Brisa’s parents moved their family from the United States to Bolivia when she was a young girl. Both survivors of domestic violence, they worked hard to support their children and create a loving family environment. Brisa’s father worked tirelessly to become a surgeon and public health advocate and her mother was a health sciences educator. Together, they started a health clinic to provide services to a community ravaged by poverty. They published more than 40 books on human rights, early childhood development, social development, education, and much more.
Their passion for serving others was infused in Brisa. When she was seven years old, she began tutoring other children in her own backyard. At 14, she founded Comunidad Educative para La Vida (CEV), a school providing a safe alternative to traditional educational institutions where children are often beaten and severely punished by their teachers. Brisa was on the brink of making her dreams come to life by creating a better place for children in her community.
That all changed when her 26-year-old cousin came to live with her family.
He was a well-respected church and community leader, but Brisa was his prey. Soon after his arrival, he began to beat, rape and torture her. She was 15 years old.
Suffering tremendous pain and violence, Brisa struggled with bulimia and anorexia and attempted suicide twice. After eight long months of isolation, lies and torment, she came forward to tell her parents. Together, they reported her perpetrator to the Bolivian police, making Brisa one of the first victims to boldly report this type of crime. Little did they imagine that taking that step would cause even more agony.
The district attorney interrogated her relentlessly, threatening to imprison her if she sustained her allegations of rape and torture. She warned Brisa that silence was in her best interest and blamed her for the sexual abuse. The phrase “You’re a girl. We all go through it.” became normal conversation. She was ostracized from her community. Her house was set on fire twice and stoned. She was nearly kidnapped and survived several murder attempts. Her case was eventually sent to an agricultural and livestock court—the final attempt to completely dehumanize her.
But Brisa refused to be silent.
For her safety and their family’s safety, her parents found a place for her to stay in Montana with friends. As a result of the trauma, Brisa had dropped out of school in 8th grade, but the woman she lived with—who was also a trained social worker—helped her get her life back on track. She passed the GED and was accepted to Eastern University for her undergraduate studies. Brisa then went on to earn her Master of Arts Degree in experimental psychology from Towson University and finally, she received her Juris Doctorate from Rutgers Law School.
Brisa met her husband, Parker, at Eastern University on a volunteer humanitarian trip to Bolivia. A survivor of sexual and domestic violence himself, their connection was immediate. Together, they founded A Breeze of Hope to create a paradigm shift in the way society sees and interacts with children to prevent sexual violence and other forms of violence against children, especially girls.
In Bolivia, one in every three girls and one in every four boys have experienced sexual violence, and more than 80% of those victims were abused by a family member or family friend. A Breeze of Hope’s mission is to serve these voiceless children by preventing sexual violence, restoring the lives of survivors and promoting healthy childhood development. The organization supports the operation and growth of CEV, Brisa’s elementary school, as well as Centro Una Brisa de Esperanza (CUBE), the first and only center in Bolivia that specializes in the comprehensive legal, social, and psychological assistance of child and adolescent victims of sexual violence—all free of charge.
Critical support is also provided to non-offending, supportive family members of the children they serve. Parental well-being and restoration is key to helping children regain their voices and to find the inner courage to become powerful advocates to reshape their culture.
Since its founding in 2004, A Breeze of Hope has impacted the lives of more than 1,800 child survivors and their supportive family members. They have educated and trained over 120,000 people in sexual violence prevention and over 150,000 in Early Childhood Development.
A Breeze of Hope maintains a 95% conviction rate in criminal trials against child sex offenders—the highest conviction rate in the world.
Brisa’s perpetrator is still at large, but that won’t stop her from making the world a better and safer place for children. She has built a strong and powerful community of wounded healers—survivors that use their experience and pain to help other children heal.
Visit https://www.facebook.com/ABreezeofHope for more information.