Helena’s story is one of survival. The daughter of immigrant parents from Cuba and Argentina, she came to appreciate the meaning of endurance early in life. Despite a harrowing, violent abduction at age 17, she was determined to achieve her dream of becoming a writer. After earning a degree in Creative Writing, she spent seven years producing segments for MTV’s Jackass, Wildboyz, Rob & Big and Fantasy Factory, and in consumer products for Nickelodeon and Paramount.
However, her time in Hollywood was cut short when a brush with cancer threatened her life. During her recovery, she began researching her cold case and discovered that hers had been among the 400,000 nationally estimated unprocessed rape kits.
In 2009, with the help of local advocates, Helena was finally able to bring the serial interstate rapist who had kidnapped her to justice after nearly 14 years. By 2011, she had successfully lobbied Mayor Villaraigosa to clear the city of Los Angeles’ entire backlog, resulting in the processing of almost 12,000 neglected kits. She then began working to raise nationwide awareness about the systemic failure to investigate rape. In 2015, she introduced Vice President Joe Biden at the press conference where he announced $41 million in federal funding for untested kits. Finally, in 2017, she was part of a successful effort to pass California legislation mandating the counting and tracking of rape kits—the first bill of its kind in the state. [She is presently undertaking a campaign to support SB 1449, mandating the testing of all kits statewide.]
Read more about her accomplishments and related media coverage here.
In addition to these efforts, Helena underwent training to become a certified Crisis Intervention Specialist and began working with Peace Over Violence—the Los Angeles-based rape crisis agency responsible for reopening her case. Her work included survivor accompaniment at hospitals during their evidence collection exams, case management, individual advocacy, counseling, and answering calls on the National Sexual Assault Hotline operated by RAINN. She partnered with law enforcement agencies, the district attorney’s office, and medical professionals to provide the highest level of care to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Later, she focused on using her writing skills to support non-profits, publishing resource guides and white papers and serving as a grant-writer with a successful track record.
Most recently, she came full-circle by serving as a consultant for Mariska Hargitay’s award-winning HBO Documentary, I am Evidence. In addition to offering her testimony as part of the movie, Helena assisted in the development of interview questions—utilizing her years of media experience as both a subject and producer to create standards that served filmmakers while prioritizing the needs of survivors. She also provided feedback around the model of care needed when calling on survivors of sexual assault to share their stories; as a result, each documentary participant was offered counseling services and the opportunity to take part in a healing retreat.
This unique combination of experience as a speaker, advocate, and professional gives Helena a singular perspective that makes her a valuable asset to any agency.
She welcomes opportunities around education and training of law enforcement, medical, and forensic personnel; advocacy in partnership with lawmakers; consultation for media professionals; and public speaking invitations.
All requests may be made using the form to the right, or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.