GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA – IJM Guatemala social worker Miriam Cruz was eager to call Matilda's* mother and share the news: The 2-year court battle had ended with a just ruling. The man who had repeatedly raped Matilda had been sentenced to twelve years in prison without parole.
The relief was obvious in the woman's voice as she replied to Miriam, who has supported the family in the difficult months since the abuse was discovered: "If it weren't for you, we could have never made it this far."
"If it weren't for you, we could never have made it this far."
– Matilda's mother to her IJM social worker
Matilda's hard-working mother struggles to make ends meet for her family. Matilda and her sister stay with a babysitter during their mother's long shifts as a security guard. In 2009, a man who did maintenance in the home of their regular babysitter began sexually abusing Matilda.
At first she was too afraid to speak about the abuse. But even without words, she began to cry out for help. Her teachers noticed a change in her behavior – the 9 year-old girl was suddenly very sad. Finally, Matilda bravely told her mother and her teacher about the abuse.
Her mother filed a complaint against the perpetrator and took Matilda to a local health clinic, run by Doctors Without Borders. The clinic referred the case to IJM, who represented Matilda in court until the conviction was delivered against the perpetrator. IJM also started providing aftercare for Matilda and her family.
Matilda continues to heal – the conviction of the man who harmed her another step in her recovery. She has a strong support system: "[Her mother] is a real fighter and very responsible," says her social worker Miriam. "She only has one day off a week, and she uses it to come to therapy and bring Matilda to therapy."
*A pseudonym has been used. Real name and casework documentation on file with IJM.