Show us some love

Help others find out about Radio Ambulante. Leave us a review on iTunes

Leave a review

Episode 50

Share on social media: circletwitterbird circlefacebook circlereddit circletumblr

No safe place

Mariana lives by herself in a house in Tijuana and now and then rents rooms to tourists or travelers. One day, one of those visitors crossed a line, and invaded her privacy. She decided to do something about it — but not exactly in the way that you might expect.

You can read a Spanish transcript of the episode, it’s useful if you’re learning the language with this podcast.

Or you can also read an English translation.

If you want to get our new episodes via Whatsapp, please text us at +573229502192. You can also join Radio Ambulante’s Facebook group to discuss with others around each week’s story.



Translation by Patrick Moseley

[Daniel Alarcón, host]: One, two, three. One, two, three. Okay. Eliseo, what’s the biggest number you know?

[Eliseo]: 10.

[Daniel]: 10? And what number is bigger than 10?

[Eliseo]: 100.

[Daniel]: The story you’re about to hear is very special for Radio Ambulante: with this episode we are celebrating 100 episodes. One hundred episodes. That’s a lot, even more if you consider that each one has meant months of work. But the truth is that it’s gone by really quickly for us. In part because we love telling stories, but also because we’ve been able to count on every one of you. It’s because of our listener community that Radio Ambulante makes sense.

That’s why we wanted to invite you to join the celebration. We got more than 100 voice messages on WhatsApp! We want to share some of them with you. We’re impressed by the wide range of places where people listen…

[Listeners]: San Francisco, United States. From Heredia, Costa Rica. Querétaro, Mexico. Oxford, Mississippi. From Taiwan. Lima, Peru. From Buga, in Cauca Valley, Colombia. Washington D. C. Santiago de Chile. Bogota. Oklahoma City. From Venezuela. From Munich, in Germany. From Madrid, Spain. Melbourne, Australia. San Jose, California. From, Delft, the Netherlands. From Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic!

[Daniel]: And not just that…

[Listener]: When I listen to Radio Ambulante, I feel happy, excited…

[Listener]: I feel more connected to my Latin people.

[Listener]: I feel brotherhood…

[Listener]: Recognizing the similarities…

[Listener]: So many things that connect us and so few that separate us.

[Listener]: From such different people every week. From completely different places.

[Listener]: I connect with Mexicans, Brazilians, Argentinians.

[Listener]: Latin American countries that I haven’t been able to learn about.

[Listener]: It’s like putting on virtual reality headphones.

[Listener]: It’s a magic box that lets me see what I’m hearing.

[Listener]: It’s so immersive and nice that you become a totally faithful listener.

[Listener]: It’s a Latin American voice that I was missing.

[Listener]: It’s quality journalism.

[Listener]: Lucid and sensible.

[Listener]: We listen to Radio Ambulante with every new group of communication students and that day, everyone wants to talk.

[Listener]:  It’s close to people, with human stories and infinite topics.

[Listener]: It shows us that in a charmed world, there are still people out there who have more problems than we do.

[Listener]: They make a great effort to have a show that’s inclusive and they try to see from many points of view.

[Listener]: Every episode, even when you live in Latin America, reminds you of how wonderful it is, how little we know about it, how human we are, and how great the people are. Thank you for so much.

[Listener]: Happy 100th episode!

[Listener]: Happy 100th episode!

[Listener]:]: Happy 100th episode, Radio Ambulante! I hope there are many, many more.

[Children]: Happy 100th episode Radio Ambulante!

[Daniel]: Well, not all of our listeners are so far away. Some live pretty close to our offices.

Radio Ambulante just released its 100th episode. What do you think?

[Eliseo]: Good.

[Daniel]: What else?

[Eliseo]: It’s nice.

[Daniel]: Essentially. All this seems really nice… So, on behalf of the whole Radio Ambulante team, thank you very much.

And here’s the episode…

Welcome to Radio Ambulante, from NPR. I’m Daniel Alarcón.

