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IJM Guatemala Seeks Justice for Young Mother, Helps Her Find Strength

When Iris* speaks about her daughter, she can’t help but smile with pride. At 17 years old, Iris is a young mother.

Her baby was born as a result of rape, but Iris refuses to let that violence define her or her daughter’s life. She says, “[My daughter] gives me the strength to go on and I have the desire to improve my life.”

Living in Fear

When Iris was 15, she moved into her father’s house. Her parents split up when she was a child, and it was the first time she was living with her dad. His home should have been a place of safety, but instead, it became one of terror.

Iris remembers the first time her father raped her—it was a Saturday evening and the rest of the family had gone to church. Her father threatened to beat her or even kill her if she told anyone what had happened. He worked as a private security guard and had a gun, and she took his threats seriously. The violent attacks continued.

Iris became pregnant as a result of the abuse, but even then she was too afraid to tell anyone. The truth was finally revealed during a weekly visit from Iris’ mother: she felt the baby kick as she hugged her daughter. Iris could not keep the secret any longer, and she told her mother everything.

Immediately, her mother took Iris to get medical help and report the horrific crime. They learned that Iris was due in less than a month.

Not Fighting Alone

The Public Prosecutor’s Office referred Iris’ case to IJM, and soon the family had the advocates they desperately needed. IJM social workers started providing critical counseling and support to Iris, her baby, and her mother.

IJM investigators helped authorities search for Iris’ father, who had fled once he learned police were looking for him. With no photographs and only a physical description provided by various family members, IJM investigators visited every place Iris’ father had previously worked. They followed every lead.

They visited more than forty gas stations when they learned he might be working at one. Just as they were running out of options, they experienced a stroke of providence: “We spoke to the manager of the last gas station in the district, but he told us nobody worked there by that name,” explained an IJM investigator, “but as we were leaving, the security guard approached us asking us to move our car.” The guard matched the description of the man they were looking for. Police returned and arrested Iris’ father.

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