When she was 13-years-old, Veronica* ran to her mother Leonor* in tears. She began to utter words that would strike fear into the heart of any parent. “Mommy, I am going to tell you something...every time [Dad] comes back from his work trips, he abuses me.”
To Leonor’s horror, Veronica described in terrifying detail how her father sexually abused her for almost six years. He was a violent man who would leave home for periods of time to work in a mine. He would abuse Veronica in secret while his wife was at the market selling food. Paralyzed by fear, Veronica couldn’t say anything because her father threatened to kill Veronica’s mother if she spoke up.
“I don’t know why, but I never thought about escaping from my house,” Veronica said. “I thought only to face it and to keep going and to keep hoping that one day it would end.”
“When those things happened, I could have chosen the easiest solution and committed suicide, but I didn’t. I pressed on.”- Veronica
“When those things happened, I could have chosen the easiest solution and committed suicide, but I didn’t. I pressed on, I had my brother,” Veronica said, referring to Esteban*, her younger brother and best friend who is deaf and cannot speak.
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After she told her mother, Veronica and Leonor gathered all their courage and confronted Veronica’s father. That night, he ran off into the darkness, never to return again.
Veronica’s mother reported the abuse to the police. It took three long years until Veronica’s father was found and placed in custody.
Veronica was safe—but her mother wanted justice. Sadly with $10 dollars a day as a family income, she could not afford to pay for a lawyer.
In 2017, a neighbour told Leonor about International Justice Mission. IJM’s team provided legal assistance and within a year, the case against Veronica’s father succeeded. A court found him guilty and sentenced him to 10 years in jail.
Meanwhile, IJM walked alongside Veronica, who suffered from frequent nightmares, paranoia and self-harm as a result of years of the abuse that started when she was seven years old.
Veronica’s self-esteem and sense of trust in the person who was supposed to love and protect her—her father—was shattered.
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But underneath all the pain was persistent hope and resilience. Veronica wanted to get better.
She met with an IJM social worker, Analia, weekly, and never missed a session.
“One day, it was pouring outside—the rain was so strong, but Veronica’s commitment was stronger,” said Analia. “She was completely wet and her hair was dripping, but she showed up!”
After four months of therapy this year, Veronica regained a sense of confidence. She is still undergoing aftercare, but she is well on her way to finding healing.
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“Sometimes…challenges create the bravest people,” she said.
Now, a bright young 19-year-old woman, Veronica smiles when she talks about her hobbies. She enjoys singing and loves her cats, and she is determined to teach her mother sign language, so that all three can better communicate.
Veronica is currently in school studying special education. Her dream is to open a centre for children with special needs, like her brother Esteban. She has a heart for the children who live in the countryside who may not have access to special schools and learning facilities.
“I have dreams to fulfill,” she said.
When asked about what she’s learned in therapy, Veronica said, “That there are people who do help you. They really help you. They help you through to the end, not just at the beginning.”
Because of supporters like you, Veronica has been able to rebuild her sense of self after horrific abuse. There are still thousands of children, women and men living in silence and waiting for justice.