© 2024 Wyoming Public Media
800-729-5897 | 307-766-4240
Wyoming Public Media is a service of the University of Wyoming
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Transmission & Streaming Disruptions

The abuse Ruth Solorzano suffered as a child led to her having several abortions

The sexual abuse Ruth Solorzano endured led to her having six abortion. (Sarah Blesener/Special to The Chronicle)
The sexual abuse Ruth Solorzano endured led to her having six abortion. (Sarah Blesener/Special to The Chronicle)

Editor’s note: This story contains descriptions of rape and sexual assault.

Hear a longer version of this story on our podcast, Here & Now Anytime.

Starting when she was just 12 years old, Ruth Solorzano’s stepfather, Edwin Cuxeva, raped and sexually abused her. It went on for more than seven years.

Over that time, Solorzano got pregnant multiple times and underwent abortion procedures. Cuxeva would drive her to a different abortion clinic each time, coaching her to use a fake name so there would be no record of the procedures. She ended up receiving six abortions across the state of California.

“He started making advances on me when I was 11, and it went through for so long,” Solorzano says. “He was grooming me.”

Like many of the 11 million U.S. children who experience sexual abuse, Solorzano didn’t tell anyone for decades. But after opening up to close friends, her mother, her brother and a therapist, she decided to go to the police. She reported the abuse in 2021.

“The [therapist] worked with me for a while just on realizing that what happened to me wasn’t my fault,” she says. “That was like a huge, huge journey for me to realize that this is what these people do. They make you believe that you’re the one and it’s not them.”

Only about one-third of children who experience sexual abuse come forward with it. Many survivors report feeling a sense of isolation and shame that prevents them from reporting.

Raheem Hosseini, race and equity reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, interviewed a number of child sexual abuse experts while reporting Solorzano’s story. He found that more than 90% of victims know their abusers, with more than one-third being related to them.

“Most survivors wait well into adulthood to tell anyone if they ever do tell anyone. Most survivors don’t turn to the police,” Hosseini says. “The very few who do mostly don’t get a satisfying legal resolution, which is where Ruth’s story is maybe unique. The point is to show other survivors who might read the story that they are not alone and to show those around these survivors what to maybe look for.”

After an arduous legal investigation and trial, Cuxeva was charged and sentenced to 28 years in prison last July. It came at a time just after the Supreme Court rolled back abortion rights by overturning Roe v. Wade. A moment that should have provided Solorzano some closure had been tainted by this highly-politicized moment. She touched on the importance of protecting abortion rights in her victim impact statement during Cuxeva’s trial.

“If I wouldn’t have been able to get an abortion, I know that he would have made it look like I committed suicide,” Solorzano says. “I remember when I was a kid, he would tell me things like, ‘What if I threw myself down the stairs so that I could terminate the pregnancy?’”

Following the Roe decision, a news story about a 10-year-old girl in Ohio came out. She had to travel out of state to terminate her rape-caused pregnancy. Her story hit home for Solorzano.

Solorzano says that she shares her story in an attempt to help other survivors come forward and regain control of their bodies.

“I want them to know that they’re not alone and that if they’ve been through something similar, they’ve had an abortion if they need one, not to be ashamed to do the right thing for you because, at the end of the day, what these abusers want is they want to have power over you. They want to control you. They want to control your body. They want to control your mind,” she says. “You want to take your power back. And I absolutely believe, my body, my choice in every aspect.”

Samantha Raphelson produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Grace Griffin adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.