2021-03-27 00:34:25 Yocairi Amarante Rodríguez Speaks About Acid Attack
Yocairi Amarante Rodríguez Speaks About Acid Attack
SANTO DOMINGO, DR. DOMINGO — Yocairi Amarante Rodrguez was on her way to a beauty salon in Santo Domingo last fall when two men on a motorcycle sped up to her car and tossed a container of “ácido del diablo,” a sulfuric acid used for plumbing and sewer cleaning, through an open window and onto her face.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, she recalled thinking, Damn it, they’ve thrown coffee on me.
The liquid, however, began to burn.
As bits of clothing and skin melted off her body, the 19-year-old jumped out of the car, pleading for help. The driver sustained injuries as well.
“They’ve thrown acid on her!” a woman nearby exclaimed.
She was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. It was September 25th. According to documents obtained at the Ciudad Nueva Courthouse, the man who police said planned the attack — her ex-boyfriend — directed an alleged accomplice on how to carry out the attack days earlier.
“En la misma cara en la frente,” he is said to have written in a text message. “On the face, on the brow.”
Her assassination reflects an increase in violence against women in Latin America. It drew a lot of attention, including a heartfelt video from Cardi B on Instagram. For the first time, Amarante Rodrguez spoke at length with BuzzFeed News about the assault and recovery process, which can also reveal details from court records and police documents detailing the lengths to which her ex-boyfriend, Willy Antonio Javier Monegro, allegedly physically and verbally abused her before her appearance and life were permanently altered. She now plans to open her own salon with the help of generous donations from the public.
Amarante Rodrguez received treatment at one of the Dominican Republic’s only burn units. “She almost died,” said Dr. Eddy Bruno, director of the burn unit at Ney Arias Lora Hospital.
Bruno reviewed photos of Amarante Rodrguez, which showed burns on her face, neck, and right leg, before treating her in person. Doctors were forced to wait up to five days for the acid to act before treating her, he said.
She would stay in Bruno’s care for two months, undergoing nine surgeries to remove dead tissue and apply skin grafts.
She was released in November 2020, but she still has a long road to recovery ahead of her. She’s lost her right eye, more than half of her left eye’s vision, and her right nipple. Acid-induced hypertrophic scars run down her neck, chest, breasts, arms, and legs.
As a child, Amarante Rodrguez spent her days braiding hair and playing with curling irons at her sister’s salon. Parts of her scalp will never be able to grow hair again.
“Look at how I was before,” she said, scrolling through photos of herself with long curly hair and light hazel eyes on her phone.
“Now look at me,” she said, removing the bandages from her face and lifting up her shirt to reveal her scars. “That’s how he abandoned me.”
While she was in the hospital recovering, word of her attack spread on social media. Cardi B shared a video on Instagram of herself slamming a Barbie doll dressed in scrubs feetfirst onto a table.
In the video, she says in Spanish, “People of the Dominican Republic.” “I’m going to tell my father to put me in touch with the police or anyone in the Dominican Republic, and I’m going to offer $10,000 — not pesos, $10,000 — to whoever finds the people who threw devil’s acid on that girl whose face they burned.”
“There should be justice,” she added.
Santiago Matas, a popular Dominican radio personality, posted on Instagram that he donated approximately $1,700 to help with her medical expenses and put up approximately $5,000 in reward for information on the perpetrators.
The donations meant a lot to Amarante Rodrguez, who made around $224 a month selling lamps at a hardware store near the Dominican capital’s Avenida Duarte shopping district.
“I felt a lot of happiness because I felt a lot of support from the people in town, a lot of prayers,” she said. “I had to accept that this was not the end of my life.”
By September 30, police had identified and apprehended the alleged attackers: Joan José Feliz, Pedro Alexander Sosa Méndez, and her ex-boyfriend and her 2-year-old daughter’s father, Willy Antonio Javier Monegro.
According to court documents obtained by BuzzFeed News, the three men spent 15 days plotting the attack together.
