Katty* couldn’t afford a lawyer and almost dropped her case against the man who raped her as a teen.
But this month, IJM’s Bolivia team helped convict him and four other criminals over a six-day period, a remarkable event in a country where sexual assault cases can languish for years and are often never resolved.
The five perpetrators included the man and his accomplice, who posed as taxi drivers and knocked Katty unconscious before raping her when she was 17. Judges sentenced one man to eight years in prison and another to 15 years.
Bolivian prosecutors referred Katty’s case to IJM in 2014 after she told them she could not pay for a lawyer. They sent her to IJM, which offered Katty free legal representation and counseling, as well as victim-sensitive support as she prepared to share her story during her trial.
On Tuesday, Katty waited outside a courthouse in El Alto and began crying as an IJM attorney told her the men who attacked her had been sentenced to prison. Two years after the attack, she was finally safe.
In three other cases heard separately between May 19 and May 24, IJM helped secure convictions against perpetrators with sentences ranging from 10 to 20 years in prison, sending a strong message that sexually assaulting children in Bolivia is a serious crime. One man had raped his 10-year-old niece under his own roof.
The convictions came at a time when sexual assault cases moving through courts in La Paz and El Alto had all but ground to a halt. But recent judicial appointments—and a restructuring of local courts that will give special attention to violent crimes—are creating hope for swifter justice for survivors of sexual assault.
Later this year, IJM will begin a large-scale, multi-year training program for judges and prosecutors in La Paz and El Alto to improve the handling of child sexual assault cases and dramatically increase access to justice for poor Bolivians.
IJM has worked in Bolivia for nearly ten years to rescue victims of sexual violence, bring perpetrators to justice, restore survivors, and to improve the justice system’s ability to reduce everyday violence.