When I noticed my daughter’s unusual behaviors, I consulted a therapist. During her treatment, the therapist presented serious indicators of sexual abuse. The moment crushed my heart.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina ꟷ My daughter Luna became a victim of sexual abuse by her father at 9 years old. Today at 20 years old, the judicial process remains in dispute. We have fought this case for nearly 10 years.
Only one percent of complaints like ours make it to trial and conviction in Argentina. Abusers often receive impunity. This fails to take into context the abuses not reported. I recall the moment my daughter told me. She articulated the words the best she could.
Like so many other children, she talked about “games” which seemed natural to her; but in reality, she fell victim to eroticism with an adult, and she suffered from it. The experience affected things like her behavior and her drawings. She could not sleep peacefully or relate well to other children. He groomed her then he took advantage of her.
When I noticed my daughter’s unusual behaviors, I consulted a therapist. During her treatment, the therapist presented serious indicators of sexual abuse. My daughter naturally described, with increasing clarity, the erotic games she engaged in with her father. I began finding drawings Luna kept. They featured penises in mouths, dismembered bodies, and the reoccurring figure of a man with long curly hair, naked. The figure looked like him.
The moment crushed my heart. I could barely grasp the idea my daughter was hurt by someone supposed to care for her, raise her, and defend her from the world. The clinical notes read, “the minor is in a situation of risk,” and “indicators that Luna experienced a difficult situation including sexual abuse.”
Once the reality came to light, we began the complaint process. The very first thing I did was to break the link to her father. I felt like we lived in a nightmare. Absolute imbalance took over my life. I felt deep pain, great impotence, restlessness, and despair. It seemed impossible to know what to do or how to solve anything. I asked myself, “How did I not realize this before?” Self-blame constantly hung around my neck.
Reading the words in the report from the therapist felt like an inexplicable blow, but I had to put my pain aside to support my daughter. However, I also needed support to accompany me moving forward. Somehow, I had to overcome the heartbreaking pain and the feeling of insanity to protect her. In the relationship, I also faced forms of violence and I realized those also put her at risk. As a mother, wanting to protect my child, I felt relieved to discover we can end the abuse.
Luna and I lived with her father in Mar del Plata. My relationship with him ended when Luna was just a year and a half old. Though I suffered from gender-based violence at his hands, it never occurred to me the violence might one day transfer to Luna. They shared a loving bond. I took care of the responsibilities of parenting her, but her took her for walks and saw her every weekend. He seemed to love her. I often told myself, “Well, at least he’s a good father.”
Eventually, I entered a new relationship and looked forward to the birth of my second daughter. Then, I discovered the truth. The day I found out; he had a visit with Luna. I knew the visit could not happen, so I took her to my sister’s house and sent him a message. It simply said, “You will not see her anymore.”
I immediately filed reports with the court, and they ended the visitation schedule so Luna could undergo long-term treatment in a safe place. The experience left me feeling dead inside, consumed with despair. It filled me with horror and darkness. I just wanted my child to be safe.
The investigation became complex and convicting Luna’s father eluded us. Civil justice here means exposing and sometimes enmeshing the victim with the abuser. We battled any further contact with her father. This fight remains today. Luna made it absolutely clear she never wanted to see him again. She expressed her fear, pain, and disgust. It seemed no one listened to her.
Finally, at 18 years old, Luna declared herself an adult. Now, at legal age, she urges action of her own free will. Luna had the opportunity to take her father to trial and we await a date.
Crimes like the one Luna endured often lack witnesses. The abuse occurs in private and perpetuates terrible psychological damage. When someone is brave enough to speak out and ask for help, the process becomes complex. The possibility for justice seems impossible for victims. The investigations become paralyzed, and abusers often go unpunished.
We have fought this battle for 10 long years. When we asked for an investigation in accordance with Article 67 inc. B of the Penal Code in October 2020, the National Criminal and Correctional Prosecutor’s Office No. 3, ordered that Luna be examined again, this time in the City of Buenos Aires. We objected. Luna did not want to go through the revictimization process nor the lengthy preparation.
The Prosecutor’s Office granted the non-performance of the expertise, but then asked the Guardianship Public Ministry for an exhaustive analysis of the file to analyze if there were signs of post-traumatic stress, storytelling personality, plausibility, or credibility in the story, normal psychosexual development, and any other data or psychological/psychiatric evidence that could be of interest for the investigation.
The day the trial finally takes place, I will recount the exact number of years, months, and days that passed. I will express how baffling I am by delayed justice. As we waited for years, we kept writing, fighting, and taking steps forward. We had to stand up for ourselves. The toll in terms of time, effort, money, and emotional pain proves great. Yet, we made it this far, surrounded by those who love us. We never could have done it alone.
This is our story. As a mother, I am grateful I listened to my daughter. She denounced her father’s abuse and that served as a beginning. The judiciary process proved obstinate and damaging. Yet, she battled on, for the right to be happy and the right to pleasure. No woman is exempt from these rights.
We find great strength in the growth of feminism in Argentina over the last 10 years. Women and allies march in the streets. They act and create change. This movement feels like a warm hug, always surrounding us.
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