GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA – Belle* took a deep breath. The 13-year-old girl was sitting in an unfamiliar courtroom in Guatemala. The defense lawyer had just asked her a simple question, to point out a man. This was a culminating moment for Belle, who had been abused by the man in 2009.
She lifted her hand and pointed directly at the perpetrator, who had been an appliance delivery man in her small neighborhood. Belle spoke in a clear voice: "It was that man there." Then the young girl sank into the bench, overcome with a flood of emotions.
Belle's courageous words solidified the case against the perpetrator: He was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison without parole.
Belle's family filed a criminal complaint when she revealed the sexual abuse she had endured. The Public Ministry referred the case to IJM, who immediately started therapy designed to help Belle process the trauma. IJM investigators identified the perpetrator and coordinated his arrest. In the process, Belle's family also discovered that another girl in thir community, Calista,* had been sexually molested by the same man. The Public Ministry consented to have both girls' cases combined into one legal trial, and IJM represented them both in court.
The two girls go to the same school and have become friends and a source of comfort for each other. IJM continues to provide the girls and their families support so they can grow up in a safe and loving community.