Assaulted Argentine rights activist speaks out: ‘I thought my life was going to end’

Sabrina Bölke has spoken publicly for the first time about the ordeal, in which two men allegedly beat, sexually assaulted, and threatened to kill her, and wrote a pro-Milei slogan on the wall

It was 8:15 p.m. when Sabrina Bölke got off the bus home from work and entered her Buenos Aires apartment. Inside, two armed men were waiting behind the door. They tied her up, sexually assaulted her, and threatened to kill her. 

“When they pulled out their guns, I thought my life was going to end,” she told El Destape Radio on Monday.

Bölke is an activist with H.I.J.O.S., an organization founded by children of the dictatorship’s victims. Her parents are both survivors. The attackers told her they had come for her because of her activism, and said she should “stop talking” about human rights.

The attack happened on March 5. H.I.J.O.S. released a statement about it on March 21, initially withholding Bölke’s name because she was afraid of reprisals if she spoke out.

“As they were leaving, they said that if I told anyone they had been there, they would come back and shoot me,” she said. “I am in shock, I’m still trying to understand what happened.”

The attackers tied her up, placed a hood over her head, and beat and sexually assaulted her. “It’s something that still hurts. I don’t want to delve into that yet,” she said.

The attack lasted for about 15 to 20 minutes, Bölke said. At first, she thought they wanted to rob her. She didn’t immediately link it with her work at H.I.J.O.S. until they said they had come to kill her and that they knew about her activism.

After they left, she sought medical attention at hospital. “When we came back, we saw they had painted ‘VLLC ñoqui’ on one of the walls,” she said. They also broke furniture, but did not take any items of value.

VLLC is the acronym for President Javier Milei’s libertarian slogan viva la libertad, carajo (long live freedom, dammit). Ñoqui, the Spanish word for gnocchi, is a derogatory term used to refer to public workers who supposedly get paid but do not perform their jobs.

The H.I.J.O.S. statement said the attackers took folders with information about the group, and that the attackers claimed they had been paid to assault her.

“My life has been left on stand-by,” Bölke said. “Since March 5 I haven’t been the same person, I haven’t been able to keep a fluent dialogue with my loved ones,” she added, asking them to forgive her for her behavior. “They kept asking me if I was okay and I couldn’t tell them because I was scared.”

“At times I’m fine and I try to forget, to get my normal life back,” she added. “I’m trying to figure out how to move on.”

On Sunday, Argentina commemorated its day of memory, truth and justice, 48 years after the civic-military dictatorship seized power on March 24, 1976. That day, the Casa Rosada issued a video questioning the number of people forcibly disappeared during the dictatorship and pushed other denialist tropes. 

Milei is known for his hostile stance towards Argentina’s human rights movement, whom he called “zurdos de mierda” — damned leftists — before becoming president.


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