Editor’s note: Missioner Valerie Ellis describes two events she participated in for the recent Bolivian National Day to Support Victims and Survivors of Sexual Violence.

As we began the climb through the mountains, so did the sun. When our trufi got high enough to see the snow, we took chilly pictures over the landscape of a breathtakingly beautiful lake. After a couple of hours, we were even with the clouds and approaching the pueblo of Morochata.

Snow in the mountains

Snow in the mountains

As the parade to raise awareness and support victims and survivors of sexual violence in CUBE’s newest location began, I couldn’t help but make comparisons to the parade we had in downtown Cochabamba several days earlier. Here was the balloon arch we assembled in CUBE, leading both parades. Children from area schools were beginning to assemble, as they did in Plaza Colon the day before.

(^ Can you find me in the video?)

And although there were not nearly as many people as in Cochabamba (one of the things that I love about the parade there), a true excitement was in the air from the knowledge that everyone assembled was here for our parade.

As is true in Cochabamba, by mid-day the sun was out in full force, and the even colder air of Morochata had turned to pure bliss. As children lined up carrying banners supporting the fight against sexual violence in many forms (in general, against children and women, sexual trafficking, and deaths caused by sexual violence), so did the bands.

 

Sunny Morochata at parade start

Sunny Morochata at parade start

During the parade in Morochata, shouts of “No More Violence!” and the question “When is Enough?” with the response “Now is Enough!” could be heard between lively band music and coming from bashful to broadly smiling children and adults alike.

In Cochabamba, it was easy to pick out the different organizations supporting the fight against violence, and when the governor spoke a crowd of journalists swarmed to get the scoop. Miss Cochabamba shared the stage with CUBE co-founder and president Brisa De Angulo, as well as various leaders from other organizations.

Cochabamba Community Leaders

Cochabamba Community Leaders

In the pueblo of Morochata, the feeling was different. As I joined the tail end of the parade, I noticed a sea of traditional hats worn by women in indigenous dress, and a couple of elderly men who joined the parade could hardly walk. Along the parade route, I passed a 5-year-old girl without shoes, watching her 1-year-old little brother, and when we passed by later we were able to offer food to their grandmother so they would have something to eat that day.

Seeing the little girl’s bare feet on the dirt road reminded me of my childhood, and I was able to share with her that I also grew up in the “campo” (Spanish for country) and spent many days playing outside with my little brother, although I did not share that being barefoot for me was a choice.

After the parade in Cochabamba, there was a time for dances by adults in fancy costumes, and by classes of children from a variety of schools in the area. In Morochata, children enacted a profoundly heart-wrenching play telling the story of a girl from youth – when she was raped by a family member – to adult – when her husband beat her and eventually sold her into the sex market.

Although I am not 100% certain that this was a true story, the sad reality is that victims of sexual violence are more likely to become victims of other types of violence, based on the psychological abuse that promulgates self esteem issues and a vulnerability that is easy for perpetrators to identify in their next potential victim.

When I arrived home that night, I reflected back on the awe and wonder, beauty and sadness of the past days’ parades and what they stood for.

Tears came to my eyes during both events honoring the Bolivian National Day to Support Victims and Survivors of Sexual Violence, and I can honestly say that both were extremely valuable experiences. I feel blessed to have been a part of such important demonstrations for a fight in which I would like to invite everyone to partake, near or far!

For more information about CUBE and what my ministry site does to support the fight against sexual violence, please read more.

If you or someone you know in the U.S. needs help, please call the Rape Abuse and Incest Network at (800) 656-HOPE.