Bolivia does justice for 5-year-old sexual assault victim
The International Justice Mission reports:
LA PAZ, BOLIVIA – 5-year-old Yulisa* woke up from a horrific nightmare. She was in a dark hole. She was in pain. Hours earlier, her uncle had grabbed her from her room and sexually assaulted her. Then he tried to strangle her and threw her in the hole, leaving her for dead. But Yulisa was alive.
A neighbor found Yulisa at the bottom of the hole, a deep well. He brought a ladder and climbed in to rescue her, carrying her home in his arms to her parents. They were franticly searching for their little girl. Now that they had found her, one nightmare ended – and a new one began, as their daughter told them what had happened to her.
Within three days, Yulisa’s mother was at IJM’s door, desperate for help. Yulisa still had bruises on her small neck, spots in the shape of a handprint. The family was desperate for someone to help their daughter. They wanted justice, but they knew they could never afford a lawyer with the father’s meager earnings as a day laborer. IJM Bolivia eagerly accepted the case.
The case began with a solid start: the police had arrested Yulisa’s uncle the same morning of the abuse, based on her mother’s call. IJM started building a legal case, and within five months – rapid for Bolivia – the formal charges had been submitted before the court.
It was time for Yulisa herself to tell what had happened to her. Yulisa answered questions about the horrific abuse from the safety of the Gesell Chamber, a colorful room behind a one-way glass mirror where she would not have to face her uncle. Earlier, Yulisa was asked to point out her uncle in a line-up, behind a glass wall. The small girl had to stand on a chair to see out. When she saw him, she froze, barely able to speak. But in the Gesell Chamber, away from her uncle’s presence and the pressure of a courtroom, she answered questions from a psychologist. The testimony was recorded as evidence.
The case moved into the formal trial stage, but the obstacles began.