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IJM Lawyers Secure a 70-year Sentence for a Serial Rapist in Guatemala

On 30th August, a Guatemalan judge declared a 23-year-old serial rapist guilty and gave him a sentence of 70 years in prison for raping a minor and five other adult women. This strong sentence is a result of six courageous survivors who independently reported the crime to local authorities and over five years of collaborative work between IJM, the National Civil Police (PNC), and the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP).

Luna* was 16 years old when a stranger attacked her on her way to work. At gunpoint, he took her phone. She didn’t resist, hoping that was all the man wanted. Sadly, that was not all. He grabbed her by the arm, pulled her into an empty lot and proceeded to rape her. The attacker saved Luna’s phone number and gave her back her phone to later harass her and send threatening messages, promising to attack again if she came forward with the story. He used this same technique with some of the other victims.

Still in shock, Luna went to her boss and asked for help. He knew how to respond and immediately took her to the hospital where they reported the crime.

After IJM took on Luna's case, our team worked alongside the police to identify the suspect. The investigation uncovered that five other women had reported being raped in successive weeks in the same location by the same serial offender.

With IJM’s support, the police and the Public Ministry built a solid case. Investigators discovered his identity using data tracking technology from the messages he had sent to one of his previous victims, evidence collected on the empty lot and by identifying a mark reported on the offender’s upper thigh.

IJM and the Public Ministry promptly obtained an arrest warrant. To the surprise of both IJM and the governing authorities, the man had recently been arrested for a separate crime: the kidnapping of a two-year-old boy and attempt to extort the boy’s family. IJM helped ensure that charges for raping 16-year old Luna and the other adult women would be brought before the court so this man would also be held accountable for these crimes.

On Thursday, IJM lawyers assisted the local prosecutors in securing a 70-year sentence against Luna’s aggressor. “This is an exemplary sentence. I almost cried when the verdict was released. Tonight the survivors are going to sleep well knowing that this man won’t hurt them again,” IJM lawyer Wendy Avila said.

After the hearing, IJM social worker Blanca Calel shared the news with Luna’s father, who was amazed by the court’s ruling against the man who had raped his daughter. “I called Luna’s dad and the moment I told him, he was speechless. Once he was able to speak you could hear he was crying. The Guatemalan Justice System has shown this family and the other five survivors justice.”

After a long process toward healing, Luna’s restoration is undeniable. After the assault, young Luna was afraid to leave her house and was haunted by nightmares. Now, she is 21 years old and has completed a year of trauma-focused therapy through IJM Guatemala's aftercare program. She has returned to work and can walk the streets unafraid of her attacker, knowing that he will not be able to hurt her again.

Since 2005, IJM Guatemala has worked with the police and Public Ministry to secure over 270 convictions and will continue pressing to ensure that perpetrators of sexual violence against children are held accountable, so other young girls like Luna are safe and protected to live a healthy and full life.

* pseudonym

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