(Warning: contains descriptions of sexual violence.)
Berta Torrez* lives in Colombia with her father, mother and two brothers.
Born in the midst of a violent civil war, Berta grew up fleeing from village to village seeking refuge from armed forces.
Eventually, Berta’s family found safety on a rural farm, but when she was just eight years old Berta suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her older brother and the men who worked on the farm.
Tragically, Berta’s abuse went unnoticed by her parents. Preoccupied with the civil war and focused on the family’s fight for survival, their daughter’s suffering went unobserved.
When she was eleven, Berta’s parents decided to move to Barranquilla seeking greater security and better job opportunities. The move meant that Berta was finally free from the abuse she had endured for three years. However, the emotional scars remained.
Berta says, ‘I could not talk to anyone and it seemed that there was no future for me.’
In 2015, feeling hopeless and alone, Berta made two attempts to end her life. Thankfully, these attempts failed and at the beginning of this year, 2016, she heard about a support programme for survivors of sexual violence (SVS) at an evangelical church. Bravely, Berta approached the church for help, and it was in this safe environment that Berta met with other survivors and finally had the opportunity to process the years of abuse. Most importantly, Berta experienced the powerful and transforming love of God – a love so strong that it can heal the deepest of wounds.
Today, a few months on – and thanks to your support and the help of the local church – Berta is training to be a dental hygienist. Although she still experiences nightmares, Berta is determined not to be shackled by her past or the painful memories. Instead, knowing that she is loved and valued by God, Berta is full of hope for the future.
Tearfund is supporting the SVS programme in the North Coast of Colombia with the participation of 12 churches.
Sadly however, Berta is just one of many young girls who has suffered devastating sexual abuse: every day, hundreds more are abused in refugee camps or in communities where families have resettled during regional conflicts. In Colombia, an estimated 500,000 women have been raped during the course of the civil war; 12,000 of these women were assaulted by armed men.
*Name has been changed to protect identity
- Praise God that Berta is on the road to healing and restoration. Lift her up in your prayers as she continues to release the past and experience more of God’s love and grace.
- Pray fervently for all those who have experienced abuse and pain at the hands of others. Pray that God will bring an end to this horrific violence and for those at risk to be set free in Jesus’ name.
- Pray for the nation of Colombia – for peace to be restored, and the violence and conflict to come to an end.