Helen and Emilia shared everything. Including a devastating secret.

Helen and Emilia shared everything. Including a devastating secret.

Helen* and Emilia* are sisters. Like sisters do, they shared everything when they were little girls. They shared the same room, the same toys and the same loving parents, Rosa and Álfico.

They also shared a devastating secret. They had both been abused by a neighbor. Helen was 6 at the time. Emilia was 3.

The man had warned her to be quiet. Out of fear and child-like obedience, Helen kept silent about her abuse.

She hurt so much she could hardly walk.

Her parents grew suspicious. They noticed that Helen stopped doing chores and was acting strangely.

She finally shared: Not only had their neighbor abused her but he had also abused Emilia. Fearing the man, she’d kept that secret, too.

Rosa and Álfico did not know that sexual assault was a crime. They sat on the terrible truth for days, weighing their options.

“I’m from the country,” Rosa said. “I didn’t know it was against the law.”

Desperate, Rosa told her boss about the incident. She told Rosa about IJM.

When Álfico and Rosa reported the abuse at their local police station, someone told them the crimes didn’t really seem “that serious.” But they filed the complaint anyway.

Then they visited IJM’s office in downtown La Paz, where a lawyer agreed to take their case and a psychologist made plans with them to provide therapy for Helen and Emilia—at no charge.

We know this is serious. We were able to take on this case and provide therapy to Helen and Emilia right away. This was only possible because supporters like you sent us.

Meanwhile, hearing that a complaint had been filed, the abuser fled. He would not be found for eight years.

Through countless hours of therapy, the sisters began to heal. They had endured abuse together, and now they would heal together. As the years went on, their personalities blossomed.

Helen became a driven student and was recently asked to represent her school at a regional math competition. Above her desk hangs a sign she wrote in blue marker: “I am happy because my happiness does not depend on anyone else, only me.”

Emilia loves sports and cooking. Often on weekends, she shakes her older sister out of bed before sunrise and they close themselves in their small kitchen, hanging a hand-written “do not disturb” sign on the door. They will have assembled fruit salad, egg sandwiches, and orange juice ready for the family before their parents wake up.

Their abuser, however, was nowhere to be found. But IJM would not stop searching.

Finally, in February of last year, an IJM investigator had the hunch that the abuser would show up to vote in a historic election.

He was right, and finally, after eight long years, the abuser was arrested.

“My lawyer said that IJM would forget about the case,” he said.

He was wrong.

After a trial, the abuser was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

One of the longest-running cases in the history of IJM had come to an end.

“We were so happy,” Emilia, now 10, said. “We’d finally done something that seemed impossible.”

Thanks to supporters like you, Helen and Emilia finally saw their abuser brought to justice.

Helen said, “I want to help children like IJM has helped me.”

Make Helen’s wish a reality. Send rescue to children now.

*A pseudonym