[Mariana Martínez, producer]: Well, I’m Maria Martínez Estens. I’m a journalist and I have a yoga studio in Tijuana.

[Daniel]: Mariana lives in a house that used to belong to her grandparents. She lives alone. Well, alone in a manner of speaking, since she lives with a cat, two turtles, two rabbits and a chicken. And this house…

[Mariana]: Has two rooms other than mine. I’ve been renting them out for a long time, inviting people to stay here with me.

It’s been very interesting because I’ve come across all kinds of characters. People who come for medical tourism in Tijuana. People who come to visit their relatives.

[Daniel]: It’s a very common business now. People open their homes up to strangers, renting a room to people they barely know or they only know from a short internet profile. And, generally speaking, it’s gone really well for Mariana.

[Mariana]: People generally have been clean and organized. Since they come to Tijuana for shopping or as tourists, they’re never in the house, you know?

[Camila Segura, Radio Ambulante’s Senior Editor]: Temporary tenants. No hassle. Easy money. That’s how it normally works.

[Daniel]: That’s our Senior Editor, Camila Segura.

[Camila]: But in October of 2017, that changed.

[Daniel]: When a man arrived who Mariana somewhat knew. He was a friend of a friend.

Camila’s going to tell us why.

[Camila]: It all started when Mariana’s friend, Patricio, who they call Pato, told her that he had a friend who was coming from another city. He was looking for a place in Tijuana to give a workshop. They decided to do it in the space she used for yoga lessons.

[Mariana]: And we had 4 workshops with him that were very successful.

[Camila]: It was two weeks of workshops.

[Mariana]: He didn’t stay here. He stayed at our mutual friend’s house. It’s three blocks from here.

[Camila]: And it went perfectly.

[Mariana]: Everyone was satisfied, myself included. And the interaction was the most natural, the most relaxed.

[Camila]: All very friendly, very cordial. They even became Facebook friends and connected over WhatsApp.

About 3 month later, he contacted her again because he wanted to go back to Tijuana to give another two-day workshop. Since he knew that she rented rooms, he asked if he could stay in her house for three nights.

[Mariana]: I don’t see any problem with that. I tell him how much I charge per night for the room. He tells me that’s fine.

[Camila]: And it was all set. He arrived on a Thursday. Mariana helped him organize all of the logistics for the courses, the payments. It was two days of workshops and it went really well. And he stayed for two nights without any problem. On the third night, Mariana had an event and invited him.

[Mariana]: And we’re drinking wine there with some friends, I introduce him to them, I tell them what he does, et cetera, et cetera, and we go back home.

[Camila]: Mariana didn’t drink that night, so she drove, since he had had several glasses of wine.

[Mariana]: I’d been on my feet for 12 hours.

[Camila]: She was exhausted. It was already around 10 pm when they got to the house. As soon as they got there, he helped himself to a beer and sat down in the living room.

[Mariana]: You know? Like to keep on chatting. Honestly I didn’t accept, you know, the…the invitation. And I kept walking and told him good night.

[Camila]: And she went to her room and closed the door. But the house is old and half-crooked, so…

[Mariana]: Even though I shut it completely, it ends up opening a little. It doesn’t close well.

[Camila]: All Mariana wanted to do was take a shower.

[Mariana]: Trying to put the day behind me, you know?

[Camila]: Mariana’s bathroom is special. She remodeled it herself.

[Mariana]: You could say it’s like…my safe space. It’s something I…I added to the house. It suits my taste, it’s tiles are like…like in a honeycomb pattern which I really like. And it has yellow candles that I really like. It smells nice, I have my perfumes.

[Camila]: It’s very small. It’s one meter by one meter and it’s what in English is called a “wet bathroom,” one of those bathrooms where the shower isn’t separated…that floods when you take a shower.

So Mariana turned off the lights in her room, lit the candles in her bathroom and went under the hot water.

