Brisa De Angulo is the founder and CEO of A Breeze of Hope Foundation. As a lawyer, psychologist, and human rights activist, she dedicates her life to improving access to justice and healing for survivors of sexual violence against children. Brisa, a survivor, uses her story and expertise to challenge the status quo and promote legislation safeguarding children.
According to Brisa,”I grew up in Bolivia. From a very young age, my life was centered around doing whatever I could to help people, and I was very involved in the community around me. Like my parents, I was motivated by social impact – and because I was home-schooled, I had the flexibility to work hard at it. I loved music, played the piano, and competed on the national swim team. I was a lively child with big dreams. But when I was 15 years old, an adult cousin came to stay with my family. Everything changed.”
Everything changed because Brisa’s older cousin—who was ten years older—raped, tortured, and manipulated her nearly every day for eight months.
“I would never say a word. It was such a mind-bending experience and something I’ve seen repeatedly in other cases. He would tell me that if my parents found out what was happening, they would be devastated by it; he would tell me that if I didn’t let him rape me, he would go after my little sisters. He spun a web around me, so I felt responsible for the abuse, and as part of that process, he separated me from everyone I loved. I stopped talking to my parents, my siblings…I disengaged from everyone around me because I wanted to protect them from the pain they would suffer if they knew what was happening.”
Brisa’s life unraveled during those horrifying months. With the help of her parents and siblings, whose deep love for Brisa drove them to take action, Brisa found a safe space to begin healing.
“I thought the only way out of the abuse was to take my own life. I tried to commit suicide twice. The second time I attempted to kill myself, I was visiting my brothers in the United States. Luckily, I was taken to a specialized center for victims of sexual violence, where they understood that my behavior was the expected behavior of a rape victim. They knew how to handle a case like mine and supported me through the healing process. If it wasn’t for that suicide attempt – and that center – I don’t think I ever would have broken the silence.
“My parents were shocked; they were mortified at the fact that something like this had happened in our home. Thankfully, my parents believed me and embraced me with unfailing love. They told me we would get through it as a family – and I am eternally grateful for their support.”
However, nothing was as easy as it may seem because when she returned to Bolivia, no one, not even the legal system, helped her. Brisa and her parents were literally fighting against the whole system, against society itself.
“My case ended up shuffling from court to court for years. Twenty-one years later, my case is still open, and my aggressor, Eduardo Gutierrez Angulo (who also goes by Lalo Levi) is a fugitive of justice, yet still living free and working as a youth pastor.
Dealing with the legal system was horrific. But that process changed my life in other ways, too. My parents told me we could move and start over somewhere new, but I couldn’t. I realized that if I left Bolivia – if I left my case – I would betray all the women and girls that came before me and all those who would come after me. I committed to fighting as hard as possible to continue pushing forward and convince the legal system that rape was unacceptable.”
To help other victims like her, Brisa created A Breeze of Hope Foundation.
“I could not bear the thought of another girl being told – like I was – that being raped was her fault. When I was 17, I opened A Breeze of Hope to help other girls and their families. As soon as we opened the doors, children started coming.”
“To date, we’ve been able to accomplish amazing things. We have provided free legal, social, and psychological support to over 2,300 children and nearly 8,000 of their supportive, non-offending family members. Over 750 aggressors have been convicted because of the courage of survivors and the amazing work of our expert attorneys. Many more cases still pending trial.”
“I shouldn’t be alive today. I tried to commit suicide not once but twice. But because I’m here, A Breeze of Hope exists.”
“We have over 2,300 of these kids who are growing up believing they can make a change. Let’s be honest: I might not see a significant difference in my generation. But I’ve planted enough seeds in people who can make a massive transformation. That’s what I keep wanting to do.”
Brisa is also a public speaker, researcher, and author of many books. Her life story, her drive, and her outstanding accomplishments have garnered recognition from around the world. Brisa has received many international awards for her work, including the CNN Heroes, BBC Outlook Inspirations Award, the World of Children Award, and Elevate Prize.