Silent No More: Young Survivor Creates a Safe Haven for Sexually Abused Kids
When Brisa De Angulo was a little girl growing up in Bolivia, she went through the tragic experience of being sexually abused.
Isolated by her family, she had nowhere to turn.
"I was trying to look for support, to find a lawyer, a counselor...and the country of Bolivia had absolutely no place for me to go," Brisa tells TakePart.
After emerging from her nightmare, she vowed to make sure that other children did not have to suffer as she did. Seven years ago, when she was 17, Brisa started Centro Una Brisa De Esperanza (CUBE), a center for child and adolescent victims of sexual abuse.
"I wanted to create a place where children could come and find someone who believed in them, someone who listened to them, and someone who didn't blame them," Brisa says.
At CUBE, kids have access to social workers, lawyers, psychological therapy and dedicated volunteers who provide love and support.
When young boys and girls come to the center, Brisa says, "It usually takes them a couple of weeks or months to even look up or to speak to you. You can see a broken child enter the door...and then little by little, they regain their childhood, and they laugh and they play, and they go back to school."
Brisa's husband Parker says one of the biggest changes he's seen is when the children start to like their bodies again. "A lot of the children start to hate their bodies because it was their body that was used to harm them so much. To see them regain a respect for their own body is really powerful."
This happens, Parker says, "through dance therapy, having the children make things with their hands and then reinforcing the idea that with your body, you have created something beautiful. That’s a very basic idea but it’s been incredibly powerful to see how that drops out of a child’s mind when they’ve been abused."
CUBE serves over 650 child and adolescent victims in Bolivia and one of the things they hope for in helping these children recover is bringing their perpetrators to justice.
At the time when Brisa took her case to trial in Bolivia, an assailant was allowed to interrogate the victim in court. Brisa and her parents refused to stand for this and took the case all the way to Bolivia's equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Constitutional Court agreed that no child should have to be interrogated by the person who abused them.
"I remember a girl, which was the next case that came to the court. She was only six years old, she came to me and held my hand and said, 'Thank you.'Just seeing her eyes, I started tearing up and I knew that she didn’t have to go through what I went through. No other girl would ever have to go through that."
These girls, she says "already have the courage to go in front of the court and tell their story, but having your perpetrator interrogate you and question you, and make you seem like you’re a liar, is awful."
Ninety-five percent of the cases CUBE has brought to trial have ended in conviction and many of the young women that came through the center when it first opened are now either attending college or have come back to volunteer.
"Even though the pain never goes away and the trauma is never gone," Brisa says, "you just see their lives being restored and they have hope and the desire to help others."