[Mariana]: And all of a sudden, when I turn around and look over toward my bathroom door, it’s halfway open and I see someone. I see a pair of eyes watching me. And I realize that this guy went into my room and poked his head in my bathroom to watch me shower without my consent.

Look, I still get goosebumps on my arms when I think about it.

When I see his eyes, I remember putting my arms up to close the door. Even expecting a struggle: so I could be standing firm. And it wasn’t a little push with the palms of my hands like “ay!”. No, it was like…throwing my whole body forward.

I don’t even remember if I shouted something. I think I didn’t scream.

I remember the feeling more than the thought. So there’s a tingle in my body. Like heat from anger, from shame, from…from disbelief. What is this? But at the same time that thought was very far from what I was doing which at that point was saving myself.

[Camila]: Mariana locked the bolt on the bathroom door, even though it didn’t work. It was almost symbolic. She put on her robe…

[Mariana]: I remember I tied it super tight, like a karate belt, you know? Like if I’m going to have to fight wearing just this robe, you know, it’s not going to come open on me…

[Camila]: She opened the bathroom door and she didn’t see him. He wasn’t in her room anymore. She ran to the door of her room and closed it again. She quickly put on some sweatpants, a t-shirt and a tennis shoes. She got her phone, a set of car keys she keeps on her nightstand and she went out a door that opened into the yard.

[Mariana]: And I go out to the yard ready to fight. I didn’t know if this guy was waiting for me in the yard. If he was lurking out there, if he was going to follow me. But no…

[Camila]: It didn’t occur to her to confront him and ask him what had happened. No. Because when she saw him standing there in the doorway to the bathroom, what she saw…

[Mariana]: Were the eyes of a predator. And I knew right away that this isn’t the kind of person you can talk to.

[Camila]: Mariana got in the car and knew right away that she wanted to go to the nearest police station, which was about 10 blocks away. Once she was in her car driving, she felt safer and calmed down a little. But she doesn’t really remember how it was she drove there…

From the car she called a friend who lives with Patricio, who introduced them. She told him what had just happened, and he told her he was going to tell Pato about it –that he was going to call him.

Mariana also called Gerardo, a journalist friend who covers the police beat with her. When she told him, he said that he was heading to her house right then and that he was going to meet her there. When Mariana got to the station…

[Mariana]: An officer was outside and I told him: “Hello, excuse me, I need your help getting someone out of my house.” That was all.  

[Camila]: The officer started asking questions: if he was the owner of the house, if he was her husband, if he was her partner.

[Mariana]: And I told him no, he wasn’t. At the beginning I think he didn’t believe me because I wasn’t hysterical and crying and I didn’t have a black eye.

[Camila]: You have to understand that Mariana has been a journalist in Tijuana for 17 years. She’s seen it all.

[Mariana]: Decapitated bodies, bodies in barrels, men hanging from bridges, hostage situations, riots, firefights… Everything.

[Camila]: And that matters…

[Mariana]: Because it has tempered my nerves more than they should be.

[Camila]: When Mariana explained to the police officer that the man was someone who was renting a room…

[Mariana]: The officer looks at me like “this woman is an idiot.”

[Camila]: For having rented a room to a man, of course. He looked at her with a face like…

[Mariana]: You’re asking for it because you’re a woman, right? So, there’s nothing I can do with that argument.

[Camila]: Because to her it’s obvious…

[Mariana]: I don’t think I did anything stupid. I think he did something stupid.

[Camila]: She ignored the fact that the officer was judging her and told him:

[Mariana]: “Look, are you going to help me or not?”.

[Camila]: The officer went to get his partner because two people always have to go in cases of domestic violence. They followed her in their squad car and they arrived at the house. When they went in…

[Mariana]: They found him in the room he was renting, passed out drunk on the bed.

[Camila]: They woke him up and he started saying:

[Mariana]: “I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything to her. But I didn’t even touch her. And…and I, and what happened,” and he starts to justify himself and starts trying to have a back-and-forth with me. And trying to win over the police by being funny. And I’m behind the police officers and I refuse to talk to with him.

