- Felipe Llambias (@felipellambias)
- BBC News World
Brisa de Angulo has been waiting for two decades.
So much so that more time has passed since her cousin raped her – repeatedly for eight months – than she had lived until then. Was a teenager 15 in the year 2000, when the family nightmare began. He was ten years older.
“Although I’ve been raped and tortured dozens of timesIt didn’t even occur to me to talk about it or ask for help. In fact, I thought it would be better for me take my life tell someone,” he said last week before the judges of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, who heard his trial for the lawsuit he filed against the Bolivian state for “lack of access to justice and institutional violence”.
He said he had attempted suicide twice, and when he finally spoke out and his parents sued, they asked him in court why he hadn’t said anything sooner.
“I didn’t know what was happening to me was a crime. I had the false belief – which most people have – that rapes happen by a stranger in a dark alley.
“My abuser, like others, was very good at silencing the victim. He was an adult in my family. He was someone who was supposed to guide me and protect me. show, and I was supposed to see, what the world was through his eyes. Even though he hated it (the sexual act), he couldn’t identify that it was a crime,” he continued. .
De Angulo said that although her cousin did not use physical violence during the rapes, on other occasions he punched her or threw her to the ground and kicked her.
It filled her with fear. He knew what he was capable of doing to her if she didn’t act the way he wanted.
It was his fault
The laws of each country are different in terms of what is considered a crime or how they are defined.
Sexual assault, sexual abuse, rape, incest and statutory rape are some of the criminal classifications that exist in various Latin American countries, although some do not consider the last two.
Rape, that is to say having had sexual relations as an adult with a minor “by deception”, is what De Angulo’s cousin was tried for in Cochabamba (Bolivia), where he lived.
He was not convicted of rape because he did not use physical violence during sex.
But, at the same time, the Bolivian judicial authorities blamed her, saying that it was in fact a girl who was looking for a man and had fallen in love.
It didn’t fit into his head. I was just scared. Very scared.
In those 20 years, De Angulo went through three ordeals in Bolivia. The case is currently being examined by the Inter-American Court and another trial is underway in Bolivia.
Your cousin is on the loose. Fugitive.
She is waiting. Expect. To keep waiting.
Bolivia on the bench
The case reached the hemispheric level because De Angulo took it to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an auxiliary legal body of the OAS which studied it and decided that it had enough merit to bring it before the court based in Costa Rica.
The Bolivian State is on the dock in this area, since both the IACHR and itself and its defense understand that Bolivia has not dealt with its case because, according to what they say, it does not did not provide adequate access to justice, constantly revictimized and there was “institutional violence”.
“The consequences I still have are due more to the treatment the state gave me than to the rape itself.“, said De Angulo in an interview with BBC Mundo.
During the hearing before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, representatives of the Bolivian attorney general’s office asked De Angulo questions that she said were trying to mislead her. Of the four on the other side, three were women.
“If Bolivia can have this aggressiveness against me, an adult, internationally, imagine how they do it in court with a girl. The position Bolivia takes with victims of sexual violence was evident,” he said. he declares.
“I felt helpless because of the incestuous culture we live in.this culture where things that happen in the family should stay in the family.”
During the hearing, which was virtual and could be watched live on YouTube, De Angulo’s aunt and cousin were heard writing messages in a chat room that she described as “threatening”. They also claimed that she was a liar who destroyed the family.
“In the culture of incest, it is the women themselves who are responsible for silencing the victims to maintain the hierarchy of patriarchy.”
“What happens in the family happens to society. (…) It is disgusting to see how they, being affected by this hierarchy, seek to silence, shame, defame and intimidate other women who have beaten with blood to break silences,” Angle said.
the incest has different definitions in each country and in some cases it is considered until to the fourth degree of consanguinitythat is, even first cousins.
De Angulo understands that this conduct on the part of the Bolivian state has violated his human rights since the first time he denounced his cousin, and continues to do so.
“The state’s thesis for 20 years has been to normalize rape based on the pretense that what happened was a ‘fall in love’ between first cousins,” said one of his lawyers. , Bárbara Jiménez Santiago, to BBC World.
Bolivia says ‘sexual assault is not synonymous with rape’ and that the determination of the criminal offense attributable to this case corresponds only to the Bolivian judicial operators”, according to the Attorney General of the State, Wilfredo Chávez, before the Inter-American Court.
He also noted that “the State is surprised at the way certain facts have been distorted on the development of investigations and the process as such”.
“For the State, it is indisputable that all the evidence demonstrates the existence of the facts related to an alleged attack on physical integrity, the affectation of private life or intimacy”, but this does not mean that he exercised “institutional violence”. .
BBC Mundo has attempted to interview the Attorney General, the only person authorized to speak about it within the Attorney General’s Office, but at the time of this article’s publication we had not received a response from him.
Trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again
Brisa de Angulo does not ask for any financial compensation. what you want is that new legal norms are generated within the inter-American human rights system, to serve as a model for legislators in Bolivia and other countries.
He hopes they will consider his case not as a sexual assault but as an equally incestuous rape which he says makes the crime worse because the adult family member abuses the minor’s trust.
It attempts, in turn, to consider rape when sexual intercourse takes place without consent or when consent is presumed invalid, whether there has been physical violence or not, to eliminate the notion of legal rape from the penal code , of the statute of limitations for sexual crimes is adopted and that incestuous sexual offenses are characterized as a different crime when the victims are under 18 years of age.
“I’m looking for the things I’ve been through in these 20 years not to continue,” says De Angulo
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