Ten Days in Huánuco

In Huánuco, Peru, there is a shelter that houses 40 sexually-assaulted girls, all under the age of 18.

The shelter, Casa Del Buen Trato Hovde – or “Hovde House of Good Treatment” in English – seeks to provide the girls with psychological, educational, familial, and legal support. I discovered Casa Del Buen Trato Hovde when I partook in a ten-day mission trip to the shelter this summer, sponsored by my church. Participants on the trip were told they were there to offer emotional support to the girls and would complete miscellaneous projects around the shelter – gardening, painting, and arts and crafts.

After my participation in the Mentors in Violence Prevention Program (M.V.P.) at Andover, an educational program that works to reduce gender-based violence, my trip served as an appropriate continuation of my pursuit of gender-based violence prevention. As enthusiastic as I was for the trip, I was uncertain about what to expect and troubled by the thought of a language barrier.

The girls at the shelter were incredible. They enthusiastically welcomed us into their community and embraced our presence with warm fervor. The language barrier posed some challenges, but we were able to communicate sufficiently using body language – connecting without words.

Although I enjoyed my time at Casa Del Buen Trato Hovde, my experience was extremely emotional. As a Catholic country, Peru outlaws abortion. If a girl becomes pregnant, she has no choice but to have her baby. It was heartbreaking to think about how the young mothers had their childhoods stolen from them by their assaulters, how they now had to carry the consequences of his decision for the rest of their lives.

It angers me as much as it saddens me. One in four women will be sexually assaulted before they graduate high school, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Since hearing this statistic, I’ve continued to keep it in mind as it initially horrified me and continues to do so. But now that I’ve firsthand witnessed the lasting physical and emotional trauma of sexual assault, the issue affects me more poignantly. More than ever, I firmly believe that prevention of sexual assault is absolutely imperative.

Andover has made giant leaps in the past year about sexual assault awareness by organizing All-School Meetings and sending emails pertaining to the issue, implementing the M.V.P. program, and screening “Slut: The Play.” These efforts must continue at Andover, so that we may extend sexual-assault awareness beyond our campus and into the surrounding world.