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Manuel (11) lets go of his trauma
27 September 2019

Manuel (11) lets go of his trauma

Children who have been sexually abused in Bolivia are being helped by the trainers of ‘Casa de Alegria’ to process with their traumas.

Laurie Ijzerman talks about how Manual (11 years old) manages to let go of his anger. Changes in behavior can be difficult to notice immediately and often even more difficult to make visible. This makes it all the more beautiful for us, as teachers and trainers, to see children like Manual change and grow in a tangible way. If, by doing so, they also motivate and stimulate the group, like in this case, we like to write about this proudly!

Manual is an 11 year old boy, he lives in Sipe Sipe and does not only look like a ‘macho streetcat’, but behaves like one too. He has had to fight too many fights in his life and lives with 60 other boys and teenagers who have all been sexually abused. There is a lot of anger, shame and unhealthy ideas about sexuality, violence and relationships. Intense comments are made, such as: ‘Sex is jamming it in very hard’ and ‘Why should you stop if a girl doesn’t want it, that doesn’t matter, does it?’ (Rafael, 7). These expressions of trauma are completely understandable, and yet they bring the boys lots of problems because they are misinterpreted and misunderstood by many. A taboo and a judgement are quickly conceived.

If these boys are not guided, they trade the role of victim for the role of offender and this is a circle we want to break, together with them. Teachers Guelly and Sonia engage with countless unhealthy comments about sex. ‘Why is sex different than rape?’ ‘What is okay and what is not?’ ‘What is the deal with penises and vaginas?’ And ‘Why is it important that both say ‘yes’?’. Manuel spends weeks provoking others. ‘What bullcrap, rape feels good!’. The teachers respond calmly and do not reject him. ‘No child is bad. At the most, their behavior is.’, I repeatedly remind them in our teacher trainings.

Last Monday, someone yelled something about rape again, and instead of further provoking the situation, I heard Manual shout: ‘Shut up, rape is bad! You should make love!’. He corrects his classmates and in no time, the atmosphere changes and a respectful conversation about sex starts, in which I hear them repeating things we have been trying to teach them for weeks, wow! In amazement, I look at the leader of the group who normally causes stress and headaches, but who is now suddenly changing everything. YES! The breaking of the circle has started!

By Laurie Ijzerman