[Camila]: The officers’ attitude also ended up surprising Mariana. In a good way. Because once they were in the house they did validate the report and asked her what she wanted to do.

[Mariana]: And I just told them: “I want him out of my house. Now.”

[Camila]: They told him to pick up his stuff and right then…

[Mariana]: I took two pictures of him while he was being taken away by the police.

[Camila]: [Laughs] Out of reporter’s habit?

[Mariana]: Yeah, of course, because aside from that, it was a way of… I was… I think that was when I got mad. And that whole time I wasn’t even angry, but hearing him say “I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything,” I was like: “I want to kill him. What does he mean, he didn’t do anything?” Right?

[Camila]: When he gathered his things, the police started to scold him.

[Mariana]: “Sir, if you like the lady, there are ways. There are ways. You could have brought her flowers. That’s definitely going to get her to like you. Watching her take a shower isn’t going to get her to like you.” And I said: “Shit. A police officer is explaining to him how to seduce a woman, and I agree with him!”

[Camila]: When he finally got everything together, he asked the police if they could give him a ride in the squad car to the mutual friend’s house, since it was so close.

[Mariana]: He’s looking for complicity among men: “Oh, she’s exaggerating, we got in a fight,” you know. Like, wink, wink. And one of the officers said: “Sir, you don’t understand. We’re responding to the lady’s call. You can get a taxi on the corner here. You can get an Uber.”

[Camila]: Mariana was relieved by the officers’ attitude because…

[Mariana]: At least I’m not trying to defend myself from three men in my home, right? Because that also could have happened.

[Camila]: The officers insisted that Mariana file a complaint but she declined. At the time she was exhausted and she remembered cases of abuse she knew about, in which the judges didn’t see assaulting or groping a woman as very serious. She didn’t want to expose herself to that.

Gerardo, her journalist friend, arrived as the guy was leaving. He hugged her and they watched as he left the house.

The officers told him her that they would keep patrolling the area and they left too.

Now that she was alone with her friend, she started crying…

[Mariana]: The adrenaline rush ended. And suddenly I find myself lying on the sofa, and I can’t raise my head or my upper body.

[Camila]: They talked for a while but it wasn’t long before Mariana decided to go to sleep.

And you went to bed alone in that house without any panic about him coming back?

[Mariana]: There was no panic. It’s something that now, at a distance, months later, I think is a monstrous ability on my part.

[Camila]: Before she fell asleep, at some point, she’s not sure when, she blocked the guy on Facebook and from her phone so he couldn’t call her. But it didn’t occur to her to block him on WhatsApp.

The next day she woke up exhausted.

[Mariana]: Hung over… with gunk in my eyes and a dry mouth. I felt as if I’d taken a beating. Physically my whole body was reacting to the process and the adrenaline cycle.

[Camila]: And a little while after waking up she got a message from him saying:

[Mariana]: “I’m deeply pained about what I did. Forgive me.” And I wrote him right away without thinking about it, like in a rage, and I said: “You should be ashamed of yourself. You acted like a scoundrel. Never contact me again.”  Which now I think about and, well, I’ve laughed about it with my friends because it’s like something from a telenovela. [Laughs] I mean, the guy just assaulted me, it’s like an insult, you know, something a lady from the 19th Century wearing white gloves would say…. but well…

[Camila]: And then she blocks him on WhatsApp.

She didn’t feel good physically and emotionally for a few days. She wasn’t hungry. And she couldn’t keep down what she did eat. She slept a lot.

[Mariana]: I was like a zombie, like…

[Camila]: Crying? Or did you not cry?

[Mariana]: Yes, yes. I cried for short periods, I did get there. You asked me a while ago if I had felt responsible or stupid for having done it and yes, there was… there is an inner dialog  about being, of course, stupid. Think about it: he could have raped you. Imagine going to the police and saying: “Hello, I let a man stay in my house and this happened,” you know?

