Protect Children from Sexual Violence
“I’m still not quite used to school yet, but I feel at peace,” Karmen said. “To be able to study now is a beautiful thing.”
When she was 9 years old, Karmen* and her siblings went to live with her aunt. That’s when the horror began. For nearly two years, she cleaned the house, cooked for them and cared for them—all while keeping a secret she knew would divide her already-broken family. She was being raped by her own cousin. And nobody besides the two of them knew. Afraid of being homeless, Karmen kept silent.
At age 11, Karmen escaped from the house with her siblings and went to live with their grandmother, Esther.* It was there—out of her cousin’s reach—that Karmen finally felt comfortable enough to confide in her grandmother. Her grandmother, in turn, came to IJM for help. She even told IJM investigators where to find her grandson, Karmen’s rapist.
Esther knew her grandson needed to be held accountable, even if it meant dividing the family. Facing threats from the suspect’s family, IJM sent extra workers to the courthouse to escort the family and IJM lawyers safely home.
IJM aftercare workers have found a safe house for Karmen to live, and she has re-enrolled in school, glad to be free from the violence and abuse she faced at home. She hopes to become a chef or an engineer, or maybe both.