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Anaelí’s Story

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“What happened to me was not my fault.”

How you helped Anaelí* become her own advocate

Anaelí’s story is one of our most memorable from our years of work in Guatemala because it shows how your support and a survivor’s courage can transform lives. But we want to warn you that her story contains references to sexual assault and may be hard to read.

The three men who raped Anaelí threatened Anaelí and her little brother to keep her quiet. Confused and terrified, this brave child did the only thing she knew how to do to protect herself and the brother she loved.

Months later, Anaelí’s mother was appalled to discover that her 11-year-old daughter was pregnant. At last, the terrible truth came out, and Anaelí’s mother did exactly what you would have done: She went straight to the authorities.

Once, a girl like Anaelí could not have hoped for justice in Guatemala. But support from caring people like you is changing that.

Thanks to compassionate IJM supporters like you, our Guatemala Field Office continues to be on the front lines of combatting violence against women and children. Guatemala City officials immediately put Anaelí’s family in touch with IJM for advocacy and social support.

Anaelí’s caseworker will never forget their first meeting. “Seeing such a young girl showing signs of pregnancy was such a heavy thing. She was so small and had a big belly, but even then she was smiling, the way she does to this day.”

The Guatemalan government has worked closely with IJM to strengthen their justice system in cases of sexual abuse, especially of children. The men who raped Anaelí were arrested and prosecuted with the help of IJM lawyers. Supported by her IJM lawyer and caseworker, Anaelí bravely testified to her ordeal, becoming her own advocate in her fight for justice.

A few months after we met Anaelí, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. She loves to take care of him, and the whole family is working together to build a safe future. IJM’s donors enabled us to give Anaelí a multi-year scholarship that covered her school uniforms and supplies to ensure that she could keep pursuing her goals. When she was 13, Anaelí wrote a letter we want to share with you because you’re a big part of the safety and care she felt. She wrote:

“Thank you Father for giving me strength and support. With all my heart I ask you to bless … everyone from International Justice Mission for helping me understand that what happened to me was not my fault. God, I ask you to bless IJM for all that they have done for me and my family and my baby.”

When IJM began exploring opening a Guatemala office in 2005, human rights experts warned that our mission could be impossible—the job was too big, and the system too broken. Today, there are stronger laws and a Sex Crimes Unit in Guatemala, evidence of a country making a serious effort to protect women and children from sexual violence.

As an IJM supporter, you can make this possible by advocating for individual survivors like Anaelí while creating a larger movement for change. Thank you!

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