Nicaragua: New Report on Sexual Abuse and Rape of Girls
Wednesday, December 1, 2010 10:10 AM

Amnesty International has released a new report calling on Nicaraguan authorities to escalate efforts to end rape and sexual abuse of girls and to provide adequate services to survivors. Listen to their Voice and Act: Stop the Rape and Sexual Abuse of Girls in Nicaragua documents the experiences of rape survivors as they attempt to access justice and recovery services, revealing that the state does not sufficiently aid survivors in rebuilding their lives after sexual violence. The report is a part of Amnesty International's Demand Dignity Campaign, as well as its 16 Days of Activism campaign against gender violence, which began on 25 November.

The report’s research was conducted from 2008-2010, with over 130 interviewees, including 35 girls and young women aged 10-20 who have been raped, 10 mothers of rape victims, experts who provided victims with psychological care, policewomen, government representatives, and various members of Parliament. Police statistics reveal that over 14,000 cases of sexual abuse were reported between 1998-2008, and that two-thirds of the victims were under the age of 17.  Additionally, the report finds that perpetrators tend to be relatives of the victim and/or people in positions of power, making the home a dangerous place for young girls.

The report also details the stigmatization victims of sexual abuse face in Nicaraguan society, particularly because sex remains a taboo subject, effectively silencing girls from speaking out about their ordeals. In the absence of widespread government initiatives to increase public awareness about sexual violence, victims endure the blame and shame of sexual abuse instead of their abusers. Those girls that do report abuse or rape are met with law enforcement authorities who blatantly disregard Nicaragua's protocols on the treatment of victims of rape and sexual abuse. Finally, if victims do speak out about their abuse, they may struggle with covering the costs of hospital appointments, forensic institutes, and travelling to and from court appointments, further discouraging victims from seeking justice. Many girls give up on working, drop of out school, and even resort to suicide in the absence of post-rape and post-sexual abuse support and services.

 “Nicaraguan justice should serve all people – not just those with money and power," says Esther Major, Amnesty International Central America Researcher. "The government must send a clear message that sexual violence is never the fault of the rape victims; that perpetrators will be brought to justice and that survivors will be given the support they need to heal.”

According to her, “[a]ll that young victims of rape and sexual abuse demand is that their right to be free from sexual violence is protected by the Nicaraguan government, and that they are supported so they can overcome the physical and psychological trauma caused by such acts of violence. This is Nicaragua’s obligation under national and international law.” Furthermore, Amnesty International holds that an act of sexual violence should not be allowed to become the defining event of a girl's life for lack of societal and governmental support.

The UN Committee for the Rights of the Child has also recently expressed its concerns about the "high level of child abuse and neglect, including sexual abuse and domestic and gender-based violence" in Nicaragua.

Access the full report here.

Compiled from: Amnesty International, WUNRN, Nicaragua Must Put an End to Rape and Sexual Abuse of Girls, (25 November 2010).