Things That Matter

New Study Shows Central American Women Escaping Violence Experience More Trauma After Seeking Asylum

A recently released report shows the reality of why many woman from Central American countries are fleeing. The data outlines a rising number of women are trying to escape sexual and domestic violence in their home countries. Conducted with researchers from St. Edwards University and Casa de Esperanza, a federal resource center for Latinas and Latin@ communities to end domestic violence, the report provides evidence on why women are facing these circumstances and what can be done to help.

In the last decade there has been an increase in the arrival of Latina immigrant women and their children from primarily Central American Countries.

The report shows that many women’s motivations to migrate and experiences during migration are often tied to violence, whether it be sexual or domestic. The majority have come from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras which are among the most dangerous places in the world for females.

They are also home to some of the world’s highest murder rates, that includes for women and young girls. Making matters worse is there are few consequences for perpetrators in those areas.

Dr. Laurie Cook, an assistant professor and social researcher at St. Edward’s University, interviewed hundreds of women after they were detained by immigration authorities for the report. Cook says these women are fleeing for many reasons but a majority is due to increasing violence in their home countries.

“Women are seeing more violence, whether it be domestic or sexual. We’ve heard from women that gang violence in the streets might be used against them by their own partners,” Cook said. “These issues go back a long time and for many, migration is only option they may have to survive. This violence is being used to control people.”

Many of these women and children know the risks that come with migrating. But they are left with little alternatives back home.

Many women know the dangers that lie ahead when attempting to migrate from Central America to the United States. There are countless stories and reports of sexual violence in caravan groups, yet that risk is worth escaping their lives back home.

“We hear from women they know the danger they face and its a known risk,” Cook said. “Migrating is the only choice, they know the risk of sexual violence, trafficking, those are possible risks so they still do it. there is no alternative.”

Even when some do reach the U.S. and seek asylum, the violence doesn’t end there.

In the last two years, the U.S .government apprehended more than 150,000 immigrant family units, primarily Central American women traveling with their children, according to the report. This huge influx has spiked the number of people being detained and kept in detention centers along the Southern U.S. border.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is currently detaining more than 50,000 immigrants at any given time. While the majority of detainees are men, the percentage of asylum-seeking women and girls, is rising.

According to Cook, the conditions and traumatic effects of detaining immigrants can damage mental health and cause post-traumatic stress. These effects can last years and even cause a lifetime of mental issues.

“Short or long term detention leaves a mark on their lives. The longer in detention means longer impact,” Cook said. “These places are clearly not a shelter, they’re more of a jail for families.”

The conditions in detention centers are alarming as many women have reported being sexually abused while being held. Cook notes there is relatively little accountability when it comes to these cases being reported which speaks to the overall culture and system within detention centers.

“Women movement is very restrictive and we hear reports of poor quality food and lack of services to legal help which leads to inconsistencies with what they’re being told,” Cook said. “There is a constant level of fear they face that includes cases of physical abuse, sexual abuse that are detrimental to their well being.”

What’s being done to help improve these conditions?

Cook says that there a better alternatives for women and children instead of being held in these detention centers. She recommends community based organizations like shelters that can better serve women and children. These centers would cost less and be more humane for women and children.

“The evidence is there and it shows that these practices are harmful to children and families. Community based centers are better alternatives and they insure that asylum seekers have access to information about their rights and immigration process,” Cook said. ‘ The fact is they’re just looking for a better life and these detention centers are leaving a long-lasting impact that will do more harm.”

Even when women do leave detention centers, being able to survive on their own is increasingly difficult. Factors like finding a job, a place to live and paying back debt, all lead to continued stress and trauma on their lives.

“Seeking asylum for persecution is a national human right,” Cook says. “And we truly lose sight of that.”

