(10 May 1998) Spanish/Nat

Brazil is in the grip of a child pornography case that has shocked the nation and highlighted the extent of the problem, especially among the poor and disadvantaged.

A community leader has been accused of making a pornographic movie using twenty-five teenage girls from a shanty town in Rio de Janeiro.

One of the girls has now decided to come forward and tell her story- putting both her own and her family’s lives at risk.

In Sao Carlo Hill, a shanty town with almost 80 – thousand residents in downtown Rio de Janeiro, the law of silence usually prevails.

But this week, evidence of a porn ring was exposed, involving twenty-five local teenage girls and two men – one a local community leader.

Fifteen- year old Vivian da Silva Arjona has accused 49-year-old Robert Apolonio da Costa and his friend, Souza Barros Filho, of forcing her to take part in the film.

She also accused the men of threatening her life, and those of her family, if she did not obey.

SOUNDBITE: (Portuguese)
Q: “What happened the first time you came into contact with this man?”
A: “The first time, he came up to me, showed me his gun, and threatened me and my family.”
Q: “And this is when you were in school.”
A: “Yes, I was in school- but I didn’t really study and left. The second time he took me to his flat, he made me have sex with him which I did, and then he started taking photos.That is how it happened – the third time he carried on threatening me with what he would do with my family if I opened my mouth.”
SUPER CAPTION: Vivian da Silva Arjona, victim

She alleges the abuse went on for three months and that one hundred and fifty copies of the tapes were distributed in the shanty town.

Silva decided to speak out after she saw the film in one of the local bars, but is scared for her life as the men continue to threaten and intimidate herto try and get her to drop the case.

SOUNDBITE: (Portuguese)
“I am afraid. I am afraid because when my mother goes home, he calls me and tells me he is going to kill me. I am afraid – he continues to threaten me.”
SUPER CAPTION: Vivian de Silva Arjona, victim

But few are willing to back up Vivian’s allegations.

The doorman at the apartment block the film is alleged to have been made maintained that he had never seen any young girls being taken up the men’s apartment.

SOUNDBITE: (Portuguese)
“Really, I am positive that this did not happen here.
Q: “You never saw anything happen here?”
A: “No I didn’t.”
SUPER CAPTION: Jose Jorge, doorman

Apolonio da Costa, one of the accused men, is President of the Resident’s Association in the building.

According to the Brazilian Ministry of Justice, there are 500-thousand prostitutes in Brazil – at least 42 percent of them are underage girls.

Human Rights Lawyer, Cristina Leonardo dos Santos is no stranger to such cases and has taken up da Silva’s cause.

The case will prove difficult to win.

The two accused men have fled the city, but more importantly, according to Leonardo, Brazil’s witness protection policy is non-existent.

Threats of revenge often deter witnesses from attending court.

SOUNDBITE: (Portuguese)
“I don’t believe anything will happen- and I say this from experience. We don’t have an official witness protection scheme in Brazil so the family have to go into hiding — there will be an inversion of values – instead of the victim she (da Silva) is going to become the criminal because she will not be able to appear in court.”
SUPER CAPTION: Cristina Leonardo dos Santos, Human Rights Lawyer

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