The Child Migrant Crisis and Sexual Violence

With thousands of children, primarily from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, in detention after crossing into the United States from Mexico, seeking asylum and protection, we have what is being referred to as an immigration crisis and a humanitarian crisis. Amid calls for just sending the children back to where they came from, several organizations concerned about sexual violence have weighed in with a letter to the president and others in our government, asking them to do the right thing: protect and care for these children, many of whom are survivors of sexual violence.

The letter is the product of a working group spearheaded by CounterQuo members Monica Ramirez, of Alizana Nacional de Campesinas, Stacy Malone and Jessica Mindlin of Victim Rights Law Center, Anne K. Ream of The Voices and Faces Project, Kim Day of the International Association of Forensic Nurses, along with Laura E. Zarate of Arte Sana and Alianza Latina en contra la Agresion Sexual, and Katryn Duarte of ALAS. Joining as signers of the letter are 155 allies and organizations dedicated to ending sexual violence.

And why are anti-sexual violence groups getting involved? Because we know that many of the children who have run away from their home countries are escaping sexual violence, trafficking and other trauma. They are not safe in their own homes, villages and countries. We’re getting involved because some of the children, now in our care in immigration detention facilities, are currently dealing with sexual and physical violence, sometimes at the hands of those in authority over them, and sometimes at the hands of other detainees.

There are U.S. laws that should be providing protection for these children: advocacy, due process before deportation, medical care, etc. And at the moment, many children are simply not being served and are being harmed further in our care.

As the letter states, “Child survivors of sexual violence experience a range of short- and long-term physical and emotional consequences. The United States has a moral and legal imperative to respond to these child survivors with empathy and safety, not detention and removal.”