Peru – June 12 2019

Violence against children: Marcelina's tragic childhood

After abduction, a turbulent journey from child prisoner to proud mother

Marcelina is one of the estimated 5,000 people abducted by the violent Shining Path terrorist organization in Peru. She was only a girl. Now a happy mother, Marcelina’s story shows the potential of SOS Children’s Villages to transform lives and help families impacted by violence.

A billion children have already experienced violence first hand. There is an immediate need for child advocacy, family strengthening and preventative measures to ensure these children are sheltered and cared for. Children exposed to physical, sexual and emotional violence in Syria, Myanmar and Peru – and around the world – are at risk of becoming a lost generation.  

 “Shining Path” has been a violent threat terrorizing the people of Peru for decades. They are directly responsible for more than 11,000 deaths, and the extended conflict with government forces has seen an additional 60,000 people killed, according to a government sponsored report. At one point they were active across much of Peru, but now only a small band of terrorists remain, hiding in the remote Vraem Valley in southern Peru. This valley is also home to a large indigenous population, the Asháninka, which Shining Path continues to terrorize. They have destroyed dozens of villages and killed thousands.

Marcelina was abducted from her small Asháninka village as a young girl during the height of violence in the late 1990s. To this day she doesn’t remember her real name or birthday. “I was beaten, tied up and raped by my uncles,” she says, referring to her captors. Marcelina was forced to carry five pregnancies to term while being held against her will.

In 2009, government forces arrested Marcelina along with her infant son. They were taken to prison under the belief she was a member of Shining Path. Sadly, her other four children disappeared and Marcelina has not been able to find out what happened to them.

After two years of imprisonment, Marcelina and her son were released into the care of the SOS Children’s Village of Ayacucho. There, Marcelina and her son received loving care and support they had never known in captivity.

Marcelina’s story is just one example of the global problem of violence against children. Every five minutes, a child dies from violence, according to statistics from The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. And it’s estimated that one billion children – or half of the global population under 18 – have experienced physical, emotional or sexual violence, according to the World Health Organization. SOS Children’s Villages has seen this first hand with nearly 20% of children entering our programs having been exposed to violence. And even more have also experienced trauma.

International law clearly outlines every child’s right to protection against violence. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children and the UN Sustainable Development Goals establish and enshrine those rights.

Yet violence against children persists…and can lead to a large number of issues. Violence against children has been shown to result not only in severe physical injuries, but also in impairment of brain development, unintended pregnancy, spreading of a wide range of diseases and persistent mental health issues. Frequently, violence against children results in death.  

Thankfully, Marcelina and her son escaped that final outcome, and now her story ends with hope. After her release from prison, SOS Children’s Village Ayacucho helped her reconnect with her son, Santiago, and eventually be stable enough to move back to an Asháninka village. She is married to a caring husband, and they have had two more children.

“I laugh and I am positive…I’m a good mom now,” Marcelina says. SOS Children’s Village Ayacucho continues to provide her family with additional support. Marcelina has broken the cycle of violence that plagued her childhood. Her son Santiago is now a healthy 12-year-old and a strong student in school. He has no fear of the terrorism that resulted in the traumatic beginnings of his life. His only worries are tests in his favorite subject, math, and if he’ll catch any fish while playing after school.

Violence against children is an issue of global concern. Major humanitarian disasters like the Rohingya crisis and Syrian civil war remind us of this every day.

SOS Children’s Villages works to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against children. Learn more about how we help children – and how you can get involved.

You can also sponsor a child in Peru and change a life!

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