María Quispe’s frame looked small and fragile. Marks and bruises covered her body, and when she walked her steps were difficult. Now, she sat quietly, ashamed, not wanting to talk, her eyes swollen from crying, frightened by my gaze.

Many blows had made her walking difficult. It was a door, and fragments of her own walls in the little room which she called home, which had left her body marked and bruised. They had fallen on her when her husband Germán had violently thrown her against them.

María recalls every insult, threat and scream: “While beating me he used to say I was to blame, he often said I did things that made him angry. All that beating and yelling made my love for him disappear.” Giovani, 11 years old and Miguel Angel, 6, are all that is left of the love Germán once promised her when María was 19 years old.

Now aged 31, violence is something that María, like 8 out of 10 women in Bolivia(1), is all too familiar with. She and her three brothers grew up with their parents’ constant fights, punches, screams, insults and threats - leading to the eventual break down of their marriage.

María says, “I was scared and knew when the violence would increase, first the screaming and insults when both arrived home drunk. When they split up I felt guilty, responsible for their fights, I used to repeat to myself: ’you are to blame’”.

After spending almost three weeks in temporary lodgings with members of the church, the church pastor brought her here to us in Paz y Esperanza Bolivia. We supported María through the process of leaving her aggressor, reporting him to the police and we made sure she received legal, pastoral and psychological help from the pastor and a couple in the church.

María currently lives with her two sons in a rented room, cleaning other people’s houses and selling in the market at the weekends to cover their living costs.

Today with a voice of hope we can share that María, the fragile woman that felt utterly guilty for her disgrace, is starting to grow in strength and self-confidence, knowing she is loved by Jesus Christ to rebuild her life in a better way.

Prayer and financial support continue to be needed so that many more voices can be heard, children can be protected and family lives can be transformed through Paz y Esperanza's work.

September 2011

(1) El Deber, Santa Cruz- 11 August 2010.