In Bolivia, 1 in 3 girls experience sexual abuse before they turn 18, and 87% of women in Bolivia have experienced sexual violence from a family member. Bolivia has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Latin America, and 20% of these pregnancies are estimated to be the result of rape. Because of social stigma, many sexual abuse victims never report their abuser.
Haggai leader Melissa N. Torrico Cáceres, who works as an attorney, noticed something unsettling — despite the prevalence of sexual abuse in her country, it wasn’t an issue churches seemed to be addressing. She decided to change that.
“I train parents, teachers, and church leaders to talk about preventing child sexual abuse at an early age,” Melissa says. “Data shows children should be equipped with self-protection techniques between the ages of 3 and 5. We must arrive with the information before the abuser.”
Melissa trains parents, teachers, and church leaders to talk about preventing child sexual abuse at an early age, an urgent topic in her country of Bolivia.
Melissa sees prevention of sexual abuse as her ministry. Pastors and other church leaders have told her she is an answer to their prayers.
Although the program began in church contexts, it has expanded to secular organizations. Melissa has even been interviewed on secular radio about sexual abuse prevention, the broadcast reaching many homes in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia’s largest city.
“But the most important achievement in my work and in my ministry is to have denounced a sexual abuser and put him in jail,” Melissa says. “It was that day that God confirmed my call and prevented this person from abusing more children.”
The Bolivian Evangelical University recently interviewed Melissa on the radio about her vital work in Bolivia.
At the Haggai Leader Experience, Melissa realized there was room in her workshops for sharing the Good News. Before, she only provided information about sexual abuse prevention; she now includes a section about the Gospel.
“I have realized how blessed I am to be able to share my faith with freedom,” she says. “I met so many other Haggai leaders from all over the world who have to hide to share their faith.”