How one woman is fighting for the rights of victims of sexual violence in Bolivia

e many ways in which you can describe what is sexual violence. But the most straightforward way we can define it is that; Sexual violence is a non-consensual sexual activity thatsomeone can implement through force or manipulation of the victim.Fear, age, illness, disability, and the influence of alcohol or other drugs are among the countless reason someone might not consent.Perpetrators can be anyone from acquaintances, family members, educators, school peers, and religious leaders and other trusted individuals. Statistically, strangers (persons unknown to the victim) represent a very small percentage of sexual violence cases. The cases of sexual violence that tend to be the hardest to prosecute and bring to light are those where the perpetrator is a family member. In these instances, victims are usually children and women who were groomed and threatened by perpetrators and later silenced by entire family systems that side with or support the perpetrator. One such case that recently made headlines was Brisa De Angulo vs. Bolivia.

Brisa De Angulo vs Bolivia

In March 2022, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) heard the case of Brisa De Angulo v. Bolivia. In the case, it was claimed that the Bolivian justice system violated the rights of Brisa De Angulo by not providing her justice. It was the first case in the IACtHR’s history about human rights violations committed against an adolescent victim of incest. According to the victim, De Angulo, when she was fifteen, she was repeatedly raped by her adult cousin (age 27 at the time)who was living with her family. The aggressor used to threaten and tortureBrisa, but even after that, she managed to disclose the violence to her parents. Her parents supported her every step of the way, but her extended family and community around her were not so supportive. When De Angulo decided to file a complaint against her cousin, her extended family members argued that she would bring shame to the family’s name if she did so. The pressure was unbearable, which led her to attempt suicide twice. De Angulo’s extreme emotional distresswas only worsenedwhen her home was stoned and set on fire. The most heart-wrenching thing that De Angulo faced was hostility in the Bolivian justice system. Police, prosecutors, and judges blamed her for the atrocities committed against her. One judge made remarks that she couldn’t have been raped because she was too intelligent and didn’t scream, and a prosecutor even said De Angulo would ruin her aggressor’s life by sending him to jail. Even after three trials in Bolivia, De Angulo’s rapist is still at large and has yet to be held accountable for his crimes. This grave injustices and failures of the Bolivian Justice System led Brisa to file her case before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR). She hopes that the Court’s judgement will increase access to justice and healing for more children. Because of her own experiences, De Angulo opened her organization to help victims of sexual violence get healing and justice and to prevent these crimes from happening in the first place. A survivor herself, Brisa created A Breeze of Hope for other survivors of childhood sexual violence. It provides comprehensive services for children and adolescents. A Breeze of Hope ensures access to physical and psychological health services and legal assistance. With a 100% perpetrator conviction rate last year, Brisa and her team are taking on a broken legal system that has, in the past, only re-traumatized and harmed survivors.

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