Two Dominican men are behind bars where they will spend the next 20 years in prison for sexually abusing a young teen, receiving the maximum sentence allowable under Dominican law. The convictions are a major victory for IJM’s team in the Dominican Republic and for 15-year-old Clarisa,* who testified against the two men. One of the perpetrators—a known pimp of young girls—was additionally convicted of sex trafficking.
“In a country where few human trafficking cases are investigated due to a lack of trained and equipped law enforcement personnel to investigate such crimes, each trial represents a critical moment to obtain justice for the survivor and to send a message to the community that these criminals will be held accountable,” said IJM Field Office Director Fernando Rodriguez.
IJM learned of Clarisa’s case in 2014, representing her in one of our first cases in the Dominican Republic. She told an IJM psychologist how a man raped her despite her resistance and then sold her to another man who also assaulted her. Clarisa was 14 years old at the time, but because of a mental disability, functions much like a child.
IJM’s team worked quickly with a local prosecutor and police to arrest the suspects within two weeks and secure pre-trial detention, keeping the suspects off the streets. IJM’s assistance and diligent evidence collection were key factors in securing convictions relatively quickly, just 14 months after the arrests. During the trial, IJM staff supported Clarisa and her mother as they testified openly about their painful experiences, even during aggressive questioning by defense attorneys.
The lengthy sentencing handed down on Monday marks the largest to date in an IJM case in the Dominican Republic.
“The sentence is very reassuring,” Rodriguez said. “I think the tribunal got righteously angry when they saw the evidence showing that these criminals had taken advantage of Clarisa’s cognitive delay, and imposed the maximum sentence possible.”
Today, Clarisa is going to school and receiving the medical care she needs at a local aftercare home. She is moving toward a future where she will be less vulnerable. And this week, her city will be a safer place for other girls like her.