He came into my room while I was sleeping and covered my mouth and I started to cry,” Marielos* recalled using broken sign language.
She was only 16 when she was hurt by her neighbor in her own home.
This wasn’t the first time someone from her community took advantage of her vulnerability—and it wouldn’t be the last. In an overloaded justice system, cases like Marielos’ often fall through the cracks.
A young girl living in poverty with a hearing disability has almost no chance of being protected. The men that hurt her knew that and took advantage.
Marielos would see them often as she walked the narrow dirt paths of her small neighborhood in Guatemala. They gazed at her as she passed by, and though no words were exchanged their threats were loud and clear: Stay silent, or we'll make you pay.
Marielos’ mother only learned her little girl was being abused when they visited the doctor and found out Marielos was 15 weeks pregnant. “I went cold,” her mother said. “I couldn’t wrap my head around it because, for me, she’s my little girl.”
Even though she had been intimidated, Marielos reported the criminals to local authorities. She had little reason to believe this would help; Less than 5% of all sexual violence complaints end with a conviction, and there were 13,000 complaints that year alone. But hope compelled her to action.
When she bravely stood up for justice, you helped make sure she wouldn’t stand alone.
Thanks to people like you, Marielos got the help she needed—help she wouldn’t have received otherwise. The first man was sentenced to 16 years and 5 months in prison, and the second received 25 years. Your intervention made it possible for IJM to walk with Marielos through the legal process. You helped make sure she received critical care during the hardest part of the trial as she shared her testimony.
Part of the aftercare journey you helped provide ensures survivors are safer and less likely to be revictimized. For Marielos, it meant she could make her voice heard in more ways than one. She was given an opportunity to take sign language classes, empowering her to better communicate and continue speaking up for herself.
Today Marielos and her family are safer because you allowed our team to stand by her, making sure she would never experience abuse at the hands of those men again.
Marielos has a story to tell—a story of resilience, bravery, and hope. Thank you for helping us tell her story.