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In Bolivia it is estimated that 8 out of 10 women suffer violence(1) and that one in every ten children suffers sexual violence, often by family members or close family friends(2). Most of this aggression goes unreported and many women and children continue to live in situations of violence or potential violence. Many even blame themselves for what has happened.

Paz y Esperanza, Bolivia is working to change this situation.  A team of psychologists, pastoral workers and lawyers help many of the women to find employment and a new home and have the confidence to leave violent relationships. They also accompany these women psychologically and pastorally, enabling them to speak about their experiences for the first time, such as Juana who was abused when she was 9 years old and only dared speak about it when she was 15.

Many women are afraid of denouncing the abuse, fearing that the police won’t take them seriously or that their lives will be at greater risk. Paz y Esperanza is training the local police in Santa Cruz to deal professionally and sensitively with reports of violence against women and children, to ask for the right information so they can follow up the cases and undertake the necessary prosecutions.

However, much more needs to be done to prevent this abuse in the first place, so Paz y Esperanza is undertaking awareness raising campaigns geared towards men and women about their rights and responsibilities, working with the church and other local institutions.

(1) El Deber, Santa Cruz, August 11th 2010
(2) UNICEF, 2006.