‘I just froze’

Former president of Costa Rica accused of sexually assaulting activist during work meeting

Former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Nobel laureate and former Costa Rica president Óscar Arias Sánchez, 78, has been accused of sexually assaulting a psychiatrist and nuclear disarmament activist.

Arias was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for having brokered a plan to end civil wars in Central America. He is still regarded as Costa Rica’s most powerful statesman,having led the country twice and where he continues to promote peace and democracy.

Dr. Alexandra Arce von Herold, 34, filed a criminal complaint with federal prosecutors on Monday over an incident four years ago at Arias’ home in which he allegedly groped her breasts, reached beneath her skirt and penetrated her with his fingers during what was supposed to be a meeting to discuss plans for nuclear disarmament.

“I just froze, and I didn’t know what to do,” said Arce, a psychiatrist at a state hospital in San José. “I was so much in shock. That had never happened to me before.” The only thing she could think to do, she recalled, was to cry out, “You’re married,” before rapidly fleeing the home.

In wake of the incident, she immediately spoke to a member of congress and her boyfriend about what had transpired — both of whom have corroborated her account. Arce said she told her family and several other people in the nuclear disarmament movement about the assault, but that she decided not to speak out until now due to risk of reprisal and fear it would harm her work for nuclear disarmament. Witnessing the #MeToo movement, and in particular the testimony of young gymnasts at the trial of serial abuser and former U.S. Olympics team doctor Larry Nassar, she said, had given her the courage to come forward.

“All the other women, that did, that helped me. So I thought maybe, maybe, I can help other people too,” said Arce, explaining that she was concerned that Arias had targeted other young activists. “It’s the right thing to do, even if it destroys me.”

Arias has denied the accusations against him.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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