GUATEMALA CITY – Griselda* was walking home with her mother and brother from a Mother’s Day celebration at church. Suddenly, a blue car cut in front of the family. A man jumped out, grabbed 13-year-old Griselda, and sped away.
Griselda’s mother was shocked and shouted for help. She flagged down a passing police car, and they drove to a neighborhood notorious for violent crime and gang activity. The blur car was sitting in an empty lot; Griselda was inside.
She had been raped at gunpoint by three men. Two fled by the time the police arrived, and the other man was arrested.
Griselda got medical help right away, and her family reported the heinous crime.
“Please Bring Them To Justice”
Many impoverished families in Guatemala do not report crimes because they fear retaliation from the perpetrator or his family.
Griselda’s parents knew they had to try to get the justice their daughter deserved. “Otherwise,” her mother said, “there will be more little girls who will be harmed.”
The trial started, but the family simply could not afford legal representation on their own. When they discovered IJM, they found a strong attorney—and a team of social workers who could help their daughter heal.
Griselda testified in two different trials, choosing to tell the truth even though it meant facing the perpetrators in court. The first man was convicted in 2008.
IJM investigators helped police search for the two others who had escaped on the day of the attack. They were finally arrested, tried and convicted in 2012. At one point during her testimony, Griselda addressed the judge: “Your honor, I want to make this quite clear: If anything happens to me or my family in the next few days, weeks, or years, it is because of these men. Please bring them to justice.”
“She Is Marching Forward”
Nineteen-year-old Griselda remembers how she used to be afraid to go outside and struggled with feeling lonely and ashamed.
But today she is a confident, well-spoken young woman who says she wants to share her story “so that everybody knows that you can overcome an experience such as this.”
Griselda shared her powerful story at IJM’s Global Prayer Gathering in Washington, DC, in April 2014. She thanked the IJM staff who had helped her and encouraged everyone to continue praying for children who do not have a defender.
She lives with her loving parents and younger siblings, and she finished her studies to become a bilingual secretary. Griselda completed an internship with IJM Guatemala, and she says she wants to become a social worker so she can continue helping children who have suffered trauma. She plans to enroll in university and study clinical psychology.
“What happened to her won’t ever be forgotten,” IJM Guatemala’s child psychologist Miriam Cruz said. “But now she’s marching forward.”
*A pseudonym has been used for the protection of this IJM client; she has given consent to share her image.