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Bolivia: Pro Bono assistance for sexual violence survivors


Bolivia: Pro Bono assistance for sexual violence survivors

La Paz: In 2018, IJM Bolivia launched a program for volunteer professionals, including law, psychology, and social work students, equipping them to provide pro bono assistance to victims of sexual violence and accompany surivors throughout the criminal justice process. The program expands on IJM’s 14 years of work providing free legal services and trauma care for children survivors of this crime. Trainings have continued in spite of Covid19 restrictions:

In partnership with the Universidad Católica Boliviana (UCB), IJM Bolivia held two online workshops for law students with a total assistance of 141 in recent months.

Bolivia group training photo

Bolivian students and professionals have shown a keen interest in participating in the training course. Each student is trained in all aspects of sexual violence casework. Thus law students and paralegals gain expertise in relevant legal statutes, but also are trained in trauma-informed care and case management. Social workers and psychologists receive the same training in the law and courtroom procedure as do the lawyers. The June 2019 class included 100 students, and, interestingly, 300 government officials from the Defensora (Bolivian Child Welfare Agency) and other agencies who joined the training to increase their knowledge of sexual violence prevalence and response.

Participants in IJM’s volunteer program for AVES[1] (university students) and PROBOS[2] (professionals) receive two days of training per week for two months. The course includes two modules on legal services for victims and psychosocial support for survivor's restoration. Each module is divided into six courses, mixing both lectures and scenario-based lessons. These trainings take place in churches, universities, and at IJM’s office, taught by IJM staff and certified by the University of San Francisco de Asis.

The course is offered free-of-charge, but volunteers are required to accept at least one pro bono case.

The director of the program, IJM Bolivia Country Director, Alejandra Cámara, said that the trained, professional volunteers are well received in court. She noted that most lawyers and paralegals aren’t trained in sexual violence cases. They welcome the participation of AVES & PROBOS volunteers, who are trained to engage the case from beginning to end, contacting the family, obtaining documentation, and filing court documents.

[1] Abogando por Victimas, Especializándonos en el Sistema (AVES), also the word for dove in Spanish.

[2] Profesionales Bolivianos al Servicio (PROBOS).

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