A few months ago, after being in an intense self-defense class, friends and beauty queens María Teresa Rodríguez (Miss Costa Rica 2008) and Johana García (Mrs Universe 2016) revealed abuses they suffered in the past, realizing that they had to do more to motivate fellow women not to keep silent.
What happened to them individually they prefer to leave behind, but what they do want to promote is “that we must not keep silent” in the face of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
As they are aware that talking about these issues is not easy due to different factors, they decided to create the Reinas Silenciadas foundation, which has pages on Facebook and Instagram and through which, with the help of professionals from the Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ), provide virtual chats to help women who live or have gone through moments of physical and sexual assault.
“This is a beautiful project. We realized that the way to fight is by not keeping silent, ”Rodríguez said.
For her part, Johana García commented: “The class (on personal defense) reached us deeply because of issues that happened to us as girls. We realized that many, many women have suffered some sexual abuse. After this we decided to create networks and we began to knock on the doors of public institutions, it turns out that the only ones who supported us were the OIJ workers. We had a meeting with Mr. Walter Espinoza (director of the OIJ); he was super-strong, he said it seemed great to him, that we could count on them to give talks (through the Reinas Silenciadas social networks).
As part of their work, María Teresa and Johana provide accompaniment, always advised by experts, to women who suffer from a situation of sexual abuse or domestic violence and who are looking for “a helping hand.”
“We are the bridge. There are women who feel sorry and feel ashamed. We have empowered women by guiding them with the support of professionals, because we know our position. Thank God having the support of professional people. We feel good that they trust us. We are mediators in your process and support them up to a certain point, finally the decision to report is in every women” they commented.
María Teresa and Johana give free virtual talks every 15 days. They say that in the four months of having this project they have given direct accompaniment to some 25 women.
With the support of experts in psychology and sociology from the OIJ, they have offered the talks: Sexual abusers inside the intimate circle, Sexual deception in social networks, Surviving a terror episode, among others.
“We know that it is not easy, but we have to take charge of our lives and not remain silent. We must not let anyone silence us ”, María Teresa Rodríguez.
In the talk Surviving a Terror Chapter they had the participation of a young woman who was sexually abused by a relative, beaten and also buried alive.
“The same girl looked for us. She wanted to give her testimony for all those women who have been silenced. She spoke for the first time about that chapter of terror in front of 250 people who saw her virtually.
“It was an honor to have her. This talk was also attended by a psychologist, Evelyn Rodríguez from the integrated victim protection program of the OIJ, as well as the sociologist José Eduardo Flores,” García said.
María Teresa added: “The situations that we live are already behind us. We want to say that we can raise our voices and not let these experiences mark our lives. We know that it was not our fault or responsibility. And despite our young age (in the moment of abuse) raise our voices speaking about it.
“Beyond what happened, the important fact is that it was spoken, and not allowed again. That has set the tone for how we want to cope with situations in our lives. Not remain submissive. We must get up and act. Create awareness that it is necessary to denounce”.