According to the documents, in early September, Javier Monegro contacted Sosa Méndez and offered him $431 to throw acid on Amarante Rodrguez. He allegedly agreed and received approximately $60 prior to the attack.
According to court records, Sosa Méndez then sought out Feliz as the third accomplice. According to the records, Javier Monegro told both men where Amarante Rodrguez worked and lived, and he showed them a photograph that they could use to identify her.
WhatsApp messages included in court documents show that the men communicated in the days leading up to the attack.
On September 21, Sosa Méndez texted Javier Monegro, “Dame bien la ora k eya sale.” “Please tell me what time she leaves.”
“Mete mano ya estoy De separao,” he said the next day. “Hustle, I’m in a hurry.”
Sosa Méndez replied, “Trakilo eso va hoy.” “Don’t worry, it’ll be there today.”
“En la misma cara en la frente,” wrote Javier Monegro. “On the face, on the brow.”
According to court records, on September 25, Sosa Méndez and Feliz waited for Amarante Rodrguez to leave work. They followed her on a motorcycle as she jumped into the passenger seat of a Toyota Corolla.
According to court documents, Sosa Méndez revved up the motorcycle while Feliz threw acid at her through an open window. The attack was captured on surveillance footage, which assisted police in identifying and apprehending the men suspected of being involved in the attack.
According to the documents, Javier Monegro was charged with criminal association, torture or act of barbarism, and intrafamily violence. He chose to remain silent in court.
Sosa Méndez and Feliz face charges of criminal association, torture or act of barbarism, and voluntary blows and wounds.
During the course of the criminal proceedings, the three men have denied any involvement in the attack.
In an October hearing to determine whether the men should be imprisoned for a year, Sosa Méndez stated that he was not the person on video and that police told him that “they were going to make [him] talk with a bat.”
Feliz also claimed in court that police tried to beat him into cooperating and that the motorcycle used in the attack was not his.
According to the public defender who is representing Sosa Méndez and Feliz, “they interrogated them without their lawyers present.” The evidence presented by the government is illegal because it was obtained illegally.”
A spokesperson for the Dominican Republic National Police did not respond to a request for comment on the court allegations.
The three men have been sentenced to a year in prison, where they will most likely remain until the trial is completed. A court ruled on Feb. 19, 2021, that the case would proceed, but it is unclear when the trial will begin.
Ronell Rosado, an attorney representing Javier Monegro, declined to comment on his client’s case during a phone call last month.
An email requesting comment from the lawyer listed as representing both Sosa Méndez and Feliz was not returned.
According to Amarante Rodrguez, she met Javier Monegro when she was 14 and he was 29. He worked at the factory directly across the street from her grandmother’s house.
She asked him to take her for a ride on his motorcycle one day. The two fell in love quickly, and she moved into his mother’s house the following year.
They were married for five years. She became pregnant at the age of 16 and dropped out of school. He repeatedly verbally and physically assaulted her throughout their relationship, she claimed, adding that she had never told anyone about the alleged abuse.
She said he kept her trapped in his mother’s house and forced her to cook and clean in a December interview with a forensic psychologist, a transcript of which was included in police records. She claimed that he would not let her leave the house without him.
During fights, she claims he would push her, pull her hair, and call her derogatory Dominican slang terms like “motherfucker” and “cocksucker.”
Amarante Rodrguez told the forensic psychologist that Javier Monegro allegedly tried to choke her in front of her sister, who intervened and tried to hit him with a bottle.
During the interview, she stated that he was sorry for attacking her. Because she was in love with him, she accepted his apologies.
She stated that the relationship ended in early 2020.
Rosado, Javier Monegro’s lawyer, stated that his client never abused her physically or verbally. In an email to BuzzFeed News, the lawyer stated that there is no evidence to back up her claims, referring to them as “only words and the accusation.”
“The victim can say what she wants but there is nothing to prove it,” Rosado wrote in an email.
