Dear Rochy RD Fans, When Will “La Cultura” Protect Our Women & Girls?

Photo: LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images.
On April 22, Dominican rapper Rochy RD was arrested in Santo Domingo for allegedly sexually assaulting a minor and participating in child sex trafficking. According to a lawsuit against him and his partner, fellow artist La Demente 1212, the pair recruited and paid low-income girls aged 16 and younger to engage in sexual intercourse and activities with the rapper. While the recording artist sits inside La Victoria prison awaiting his trial, fans and colleagues are claiming his innocence and blaming the victims under the guise of promiscuity and respectability politics
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“People, please. Rochy is the tip of the iceberg. Every day there are dozens of cases of adults with minors in the Dominican Republic, and nobody does or says anything. But Rochy is Rochy, and they want to destroy him,” one Twitter user wrote, effectively summing up public opinion in Rochy RD’s case. 
Amid the widespread support of the dembow rapper, born Aderly Ramírez Oviedo, are also justifications for his alleged abuse of minors due to their perceived looseness, inebriation, and socioeconomic background. Fans and colleagues have collectively decided that it doesn’t matter if this adult sexually assaulted an underage girl; so long as she’s “from the street,” “not a virgin,” and “already using drugs,” we don’t have to protect her, no matter what laws might be in place.   

It doesn’t matter if this adult sexually assaulted an underage girl; so long as she’s “from the street,” “not a virgin,” and “already using drugs,” we don’t have to protect her.   

Those involved in the case, including La Demente, a recording artist who is still at large but ran the recruitment and negotiations of said minors, will be prosecuted for the violation of various articles of the Dominican Penal Code, including the Code for the Protection of Children and Adolescents, but some local activists aren't convinced justice will be served. “There is no social framework for those laws to ever actually be put into action,” cultural critic and educator Zahira Kelly tells Refinery29 Somos from her Puerto Plata home, offering context to Dominican society. “Everybody is busy victim-blaming the girls. The police do not care; they're the first ones to blame the victim. The laws in this case become useless, because not only does the state not care to enforce those laws, the social norms here say that they should not be enforced either.”
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There are socioeconomic and coming-of-age factors at play, too, including a cultural negligence of women and their human rights. “To them, the real perps are the girls, who are in need of money and are undeveloped. To them, Rochy is just a poor-poor victim who couldn’t help what he was doing, and those girls knew absolutely and exactly what the fuck they were doing,” Kelly adds in a sobering tone. 
Angelica Piche, CEO of 21 Grams Management and artist developer of six years in the Dominican Republic, echoes Kelly, saying that these are the consequences of a precarious and unstable environment where girls are robbed of their innocence daily and forced to act as women. “Instead of focusing on the possibility the story might not be true for whatever reasons, people just seemed to accept that he did have sex with this young girl and justified the act by saying things like she was already fucking and doing drugs, and therefore was not being abused,” adding that “some artists will say this is how bajo mundo is, but forget that just because something is doesn't mean it's OK.”   
The likes of Melymel, whose “IDGAF” video has earned nearly five million YouTube views to date and is considered the mother of rap in Santo Domingo, do nothing to speak up for the rights and protection of her own. “It is not justified that he has been with a minor, but with all those miles she has, walking at night, drinking, smoking, tattooed, any man would consider even a grandmother,” she said on a since deleted Instagram post in support of Rochy RD, doubling down on the slut-shaming popular among her male colleagues.
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"To them, Rochy is just a poor-poor victim who couldn’t help what he was doing, and those girls knew absolutely and exactly what the fuck they were doing."

Even Tokischa, who has used her music to promote female autonomy (in a nation with one of the highest femicide rates in the world) as well as her pro-sex and pro-drugs politics, came under fire after releasing her surprise collaboration with Marshmellow on “ESTALIZO.” Demanding #FreeRochy, she used a jarring caption that loosely translated to, “Underage girls and boys, hustling for their money or sometimes free of charge, take a lot of dick.” It has since been deleted as well.  
As a first-generation Dominican from the Bronx, raised by hip-hop and reggaeton, it has become increasingly challenging being a woman while listening to and trying to uplift our proverbial heroes. The same digital era that has afforded many of us diasporic Domis the unique opportunity to tell our stories to the masses about a movement shaped by Black immigrant creativity, local colloquialism, y el barrio — all while giving the middle finger to everything commercial — is the same machine forcing us to reckon with a dangerous tradition of silence. 
“How many times as female fans of not just Dominican music, but hip-hop in general, do we have to act like something isn’t happening? Do we constantly have to forgive and look the other way? Do we have to ignore it just to enjoy the music,” journalist and dembow historian Jennifer Mota tells Somos emphatically. “And at what expense? I always talk about multiple realities existing at once, but how can I give somebody their flowers knowing the violence or harm that they are helping to create?”
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"How many times as female fans of not just Dominican music, but hip-hop in general, do we have to act like something isn’t happening? Do we constantly have to forgive and look the other way? Do we have to ignore it just to enjoy the music?”

It’s important to also recognize the role of race in this case. The only war older than the one on drugs is the one on Black folks, and many fans believe that Black urbano artists such as Rochy RD are being used as pawns to make public examples, regardless of the truth. “They’ve done this repeatedly, with Vakero and El Alfa. They’ve always used urban artists as examples or as scapegoats, to teach a lesson,” Mota adds.
While it’s impossible to ignore how the state targets and villainizes Black and bajo mundo artists and culture, this doesn’t absolve men like Rochy RD of their alleged crimes against girls. “Are there people in higher positions who get away with this every day? Yes. But culturally, where are we going with this when we use that to justify anyone doing it at all,” Mota says.
Freestyle star and dembow artist, Gailen la Moyeta, had little to offer in relation to Rochy’s case, but she told Somos that the aftermath has inspired a series of conversations around the bajo mundo movement. “I hope he gets out and receives whatever lesson he needs from this, but what’s wrong is wrong and you cannot support what is wrong,” she says. “The fact that the law here in the Dominican Republic is not applied the same for everyone doesn’t change that.” 

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