A girl in a park in São Paulo this Thursday.
More than half of the rapes in Brazil are against children under 13 years of age.Lela Beltrão
These are usually short news in the local press. “A man and a woman arrested for the rape of a 13-year-old girl. The police commissioner explains that the man, married to an aunt of the victim, had raped her for six years. The facts were known to the mother and grandmother ”. The arrests occurred on Wednesday, May 5, in Pinheiros, a city of 77,000 inhabitants in northern Brazil. Neither the age of the victim nor the circumstances suppose anything exceptional. Anodyne information that narrates everyday crimes. The statistics of the Brazilian Forum of Public Security (FBSP) are shocking. Every hour, four girls under the age of 13 are raped in Brazil, according to the most recent figures. More than half of the 5,636 victims in 2019 were under the age of 13.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg because it only considers what reaches the ears of the police or the health services.
"Sexual violence against children is wrapped in a pact of silence," emphasizes Marcia Bonifacio, head of a team of psychologists and psychopedagogues at the São Paulo City Council that supports schools when a problem student arises.
Her behavior often hides that she is a victim of sexual or other violence.
Three Brazilians, the educator Bonifacio, the prosecutor Renata Rivitti and the director of the Liberta Institute, Luciana Temer, use their extensive experience to help understand the contours of this crime so deeply rooted in this patriarchal and macho culture plagued with taboos that instead promotes early sexualization.
"It's a very wicked circle with few happy endings," says Bonifacio.
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The victim can be a four-year-old girl who masturbates four times a day in class, a 10-year-old baby that begins to show the figure of a pregnant woman, a seven-year-old boy who forces his classmates to have oral sex , a diligent and withdrawn adolescent who appears with a black eye and offers little credible explanations… The victims do not follow a pattern.
The aggressors do: "I have no news of any case in which the aggression was perpetrated by a stranger," says Bonifacio.
It usually belongs to the family environment.
The father, stepfather, older brothers, uncles, grandparents, family friends ...
Those who fight sexual violence against children insist on how democratic it is.
In the very unequal Brazil, it does not differentiate races or social class.
UNICEF estimates that 120 million women have had unwanted sexual contact before the age of 20.
The Brazilian Penal Code considers the violation of a vulnerable person to have carnal relations or to practice any libidinous act with a minor under 14 years of age.
Assaults can start very early and last for many years.
The complicity of the mother or other relatives is not uncommon, nor is the victim blamed for destroying the family or leaving it without support when the aggressor is the one who brings the money home.
It is usually an
which the abuses are increasingly invasive, but subtle.
They often do not leave marks.
2021 05 13: Marcia Andrea Bonifacio da Costa Oliveira - NAAPALela Beltrão
"When they are between zero and six years old, victims have little repertoire, they can even perceive it as a game, as a show of affection, they feel pleasure, they have no parameters and it is very common for the aggressor to demand that they keep a secret," explains the prosecutor. Rivitti. They are too small to distinguish what is correct and what is not. A difficulty that not only depends on age. Bonifacio, whose team is called the Nucleus of Support and Accompaniment for Learning, recalls the case of a 13-year-old adolescent from an evangelical family who discovered in a science class that what her father did with her since she menstruated at the age of eight for the first time it was sex. That girl had no TV, no cell phone or internet. That is why, says the prosecutor, sex education classes are so important.
The most serious cases come to light in a hospital
Detecting abuse is a first step.
When they are young it is usually discovered by their behavior in school.
If they are older, they tell someone they trust.
The most serious cases come to light in a hospital.
Uncovering abuse is not easy, protecting the victim without re-victimizing her, either. And prosecute crime, even less. Prosecutor Rivitti maintains that taking the victim to a shelter should be the last resort. Great is the risk of what they call institutional violence. If, after making a pilgrimage through different services to repeat her first story before the guardianship council, the police, the hospital, submitting to an avalanche of questions and a thorough forensic examination, the girl ends up far from her relatives, her neighborhood, her school and her friends, she blames herself. "He says 'my mouth is cursed, I spoke up and they punished me.' Some go wild because the price they pay for revealing the abuse does not compensate them.
"We have to give the victims information so that they understand what abuse is, so that they know how to relate it, and we have to give credit to what they say," insists the prosecutor Rivitti.
That is a start.
They then try to identify a family member to protect the girl at home and remove the rapist.
If he is a source of income, they try to seek financial aid.
And the punishment for the aggressors?
Getting a case strong enough to take before the judge is another great difficulty.
It is usually the child's word against the adult.
The worst nightmare of those who combat child rape is that the court acquits the accused.
"We cannot deliver the lamb to the wolf with judicial endorsement," warns the prosecutor.
Despite the complexity of the challenge, each of the three fights on one front so that during the next hour they do not rape four Brazilians under the age of 13. Temer does it at the head of the Liberta Institute, with documentaries such as
A crime among us,
with which he seeks to raise awareness, break "the perverse circle of normalization of abuse." Among those recruited for the mission, one of the most famous men in Brazil, Globo channel presenter Luciano Huck, whose name sounds like a presidential candidate.
Prosecutor Rivitti tries to replicate at the level of the State of São Paulo the model that she created in Jacareí, a city of 235,000 inhabitants of the interior, where through the coordination of educational, social and health services she managed to better protect the victims, which led to more complaints, fewer witnesses in trials and more convictions.
He works with a network of 70 other prosecutors.
With schools closed for months due to the pandemic, the team led by Bonifacio opened new channels for students to launch an SOS.
They created a website that channeled the complaints of 200 cases of violence in nine months.
Of them, 56 were of sexual violence.
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