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Content note: discussion and graphic description of a rape

He goes by the name Mateo now, but his full name is Matthew Maldonado. He is a MMA fighter and last year he spent ten months in jail because he and another man allegedly raped their inebriated Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) teammate in a parking garage after offering her a ride home. They left her unconscious on the cement ground in the middle of a Washington DC winter. The account was caught on a security camera and the endeavor shook the entire BJJ community. 

According to reports:
“The men took her to the St. Matthew’s Center parking garage instead, police explained, where surveillance cameras captured Maldanado raping the woman and Shultz joining. After Maldanado left, police said, the tape shows Schultz raping her repeatedly. She told police he said at one point, “I am sorry. I am a sick bastard.” Detectives said the woman claimed she had been raped, but it wasn’t until they saw the tape, that the extent of the allegations emerged.They wrote of the alleged attack ‘She fell backwards…striking her head against the wall…later struck her head again…and noted she collapsed to the ground…several times…her head again hitting the ground.’”

Mateo was later found not guilty of all of the charges brought against him: first and second-degree sexual assault and kidnapping. His not being found guilty does not mean that he did not rape the young woman, it was just that there was not enough evidence to convict him. There is such a high level of proof that is needed to convict a rapist that it is not surprising that he would not be held accountable if he were guilty. Since his release, he has moved back to NYC to live with his family. He is now a member of a new gym – MY gym.

I had developed a relationship with Mateo before I Googled his name and seen what he was accused of. He and I had trained together; we had even flirted with each other. He was at my tournament and he hugged me good luck and told me if I needed someone to be in my corner during my fights, he would be there.

There was a lot of shock and emotions that came along with find out about Mateo. Mostly, I felt sick. The statistics range that 1 in 4 to 1 in 6 women having been victim of sexual assault. Therefore, unless one lives under a rock, there is a high likelihood that a person knows someone who has experienced this form of gender violence. The impact of assault ripples to the victim’s family, friends, and other acquaintances and can result in vicarious trauma. I have come into an unfortunately large number of survivors having been an active member of the Women’s Resource Center at my alma matter and a mentor for other women surviving assault. Furthermore, I have my own history with rape. When I saw Mateo for the first time since my “discovery,” I had a visceral reaction caused in part by my personal history and other women in my life who had been victimized by men. I wanted to hit him. Hurt him. Make him suffer. Instead I started laughing and tearing up, which I think is because my subconscious had no other way to cope.

Needless to say, navigating this relationship has been challenging. Making it more so is Mateo’s entitled attitude. He had since spoken publicly to the team where he stated that the girl he allegedly raped was known for being easy and sleeping with other members of the team. He has acted as if this woman’s life, which has most likely been greatly altered by this event, is not to be respected and slut shames her in attempts to make nice with his new team.

I met with an older teammate, a mentor of such, to assist me coming to terms with this newfound information and difficult relationship. When we met, we discussed the situation and that, in no way, does Mateo come out looking like a  halfway decent guy. And despite this fact, he is at our gym and the women are going to have to find ways to feel safe and to ensure that others feel safe as well. Towards the end of the conversation, she said that I have three options: 1) completely ignore him and act like he does not exist, 2) talk to him and let him know that I know his history and that I would like space from him, or 3) buddy up to him and follow the theory of keep your friends close and your enemies closer. The reactionary part of me wanted to pull him aside, tell him I knew of his past, call him a slime ball, and  to fuck off and to never speak to him again. But the reasoning part of me countered that this was only going to be a temporary fix. I was still going to see him every week and my ignoring is going to give me no more control over the situation. If I continued to have a relationship – it would be on my terms and I would be able to dictate it would more forward from here on out. Additionally, it would also allow me to keep my eyes on him and ensure that other women at the gym were safe and felt safe.

Now that I think about it, I think that Mateo and I are going to be the best of friends.

CCSPWhat are your thoughts – dear readers. What would you do if you were in my shoes?