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Natalia, the witness, gives her account to a TV news station as video shows some of the accused after being arrested
Natalia, the witness, gives her account to a TV news station as video shows some of the accused after being arrested | Screenshot courtesy of www.ip.digital

Bakery owner witnesses gang rape in Palermo Soho neighborhood of Buenos Aires

The woman thanked me for saving her over and over again. She said, "I'm from Tigre. I was going to take the bus, and I don't know how I ended up in the car... they were raping me, they were raping me!"

Natalia
Interview Subject
Natalia, a merchant in the Palermo Soho neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina who witnessed the assault of a young woman last week by a group of men and intervened.
Background Information
Buenos Aires police arrested six men between the ages of 20-24 on Feb. 28, 2022 after witnesses said they saw them sexually assaulting a 20-year-old woman in a parked car.

The witnesses called police and and rescued the woman, who appeared to be heavily intoxicated; investigators later confirmed she had been drugged. She was transported to the hospital and the six men—Ángel Pascual Ramos, Lautaro Pasotti, Ignacio Retondo, Alexis Cuzzoni, Tomás Domínguez, and Franco Lykan—remain in custody.

Argentina’s Ministry of National Security recorded 5,613 reported rapes and 20,950 sexual assaults in 2020, both figures that have steadily increased since 2015.

Content Warning: The following story contains graphic description of sexual assault.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina—On Feb. 28, I was working with my husband in the bakery like any other day.

That afternoon, we saw, on Calle Serrano, four young men and a girl in a Volkswagen Gol parked next to the sidewalk. The car had been parked since early in the day.

First, we noticed there was a woman and a man that seemed to us at first were taking part in a sexual act and being careless, especially due to daylight, but we soon realized that it was not, that there were more men inside the vehicle, and that the girl was disoriented. These monsters were abusing this defenseless woman.

Stepping in to prevent further abuse

There was a guy with dreadlocks and a green shirt who grabbed the girl by the hair, clearly forcing her to perform oral sex, and two other men were behind her. She also made “help” gestures with her hands.

I called the police. My husband and I intervened first—we battled with these men until the police arrived. A neighbor also stepped in; the men beat him and my husband, and I tried to defend us with a broom.

The woman thanked me for saving her over and over again. She said, “I’m from Tigre. I was going to take the bus, and I don’t know how I ended up in the car… they were raping me, they were raping me!”

The girl seemed very intoxicated—when she got out of the car after we managed to open the door and tried to grab her arm to save her, she still couldn’t even stand up. The poor thing was standing there with her underwear and pants down. The men from the car also had their pants down, and very calmly were fixing themselves on public roads.

The men showed no remorse

My neighbors told me that two additional men were acting as a “bell” (distraction) outside the car, singing and playing the guitar, while inside the vehicle the four others were sexually abusing the girl.

After the police arrived and handcuffed them all, they sat on the ground for some time, laughing. I don’t think they realized how awful it was, what they did to that poor girl.

Living in fear after speaking up

I have never lived such an intimate, intense experience. After this, I had to ask the court to intervene for me as a witness and provide me with an anti-panic button. I received threats for having spoken about this in the media, and above all for having tried to help the girl. Today, there are always police at the door of my bakery.

In the last few days I haven’t been sleeping well—I have nightmares and anxiety. When I leave my house or my business, I look both ways because I am afraid of what might happen to me.

The girl’s relatives also asked me not to talk to the media anymore out of respect, but I had already given up all the information I had to give.

Despite the threats, some neighbors and customers have supported me—they are aware of the implication of sexist violence and rape. Some enter the bakery to buy and first, they thank us for what we did, saying that they have daughters and wives.

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I am Rita Piris, an Argentine journalist and audiovisual communicator. I'm interested in technology and data visualization and convinced that access to information technologies is a means of democratizing information and culture.