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How IJM Bolivia and its Partner PROBOS are Empowering Survivors of Violence

In Bolivia, 1 in 2 women and 4 in 10 adolescents experience physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. 8 of every 10 adolescents who were victims of violence reported experiencing multiple instances of abuse.

IJM’s trauma-informed approach to healing is essential in this context and IJM Bolivia and its partner PROBOS operate from a deep understanding of trauma’s impact on a person’s life.

PROBOS is an interdisciplinary group of professionals who have been trained by IJM to attend cases of violence and abuse. Lawyers, social workers, and psychologists work together to support victims of violence. They view this work as an act of service, donating their time and expertise to support women and children who otherwise could not afford legal and therapeutic support. Mariela* was one of these women.

Ten years ago, on a night out with coworkers, Mariela was drugged and sexually assaulted. Even though she didn't fully remember what had happened, flashes of the abuse persisted but she tried to ignore them. But, she had to face it again when she found out that she was pregnant.

When her newborn needed a blood transfusion, the hospital had to contact the father. That is when he began harassing Mariela. In 2022, after three years of living in constant intimidation, Mariela decided to protect her child and filed a complaint.

But going to court meant that she had to confront the abuse she endured and work through trauma. A lawyer referred Mariela to IJM because the man who assaulted her had significant economic influence. As a single mother, student and cleaner, Mariela had no money to spare. She arrived at IJM seeking legal support, but the therapy provided by IJM through PROBOS was critical in helping her achieve justice.

With PROBOS’ psychosocial support, Mariela gained strength and felt empowered to testify in court against her aggressor. Her oral testimony played a major role in gaining the maximum 8-year sentence for sexual harassment. Yet, PROBOS plans on appealing the ruling to achieve a 25-year sentence for sexual abuse.

Mariela’s victory in court is one of the 40 sentences achieved by the PROBOS team in 2023.

PROBOS members 202310 BO PROBOS Approved for Full Use 3

Camila Chalco, psychology mentor and coordinator of PROBOS, explains that the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of PROBOS means that this group can offer totally specialized support to each survivor. “We constantly have much more serious cases all over Bolivia. My hope is that the members of PROBOS will have the autonomy to offer their services freely in their own cities so that those who are in need will receive services quickly.”

Through PROBOS, IJM continues to work tirelessly to achieve legal justice when it seems unattainable, to break the cycle of violence, and to empower healing in their community.

For Mariela, her son, and many others, these efforts are worth it. Through perseverance, compassion, and dedication to mission, PROBOS is changing lives.

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