[Camila]: But later she told herself no. He was the one who was in the wrong. He was the one who never should have done that.

She went to a therapist who practices traditional Chinese medicine who gave her treatments and massages and that helped her to calm down.

Once she was feeling better, Mariana started to think about what she wanted to do.

[Mariana]: Whether I was going to write something that called him out, that exposed him. I had the photos of him being escorted out by the police.

[Camila]: She thought it would be easy to publish the photos and make what he had done public on social media.

But she wasn’t sure. She thought maybe…

[Mariana]: The majority of people were going to be on his side…

[Camila]: Or she could also be exposing herself to a lynch mob…

[Mariana]: Like, well, what was this girl doing? Of course, she invited him into her home, right? She rented him a room, she was probably asking for it…

[Camila]: So it was exposing herself to their criticism or having them crucify him saying he’s a pig like all men. Something she didn’t want to happen simply because she doesn’t think that’s true.

In the past year, as many have publicly named their abusers, for Mariana the response has never been a useful dialogue. One that has made us understand one another better. No.

[Mariana]: The answer has always been a public lynching, everyone against everyone. Not understanding one another.

[Camila]: And it’s not that the reports haven’t been valuable or important. They have been, but…

[Mariana]: I don’t see that they’ve brought peace to the victims of assault or abuse.

[Camila]: Mariana was in a situation that is not very common for people who have been assaulted: her aggressor doesn’t live in the same city as her. He lives rather far away. She knew that the next day that this happened he had gotten on a plane and flew three hours to go back to his city.

[Mariana]: So, well, there wasn’t the threat of physical violence in my life either.

[Camila]: After a few days, now having recovered a little emotionally and physically. When she was sleeping to rest and not to escape. When she could eat, she was left thinking…

[Mariana]: That as a journalist the first thing I want is to know, to understand what happened, understand the mechanism. I’m very curious about what happened…

[Camila]: Why he did what he did. What was the logic behind it?

[Mariana]: How did we get there? At that point when he dehumanized me like that and assaulted me.

[Camila]: That was how she made an unexpected decision. One that she hadn’t been able to imagine in the hours after the incident.

She unblocked him on her phone and sent him a message on WhatsApp. The message was simple. To the point.

[Mariana]: I want to talk.

[Daniel]: After the break, Mariana confronts her aggressor.

We’ll be back…

[Steve Inskeep, host of Up First]:  At the start of your day, you need to know what’s happening in the world and that’s why you turn to Up First, the morning news podcast from NPR. The news you need to take on the day in just 10 minutes. Hear Up First on the NPR One app or wherever you get your podcast.

[Sam Sanders, host of It’s Been a Minute]: Ever get to friday, look back on the week, and say to yourself, “What just happened?” I’m Sam Sanders, check out my podcast It’s Been a Minute, where every Friday we catch up on the news and the culture of the week, and try to make sense of it all. Listen on the NPR One app or wherever you get your podcasts.

[Daniel]: We’re back with Radio Ambulante. I’m Daniel Alarcón.

So, before the break, Mariana decided to write to her aggressor. She sent him a message saying she wanted to talk. And 5 minutes later she got a response that said:

[Mariana]: “Thank you. How do you want to do this? I’m at your disposal.”

[Daniel]: And well, from here, Mariana will continue the story herself.

[Man]: Hi.

[Mariana]: Hello?

[Man]: Hi, Mariana…

[Mariana]: Hi.

I decided to call him and record the conversation. With his consent, of course. And guaranteeing that he would remain anonymous. At first I was so nervous I forgot to put him on speaker.

[Man]: Well, uh, all I have to say to you is…

[Mariana]: He starts off by saying that he’s sorry about everything that happened. That’s when I put him on speaker.

