“She’s dead, she’s dead.” The words, barely a whisper, became a deafening echo during the afternoon of a distant Friday in September 1974. In the midst of the people who were beginning to pile up in the area of the stairs leading to the bell tower from the church adjoining the Colegio San Marcelo de Don Torcuato was the body of Ana Maria RivarolaAnita, an eight-year-old girl.
She was lying on her back, with her overalls and skirt up and her panties at knee height. She had been raped and hanged with the ropes that were used to separate the pews of the parish during masses. The child femicide of Anita Rivarola “was a trauma” in Don Torcuato, when fear was already in the air due to the state terrorism that was beginning to take shape.
“A blanket of darkness and silence fell very quickly on that case, later I found out it was impunity”said to TN Sonia Almada, a psychoanalyst specializing in sexual abuse and child abuse, who, more than 40 years after the crime, published “The Girl from the Bell Tower”, an investigative book with which she managed to reconstruct Anita’s tragic end.
She went to the bathroom and they killed her
Sonia Almada lived in the same neighborhood and was the same age as the victim when she was killed. Perhaps that is why the impact was even greater that September 27, 48 years ago, when the delivery man arrived at the bread office where his mother worked and told the two that they had “found a girl hanging from the bell tower of the Colegio San Marcelo.
“We were stunned, but from then on nothing more was known,” Sonia recalled. What was clear, even at that time and in the midst of so much commotion, is that the girl was in class when the events occurred, asked permission to go to the bathroom and they never saw her alive again.
After a while, seeing that Anita did not return to the classroom, her teacher sent for her and the horror was discovered, although partially in reality. Because it was not yet known that before killing her, the murderer also had sexually abused her.
From Montoneros to the mysterious stranger
In dialogue with this medium, Sonia pointed out that the “official” version that the school authorities initially installed was that “a stranger that no one knew had entered” and killed Anita. A random and unfortunate event.
The other hypothesis, the one that ran from mouth to mouth among the residents of the neighborhood, linked the crime with the Montoneros group. “A crazy theory which fit in with the events in the country at that time”, considered the psychoanalyst, who also founded a civil association dedicated to raising awareness of all types of violence against children and adolescents.
But, Sonia pointed out, the investigation “was archived after a year” without them being nowhere near finding the culprit of homicide. In fact, hardly anyone remembered that a girl had been murdered in their own school. “The investigation seems to have hit an insurmountable wall. She (…) she was dead, without a doubt, to prevent him from pointing out who had made her an object of mistreatment”, can be read in the edition of Clarion of October 13, 1974, one of the last journalistic references to the fact.
“I survived sexual violence, not Anita”
“The news affected me because from it I discovered, when I was 8 years old, that children can be killed. It was very strong because I survived sexual violence, Anita did not, “Sonia Almada explained in another interview. That was the reason why, although she had not met her personally or even knew her name, that girl who was killed so close to her it was a constant in their life.
The idea for the book came as an attempt to repair, late, but so necessary, for the victim. However, there were several obstacles that he had to overcome along the way. “I didn’t even know his name, I couldn’t find anything on the internet, my friends didn’t remember him,” Sonia listed. So many were the refusals that she even came to wonder if that story had really happened or if it was a product of her imagination.
It is very strong what violence can do, especially when it is not put into words.
But the “causality” crossed her on the floor of a television program, both as guests, with the renowned investigator and criminalist Raúl TorreAnd then the first door opened. It is that Anita’s crime had been the first case in which she had to participate to the expert, at 20 years old.
tower was the trigger of a series of voicesbetween the authorities of the school where the incident occurred, classmates and relatives of the victim, who throughout the two years and a half that the investigation brought to Sonia allowed her to get closer to the truth: “Anita probably knew the killer.”.
“The case was paradigmatic for me to talk about how sexual violence in childhood is covered up, about child femicides -because Anita is raped and murdered because of their gender– but also of the abuses within ecclesiastical environments”, he indicated opportunely for the presentation of his book, which was edited by La Docta Ignorancia.
“A story of great pain”
The case finally closed as “rape followed by death” and faster than slowly it was falling into oblivion, behind “years and walls of silence”. “Anita’s mother could never recover from this tragedy,” Sonia remarked. Both the woman and her husband, father of the minor, died young “and asking until the last moment who had murdered his daughter.
And he stressed: “The family was devastated by this event, it is impressive how violence harms families and entire generations.
Over time, Sonia found Anita’s grave in the Tigre cemetery. “I needed to bring her a flower, being an atheist I went to see her a lot of times,” she told TNand highlighted: “I think about her every dayhis name was a historical recovery”.