IN HONDURAS, a woman reports a sexual assault every three hours — one of the highest rates in the world. But this figure is believed to be the tip of the iceberg, as thousands more women are too scared to report abuse.
The country is regarded as one of the most dangerous in the world for women and girls. In the first six months of 2021, one woman was murdered, on average, every 36 hours. Ninety-six per cent of murders of women remain unsolved.
A project run by Tearfund with its partner organisation in Honduras, AMIGA Garifuna, is seeking to support women who have been victims of violence, and to change the wider culture of violence against women.
The project has been working with ten churches to give survivors emotional support, promote healthy relationships, and challenge cultural behaviour patterns that have permitted abuse and violence against women and girls. About 120 women and girls have been supported by the project so far, Tearfund reports.
A church leader, Pastor Marvin, who took part in training on violence prevention and gender equity provided by AMIGA, said that having a “biblical basis” for supporting the people in his congregation had helped him most.
“One of the challenges we have is to constantly try to change the mentality of our people in the communities, because most of them have certain customs, certain actions that have become normal, especially when it comes to men,” he said. “When talking about couples, normally, people have the tendency to say: ‘This is how my grandfather was, this is how my ancestors were, this is how I will continue to be all my life.’
“But, when I see a biblical model, things change, and the difficult thing for me has been daily trying to be an example not only with words, but also with deeds: at home and in the congregation, to be an example to other men.”
Estella, who is 41, has survived decades of abuse at the hands of her stepfather and her partners. Being involved in Tearfund’s project, she said, had changed her life. “The most difficult thing is the psychological trauma, the fights, the blows. Even my children had to witness the physical and psychological blows that I experienced with my partner, the father of my seven-year-old daughter.
“The project changed my life, because I realised that there were many things I had to change. There were many things that seemed normal to me, but I suddenly realised that they were not normal.
“The talks, the meetings, have helped me a lot, and they have helped me to heal my soul inside. It has helped me to move forward in life, to not be afraid.”
Carla, 28, said that she felt “renewed” by the support that she had received. “‘I feel good, thank God. I feel renewed. Now I am taking time for myself and my family.”