A female firefighter working in Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Village woke up this week to a security guard sexually assaulting her as she slept, an incident bringing to the forefront once more Brazil’s high crime rate and incidents of rape specifically.
According to the criminal report, the security guard entered the sleeping quarters of the firefighter in order to commit the assault around 4:30 a.m. the night of July 31. The firefighter could not resist until she was awakened, too late to stop the crime. The firefighter was stationed inside the Velodrome area of the Olympic Village. “In her condition, she could not resist,” police told reporters. The security guard is facing only two to six years in prison for sexual assault of a vulnerable person as per Brazilian criminal law.
The officer has been identified as Genival Ferreira Mendes; the firefighter has remained anonymous but has given statements to the media in which she explained what she witnessed. “I woke up with him kissing me and stroking me, almost lying on top of me,” she told Brazilian television. She noted she was too tired to resist, as Olympics public workers have been enduring 12-hour work days and have very little time to rest.
“I just feel ashamed,” she told the media. “It’s a great event, it has enough security. But what happened to me can happen to others and can happen again.”
It has happened again at least twice: a Moroccan Olympic athlete has been expelled from the village for attempting to rape two chambermaids since Mendes’ attack on the firefighter. Hassan Saada, a boxer, will not be able to compete in the Olympics after police arrested him under attempted rape charges.
Rape is a prevalent problem in Brazil, and, like many of Brazil’s problems, Rio de Janeiro is its epicenter. According to Brazilian newspaper O Globo, an estimated twelve people are raped daily in Rio de Janeiro – one every two hours. The problem triggered international condemnation after a particularly gruesome incident in which 33 men raped a 16-year-old girl after drugging her and posted the footage on Facebook, including graphic close-ups of the physical damage they had done to her.
In response to the girl, who locals say had a “reputation” for partying, publicly condemning her attackers, she received death threats on Facebook. Brazilians also launched a hashtag campaign in her defense, titled #RapeIsNotTheVictimsFault, which she told reporters surprised her.
Men are not immune to sexual assaults, either. Jason Lee, a jiu-jitsu champion, told city police that military Ppolice members who kidnapped him and forced him to withdraw money from an ATM also groped him during the assault, which was the first sign, he said on Facebook, that these officers did not mean well. At least two officers have been arrested in relation to Lee’s kidnapping.
City police told Lee that even they fear the military police, who will have a prominent role in ensuring the security of athletes and tourists during the games.
In addition to rape, Rio de Janeiro is home to a variety of criminal organizations and suffers from a high rate of incidents of violent crime. In July, officials were forced to respond to the international community’s alarm at a series of cases of stray bullets killing local residents who were unknowingly too close to a gunfight. “That’s how Rio is,” lamented the nation’s Secretary of Public Security José Mariano Beltrame.