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Raped and pregnant at 13, Argentine woman tracks down her son, fights for justice

The dark, gloomy house near the fields had a dim room with bunkbeds. The people there placed me on the bottom bunk. I felt tremendous pain and did not understand what was happening to me. I gave birth to Marcos that night but never saw him.

  • 4 months ago
  • December 10, 2022
8 min read
Romina Rizzaro with her son, Marcos Romina Rizzaro with her son, Marcos | Photo Courtesy of Marcos family
Romina Rizzaro
Interview Subject
Romina Rizzaro endured years of rape by her stepfather starting at eight years old. She had a child from him, named Marcos, who was taken away at birth. In time, Romina pursued cases against her perpetrators including her mother. She managed to rebuild her life as a survivor.
Background Information
A total of 2,658 calls for reasons of child sexual abuse were received by Line 102 for specialized attention on the rights of children between October 2020 and September 2022 in Argentina. The number has doubled in the previous nine months, according to data from the National Secretariat for Children.

Trigger Warning: The following story contains graphic content including detailed recollections of rape, pregnancy, and suicide. It may be difficult for some readers.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — At five years old, my parents separated and mother, if I can call her that, met a man who began abusing me at eight. The abuse continued for five years.

It started with groping – common for many child victim’s of sexual abuse. In time, he began taking me for naps. By the time I realized what was happening, he was already raping me. My mother did nothing. At the age of 13, I became pregnant with my son Marcos.

Reliving the painful night when I gave birth

In 1993, as a seventh grader, my belly began to grow. Nobody at school said or did anything. When my pregnancy became apparent, my mother took me to a clinic for an abortion, but it was too late in my term.

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We went to see a doctor whom I visited twice in my life: one for the ultrasound and once for childbirth. On a winter night on July 23, 1993, I went into labor. Cold, shaking, and in pain, my mother took me to a house somewhere outside of town in the middle of the night.

The dark, gloomy house near the fields had a dim room with bunkbeds. The people there placed me on the bottom bunk. I felt tremendous pain and did not understand what was happening to me.

After I gave birth to Marcos that night, I never saw him. I never got to see my son. They took him the moment he came out and whisked him away. I never held him in my arms. His cries echoed from afar as they left me alone in the bed. I cried myself to sleep.

After Marcos’ birth, the rapes stopped, and everyone pretended like nothing happened.

Enduring a life of trauma after the child abuse

I felt ashamed to talk about what happened, not knowing what people might think of me. I felt dirty and outraged. My own body seemed disgusting to me. Over the years, I came to understand I bore no fault in what happened to me. These people stripped me of enjoying a normal childhood. I had no adolescence to speak of.

Like a well fills, I began accumulating harmful thoughts and by the age of 16, I attempted suicide for the first time. The use of a stomach pump kept me alive. Still, I remained unable to speak about the child abuse I endured. A few years later, I finally fell in love, but trauma struck again. My partner died in a traffic accident at the age of 27.

Click here for a list of suicide prevention hotlines around the world.

child abuse argentina
A childhood photo of Romina | Photo Courtesy of Romina Rizzaro

A time came when I could no longer emerge from the pit in my head. I could barely breathe. The suicide attempts progressed to using weapons. I put a gun in my mouth but could not pull the trigger. I no longer cared about anything.

Then, in 2011, I found a new psychologist and told them everything for the first time in my life. Twenty-three years had passed since the start of my abuse. By telling my story, I felt empowered to start the judicial battle – a path I hoped would have two results. I wanted to find Marcos and wanted those responsible to pay for what they did. While justice has not yet been served to the perpetrators, through ingenuity and investigation, I found my son.

Searching for my son after two decades

Patience and data led me to the baby I birthed so many years before. In an argument with my mother, she divulged his name: Marcos. At first, they lied and told me that a family from Santiago del Estero adopted him, but I found out Marcos always lived in Presidente Derqui in Pilar. I also discovered he had been listed as my mother’s son, not mine.

