Carlito Rovira preyed on me from early 2014 to early 2019. He knew I was inexperienced, clueless, and eager to please and he took advantage of that to groom me and to pressure me to have sex with him. I am writing this statement to tell my story.
When I first met Carlito Rovira, I was 24 years old. Rovira was almost forty years older than me. I took him at face value. I was intrigued by his immense knowledge and articulation of radical politics. He became my mentor.
Soon, Rovira began to call me almost every day and multiple times during the day to simply check-in/say hello. Growing up I hardly had any friends, and I was rarely given the green light to spend much time with the very few friends that I did have.
I was coming from a sheltered home. My parents were strict and my father controlled everything in the family. I was, and am, religious and I had no sexual experience. I was curious. Carlito Rovira knew all of this because he had taken part in discussions about my social and political underdevelopment. He preyed on that, taking on the role of teacher and “experienced man.”
Because I was isolated, having that sort of non-stop attention from someone like Rovira, felt welcoming. None of my friends, classmates, or comrades had ever really paid attention to me in that sort of way. Though there is a major age difference between Rovira and me, it felt good that someone, a male, saw me as attractive and beautiful and was not afraid to express that. Younger men, closer in my age range had never really paid me much attention and I had no dating experience.
Looking back, I was a lost soul on the journey of trying to find myself while trying to figure life out. I was naive and vulnerable.
I was a child of seven and a half years old when my mother, brother, and I were brought to this country by my father. Coming to the United States was traumatic. I was already extremely shy within my own culture but being an outsider here made it worse. I became insular. I slowly lost my child-like joy and was more or less depressed–though I was not aware of it then. I also became a people pleaser. It was not only me, my mother and my brother were also greatly affected. By the time I joined the CBMH, I had spent more than ten years here as an undocumented immigrant who didn’t feel like I mattered.
I had low self-confidence and self-esteem. This informed me of being left out for the majority of my life. Growing up, I tried fitting in by always following the crowd. Speaking up and speaking what is deep within was not really expected and it was hard for me to be bold and stand up for myself. For much of my life, I did not even know what that meant.
When Rovira invited me to the movies, it felt weird but I didn’t tell him that. I just ignored it and made some excuse. Then he started talking to me like he needed to teach me about sex. I felt embarrassed and ashamed because I hadn’t experienced sex. He told me that when he was young he had been introduced to sex by two older women about 40 years older than him and that he wanted to do the same with me. He made it seem like this is how things are, that older people show you the ropes. Mind you he’s about 40 years older than me.
Then Rovira started demanding things, like sexual photos and sexual favors, and saying that I should let him turn me into a woman. In the beginning, I didn’t know how to respond and felt frozen. I was in denial and afraid because I had never experienced any of this before. Most of the time I was embarrassed and gave one-word answers. Rovira came hard at me with the sex talk all the time, every day. Later on, I started to engage him. He pressured me to send him photos and I sent him a fully dressed image. He sent me a dick pic.
Rovira also used lies and stories to manipulate me and get me to give in to his plan to take me to a hotel, which I never did. He told me that his relationship with his late fiancee was open. He invited me over to his house and after his fiancé left, he masturbated in front of me. Later I found out that there was no open relationship. It was all a lie.
He knew I was curious and sheltered and used this knowledge to control me. Dealing with his narcissistic abuse was a repeat of my father. Seeing abuse and so much control in my house growing up and not many successful attempts to fight back, had a traumatic impact on me that I still struggle with. This made it easier for me to stay silent in the face of what he was doing.
He took on the power role in our conversations and if I did not engage him in the sex topics he wanted to discuss, he would punish me. He would stop talking to me. I was being manipulated without even knowing.
At some point, I started confusing Rovira’s behaviors for love because love and abuse had always been merged in my head due to what I saw growing up. I honestly believed him when he told me that he genuinely cared about me, loved me, and was a true comrade and friend. I felt like I was finally being “seen.” Being told that I was beautiful was new to me as I grew up in an anti-Black world where that was not really shown to me personally nor publicly; not to say that no one in my family loved me. But looking back at our exchanges 99% of it is crude sex talk, harassment, and coercion from Rovira demanding that I have sex with him in a hotel. I was gullible.
Carlito not only sexually abused me but engaged in insensitive and ridiculous comments about me behind closed doors. Worst of all, as he carried out his sexual harassment and assaults, he positioned himself to discipline and reprimand me when there was an organizational conflict involving my actions. This affected me emotionally for a long time.
All these things I know played a part in my falling prey to a predator, emotional manipulator, and abuser as evil and dangerous as Carlito Rovira.
Though all these things I have described have been very painful, I am now stronger. I came to tell my story because I have been deeply angry about how Rovira has traumatized me. I am also resolute in moving forward and recovering the 32 years of my life that have been stolen from me by this country and shaped by my father’s reigning control in my life. Now, I am not willing to back down from a challenge. I am more aware of different forms of abuse and more eager to call them out. Carlito’s abuse and emotional manipulations may have left me scarred, but the aftermath of it will lead to growth. I am more committed to getting into specialized therapy after his narcissistic abuse and redefining my relationship with my family and my faith. Looking back and having more clarity now, I feel that his push for sex and the crassness of his words ultimately led me to lose sight of the depths of my beauty and the real meaning of relationships, especially intimate ones. This horrible experience has left me with ongoing issues around sex and intimacy. I have been paralyzed and fearful, living with guilt, shame, and worry for way too long.
I can honestly say that I felt like I really mattered in the movement to Free Mumia, not only because I was openly welcomed in an unfamiliar space, but also because I’m learning that the fight for a different world is connected to the personal fight inside of me. I am re-committing to radical self-love, growth, and transparency and there is no turning back.