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Guatemalan Courts Take Strong Stand against Sexual Violence

In the last two months, IJM Guatemala has seen Guatemalan courts bring an end to two cases of sexual violence against children with outstanding sentences. The courts sentenced a perpetrator who raped three girls and produced child pornography to 64 years in prison - one of the longest sentences the country has ever seen in a case of this type. In another case, a Guatemalan judge found the perpetrator guilty and sentenced him to 35 years in prison for sexually assaulting his stepdaughter for years. These strong sentences prove that effective prosecution of sexual violence against children is possible in Guatemala.

On October 24, following three years of collaboration between IJM, the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) and the Sex Crimes Unit of the National Civil Police (PNC), a Guatemalan man was found guilty and sentenced to 64 years in prison after sexually abusing his daughter, stepdaughter and niece, ages 3 to 12. During the attacks, the aggressor used his cell phone to take pictures and videos of his victims. Ironically, it was these materials that began the process of bringing him to justice.

The aggressor’s cell phone was stolen and the thief saw the illicit materials on the device. The thief downloaded all of the pornographic materials onto a CD and anonymously dropped that evidence off at a local police station. With this evidence, Guatemalan Police swiftly worked to identify, locate and arrest the man.

IJM assisted local authorities with the arrest and provided legal support to the survivors for over three years. With IJM’s support, the prosecution secured one of the longest sentences it has ever secured in a case of multiple counts of rape, sexual assault and production of child pornography.

We believed that the case was very impactful. This was a different and difficult case, but in an unconventional way, God used a thief to bring the abuse to light. Thank God for that,” explained Santi Coello, one of the IJM lawyers who worked this case.

On November 30, in a separate case, a Guatemalan court sentenced Priscilla’s* stepfather to 35 years and four months in prison for multiple counts of rape and sexual assault. Priscilla was 9 years old when the abuse started, which happened almost every day for over four years. It was not until 2015 that a school staff member began to notice Priscilla’s fear of returning home and bravely reported the situation to the police.

After the report, the police arrested the perpetrator. In conjunction with the Office of Public Prosecution, IJM took on Priscilla’s case and represented her in court for three long years. IJM’s support ensured that Priscilla’s aggressor was sentenced.

Priscilla’s mother had also been a victim of abuse at the hands of this violent man. “Thank God we achieved justice and that [the aggressor] will pay for what he did. I thank everyone at IJM for helping and believing in us,” Priscilla’s mother said as she wept with relief when learning about his conviction.

These four survivors already display hope and signs of sustainable restoration. Priscilla is now 18 years old and is finishing up her secondary education while living in safety with her mother and siblings. Similar to the three survivors in the other case, Priscilla has been receiving IJM’s aftercare support for almost three years and continues with her healing process today. Through many sessions of trauma-focused therapy, and the Guatemalan courts ruling on their behalf, these survivors can continue to make great strides in their healing process and can walk freely knowing that both of their aggressors can no longer hurt them.

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