MANILA, THE PHILIPPINES – Two men were convicted this week in Manila and sentenced to at least 20 years in prison for raping a young girl named Gwen.* The assaults started when Gwen was 9 years old and lasted a few years. The perpetrators are her uncle and cousin, underscoring the violence with betrayal and pain.
When another family member found out about the abuse, she asked her church for advice on how to help. The church was sponsored by Compassion International, a child advocacy NGO. Compassion referred Gwen and her family to IJM Manila for the legal assistance they desperately needed.
Over the past two years, Gwen and her mother have been supported by Compassion and their local church. Their extended family has rallied behind them in spite of the sad rift the abuse created. IJM has also provided counseling for Gwen, and helped her prepare when she courageously decided to testify in the trial against her uncle and cousin.
IJM began advocating for Gwen in 2012, and the convictions were issued on January 27, 2014. The two-year trial is one of the fastest for IJM Manila, and it reflects a serious commitment from the judge to keep the hearings on track so that the child sexual assault case would reach a swift conclusion. Each man was convicted on several counts of rape and sentenced to at least 20 years in prison (and up to 40).
"After the judgment was read, Gwen said that she's happy and grateful. But she also expressed her sadness that the abuse had to happen, and that her own kin—her uncle and cousin—had to go to jail because of it," said IJM Attorney Ralph Catedral, who represented Gwen in the trial. He added, "The work of justice is always a hard and bumpy road, but a victory like this is a reminder that the journey is all worth it."