READ: The Trump Administration Will Soon Start DNA Testing Families At The Border

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Senior Border Patrol Officer Gets To Retire After Allegedly Kidnapping And Sexually Assaulting Another Agent

Things That Matter

Senior Border Patrol Officer Gets To Retire After Allegedly Kidnapping And Sexually Assaulting Another Agent

customsborder / Instagram

On July 10, former senior Border Patrol agent Gus Zamora, 51, was arrested in Tuscon for sexually assaulting a junior agent. Zamora’s wife is Gloria Chavez, one of the agency’s highest-ranked female officers. Three weeks after he was indicted by a Pima County grand jury, the agency took the only action it has thus far: it allowed him to retire from the agency three weeks after being arrested. Customs and Border Protection defended its actions by telling The New York Times, it “holds its employees accountable and expects the entire workforce to adhere to the agency’s standards of conduct.” Zamora attended a pretrial hearing at the Arizona Superior Court in Tucson. He pleaded not guilty.

The victim, identified as R.W. in court documents, told police that she looked up to Zamora as a mentor, given their ten-year age difference and his seniority. Over the years, R.W. had ignored some of his advances, asserting her desire to remain friends. The night of the assault, they met up for dinner and Zamora bought her so many tequila shots, video surveillance shows her falling to her knees as Zamora brought her back to his hotel room where he would later sexually assault her.

Before their dinner, Zamora texted her to ask if she “dressed up” for him, according to The New York Times.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

According to The New York Times, Zamora bought them five rounds of tequila shots, and at one point, she moved away from him after he placed his hand on her left thigh. The Daily Mail reports that Zamora told investigators that he offered R.W. a ride home, to which she declined, saying she didn’t want to be alone. Zamora alleges that she initiated the sex. However, hotel surveillance footage shows Zamora holding R.W. up. At one point, she fell to her knees, according to police documents obtained by The New York Times. 

Those police documents detail how R.W. said she blacked out, only waking up a few times to find herself on the bed. She told police she didn’t feel like she had the capacity to give consent. The rape kit results have not been made public. 

A few days later, R.W. reported the crime to the police, who then recorded her follow-up call to Zamora.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

According to The New York Times, the detective on the case recorded a phone call during which R.W. informed Zamora that the sex was non-consensual. The detective wrote, “he told her to not go there and that it wasn’t like that,” that sex “was never on his mind. They had too many shots,” The New York Times reports. Effectively, Zamora tried to call him out and he just deflected the blame onto both of them. 

When Zamora was eventually called in for an interview, a detective told Zamora that R.W. was in no state to offer consent, to which he “said that he knows, but he wasn’t in a state to consent either,” according to The New York Times

Women make up 5 percent of Border Patrol agents.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

The female agents who do make up the force have voiced their outrage at the agency’s inaction around sexual assault accusations. “There’s not a single woman in the Border Patrol who has either not been sexually assaulted, outright raped or at the very least sexually harassed,” former Border Patrol agent Jenn Budd told The New York Times. Budd’s since become an immigrant rights activist, and urges women to reconsider joining the Border Patrol.

Two days before Zamora allegedly assaulted R.W., Tucson police arrested Border Patrol agent Steven Charles Holmes, 33, for sexually assaulting three women over seven years. 

The agency is already under immense criticism for its high rate of arrest charges brought against Border Patrol agents when compared to other law enforcement agencies.

Credit: @CBP / Twitter

In July 2019, Quartz reported that Border Patrol agents are arrested approximately five times as often as other law enforcement groups. With a budget of over $15 billion and over 60,000 employees, it’s the largest law enforcement agency in the United States. Many critics say the agency is not held to account for its unconstitutional means of coercing migrants to sign removal forms written in English, a language they often cannot understand. 

A Customs Border Patrol spokesperson told El Paso Times that its Office of Professional Responsibility “will review all the facts uncovered to ensure all allegations of misconduct … are thoroughly investigated for appropriate action by the agency.”

READ: US Border Patrol Sent This Man And His Child Back To Mexico And Hours Later They Were Thrown Into Trucks And Abducted

Cardi B Shared Her Story Of Sexual Assault In An Emotional New Interview That You Have To Watch

Entertainment

Cardi B Shared Her Story Of Sexual Assault In An Emotional New Interview That You Have To Watch

Iamcardib / Instagram

Cardi B appeared on the first episode of Untold Stories of Hip Hop, hosted by Angie “The Voice of New York” Martinez on WE TV. The series, debuting on WE TV on Sept. 26, will highlight hip hop heavyweights like Cardi B, Snoop Dogg, Fat Jow, and Queen Latifah and never-before-heard accounts that changed their lives and careers.

