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Hi APC! My name is Alexia Sambrano. I’m a Los Angeles local. I was born in East LA and raised in South Gate for the majority of my childhood and adolescence. I identify as queer/bisexual, and I am a first-generation, low-income Chicanx artist. I’m currently a second-year student at the University of Southern California (USC) studying Neuroscience and Cognitive Science, with a minor in LGBTQ Studies. I began selling my art in the summer of 2019, and just recently decreased lots of prices on my Etsy alexiasambranoart.etsy.com in hopes of getting more sales to support myself and my family. I also have a Depop depop.com/alexiety where I sell clothing and other non-art items!
I first started painting about three years ago, and have since then grown tremendously over time. I mainly use acrylic and oil paint on traditional canvases, though I am currently experimenting with mediums. I’ve painted on denim jackets and jeans, hydroflasks, and glass frames!
My art focuses on the intersectionality of my identities, including my interpretations of my sexuality and my inability to settle on a label), my femininity, my Mexican/Mexican-American heritage, culture, and upbringing, and my struggles with mental health (anxiety, depression, etc). Additionally, my art focuses on highlighting the diversity of bodies, in shape and in color, and self-love and acceptance. My art can be viewed on my Instagram @alexiasambranoart or @a.lex.i.a and my Twitter @alexiajpeg. I’ve shared several pieces, but my personal favorite is “La Ansiedad,” an acrylic painting on a 16×12 canvas panel that I made in 2017. This piece is super important to me because it is inspired by a Loteria card, which is a symbol of my Mexican heritage, and also by my struggles with my mental health at the time. Meant to be a fictionalized version of my face, the piece illustrates my personal battle with anxiety and self-doubt. This piece is personal and true to my emotions as it is meant to symbolize the fear of feeling out of place.
Additionally, I am also submitting a prose piece I wrote a year and a half ago after I was sexually assaulted. I did not complete the piece until last night when I made the last-minute decision to finally speak my truth about the incident. The piece was originally written in the present tense and chronicled the voiced inside my head as I came to terms with what I had experienced. For over a year, I left this piece untouched and unfinished before finally gaining the courage to write again. Now, the piece is in the past tense and follows my headspace during and immediately after the incident took place.
He Didn’t Rape Me
By Alexia Sambrano
He didn’t rape me.
He didn’t threaten me at gunpoint. He didn’t drug my drink. He didn’t coerce me into sex while I was intoxicated. He didn’t hit me over the head with a crowbar and drag my limp body to his car. He wasn’t a dangerous serial killer looking for his next victim on the street.
He invited me out for the night. He said he knew the best place for donuts. He’s been there a million times before. I thought wow, how nice. I barely knew him, but we went to high school together. He was a friend of a friend. Why not, I thought, I’m sure it’ll be fun.
He didn’t rape me — but as he stretched over the gear shift of his car with one hand gripping my face and the other roaming the small of my back towards the seam of my pants — I sat tense and paralyzed with fear. He didn’t rape me, but I was afraid he would.
Maybe he thought I wanted him. Maybe it was because he paid for my food. Maybe it was because my pants cupped my ass in the right places and hung loosely from my waist, just enough for him to see the hem of my navy-blue underwear. Maybe it’s because he knew I was bisexual and the thought of having a threesome with me and another girl turned him on. Maybe it’s because he knew I’ve had sex with five people, and no one feels sorry for a raped girl if she was a whore.
I began to hear my own panic-struck voice riot against me: Does that mean I deserve it now more than then? Now that I’ve had sex with three more people? Have I not learned my lesson? How does a woman expect to be respected when she doesn’t respect herself?
I remember this – his teeth cut into the flesh of my lips so hard I was afraid he’d spill blood. He used his hands to hold me close and made sure not to let go. Whenever he softened his kiss, I pulled away, tugging and using whatever force I could muster to peel him off of me. I remember running escape plans through my head. I could open the door, run, call the police. But what if he had locked it? I could hit him. Fight back, bite, pull, kick, punch, slap my way to safety. But his grip on me was too tight, and my body was too tense for me to move a muscle.
I turned to stone. I remember feeling like my body had betrayed me. My eyes pooled with tears, ready to cascade down my face. Frozen with panic, all I could do was feel the trembling of my legs, the warmth of my hands and cheeks, the wetness of my sweaty palms.
Maybe if I wasn’t high when it happened, then I’d remember everything in more detail. Maybe I would’ve been able to defend myself. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Maybe if I hadn’t decided to leave the comfort of my friend’s dorm room to get donuts in the middle of the night with a boy I never even spoke to in high school, he wouldn’t have done this to me.
Maybe. Maybe not.
What I do remember, I remember vividly. I remember him laughing. He told me not to worry. He wasn’t interested in sex, he just thought we’d make out in his car parked in an alley. No big deal. I was being a bitch — a prude. I had done this a million times before with five other people, so I could do it with him.
I remember thinking this is where I am going to die. I imagined my body face down, bloodied and bruised, used and tossed in the street. Maybe some kids playing at the park around the corner would find me the next morning. Maybe I would disappear, and no one would look for me, just like the millions of other girls who go missing.
As I sat trembling, my heart racing, I feared the worst. “Relax,” he says, “I just wanted a kiss.”
“Can you take me back to campus, please?” I begged. My voice wavered and cracked. I knew he could tell I was afraid, and my fear only made him more righteous. My disobedience urged him on.
A wave of relief crashed through my body when the ignition finally roared to life, but it wasn’t over. The ride back was a quiet one. His hands alternated between massaging my thighs with immense pressure and forcing his fingers into my own. “You’re sweaty,” he laughed. “Relax.” I faced the window the entire ride back to campus, my free arm clutching my phone so tightly my knuckles turned white. The whole ride I was counting to 60 and starting again. I did this 13 times. 13 minutes. I spent 13 minutes in excruciating agony, disgust and horror, but it felt like an eternity.
When we got back to campus, and I heard the click of the door signaling freedom, I sprung out of the passenger seat without saying a word. I brought myself to face him one last time. I could not stop myself from trembling with terror. He can’t hurt you out here, I thought, but my arms and legs felt numb. There was a ringing in my ears from my anxiety, but I remember he asked: “You’re not going to talk to me anymore, huh?” Laughs escaped his mouth. This was funny to him. This was a joke.
My fear, my anxiety, my tears were all a joke to him. I was laughable, dispensable, easily used.
He didn’t rape me, but the paralyzing fear still haunts me. He didn’t rape me, but he might as well have.