[Man]: Well, I don’t want you to see me as that kind of person, who’s despicable or bad, you know? I mean, I never intended to hurt you or cause you any kind of harm, and that was what left me like that, shocked, as well. I understand, I mean I understand that this was such a big surprise for you and that you reacted the way you did. And well, there. I’m getting to this point, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, you know? Uh…I wanted to be able to do something…to make up for this, to make it better, to…I don’t know, make this easier to process.

[Mariana]: Great. Great. That is just what I need, you know? Because…because I think that right now we’re in a super violent climate all over, in which it’s very easy to label you as being violent and me as being stupid, and it seems to me that things are more complex than that. And I want to understand, more than anything, what the hell happened. He thanks me for being willing to talk to him and he explains that he’s not really like that…

[Man]: I’m not that kind of person. I don’t…I…I don’t abuse anyone, or try to take advantage of anyone, you know?

[Mariana]: [Cries] If you didn’t want to hurt me, what happened?

[Man]: Well, I mean, I don’t remember touching your or anything. I didn’t do anything to attack you.

[Mariana]: I wasn’t surprised that he said that. For him —like for many people, I’m sure— what he did wasn’t any kind of aggression because he didn’t even touch me. Still, at the time, even though I was expecting that answer, I was outraged. Tired. Why do I have to explain that it is an aggression? Why do I have to explain something so obvious?

But standing outside of my bathroom watching me naked without my consent is violent. It’s very violent. It’s violates my space. It violates my consent.

Because it invades, damages, humiliates, offends and hurts.

[Man]: All I can say to you is that in the moment I felt invited, I could feel a correspondence that I now see was in my head. And because… Well because of what we had been through, right? Because of the time we spent together and… And because you’re pretty, I like you…

[Mariana]: When he says “what we had been through” he’s referring to a few conversations about an anime series and my giving him directions to Costco. That’s it. There was absolutely no flirtation on my part. And that’s so common. I’m not the first woman to be misinterpreted. It’s not uncommon for friendliness to be interpreted as flirting.

[Cries] I want to understand at what point you got confused. I mean, going in the house I said “good night.” But if I had wanted you… I don’t know, to come in my room, I’m a person who’s capable of telling you that –and I didn’t.  How did you get that idea?

[Man]: Well, yes, it was stupid on my part, I mean, I later understood that you had left the door open for the cat and that’s why it was…

[Mariana]: The door with the crooked frame was open barely 8 centimeters, as much as the cat needs to come in and lay in my bed.

I don’t know how to communicate to you that I have never been more afraid in my life, and I’m a journalist in Tijuana, seriously…

[Man]: Yes, I understand that I completely betrayed the trust you put in me.

[Mariana]: I didn’t know if you were going to go in. And of course, you didn’t rape me, but you don’t deserve a prize for not raping me, now do you? I’m not going to…applaud you either.

[Man]: No, of course not.

[Mariana]: I think guys don’t know what breaks in us when that happens to us.

I’ve thought that maybe my reaction that night, the rage I felt in the moment, and the decision to call the police wasn’t just a reaction to him, but to all of them. A reaction to all of the times they’ve groped me on the subway, that they’ve whistled at me, that they’ve pulled me. All the times a man has made me feel like I’m not worth as much. That my voice doesn’t matter.

A reaction to a misogynist culture.

[Man]: Yes, I mean it’s a lot of things, but I am sure that if it hadn’t been for the alcohol in me and the marijuana in me, well, I’m sure I wouldn’t have made that decision. Abruptly, in that moment.

[Mariana]: I don’t accept that justification. It’s never convinced me. Substances don’t transform you. They only bring to light what a person can be. You do something like that because you’ve internalized a sexist culture that dehumanizes women. A culture that tells men “you’re powerful” and tells women, well…“you aren’t.”