The first day of shooting was literally the day after the Grammys, so who better [to interview] than Cardi B?” Martinez told the NY Post. “She had just won that big Grammy for Best Rap Album and it was a huge moment for her. She’s a hustler. She really works hard. I’ve seen people go hard but she goes super hard. Her work ethic is really impressive.” 

Like most interviews with Cardi, the “Press” singer ebbs from her charming humor with The Bronx grit to getting real about her hustling, struggles, and political opinions. In this interview with Martinez, Cardi reveals she was sexually assaulted by a photographer. 

As seen in the promotional clip for Untold Stories of Hip Hop, Cardi B is visibly flustered as she recounts the incident.

Cardi B spoke with legendary radio DJ Angie Martinez about the incident that happened early in her career. She went to a magazine photoshoot where the photographer exposed himself to her. It appeared the photographer was trying to coerce sexual acts in exchange for media coverage.

“I’ll never forget how I went to shoot for this magazine and the photographer, he was trying to get close to me like, ‘Yeah, you want to get in this magazine?’” Cardi said. “Then he pulled his dick out. I was so fucking mad.”

Cardi said she told the owner of the magazine, the person did not care.

“You know what’s so crazy?” Cardi said. “I told the magazine owner and he just looked at me like: ‘So? And?'” 

When Martinez asked if these incidents still happen to her, Cardi essentially said no one would dare these days.

“Oh, hell no, I put you on blast on my Instagram,” Cardi said.

Cardi B has no doubt that sexual assault happens to girls in underprivileged communities every day. 

The 26-year-old believes that girls at high-risk neighborhoods experience assault all the time, but simply put: nobody cares.

“When I see the #MeToo movement – there’s girls from the hood I know that went through the same type of treatment. They make you feel like you got to do a certain type of thing. It happens every day.”

In 2017, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said reports of sexual assault and domestic violence made by Latinx residents had decreased. The reason: they feared the risk of deportation under Trump’s immigration policy.

“Imagine, a young woman, imagine your daughter, your sister, your mother … not reporting a sexual assault, because they are afraid that their family will be torn apart,” Beck told the LA Times.

While the new immigration policy may have exacerbated these fears, they have always been present for the Latinx community. This makes it particularly hard to create an accurate picture of the frequency of sexual assault amongst Latinxs.

Moreover, because of how Black women are stigmatized as “hypersexualized,”according to Now.org, for every 15 black women who are raped, only one reports her assault.

Indigenous women also face disproportionately high levels of violence, according to Indian Law, 1 in 2 American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced sexual violence.

The facts make it clear: women, in general, are disregarded when it comes to sexual assault, but women of color face even more barriers.

Cardi has previously expressed concerns the #MeToo movement is not inclusive.

The “Money” rapper has alluded to sexual harassment on set before. Cardi, who identifies as a feminist, told Cosmpolitan that because she is a stripper her opinions or experiences on more serious matters are often dismissed. While she supports the #MeToo movement (which was founded by Tarana Burke, a Black woman, but was hijacked by Alyssa Milano, a white woman) that women of color are not heard with regard to sexual assault.

“A lot of video vixens have spoke about this and nobody gives a fuck,” she says. “When I was trying to be a vixen, people were like, ‘You want to be on the cover of this magazine?’ Then they pull their dicks out. I bet if one of these women stands up and talks about it, people are going to say, ‘So what? You’re a ho. It don’t matter.’“

Cardi doesn’t accept the dismissals of strippers. While she is richer and more famous than ever, she said she was happier as a stripper. 

 “I don’t want to sound like I’m ungrateful, but it’s exhausting,” she says. “I love my career now, but it’s like my spirit was happier before. When I was dancing, I had so much fun. I felt powerful in the club. I felt free.”

What Cardi’s experiences highlight is how women of color, especially ones who dare to be overtly sexual, are perceived to be deserving recipients of any abuse they receive.