Ecuador’s Silence on Child Sexual Abuse

By Mollie McSweeney

Sexual abuse has been covered up and excused for years. However, with new-found awareness and changes being made, the hope is that countries who do not have laws that protect survivors of sexual abuse, make the necessary changes to protect those survivors. In 2017, UNICEF reported that 15 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 have experienced forced sex in their lifetime across the world.[1] Sexual assault can range from direct physical contact to unwanted exposure to sexual language and images.[2] Further, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, one out of four girls, and one out of six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18.[3]


The trend in Ecuador is that children who are victims of sexual abuse are not protected by their government. The government ignores the gravity and seriousness of the issue of child sexual abuse. However, of all of the sexual abuse reported in two large cities in Ecuador, Quito and Guayaquil, sixty-nine percent of abuse involved girls between the ages of 10-19 years old.[4] Of the sixty-nine percent of girls who reported abuse, eighty percent reported that they were abused by a “father, relative, friend, or someone they knew,” and twenty-two percent of the girls were victims of abuse in the educational setting.[5] Even though most children who are victims of child abuse are girls, boys are also victims as well, however less boys report an incident because of societal norms.[6]


Currently, Ecuadorian officials cover up instances of child sexual abuse. Unfortunately, this is exactly how 11-year old Valentina’s story went. In June of 2016, Valentina went to school and said goodbye to her mother, Ruth.[7] The plan was for Valentina to attend her orchestra practice that afternoon, then return home to help her sister decide what to wear for her birthday party.[8] However, Valentina never even made it to her orchestra practice that afternoon.[9] Valentina’s parents searched for her all night, without the help of local police, because they believed she had just run away from her parents.[10] The next morning, Ruth received a call from Valentina’s school. [11] The school had found Valentina’s body at the school playground.[12] School authorities suggested that Valentina’s death was a suicide, because they believed she was depressed about her parent’s getting a divorce.[13] However, a forensic expert who participated in the first autopsy told Ruth that her daughter was raped and strangled.[14] Soon after, the forensic expert retracted her statements, saying that there must have been a mistake because Valentina’s death was ruled an accident.[15] After continued investigation, Valentina’s death eventually yielded evidence that she was sexually abused and murdered.[16] Valentina’s death is still under investigation to this day, yet nothing has been done to protect young children from this unfortunate and horrible crime.[17]


Valentina’s story is not an isolated one. For years the Ecuadorean government failed to acknowledge this problem and how large this problem was, but the new education minister, Fander Falconí, acknowledged the issue, stating “that the ministry had registered 882 alleged cases of sexual violence against children between 2014 and 2017, including 561 incidents linked to the public education system.”[18]


The problem with Ecuador was its silence on the issue. However, people have begun to speak out and Ecuadorean authorities appear to be taking this issue more seriously.[19] On June 10, 2017, or also known as the International Day for Protection of Children, an Ecuadorean group broke the silence on child sexual abuse in order to raise awareness about the problem.[20] The campaign is called “Ecuador Dice No Mas” (Ecuador Says No More).[21] The campaign broke the silence by releasing a series of informational videos that spread awareness and encourage victims and their family members to speak out against abuse.[22] The videos explain what to do to prevent abuse, what to do or how to act in suspicious situations, and how to work on moving forward.[23] The executive director of the group, Paula Andrade, explains that the culture in Ecuador is to stay quiet on these issues, families are afraid to point out an abuser out of shame, or out of appearance or out of pain.[24] Notably, Ecuador has a 15-year statute of limitations on charges of child sexual abuse, which, as Ms. Andrade points out, is “just long enough for a child victim to grow up, gather their courage, report a crime—and be told that nothing can be done.”[25] Additionally, resources for survivors are extremely scarce. No Mas runs the only support groups in Ecuador and they can only fund the program for adults currently.[26]


The United Nations expert agency that assesses government compliance with the Convention of the Rights of the Child, declared that it was “extremely concerned about the prevalence of gender-based violence, in particular sexual violence, [. . . because] the high level of impunity in cases of sexual violence,” “affecting children in Ecuador.[27] This UN agency urged the Ecuadorian government to adopt a “nationwide strategy to eliminate sexual violence against girls, and ensure they have. . . access to effective complaint mechanisms.”[28] In addition to calling the government to “introduce compulsory screening processes and background checks. . . of staff working in public and private schools and expedite judicial proceedings against alleged perpetrators of sexual violence.”[29]


Ecuadorean authorities have appeared to respond to these directives by acknowledging the scope of the problem and the need to address it.[30] The President of Ecuador mentioned that he wanted to eliminate the statute of limitations for investigating and prosecuting child sexual violence.[31] In addition, the National Assembly created a special commission to investigate cases of child sexual assault in Ecuador.[32]


Child sexual abuse is the worst kind of infringement upon the rights of children. It is imperative that the country of Ecuador keep making steps towards awareness and justice for their children.


[1] UNICEF Data: Monitoring the Situation of Children and Women, UNICEF (Nov. 2017),

[2] Id.

[3] Ecuador Campaign Battles Childhood Sexual Abuse with Awareness, telesur, (Jun. 1, 2017),

[4] Maria Correia & Bernice van Brokehorst, Ecuador Gender Review: Issues and Recommendations, 23 (200).

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Tamara Taraciuk Broner, Ecuador Needs to Act to Halt Child Sexual Abuse, Human Rights Watch, (Dec. 4, 2017),

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Ecuador Campaign Battles Childhood Sexual Abuse with Awareness, supra note 3.

[21] Stephanie Nolen, In Ecuador, a couple takes up the fight against child sex abuse, The Globe and Mail (Aug. 30, 2017),

[22] Ecuador Campaign Battles Childhood Sexual Abuse with Awareness, supra note 3.

[23] Id.

[24] Id.

[25] Nolen, supra note 21.

[26] Id.

[27] Broner, supra note 7.

[28] Id.

[29] Id.

[30] Id.

[31] Id.

[32] Id.