrible things may happen to us, these things do not define us.”

A 40-second spot will air during the Oscars pre-show on March 4. The full, five-minute version of the video is now online.

Flores, a first-time political candidate, announced in November that she was running for the open seat currently held by retiring incumbent Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez. The district is over 70 percent Hispanic, including Mexican, Puerto Rican and Central American sections of Chicago and nearby suburbs.

If elected, she would be the first Latina ever to represent Illinois in Congress.

She is running in the primary against Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a county board commissioner and former Chicago mayoral candidate, and Richard Gonzalez, a Chicago police sergeant.

Flores’ parents and grandparents came to Chicago from Puerto Rico in the 1950s and 60s, and worked in menial jobs. Flores was raised by a single mother; her father was a drug user and died when she was a young girl.

In the video, Flores explains how she decided to combat the abuse in 1984, when she was 11.

“I was at school at art class and we had the opportunity to build stuff and I thought to myself I can build a chest, a box, something to protect myself. I painted it, I painted flowers on it, it was bright colors that I love. I brought the chest home and I filled it with books … and I’d take the chest and at night I’d put it against that door, when the door was shut. And when this man tried to come into the bedroom the chest was like an alarm so I’d hear it as it pushed against the carpet and it startled me awake and I’d yell, I’d say ‘get out of my room,’ or ‘leave me alone’ … and he’d leave.”

Flores told Univision that building the chest showed her that she could fight back and protect herself, and that she was “independent and strong.” It also taught her how important it is to have a safe home. That informed her life path.

“The work I do today is about protecting children and families and making sure kids feel safe in their homes,” she said. “I chose to share this story now because I think it's critically important that voters understand the type of leader that I am. I want them to know about the things that happened in my life that helped shape my identity and that inform who I am and why I do the work that I do today.”

Flores has served on the board of directors at the Latino Policy Forum, The Chicago Low Income Housing Trust Fund and Hispanic Housing Development Corporation. In December, she was endorsed by EMILY’s List. The primary election takes place on March 20, 2018.