IJM Bolivia Secures Justice for 10-year-old Wanda Just Before Courts Recess

Wanda, pictured left, with her sister. Wanda says her favorite classes at school are Science and Physical Education.
Wanda, pictured left, with her sister. Wanda says her favorite classes at school are Science and Physical Education.

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA – The Bolivian courts just began a 21-day recess, pausing all hearings and regular court proceedings.  For families waiting for justice, these three weeks can feel like an eternity.

But two days before the break began, IJM celebrated justice for one little girl named Wanda.*

Facing a Formidable Battle Alone

Two years ago, 8-year-old Wanda was walking home from school. A stranger snatched her from the side of the road and forced her into his car. He drove her to a deserted location and sexually assaulted her.

Wanda’s parents immediately filed a report, eager to see justice done for their little girl.

But like many people living in poverty, they faced an uphill battle. If you sexually assault a child in Bolivia, you are more likely to die slipping in the shower or bathtub than you are of going to jail for your crime.

The family of six shares a single room in the home of extended relatives. Wanda’s father works as a carpenter’s assistant, and there was zero extra income to pay for a lawyer or therapy for Wanda.

A state investigator told one of IJM’s lawyers about this case, and suddenly Wanda’s family wasn’t facing the formidable obstacles alone.

IJM Helps Wanda’s Family Seek Justice

IJM lawyers met with the family and the public prosecutor to gather evidence and build the case. Wanda decided to testify in the trial and tell what had happened. It was a brave decision, and IJM lawyers helped the little girl prepare to share at the site of crime, and again with a psychologist. Both testimonies were important evidence in the case.

On June 20, 2014, the perpetrator pled guilty and IJM’s lawyer successfully argued for a strong, 18-year sentence.

Wanda’s parents were present for the ruling, and they were both relieved and grateful that justice has been done and they don’t have to fear this man any longer. IJM social workers will keep working with Wanda’s family to help them provide a more stable home environment. Wanda will continue attending therapy to process the trauma.

IJM Bolivia Field Office Director Greg Tarrant said, “This young girl and her family can now put the legal process behind them and move forward with their lives in peace, knowing justice has been achieved.”