Sexual violence survivor’s journey to justice | Al Jazeera Close Up

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After experiencing sexual violence, Vasilisa Komarova succeeds in getting justice through determination.
In 2015, Vasilisa Komarova, 39, set off on a lifelong dream: motorcycling off-road across the Americas. Komarova, started in Cuba, then headed for Chile and began to make her way up the Americas to Alaska. It was a dream inspired by growing up behind the Iron Curtain. “I am a child of the Soviet Union, a place where one wasn’t allowed to dream of exploring the world,” Komarova explains.
In June 2017 and while camping beside a lagoon in Santa Rosa del Yacuma, Bolivia, Komarova was sexually assaulted by three locals. Though she was aware of the prevalence of sexual violence in Bolivia, Komarova had been assured by a local family that the lagoon was safe and they encouraged her to camp there.
After the attack, Komarova spent a year in Bolivia fighting for justice. During that time, she experienced firsthand institutional sexism and the corruption and failings of a legal system that does little to protect survivors of sexual assault nor carry out justice for them.
Thanks to Komarova’s persistence, in June 2018 her perpetrators were sentenced to a combined 42 years in jail, a feat that was nothing short of miraculous. “It’s almost without precedent that people go to trial and are convicted of a sexual offense,” says Daniel Robison, honorary consular agent of the British Embassy in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia, who helped Komarova navigate the legal process. “People kept telling her, ’Just forget about it, just go away, nothing will ever come of it and she refused to take no for an answer.”
After winning justice, Komarova continued on her journey. Today, she is in Nicaragua, and hopes to make it to Alaska by 2021. She continues to fight for survivors of sexual violence worldwide. “My dream is to make this world safer,” says Komarova, “and to live in a world without sexual violence, where one woman as myself can travel and not be afraid to be on her own.”

A film by Kelley Manley & Alex Witkowicz
Field Producer: José A. Rios Román
Film Editor: Ala Alhussan
Producer: Ala Alhussan
Executive Producer: Andrew Phillips

Special thanks to José A. Rios Román, Milkhaus, Daniel Robison, Ligia Robison, Antón Malvar, Jaime Teran, Green Hearts Project, the Ministry of Justice and Institutional Transparency of Bolivia, Environmental Support Program, Universidad Privada de Bolivia (La Paz) and the women who shared their stories with us.

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