Esmeralda’s Story: Abused and Falsely Accused

Others, Exploitation , Stories , Women & Girls

Contributed by: International Justice Mission Canada

Esmeralda* was an ambitious teenager from a poor family in La Paz, Bolivia.

Like other 14-year-old girls, she spent her busy days balancing school, spending time with her family and working as a babysitter for extra money on the side.

Things looked promising when she was offered the opportunity to turn her side-job into a full-time career as a nanny for the 4-year-old son of the wealthy family she worked for.

But it wasn’t long before the abuse began and this good job became a nightmare.

One day, after his wife left the house, the boy’s father drugged and brutally assaulted Esmeralda.


34% of underage girls in Bolivia have been sexually abused. (Source: Bolivia Child Welfare agency)

The abuse went on for weeks, despite Esmeralda’s attempts to escape. On one occasion, the man caught Esmeralda trying to run away and raped her for punishment.

But Esmeralda didn’t give up. When she finally managed to escape, she shared what had happened to her with a couple at her church and IJM soon got involved with the case.

Our team immediately began the aftercare process for Esmeralda and planned an arrest operation for her abuser.

Word travelled quickly in her small town, and when the case became known, Esmeralda’s abuser claimed that she had come onto him and invited him to sleep with her.

Esmeralda soon felt like an outcast.

“In my family, everyone turned their back on me and rejected me. People from the community insisted in different ways that we drop the case.”

Amidst all of this, IJM never dropped the case. Thanks to our faithful supporters, we were able to relentlessly pursue justice for Esmeralda when no one else would.

In October 2015—two years after the abuse—the man was finally arrested, but because he was a man with connections and money, he was granted bail the same day.

Esmeralda and IJM staff were left stunned and devastated as he returned home to his family and resumed his normal life as if nothing had happened.

Esmeralda has since tried to find a new normal in her own life.

“IJM has supported me so much,” Esmeralda said. “I feel at home here, like I’m part of the family.”

She graduated from her aftercare program and has remained close with many of the staff. She also works at a store near her home and dreams of owning her own store one day.

But as long as her abuser walks free, she can never truly live without fear.

The work of securing justice in Bolivia is long and taxing. It often takes years for us to see a conviction from a case like this.

With your help, IJM will continue to build a case against the perpetrator and search for ways to arrest him again.

*a pseudonym

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