Victims No More

Breaking the cycle of domestic violence and improving access to justice in Peru.

In the remote mountainous communities of Cusco, Peru, violence against women is considered to be a normal part of marital life. It is so ingrained in the culture that even some of the women justify violence ‘if there is a good reason for it.’ Here, nearly 70 per cent of women have suffered physical or sexual violence — or both.

Clearly, change is needed. And that is why Cuso International volunteer Micheline Vermette was sent to this remote community.

Micheline is a retired social worker from Montreal. She originally went to Peru on a six-month placement, but stayed for another year. Indeed she was so moved by the plight of these women, she returned for a second volunteer placement to continue her work with Cuso International’s partner Coordinadora Departamental de Defensorías Comunitarias Cuzco (CODECC).

CODECC is a group of volunteer community defenders, or defensores, who strive to reduce gender-based violence through education, and provide emotional support to victims and help them escape abusive situations. For women like Felicia Quispe, the defensores’ intervention could very well be the difference between life and death.

Married at 16, Felicia suffered abuse at the hands of her husband for many years. “My husband would constantly insult me and, after every beating, he would lock me up for days so that I couldn’t get help,” says Felicia. She adds, “If it weren’t for the defensores, I would still be a victim in my own home.”

Rescuing women from violent situations is only part of the equation. Micheline and CODECC are working to educate women about their rights and help them realize that any form of violence, for any reason, is wrong. The group is also working to improve the local judicial system so that abused women have a voice, and their abusers are brought to justice.

 

“I know change takes time and that, regrettably, I can’t simply wave a magic wand. But I really do feel that we are making important strides toward eliminating violence against women,” says Micheline.

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