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Drugged and raped in Bolivia: The Aftermath

In last week’s article, I described the crimes committed by Mennonites in Manitoba Colony, Bolivia upon members of their own community. This week, we explore the aftermath of these horrific crimes on the families that were left to heal and move on. But can one ever truly move on from such trauma?

Photo credit: John Banman

Photo credit: John Banman

In the wake of the confessions, there was virtually no discussion in the community about what had occurred. Not only were the women and girls, who had fallen victim to the rapists, not offered any form of therapy within the community, the male elders rejected offers of aid by therapists from outside the community. Though the victims would have welcomed some form of counseling, or at least an outlet to release some of their emotional trauma, the male leaders in the community felt it would have been counter-productive. Bishop Johan Neurdorf, the community’s highest authority, asked,  “Why would they need counseling if they weren’t even awake when it happened?”  According to Abraham Wall Enns, Manitoba Colony’s civic leader,  “That’s all behind us now. We’d rather forget than have it be at the forefront of our minds.”

But according to the women and girls who were raped during this terrible time, it is always on the forefront of their minds. How could it not be? Not only were the women and girls denied therapy after the rapes had occurred, but they were not even permitted to be the plaintiffs in their own rape cases. Because women cannot legally represent themselves, the plaintiffs in the trial were five men, selected from among the fathers and husbands of the victims. While the women and girls are encouraged to move on from what happened to them, they are also encouraged, or even expected, to forgive the rapists and perhaps welcome them back into the community one day, if they properly ask for forgiveness. The women of the community, faithful to their core, claim that they have forgiven their rapists, because it is what God expects of them.

Perhaps most disturbing is that the rapes have not stopped.  Nine men confessed, subsequently recanted, and were later found guilty of drugging entire families and raping the women and girls. (Though men and boys also, allegedly, fell victim, they were not listed as victims in the court case.)  But the crimes continued after the original rapists were incarcerated. Are they being committed by copycat criminals? Did some of the original rapists never get caught?  One Manitoba man said, “It’s definitely not as frequent.  The rapists are being much more careful than before, but it still goes on.” With no police force, and street lamps and cameras not permitted because they are considered technology, the Mennonites must hope to, once again, catch someone in the act in order to stop these crimes.

With their strong faith in God, but without any concrete plan for healing, the Mennonite community of Manitoba Colony has fared as well as can be expected. All they hope to do now is wait.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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