October 29, 2011
Ten-year-old Edward lived two years of fear while his uncle, Luis, repeatedly raped him and threatened him against telling anyone. This fear had serious consequences for Edward; he did poorly in school, wet his pants frequently, did not interact with other children, and did not dare to tell anyone about how he was suffering.
Edward is not the only Honduran child living in fear. In 2010, 1,560 children reported sexual abuse; in 73% of the cases, the abuser was someone close to the victim. Many children do not dare to report the abuse and even the cases that are reported sometimes go uninvestigated because of a lack of funds and disorganization in the Honduran justice system.
But in Edward’s story, this is where the Association for a More Just Society (AJS)-supported Rescue team comes in. It supports minors who have survived sexual abuse, helping them to find the courage to testify against their abusers, and assisting the Honduran investigative police and Public Prosecutors to make sure justice is done. With the help of the Rescue team, Edward went through an incredible transformation and now is so confident that he is teaching others about how to defeat their fears.
Near the end of 2009, one of Edward’s cousins happened upon Luis abusing Edward and immediately ran to tell her aunt, Digna. Digna has been raising Edward for most of his life because his mother lives in the United States. Digna made the difficult decision to bring charges against her brother, saying “Of course it hurts because he’s my brother, but my first priority is my nephew; he has no one else to protect him.”
The Honduran investigative police took on the case, and completed most of the physical exams, but ran out of resources to continue with the case in January 2010. The director of the investigation then called the Rescue project. “The government officials know that when they work with us, arrests are made more quickly because of our commitment,” says Ludim Ayala, the project’s lawyer. This was true of Edward’s case too. The Rescue team helped investigators to take testimonies from various witnesses and to locate and arrest Luis at the end of January 2010.
In addition to providing investigative help, Ludim and Ada Doblado, the Rescue psychologist prepared Edward, his cousin, and Digna for the August 2011 trial. According to Ludim, during the trial “Edward gave clear testimony about three distinct times that Luis abused him.” With this testimony and other physical evidence, Luis was sentenced to 45 years in prison on three counts of aggravated rape.
Knowing that his aggressor was in prison alleviated Edward’s fear to some extent, but he still “was suffering from a lot of psychological damage” according to Ada. Ada continues to work with him one to two times a month in play therapy and is seeing results. Edward has stopped wetting his pants, is getting better grades, and even joined the school soccer team.
Edward continues to conquer his fears and is even helping other children to do the same. In November of 2011 Edward, Ada and, two young brothers met together so that Edward could tell the brothers about his trial experience. The brothers will testify in December against their step-grandfather who abused them. According to Ada, Edward told the boys, “If you just tell the judge exactly what happened to you, you’ll be done in five minutes. When you start talking, you won’t be scared anymore.” Ada adds, “Being my ‘helper’ as I call him, has really helped Edward improve his self-esteem.
Edward’s transformation has even surprised the Rescue team. Ada remembers, “One time we took Edward to a Ferris Wheel in a local mall…and in our most recent therapy session he asked when we were going to go again. I told him I wasn’t sure because I’m afraid of heights. He looked at me and said, ‘You told me not to be afraid when I testified, and now you’re afraid of the Ferris Wheel.” With a smile, Ada adds, “Now he’s teaching me what it means to not be afraid.”
*Names changed and photo blurred to protect individual’s privacy and security.