Through Her Eyes: A Sunset Park Rape Victim

Home Brooklyn Life Through Her Eyes: A Sunset Park Rape Victim
Hiten Samtani / The Brooklyn Ink


Our reporters talk to Brooklyn residents about their reactions following a series of sex assaults. Find all our coverage here.

On the night she was attacked three years ago in Sunset Park, Ashleigh, fearful of the men who had just attacked her, and unsure how her boyfriend would react, called her mother.

“Mom, help me,” she said. “I have been raped.”

Now, with the recent outbreak of sexual assaults in Brooklyn, she wants to tell her story so other women might learn from hearing what happened to her, that night and afterwards.

On April 19, 2008 Ashleigh, 22 at the time, was in Manhattan barhopping with three friends.

“I was a part-time student at St. Francis, and I was doing what any college student did on a Saturday night,” she says. “I was out until about midnight and had a couple drinks, but I was no where near out of control.”

She left her friends early because she wanted to see her boyfriend who just got off work and lived near Sunset Park. She rode the subway back into Brooklyn and got off at 45th street station.

“I was really excited to see my boyfriend because we hadn’t seen each other in a while,” she says. “I made the mistake of cutting through Sunset Park to save some time. I will always regret that decision.”

As Ashleigh entered the park on the west side she encountered two white men who began to follow her.

“They were whistling at me and trying to get me to talk to them. I just ignored them but they wouldn’t stop,” she says. She begins to weep.

“One man started running towards me and grabbed my right arm really hard,” she says, pointing to her right arm. “I screamed but the man put his hand around my mouth and threatened to kill me if I didn’t stop. He then started to grope me as his friend edged him on like it was a game.”

Ashleigh does not remember what happened after that point but woke up in the park an hour later half naked and alone. “It was like a bad dream. I felt like I was under water. I still can see that mans horrible face. I didn’t have all my clothes on and didn’t know what to do.

“I looked for my purse to try and find my phone, but didn’t know who to call. My friends were way too drunk to help me. I didn’t know if my boyfriend would hate me and the men told me if I called the police they would kill me. But, I had to call someone and I called my mom.”

Her widowed mother, Pam, was living in Queens. She answered the phone right away.

“I screamed into the phone and started to cry,” Ashleigh says. “I told her what happened and she immediately called the police. I lay down on the sidewalk and cried. I wanted for all of this to be a dream, but it wasn’t.”

Police soon arrived and took Ashleigh to nearby Maimonides Medical Center. Ashleigh was given a full rape physical evaluation. Her arm was broken and she was severely bruised.

“I was in complete shock. I kept thinking that this couldn’t have happened to me. This only happens to people that you hear about on the news. They kept telling me that it wasn’t my fault and that I did nothing wrong.”

Much to Ashleigh’s dismay, police were never able to arrest the men who raped her.

“That first month was probably the hardest month of my life. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, and I dropped out of school,” she says. “As soon as I didn’t think things could have gotten any worse, they did. I found out I was pregnant.”

Ashleigh said she was positive that one of the rapists was the father because she was a virgin at the time of the assault.

“My boyfriend was horrified and demanded that I have an abortion. But that went against everything I believe in,” she says, as tears again began to fill her eyes. “He said it was either him or the baby and I choose the baby.”

Her daughter was born in January 2009 and Ashleigh says keeping the child was the best decision of her life.

“I named her Esperanza because it means hope in Spanish. Hope is what she gives me everyday as a single mother. My baby girl got me to live my life again.”

Ashleigh has gone through a year of therapy and taken self-defense classes. She also finished college and now works at a Manhattan Bank.

“I wanted to share my story because I want women to know that this kind of thing does happen to everyday good people,” she says. “Women need to remember that there is help available and it is not the end of the world.”

“I learned how to live life as a rape survivor knowing I did nothing wrong. I might have been a rape victim, but I am now also a survivor.”


You can contact Joey Maestas via Twitter: @jmaestas22

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