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Justice in Bolivia: Mariela’s story


Justice in Bolivia: Mariela’s story

For survivors of sexual violence like Mariela* in Bolivia, justice can seem unattainable. But together we’re making the impossible possible. This is what it looks like.

A night out with colleagues should be fun – a chance to let your hair down after a hard working week. But it ended in the worst possible way for Mariela when she was drugged and sexually assaulted.

Mariela was haunted by broken flashbacks of abuse. She was forced to face the shocking extent of the abuse when she realised she was pregnant.   

When Mariela’s new-born son then needed a blood transfusion, the hospital had to contact the father. Things went from bad to worse when he began to harass her.

After three years of suffering constant intimidation, Mariela decided to file a complaint. But as a single mother and student, working to make ends meet, Mariela had no money to spare (unlike the man who had assaulted her).

Justice seemed out of reach – until a lawyer referred Mariela to IJM. With free legal support and vital therapy provided by IJM’s partner PROBOS, Mariela was able to testify in court against the aggressor.

Thanks to Mariela’s bravery, the man received the maximum eight-year sentence for sexual harassment. PROBOS plans on appealing the ruling to pursue a 25-year sentence for sexual abuse.

Mariela’s victory in court is one of 40 sentences achieved by PROBOS in Bolivia in 2023 alone.

Probos Lawyers in Bolivia

Justice is vital in Bolivia where 50% of women experience physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime.

IJM Bolivia and PROBOS operate from a deep understanding of trauma’s impact on a person’s life. PROBOS is made up of lawyers, social workers, and psychologists who have been trained by IJM.

These professionals donate their time and expertise to support women and children who otherwise could not afford legal and therapeutic support.

IJM’s trauma-informed approach to healing is essential in a context where 80% of adolescent victims of violence reported experiencing multiple instances of abuse.

Camila Chalco, coordinator of PROBOS, explains that the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of PROBOS means that this group can offer specialized support to each survivor.

“We constantly have much more serious cases all over Bolivia. My hope is that the members of PROBOS will have the autonomy to offer their services freely in their own cities so that those who are in need will receive services quickly.”

Learn more about IJM's work to protect women and children from sexual violence >>

*Images not representative of survivor or of victims of sexual abuse.

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