According to Marcia Aguiluz, managing attorney for Women’s Link Worldwide, a nonprofit dedicated to gender equality, the rise of domestic violence in Latin America and the Caribbean is due to historical discrimination against women in the region as well as machismo — the concept of exaggerated masculinity.
Aguiluz stated in a Zoom interview from Costa Rica that cases of domestic violence in Latin America are not isolated incidents.
“They are an expression of the stereotype that women belong to men,” she explained.
Javier Monegro, according to court documents, continued to harass her after their relationship ended, calling her up to 44 times in one day. She then unfriended him on WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook.
According to police records, Amarante Rodrguez began a relationship with her current boyfriend two months after their breakup, which made Javier Monegro feel bad. According to police, his neighbors made disparaging remarks about her relationship with another man.
She said she ran into one of Javier Monegro’s friends two weeks before the attack, who warned her to be cautious because he was becoming increasingly aggressive.
“I never expected him to do this to me,” she said.
She was at home the first time she saw her own face. According to her doctor, acid attack survivors are not permitted to look in the mirror while in the hospital.
She claimed that her reflection triggered suicidal thoughts, which she overcame by remembering her daughter.
Natalia Ponce de León, who survived a sulfuric acid attack in Colombia in 2014, said she wanted to die after a man doused her in the acid.
She went on to found the Natalia Ponce de León Foundation, which was instrumental in passing legislation ensuring that women in Colombia receive free medical and psychological care following an acid attack. Colombia’s then-President Juan Manuel Santos signed the bill in 2016.
A year later, in Washington, DC, then-First Lady Melania Trump presented Ponce with the International Women of Courage Award.
Ponce told BuzzFeed News that there is still work to be done around the world to help survivors. She wants more laws, such as the one she helped create in her own country, to be implemented in other countries.
There is no regulation in the “Dominican Republic [and] Mexico.” “There is no law that protects victims of chemical-weapons attacks,” Ponce stated. “And this is a great pain because it should be severely punished.”
Survivors from the Dominican Republic have turned to her charity for assistance, according to Ponce, who added that many of them want to travel to Colombia for surgery.
“Every one of them, in their own country, has to work for their rights,” she said.
Amarante Rodrguez’s family surprised her with a party the day she returned home from the hospital. Winny, her daughter, who she hadn’t seen in months, didn’t recognize her.
“The first thing she said to me when she saw me was ‘Ahh! A cuco!’” a reference to a mythical monster, Amarante Rodrguez recalled. “I collapsed and started crying.”
She is preparing for over ten reconstructive surgeries. Throughout the night, the burns itched. Her left eye is glazed over and does not close completely.
Though she is hopeful, she is aware that she will never look like the woman in her Instagram photos again.
She is focused on raising her child and opening a salon with the money Cardi B gave her.
After the men accused of the attack were apprehended by police, Cardi B donated a portion of the reward money to her.
Amarante Rodrguez has yet to personally thank the hip-hop star for her kindness. “I sincerely thank Cardi B,” she exclaimed, her voice brimming with joy.
Cardi B’s representatives did not respond to requests for comment via email.
Amarante Rodrguez recently purchased new salon signage that reads “Yocairi Beauty Center.” She hopes to open later this year in Santo Domingo’s Villa Consuelo neighborhood.
Despite her uncertainty about her future, she hopes to graduate from high school and own a successful business someday. She stated that the rest is in God’s hands.
Her daughter, she claims, does not fully understand her mother’s story. She admitted to Winny that she had burned herself in a fire. She stated that if she ever finds out what happened, it will not be from her.
Amarante Rodrguez is relieved to be alive. Her days are spent laughing with her siblings and cousins. Her sense of humour has not waned. Her boyfriend has not abandoned her.
She encourages younger women to stay in school and report abusive boyfriends as soon as they become aware of them. “Don’t remain silent,” she advised. “This happened to me because I remained silent and did not report it.”