October 29, 2015
Sandra*, the youngest of 11 children, grew up in a remote mountain settlement several hours and many miles of rough 4×4 track away from Tegucigalpa. Her parents, for reasons unknown, never saw fit to send her to school. When Sandra was 11, her father began sexually abusing her. Soon two older brothers also began to habitually rape her. Because of her home’s remote location and because she did not go to school, Sandra knew few people outside her family. Who might be able to help her, or when her torment might end, seemed to be questions with no answers.
After over two years of abuse, Sandra told an older sister who no longer lived with her parents about the abuse she was suffering. The sister reported what was happening to the Justice of the Peace in the nearest town, who in turn reported the situation to the Office of Public Prosecution’s Children’s division. Prosecutors from this division wanted to help. But their agency was short on money and vehicles—they would not be able to rescue Sandra without help.
Thankfully, help was available. The office of Prosecution for Crimes Involving Children had built up a close relationship with AJS-supported justice workers who had helped the government do justice for numerous children who had survived physical and sexual abuse. When the prosecutor assigned to Sandra’s case told AJS-supported lawyer Luís about her dilemma, he responded immediately.
“I couldn’t bear to sleep even one night without taking action, knowing that this girl could be abused again,” he recalls.
Luís requested emergency funds to rent a car, and that same evening he accompanied government officials to Sandra’s village, where they found her staying with her older sister. Both Sandra and her sister were happy for her to be taken to live in a group home.
In Tegucigalpa, an AJS-supported psychologist met several times with Sandra to help her deal with the emotional damage done to her during years of abuse. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers at the group home also helped her heal.
While Sandra was now safe from harm, her predatory father and brothers were still on the loose. Sandra believed they were beginning to sexually abuse one of her young nieces, who spent a lot of time at her parents’ home.
Luís accompanied Sandra to appointments with forensic medical examiners and psychologists who would write reports that would serve as key evidence later on, and accompanied her when she gave a report to the police of how her family members had abused her. When arrest warrants were issued, AJS funds helped cover the cost of transporting police to Sandra’s remote village to take her father and brothers into custody.
Thanks to the involvement of AJS justice workers in Sandra’s case, the younger of the two brothers who violated her has been convicted and sent to a juvenile rehabilitation center; the older brother is in prison awaiting trial; and the father is under house arrest, also awaiting trial.
Justice is being done.
Perhaps most importantly, after years in which Sandra retreated ever further inside herself in an attempt to block out the abuse continually committed against her body and her soul, she is once again engaging the world.
On a recent visit with Luís, the AJS-supported lawyer, Sandra beamed as she talked about learning to read in school, learning to bake and sew through vocational training classes, and going to parks and to the movies and camping and on walks with the girls at her group home. Not all her family members were abusive: she misses many of them but has great hope that her father and older brother will also be convicted—thus making it safe for her to return home.
Through the intervention of AJS-supported justice workers, God has resurrected hope in Sandra’s life.
*Name changed to protect individual’s privacy and security.