Peace’s Story

WARNING: The following story may be disturbing to some readers.


PEACE’S* experience tells a story of resilience. Nine-year-old Peace and three other children between the ages of three to eight were sexually assaulted by a 60-year-old man. A man who was not just well-known to their families, but also a highly respected man in their community in Uganda.

The perpetrator ran a popcorn store in the local neighbourhood, making it a popular place for children to visit. One day, Peace’s mother Helsa* heard from a friend that there were concerns in the community that the owner of the store was abusing children, including Peace. Heartbroken by this information, Helsa talked to her daughter privately. Peace slowly gained the courage to give her mother Helsa a detailed account of the abuse she had endured. Peace could not recall the number of times she had been abused – it was too many times to count.

“It was heartbreaking.  The more I listened to my daughter speak, the more I screamed and cried helplessly,” said Helsa.

Going to the police was not a smooth journey for Peace and Helsa. Some people in the community criticised Helsa for reporting an ‘elderly man’ to the police. Some families of other victims feared fighting alongside her, and the perpetrator kept intimidating and threatening them.

Helsa was close to giving up, yet still desperate to fight for justice for her daughter. That’s when an IJM staff member stopped her at the police station, introduced themself and offered support. IJM assessed the safety of the witnesses and took the case as an assist. Two months later, IJM held discussions with the relevant attorneys and the case file was recalled. Within 12 months, the perpetrator pled guilty and was sentenced to eight years in prison. Helsa and Peace could not describe the relief they felt.

During this time, IJM provided aftercare for Peace, including individual and family counselling, Through IJM support, Peace did not have to recount the abuse in court, avoiding further trauma.

Today, Peace hopes to become a doctor when she grows up. In year 4, Peace is already working hard towards her dream and getting impressive grades at school.

“I want to treat and help people who are sick, and I am studying hard,”

When the IJM team spoke to Helsa and Peace recently, Helsa keenly listened to her daughter’s dreams with a broad smile. It is the first time she has heard her visualise her future. Then, she chuckled, “I have also noticed that Peace loves music!”

Her hearty laughter said it all.  A few months earlier, Helsa never thought that her daughter would be as optimistic as she was now. Her academic performance was declining by the day. The trauma of being sexually assaulted was too much to bear.

Now, after the perpetrator was sentenced to eight years in jail for sexually assaulting four children, including Peace, there was a tremendous improvement in her grades. In the last academic term, she emerged as the second-best in her class.

Peace’s social worker describes her as a resilient girl with a captivating smile. Her mother Helsa is now a child and women’s right advocate in their community.

Peace’s story shows how vital after care and continuous strengthening of justice systems is. By becoming a Freedom Partner, you can help change entire communities and protect children like Peace.

*Pseudonym and stock images used to protect identity.