I tried to piece together with him the moment the police arrived. I wanted to explain to him something I said at the time…

And when the police were asking you questions, I felt like you were telling the story of a…like a failed seduction, right? And I wanted to make it very clear to the police that…to me it was something else entirely. And I remember I kept repeating “you made a mistake,” but I wasn’t just saying “you made a mistake going into my room. But you also got the wrong victim, you know? You mistook me for someone who was going to say “ah, well, we’re already here in my house” or “come in,” or I mean in my head it’s like “what was he thinking?” That I was going to turn around and see you in the dark and say “come on.”

Because in his drunkenness, he probably wanted to recreate a scene from a porno film. One of those in which the woman’s consent doesn’t matter, where the man goes into the bathroom, they struggle a little and she ends up giving in and even enjoying it. The kinds of scenes that contaminate and educate whole generations.

I wanted to make it very clear to him that there was nothing less flattering than…

When I saw you outside of the bathroom I recognized the look of…of making me an object. And the fact that you weren’t asking my permission.

And that is a fear that you’re never going to feel because you’re a guy, that’s it. And we women feel it over and over again.

[Man]: Yes, I recognize that it’s an injustice and it’s wrong. And I wish… I wish I could make it right again. Do something.

[Mariana]: Dammit, just don’t do it. Ask. If you like someone, ask. Let the other person answer. I don’t know why it’s so complicated.

[Man]: I’m an idiot.

[Mariana]: Or at least he acted like one. He keeps saying he’s sorry and I got tired. There aren’t many reflections from him than satisfy me. We hang up and I feel calmer, at least I feel heard.

But a few days later when I listen to the recording of the conversation, I sense a lot of gaps, moments when I just cry and am overcome with emotion. And I feel like I should have confronted him more, but also let him talk more. So a week later I decide to call him again. Feeling less emotional. Calmer. And hopefully, more as a journalist.

[Man]: Hi.

[Mariana]: Hi.

[Man]: Hi, Mariana.

[Mariana]: How are you?

In this second call we greet each other calmly. We talk briefly about whatever, but quickly I turn the conversation to that issue of justifying or explaining the abuse with substances.

And it gets my attention because Kevin Spacey, who right now is in the middle of a huge scandal because everyone is accusing him of sexual assault, is linking it to addiction… He’s linking it to…

[Man]: Yeah, alcohol?

[Mariana]: Yeah, I think alcohol, yeah, that seems right. And he’s also going to a rehab center somewhat like AA for people who are addicted to sex. And it seems to me that…that saying that an individual is sick doesn’t get to the root of the problem, which is calling a society sick.

[Man]: Yeah, I agree. Well yes, because they’re repeated patterns, these behaviors are…they don’t come out of nowhere, and it’s not the devil whispering in people’s ears either, right, telling them to do things like this [laughs]. They’re structural behaviors, you know? Well, they have to do with power dynamics.

[Mariana]: He understands. Or in theory he understands. It’s very strange because this very person, in practice, did exercise that power and called it something else: a mistake, drunkenness, an attempt to connect because he likes me…

We talk again about my decision to talk with him instead of crucify him on social media. And he’s grateful. He tells me about a friend who was publicly accused of aggression by a girlfriend he had. The whole thing was a disaster. The woman published a letter in which, in addition to explaining what happened —apparently he slapped her ass without her consent— what she did was insult him.

[Man]: Then, well, what you’re talking about did happen: people were polarized. There were people who picked a side, but just for the sake of picking a side.

[Mariana]: When I asked him if he took any position publicly on the issue he tells me:

[Man]: No, and they did they pressure me to have a public stance, especially the woman. And I refused to do it until we had both sides of the story and know what really happened, what we’re really talking about, you know?

And the debate moved on to other things, in other directions…Then it became more personal…And I didn’t feel like being part of a lynch mob either.

[Mariana]: And then he tells me his public stance was really…

[Man]: Yes, to have like a review and… and a dialogue to establish new practices, agreements about…. that include courtship and relations between couples.

[Mariana]: I’m going to repeat that in case you didn’t quite understand: What he publicly purposed, according to him, was basically “review methods of courtship and the agreements there are between couples.”  Anyone who hears that would think he would never be able to do what he did. He doesn’t recognize himself in what he did.

