KIGALI, RWANDA – Last month, justice was secured for Lorraine,* a brave young girl who became pregnant after being assaulted by her neighbor. Nearly two years after she had been so violently raped, Lorraine and her IJM Rwanda team watched as a judge convicted the man, affirming that assault against children is a serious crime.
Lorraine had been home alone when a 21-year-old neighbor came into her house, forced her into a bedroom and raped her. He returned to abuse her twice more over the next month. Each time, he threatened to kill her if she told anyone. At just 13 years old, she was terrified and kept the horrible abuse to herself.
Soon, Lorraine discovered she had become pregnant and had contracted a sexually transmitted illness. But still, she stayed silent. At six months, her mother realized Lorraine was pregnant. At last, the heavy silence was broken.
Her mother was devastated and took Lorraine to the police. Officers worked quickly to find the neighbor who had attacked Lorraine and arrest him. Lorraine's mother also took her to a hospital for care, and it was there that she got connected to IJM for legal help.
In December 2011, Lorraine gave birth to a healthy baby girl. IJM social workers were there to support Lorraine, still a child herself, and make sure she and her baby were receiving the care they needed to stay healthy.
IJM lawyers had started to build a case against the neighbor who attacked her. At first he denied the charges, but the powerful DNA evidence proving he was the baby's father caused him to admit to the crime. He tried to avoid serious punishment by claiming he had been under 18 at the time of the assault, but IJM worked with state prosecutors to present strong evidence to disprove his lies. IJM petitioned the judge to stand up for Lorraine, and tell her entire community that the abuse she had suffered was wrong.
On December 3, 2012, the judge did just that. He found Lorraine's abuser guilty, sentencing the man to five years in prison and ordering him to pay damages to the young girl.
Today, Lorraine and her daughter are living safely at her mother's home. IJM led Lorraine through a trauma-focused therapy program, helping her find healing from the abuse and threats. Now Lorraine is getting ready to return to school, and IJM will continue to walk with her to make sure she receives the support she needs as she raises a child of her own.
*A pseudonym has been used for the protection of this IJM client.