KIGALI, RWANDA – Last week, a Rwandan girl named Paulette* found justice after a “very emotional” two years in court. She had been sexually assaulted at age 14 by a friend’s brother—a young man she trusted—but bravely reported the abuse and got immediate medical care.
Nurses at the local hospital referred Paulette’s family to IJM Rwanda for legal help they needed. Many impoverished families are intimidated by the complex court process, but with strong defenders at IJM, Paulette’s family had the support they needed to face the court process. IJM worked with police and prosecutors to interview key witnesses and gather evidence to support her in court.
Unfortunately, officials did not properly store the clothes Paulette had been wearing during the attack—which contained key DNA evidence—and they could not be used in the trial. IJM worried that the judge would simply dismiss the case without this crucial proof.
At the trial, “the judge indicated he doubted there was a sufficient link between perpetrator and the crime,” says IJM Client Care Specialist Brigitte Mukashema. “It was really sad to see. Paulette and her parents were angry because they knew that their daughter was raped.”
But the testimonies shared in the courtroom, and the case strategy that IJM and the state prosecutor pursued painted a clear picture:the judge agreed that Paulette had been abused. He declared her attacker guilty on November 1, sentenced the perpetrator to prison and ordered him to pay a significant fine, which will go towards helping Paulette heal.
Throughout the trial, Paulette’s IJM social workers walked with her in a trauma-focused therapy program and helped her stay in school. To support the family, IJM also helped her mother start a small business raising pigs and cows. Today, the family is doing well and feels safer in their community.