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How God used friendships from Honduras to California to Cambodia to bring justice and healing for a college student—and to set a precedent protecting female college students throughout Honduras.
On a Saturday morning last fall, 21-year-old Maura* arrived at the National Pedagogical University in Tegucigalpa, where she was planning to work on a group project with some fellow students and their statistics professor. There she found the prof, Plutarco,* alone. He told her the other students were waiting at another campus, and offered to give Maura a ride there.
But instead Plutarco drove her into the mountains. At a secluded restaurant he forced Maura, an evangelical Christian who had never touched alcohol, to drink round after round of tequila. Then he drove her to a sleazy motel where he threatened her with a pistol and raped her.
Throughout the horrific ordeal, Maura tried to reach family and friends on her cell phone, but was unable to connect with anyone. Finally, as her attacker dozed in a drunken stupor, she reached a brother-in-law, who called the police. Minutes later, officers arrived at the motel room and handcuffed Plutarco.
Maura had been “rescued,” but she was severely traumatized and skeptical that her abuser would be held accountable. Plutarco had money and influence. He had told Maura his army-officer son would kill her three-year-old son if she pressed charges. While sexual harassment by public university profs against their female students is commonplace in Honduras, and rape not unheard of, cases where the offending profs are held accountable are very rare—and Maura knew that.
But God had other plans. That night Maura's mother emailed friends asking for prayers. Among the recipients was Cindy, a Californian who had met Maura's family on a mission trip fifteen years ago and remained such close friends with them that Maura calls her “my other mom.” Cindy forwarded the prayer request to friends from her church including Heather, a missionary in Cambodia. Heather had spent a college semester in Honduras led by AJS co-founders Kurt Ver Beek and Jo Ann Van Engen, and emailed them.
“The rape happened on a Friday and by Sunday Kurt and Jo Ann were involved and in contact with Maura and her family,” says Cindy.
Legal, investigative, and counseling staff from AJS's Peace & Justice project immediately began working with Maura and Honduran prosecutors to build a case. Thanks to their work, in an initial hearing a week after Plutarco's arrest, the judge put him under house arrest pending his final trial, and the university has suspended him. AJS counseling staff continue to help Maura heal emotionally. Legal staff are helping her prepare for Plutarco's trial, scheduled for later this year.
“Sometimes I feel scared,”says Maura. “But my family and my husband have been very supportive. Cindy calls, emails, and even text messages us all the time. And I know I can do all things through Christ. I can do this.”
For her part, Cindy hopes this case will set a precedent. “It is my hope that Plutarco will be sent to prison and unable to do this to anyone else. Beyond that, I hope this case will be a deterrent to other professors and individuals who want to harm women,” she says.
Peace & Justice lawyer Luis is confident Cindy and Maura’s hopes will be fulfilled. “We're sending a message that professors need to stop using their power to abuse female students. We've got a lot of them nervous with this case,” he says with smile.
Please rejoice with us for the work of justice and healing God has begun in Maura’s life, and please join us in praying for continued courage, healing, and peace for Maura and her family.
*Names changed and photo altered to protect Maura’s safety and privacy.
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