In some places in the world, there is a hidden plague of everyday violence: sexual assault of the smallest of children. In Guatemala, 1 in 4 girls is a victim of sexual violence (Medicos Sin Fronteras-Suiza).

Last year (2014), the spending bill included $3 million dollars for the Guatemalan government to build the capacity of the specialized Sexual Crimes Unit (SCU) within the Guatemalan police. Over a year ago, IJM’s team in Guatemala identified that a functional SCU would be a key dimension to the success of our casework to protect children from sexual assault. IJM supporters took up the call, and asked Congress and the Executive Branch to come alongside the Guatemalan government in cracking down on child sexual assault. Your voices were heard.

 Why is this so important?

This investment by the U.S. government in Guatemala is significant because it will help protect young children like Griselda from unimaginable abuse. Also, this is a moment to mark an amazing transformation in Guatemala. Twenty-five years ago, most human rights organizations, and many members of Congress, including one of the lead sponsors of our effort in the House, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), were fighting against U.S. investment in the Guatemalan police because of the abuses being perpetrated against its citizens during its forty year civil war.

Today, this $3 million investment, however small, is a recognition that the Guatemalan government is committed to protecting its people from violence, and that the U.S. government understands that effective law enforcement is a key part of this equation.

We are looking forward to sharing with you the success stories that your advocacy work will have helped to create in Guatemala over the coming years. As Brad Twedt, IJM’s fearless leader in Guatemala wrote to you earlier this year, transforming the public justice system in Guatemala won’t be easy, but a) who needs easy? and b) this just got a lot easier because of you.

Find out more about IJM’s approach to combatting human trafficking.