In 2016, Marcos, who is 27 years old today, received a “notification of identity theft” and began to put together the pieces of his own story. He learned about the rape and that his adoption was a form of identity theft. He also discovered I was looking for him.

Marcos later told me about the day his adoptive parents – a Uruguayan couple – sat him down in the living room and explained his adoption. “You are a product of an affair your father had with a girl,” they told him. His adoptive parents eventually separated and he left home. Years passed before he found out about me.

I never forgot the date I gave birth to my baby, and I kept that in mind. The man who raped me had relatives in a rural area of Derqui and I began to wonder if it could be the place where they took me that night. I could see the field in my memories. So, one day, I called the Derqui Civil Registry. I lied and said my mother died but had a child out of wedlock, and I wanted to give him his part of the inheritance.

I finally learned my son’s identity

Whether luck or providence, the registry official on the phone replied, “Yes, here is the birth certificate.” They gave me new information. My son had a name: Marcos Lucas Ramón Otero.

With that piece of paper and the new information in my possession, I did three specific things. First, I filed a complaint with the Pacheco Prosecutor’s Office. Next, I went on Facebook to see what Marcos looked like. I worried I might see my rapists’ face on my son. Third, I asked a friend to make up a reason and call him. I just wanted to hear his voice. It took two more years of knocking on doors. In March 2015, I asked again for my records and found out my case had been stored away. The ball continued to pass from court to court.

Since my son’s birth certificate had the doctor’s information on it, I googled her, checking where she worked and her license plate number. I filed yet another complaint and the case moved to court number one in Campana. The judge finally ordered a DNA test to determine whether Marcos and I were mother and son. A notification came bearing my name, asking me to appear in court for a case on identity theft of a minor.

Fighting for justice, after all these years

When the DNA results came back it proved 99.9 percent that Marcos was my son. We met for the first time in court. Though strangers to each other, we went for coffee in front of the Plaza de la Catedral de Campana. That first meeting proved anything but warm. We sat across from each other hurting, innocent, and afraid, with so much to heal. We could not simply remove that history from one moment into the next.

While not a blur, the reunion became instead a pardon. Marcos went on to work for a year at Capilla del Señor and he spent that year thinking about where he stood. He considered what he and I both needed and came to a clear answer. We needed justice.

Our purpose remains the same. We want to be happy and enjoy life, but we also want to end this tragedy once and for all. For the damage they caused us, we hope those who hurt us will pay what they owe.

Romina with her son, Marcos | Photo Courtesy of Marcos family

With the passing of years, my abuser died so we could not pursue the crime of rape, but we could do something about the identity theft. Even today, Marcos lives with the false identity assigned to him. We identified three people to pursue and denounce, who participated in this plot with my abuser.

Those three people include my mother who appears on the birth certificate; one of the foster parents who also became listed as a biological parent; and the doctor who participated in Marcos’ birth.

Ensuring rightful conviction for the damage they caused

They arrived at the courtroom at the oral trial having been subjected to preventative detention. The judge handed down a conviction: abduction of a child under 10 years of age, retention and concealment, alteration of the marital status of a child under 10, and ideological falsehood of a public instrument.

The judge gave my mother four years and six months in prison. the doctor received four years in prison and three years of disqualification from being a doctor. The appropriator of Marcos also received four years.

Despite the win, their time behind bars fails to repair the damage they caused, so I appealed. They could have gotten up to 15 years but instead, received the bare minimum sentence. They got to live fabulous lives – traveling, loving, and making decisions freely. I did not; I never got to choose the life I had.

My biggest regret remains not starting my pursuit of justice sooner, and not seeing my rapist convicted before he died; but three people are alive today. We have time. These people defiled me, and my body, and I want them to pay. I will never, ever forget.

Translation Disclaimer

Translations provided by Orato World Media are intended to result in the end translated document being understandable in the end language. Although every effort is made to ensure our translations are accurate we cannot guarantee the translation will be without errors.

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