International Justice Mission
Photography & Writing by Brian Tropiano
Several years ago, when I first became a photographer, I had the opportunity to travel to a number of the international field offices of International Justice Mission (IJM) and document stories of the lives that had been rescued through the courageous work. IJM is a human-rights organization that partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems and these experiences were some of the most formative for me, discovering the power of a photograph and storytelling.
On my first trip to the field with IJM, I traveled to Guatemala City with IJM’s Founder and President Gary Haugen to document the casework being done. One story from this trip was particularly horrifying, and exposed me to the cruelty happening everyday amongst our world’s poor.
An old woman had developed a friendship with a young pregnant women with a learning disability. It became known that the little girl had been raped and there would be no father in the picture. Several months into the pregnancy, this older woman convinced this little girl that she probably wouldn’t be able to take care of the child alone, and that this older woman would be happy to “adopt” the child, and promise her a better future. Sure enough, once the baby was born, the exchange was made between the two women. This entire exchange was unbeknownst to the little girls parents.
It was later discovered that this older woman had actually hired the man to rape and impregnate this young disabled girl, and was profiteering off situations like this by selling the babies to adoption agencies. However, thanks to the intervention of IJM, this particular attempt was stopped and the baby was able to be returned to her young mother. Today, the baby is being raised by proud grandparents and her proper mother, and even more incredibly, this old woman is behind bars.