RAINN Teams Up with the Inter-American Development Bank to bring attention to Sexual Assault

Survivor of sexual assault Cristina, RAINN Vice President of Victim Services Jen Marsh, and Isis Rodriguez-Cortes of the Inter-American Development Bank portrait

Cristina had never tasted whiskey before. So when her date ordered two whiskey drinks for them at a British pub, she wasn’t sure what to expect. She was already tipsy from having some wine at dinner with friends before meeting up with him, and hadn’t drank much before traveling to the U.K. for graduate school.

This was the first guy to ask her on a “formal date,” and she was excited. Cristina planned to meet up with her closest friend to go dancing after the date, and was looking forward to reviewing the evening with her. She told the man many times that she wanted to meet up with her friend later, and even called the friend when she thought she was on her way.

But she never made it. When they stepped out of the pub, her date, who she had been friendly with before this night, “suddenly turned into a linebacker,” said Cristina. She said this while telling her story at a sexual assault awareness and prevention event offered by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which supports efforts to reduce poverty and inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean. After Cristina told the crowd of IDB employees about her date’s sudden personality switch, she then described how he forcefully pushed and dragged her back to his university room, where he sexually assaulted her.

Cristina stayed quiet for five years about what happened while she was working on her graduate degree in England. Now, however, she often speaks publicly about her assault as a RAINN Speakers Bureau volunteer to let other survivors know they’re not alone. She always looks forward to sharing her story and letting others know how they can be supportive to survivors of sexual assault.

On this day, Cristina was sharing her story at the IDB’s headquarters in Washington, DC, alongside Jennifer Marsh, RAINN’s vice president of victims services, and moderator Isis Rodriguez-Cortes, who works with the development bank on security issues. “We were very thankful for the opportunity to reach out to this audience of young, international professionals,” said Marsh.

Rodriguez-Cortes began the conversation speaking about the risk of drug-facilitated sexual assault. She has friends who have personally experienced this kind of assault, and Marsh pointed out that alcohol is the most commonly used drug during this kind of violence.

As for practical advice, Cristina urged everyone to be cautious regarding where they go and with whom, and to always trust your instincts. She noted that it took years before she shared her experience with her family and friends. Having a support network is key, stressed Marsh to the audience, some of whom were tuning in from the IDB’s in-country offices across Latin America and the Caribbean. “If someone you know discloses to you that they have been assaulted, the most important thing to do is to let them know that you believe them, and what happened to them was not their fault,” said Marsh.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and online.rainn.org.

Learn more about the Inter-American Development Bank at iadb.org.

Learn more about RAINN’s Speakers Bureau here.

Photo Credit: Cristina (top left, bottom right), survivor and volunteer with RAINN’s Speakers Bureau, spoke at the Inter-American Development Bank this week to share her story of assault while studying abroad. Additional panelists included Jennifer Marsh, RAINN's VP of Victim Services, and Isis Rodriguez-Cortes from the IADB (Credit: Shannon Finney Photography).

Seven out of 10 sexual assaults are committed by someone who knows the victim.

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