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Camden Law Graduates Commit Themselves to Helping Child Victims of Sexual Abuse
Brisa De Angulo, who was abused at age 15, founded center to help children suffering though the same tragedy
When Brisa De Angulo broke her silence about being sexually abused, she wasn’t just speaking for herself. She was speaking for hundreds of Bolivian children suffering through the same nightmare.
“I decided to dedicate my life to preventing others from going through what I went through and to ensure that if they do, they would find a comforting place to go,” says De Angulo, a Rutgers School of Law–Camden student graduating May 17.
The Camden resident was 15 years old when she was sexually abused while still living in Bolivia.
“I found no place to seek help or professional support,” she says. “Everywhere I went I was blamed. I went from one place to another, and no one seemed to care or take me seriously.”
To prevent Bolivian children from facing the same barriers, De Angulo founded Centro Una Brisa De Esperanza (CUBE), or the A Breeze of Hope Center. It is the only place in Bolivia that specializes in providing comprehensive assistance for children who are victims of sexual abuse.
At CUBE, the children have free access to social workers, lawyers, therapists, and volunteers who provide support.
“Working with the children in CUBE gives me hope for the future and helps me with my own healing process,” De Angulo says. “It’s great to see every day how something that was meant to harm me has in a way been used to help heal so many children. Every time I see that my perseverance has helped change a tear to a smile, I am encouraged to continue.”
De Angulo founded the center seven years ago, at age 17, and last year also established the A Breeze of Hope Foundation with her husband, Parker Palmer, who is also graduating this month from the Rutgers School of Law–Camden.
The foundation offers theoretical and financial support to projects that seek justice for child and adolescent victims of sexual abuse through comprehensive management of sexual abuse cases.
It also serves to promulgate nonviolent, free-learning models of education that foster safe environments for learning and strive for healthy childhood development. De Angulo and Palmer also spent time assisting CUBE’s lawyers with legal research, drafting memos and other court documents, preparing witnesses, interviewing clients, and assisting in trials.
“It really is an amazing experience to work under the supervision of such courageous and experienced lawyers,” De Angulo says. “The lawyers of CUBE are extremely passionate and devoted to justice for child and adolescent victims of sexual aggression. Their devotion to the cause of justice makes working with them a pleasure and very rewarding.”
According to research De Angulo conducted in 2009, 34 percent of children and adolescents in Bolivia suffer sexual abuse before age 18. Before CUBE was established, only 2 percent of all child sexual abuse cases that reached trial in Bolivia resulted in a conviction. Today, 95 percent of the cases that CUBE has taken to trial have resulted in a conviction.
"Working in CUBE has changed my life. It is beyond rewarding, and one thing I have learned in CUBE is that to confront sexual aggression we must work in community,” Palmer says. “Stepping into the underground world of suffering is daunting, and one can't do it alone. In this work, without community, you can't survive."
In addition to their work with CUBE, De Angulo and Palmer have worked alongside Beth Stephens, a professor of law at Rutgers–Camden, in a clinic called “Human Rights Litigation and Advocacy,” where they drafted briefs and memos and performed extensive legal research on international human rights cases.
The class also drafted a complaint to be filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights challenging the failure to protect the human rights of child victims of sexual abuse.
“It’s very rare for a survivor of childhood sexual abuse to be willing to talk about it in public and stand up and tell her story. It makes her extraordinary,” Stephens says. “Brisa and Parker are having a tremendous impact on the children they work with at the clinic and are providing essential services to a community that is overlooked. They are also providing a model that represents the work that has to be done to meet the needs of these children.”
De Angulo and Palmer say their Rutgers–Camden law experience has helped prepare them for efforts of legal and judicial reform.
“The professors at Rutgers–Camden are incredible,” De Angulo says. “But they are more than professors; they are truly admirable individuals who not only help students to become excellent legal practitioners, but also strive to see us become well-rounded, upstanding citizens. We feel very privileged to be part of the Rutgers School of Law–Camden.”
For more information about A Breeze of Hope, visit abreezeofhope.org.
Media Contact: Ed Moorhouse