Support for Sexual Assault Survivors
*Forewarning: this story involves violence and rape*
What was supposed to be a fun night out in Madrid, took a devastating turn for the worst after Andrea found herself stranded, alone, and vulnerable at a bus station late at night. Please read Andrea's story below to find out more.
Link to the original post from Andrea here: https://goo.gl/snmn4q
A Word from Andrea
I am so overwhelmed by the amount of love and support pouring in from all over the world. A simple thank you could never encompass the amount of gratitude I’ve felt over this past week.
This page has been started to raise money for other sexual assault victims. I currently do not know very much about these organizations, but my family members and I will be putting in a lot of research to make sure this money goes to the right place.
I want you all to know this money is not for me directly, but to help, educate and support other victims. Please know that a small portion of the money will go to my medical bills and the emergency flights that were taken. But the vast majority of this money will go directly to helping and saving the lives of other people who have been sexually assaulted.
From the bottom of my heart I want to thank each and everyone of you for listening to me and supporting me through this time. Your words are so powerful. Together, we can all make a change."
My dear friend Andrea Sicignano , originally from New York, moved to Madrid, Spain this summer in hopes of pursuing a new and exciting chapter of her life. I had the pleasure of meeting her a few days after her arrival at a World Cup Soccer watch party I hosted with a community of women called "Madrid: Girls Gone International." That group is what fostered the growth of our warm friendship.
Andrea and I instantly bonded over our love of sports, solo traveling, and Spain. I admired her from the start because we shared similar values and she inspired me with her resilience. She has the ability to light up any room she walks into because of her big heart, positive nature, and sense of humor. I continue to deeply admire Andrea because she is a fighter. She fought through a living nightmare and is continuing to fight through it today.
She has given us permission to share a chilling personal story regarding violent abuse and rape that has recently happened to her at the Aluche bus station in Madrid. This story broke my heart because no one deserves to go through this. I am so thankful she is still here with us today and to be able to tell her story, though it is hard to swallow.
She has said, “While the man is in jail, everyone still needs to be aware of the danger out there. Please don’t change the way you live or travel. Just increase your awareness and never underestimate someone’s power or intention.” She encourages you to share her story and spread awareness about the truthful reality of this happening in our world, so that we can be a part of what it takes to stop this from being so normalized in our society.
Andrea, we give thanks to the angels who were watching over you that night and wouldn't let you go. It is truly a blessing to have you here with us today. This could have happened to anyone, anywhere but your courage to advocate and remain optimistic is inspiring. We wish you the safest, most loving and healthiest recovery. With much love, your supporters.
Andrea's Story :
This is going to be hard to read for those of you that know me, but I need you all to hear my voice.
I have been living in Madrid for the last 6 months and I had a friend visiting me this past weekend. We went out for the night to see a Flamenco show. We were both drunk, and when we left the final bar we got separated. Trying to get home, I got on the wrong bus, which took me to the end of the line in an unfamiliar area.
I was the last to get off the bus; all other riders had left the stop. I sat down on the bench at the bus stop to figure out my next move. A man who had been on the bus, seeing that I was lost and upset, sat down next to me and offered me help.
I was lost at 4am, and all public transport had stopped running. I needed help and this man assured me he could help me get home.
It’s unclear exactly what happened next, but as soon as I started to realize I could be in danger, I tried to leave. But this man became forceful and violent towards me.
As I fought, he started to beat me. I was screaming and fighting with all of the power I could muster. I desperately tried to reach for my phone but he called out in Spanish, "I have your phone, you can't call anyone."
He hit me in the face over and over until I couldn’t fight anymore. I couldn’t scream anymore. I could barely see through the blood in my eyes.
I was sure he was going to kill me. Eventually I closed my eyes. With the hope that he would stop beating me, I pretended to be dead. I prayed that when I opened my eyes he would be gone. I don’t know how much time passed before I finally opened my eyes, but when I did, he had disappeared.
He raped me.
Blinded by blood and darkness, I sat up and began grasping for my things. My leggings were wrapped around my shoes, preventing me from pulling them back on. Ripping at them, I was finally able to pull them up. And then I ran.
I ran barefoot into the street, screaming at the top of my lungs for help. I was waving frantically, and yet 3 or 4 cars drove past me. Finally, one stopped. I ran to it, screaming. Blood covered my face, hair, and jacket. A kind stranger—whom I’ll never have the chance to thank—called the ambulance and tried to soothe me while we waited for them to arrive.
I was rushed to the hospital. Alone. Terrified. And unable to contact anyone for hours.
The hospital staff took the situation very seriously. I was immediately given an MRI. They conducted a rape kit and performed an eye exam, as one of my eyes was swollen shut. My nose fractured in 4 places. I had bruises and scratches covering my body.
These last few days have been a blur of medical appointments, legal meetings, and a police investigation. The Madrid police have been unbelievably helpful throughout this entire process, they made my case a top priority. They asked me to return to the scene of the crime where I identified the exact location of the attack. There we found some of my things and my blood on the fence. The forensic team swabbed everything for DNA and took every precaution when dealing with the evidence and crime scene.
This morning I looked into the man’s eyes and picked him from a police lineup. There will be a trial in the future, but for now, he is behind bars and will stay there until his judgment day. Later, watching video footage from the bus ride, I watched the man watch me throughout the journey.
He could have killed me. In a puddle of my own blood, he left me in the dark—barely 20 paces from a main road. For all he knew I was dead. But I survived. I’m still here.
The only emotion I’ve been able to come up with throughout this entire week has been relief. Relief that I’m still alive.
Please. To every single woman I know, and to every single man out there who has a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife, or a friend. Please hug them and make sure they know that this is a very, very real thing.
I never thought something like this could or would ever happen to me. I’ve been traveling on my own for years. In all sorts of countries and countless cities. I’m strong, intelligent, and independent. None of that matters when you’re at the mercy of a man who wants to hurt you.
This is real. This did happen. It does happen. And, unfortunately, it will continue to happen. But please, don’t ever think it can’t happen to you.
I am surrounded by such wonderful, strong, loving people that have already shown me so much support. Their words and love have given me so much strength.
I will not let this break my spirit. This night will not define me. I refuse to let this man strip me of my independence as a woman. But things will change for me. I will never again drink to the point where I let my guard down. But these horrible things happen to women all the time. When they are drunk, when they are sober, on a hike, ‘safely’ in an Uber, even by the hands of a security guard at their hotel. None of us are invincible, and I know that now.
How do we prevent these things from happening? We, as women, can’t. This is up to the men out there, who need to truly understand what it means to respect women. ‘Locker room talk,’ cat-calling, groping a girl on the dance floor. Remember, it’s these actions that could manifest into something bigger.
Women are not objects, we are not here to be taken, used, and discarded. We cannot live our lives in fear, we cannot let evil win. Let this message empower you, not discourage you.
I am so incredibly lucky to be writing this right now. I am overcome with relief and even more with the feeling of a responsibility to share my story. I speak on behalf of anyone who has experienced this hell - and on behalf of those whose voices have been silenced. This story could have ended so differently. Things must change.
Thank you for taking the time to read Andrea's story.