A Gilroy man was sentenced earlier this month to 34 years in prison for repeatedly sexually molesting two young girls over a 10-year period.
Anthony Duran’s victims, now adults, said in court that the abuse deeply impacted their mental and physical health as they grew up questioning their self-worth, intentionally hurting themselves and at times even contemplating suicide.
The victims, sisters who are now in their 20s, spoke at Duran’s July 6 sentencing hearing at the Morgan Hill Courthouse. Duran, 46, pleaded guilty Feb. 26 to two counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child by force, violence, duress, menace or fear; one count of rape by force, violence, duress, menace or fear; and two counts of sodomy by use of force.
Duran began molesting one of the girls when she was 5 years old, and the other when she was age 7, according to the victims’ stepmother. The sexual abuse continued for about 10 years. Duran knew the girls through his relationship with an adult female relative of theirs, whom he was dating at the time. The abuse took place in Gilroy hotel rooms rented by Duran for that purpose.
Duran, who has been in custody in Santa Clara County Jail since his February 2017 arrest, sat still in the courtroom’s jury box while his victims tearfully read their statements describing the damage he inflicted on them.
The women said the childhood abuse by Duran haunted them well into adulthood and plunged them into severe depression. Both victims said they resorted to harming themselves physically as a coping mechanism—with one cutting her wrist so badly that the bone was visible, almost resulting in her death.
“I grew up thinking that somehow it was my fault, that I must have done something wrong to deserve this,” read the younger of the two victims in court July 6. “I didn’t deserve this; no one does. You made me feel ashamed of myself for years. I became depressed to the point where it was dangerous. I couldn’t function like a normal person. I would cry day and night any time I was alone.”
Over the years, even after Duran’s abuse stopped, this pain grew worse.
“I had to figure out a way to make it stop. That’s when I started to self-harm,” she said. “I would either burn or cut myself. Burning myself didn’t bring me enough physical pain, so I stuck with cutting. … I’d rather deal with physical pain than emotional.”
The woman also spoke directly to Duran: “Anthony, I didn’t destroy your life, you destroyed mine. I can never be normal. I can never be sane. I can never be not broken. There were countless times I wished you had killed me.”
The Dispatch is declining to name the victims, who sent written copies of their court statements to this newspaper. Several of the victims’ family members sat in court with them during Duran’s sentencing hearing.
Santa Clara County Deputy Supervising District Attorney Vishal Bathija provided the following statement regarding Duran’s conviction and sentencing: “His crimes include raping, sodomizing, and orally copulating a child. It is difficult to quantify a just and legal punishment for such vile acts.The 34-year prison sentence is designed to ensure he can never harm another child in our community and to provide closure to two brave young women who can continue to heal.”
‘I was only a child’
The second victim who spoke at Duran’s July 6 hearing told the court that he started sexually abusing her at age 7.
“I was scared. I was confused. I was only 7,” she said. “I was only a child.”
She added that she has recurring nightmares in which she is paralyzed with fear as “a shadow man” approaches until she wakes up screaming. She explained that even though she knew what Duran did to her was wrong, she was afraid to call police because his arrest might separate her from her siblings.
The woman frequently questioned her self-worth long after the abuse ended.
“I convinced myself I was worthless. I convinced myself I wasn’t worth helping. I started to question my existence,” she said. At age 16, she developed an “extreme hate toward myself and the world.”
She described how she eventually started to harm herself, cutting her wrists to the point where the bone was exposed and she almost died, requiring emergency care at the hospital. She also starved herself: “I hated my body so much, I wanted to be so thin I couldn’t exist.” At age 20, she was diagnosed with bulimia.
When she learned her sister also suffered similar abuse by Duran, her “mental health took another turn for the worst” as she blamed herself, and ceaselessly thought about things she could have done to prevent her sister’s victimization.
She also directed her words at Duran toward the end of her statement: “You are a coward. … You manipulated young girls for your own personal pleasure. … You made us believe what you did to us was OK. You made us believe we were worthless.”
The woman closed with a promise to “let go” now that Duran faces punishment for his crimes.
“I give myself the permission to live my life without being afraid to go to sleep. I give myself permission to live with depression and anxiety. Your sexual abuse is no longer my reality. I am free,” she said.
Judge Javier Alcala praised the young women and their families for speaking out about Duran and how his abuse affected them. “It took a lot of guts. I really admire that,” Alcala said.