[Man]: It had a big impact on me that you said that you had seen me as a despicable person. And that…that made me feel, well, bad, very bad. The idea that you have that image of me really bothered me.

[Mariana]: And he thanks me again for the chance to be heard.

I tell him that these conversations gave me a little peace. At least they gave me other routes to take, other than anger, shame or exposing him publicly.

Are you going to do something different after this?

[Man]: Well, of course, of course, this sets new limits for me and makes me pay more attention and be more alert. Be more conscious. And yes, not to contribute to those situations…

[Mariana]: I want to believe him. Since he mentions the women in his life, I ask him what he would say to his daughters about how to face abuse.

[Man]: They have to learn to live with it, right? Also to do what they can to change it. Talking with their friends, participating in collective actions and campaigns. Or talking with the people around them in their environment. I think that that’s how we can change these patterns or behaviors, you know?

[Mariana]: It makes me sad that he takes himself out of the equation again. The way he frames it, the problem of assault seems to be only on women. Women from Mexico, Argentina, Chile, France… All over, we report abuse and talk with each other, and occasionally with them. But it doesn’t seem to matter: We keep running into aggressors like him, that don’t even think of themselves as such and that almost never sit down to talk among themselves in order to change patterns and behaviors.

For me, talking to him was a brutal exercise. I was feeling hurt and vulnerable.

I recognize that I was very fortunate. Fortunate to have found support from the police and from the friends who came to be with me that night. Fortunate because everyone who I told what happened (men and women) supported me and reacted without justifying his actions. All of them, without exceptions, understood that for me this act was violent and they supported my decision to call the police.

But I was also fortunate to be dealing with an aggressor who was little more than a voyeur and not a rapist. A predator would have reacted very differently to having been seen.

And he was also willing to talk to me for hours about a topic that was very uncomfortable for him. And I recognize that he showed remorse and a willingness to listen to what I was telling him.

And yes, by the end of the call I felt some peace having been heard, and I’m left with that.

[Mariana]: It’s so strange to say this to you, but… thank you.

[Man]: Thank you… I feel like this has been… a rather meaningful reflection for me. And the way you handled everything… Pato and the police really helped to give a real dimension to all of this. And I thank you for this opportunity to face it and talk about it and learn.

[Mariana]: When you are faced with those situations again, I hope you can take the position of reflecting on men and not covering for them. That would help a lot.

[Man]: Yes, yes. I’m sending you a hug, with care. A friendly hug.

[Mariana]: Thank you.

[Man]: Let’s stay in touch. If you want and are able to…uh… you can unblock me…

[Mariana]: Ok, I’ll see how I feel, thanks.

[Man]: Bye. 

[Mariana]: It’s been months and I haven’t unblocked him.

[Daniel]: Mariana Martinez is a journalist and she lives in Tijuana. Camila Segura is our senior editor.

This story was edited by Silvia Viñas and me. Music and sound design are by Andrés Azpiri.

The rest of the Radio Ambulante team includes Jorge Caraballo, Patrick Moseley, Laura Pérez, Ana Prieto, Barbara Sawhill, Ryan Sweikert, Luis Trelles, David Trujillo, Elsa Liliana Ulloa and Luis Fernando Vargas. Carolina Guerrero is our CEO.

Radio Ambulante is mixed and produced on Hindenburg PRO.

Learn more about Radio Ambulante and this story on our website:

Radio Ambulante tells the stories of Latin America. I’m Daniel Alarcón. Thanks for listening.



Share on social media: circletwitterbird circlefacebook circlereddit circletumblr

« Previous post

Welcome to the Jungle

Alexis Figueroa is willing to do the unthinkable to get a celebrity’s autograph. In this episode, we follow him as he attempts to …

View Post

Next post »

No Country for Young Men

Two of the most violent cities in the world are in Honduras. How can everyday life be in a place practically consumed by …

View Post