LA PAZ, BOLIVIA – Two years ago, 11-year-old Beatrice* went shopping with her neighbors. She knew them well—the family had children close to her age, and the father was actually her godfather. But on the way home from running errands, Beatrice was betrayed: The man she and her family had trusted for so long sexually abused her.
Beatrice was hurt and confused—and too afraid to tell anyone what had happened.
The Awful Betrayal and Public Abuse
Several months after Beatrice was assaulted by her godfather and silenced by his threats, her parents heard some disturbing rumors about him abusing another girl in their community. They confronted the man—their good friend—and he denied everything.
But something didn't seem right. They started thinking about all the time Beatrice had spent with him. When they asked Beatrice if her godfather had ever hurt her, their little girl burst into tears.
The truth spilled out, and she told her parents about the day that she had gone shopping. She said that they took a bus on the way home, and her godfather told his son to sit in a different row from them. Beatrice sat between a window and her godfather. He proceeded to sexually assault her right there on the public bus, forcing Beatrice to hold a large shopping bag to block the abuse from others' view.
Over the next several months, Beatrice's mother tried desperately to get justice for her daughter. She filed a police report; nothing happened. They followed up, and finally charges were formally filed against the man. But no hearings were scheduled.
Beatrice's parents were shocked by the betrayal of their family friend, and they were desperate to get justice for their daughter. But the system was overwhelming and incredibly slow, and the investigation never even got off the ground. Nothing more was going to happen without a lawyer getting involved—an expense the family simply could not afford.
Then Beatrice's mother heard about IJM. A year after Beatrice was assaulted, the family had finally found a strong advocate. In September 2012, IJM Bolivia lawyer Alejandra Cámara started working closely with the public prosecutor who was assigned to the case.
Within a few months, it was clear that the case against Beatrice's godfather was solid. The man admitted that he was guilty, and his lawyer started working with Alejandra on a plea bargain. But it would take more than six months of frustrating delays and cancelled hearings before the official court proceedings would end and justice would be done.
Finally, on October 23, 2013—more than a year after IJM received the case and relentlessly advocated for Beatrice and her family—the judge sentenced the guilty man to ten years in prison.
At the hearing, Beatrice's mother told Alejandra that she was very happy with the outcome of the case and beyond grateful for IJM's work. She said she was relieved and comforted knowing that this man is no longer able to harm her family.