A six-year-old girl who had been separated from her mother as part of the Trump administration’s policy of splitting up children from their parents at the border was twice sexually abused at an immigrant detention center, reports the Nation. More shocking still is that the facility’s administrators made the six-year-old “sign” a form that essentially made her responsible for protecting herself from future abuse.
The girl’s father, who is an undocumented immigrant in California, was told that a boy had fondled his daughter along with other girls. The instance of abuse allegedly occurred on June 4, and the father was contacted on June 11. Then, one day later, on June 12, the girl was made to sign a form in which she allegedly recognizes she was told to “maintain my distance from the other youth involved” and had been educated on “good touch bad touch.” The form’s “signature” only shows a single letter, “D,” next to a characterization in parenthesis (“tender age”) that apparently didn’t prevent her from taking on the responsibility to “follow the safety plan” that was outlined. Despite this plan, on June 22, authorities in the facility told the girl’s father that the same boy had again abused his daughter.
“I felt really horrible. I couldn’t do anything for her, because we were separated,” the girl’s mother said. “It was a nightmare. When my husband told me what happened, I felt helpless. She was so little, she was probably so scared, probably afraid to say anything to anyone. It was a total nightmare for me.”
Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas took to Twitter to link to the Nation piece and ask Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen a question: “A few days ago I asked you whether any of the separated children in government care had died or been seriously injured. You said, ‘Not to my knowledge.’ Did you know about this? Do you consider sexual abuse a serious injury?”
This instance of sexual assault also illustrates how the shelters for immigrant kids have long been rife with abuse. And that predates Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy that resulted in parents being separated from their kids. ProPublica reviewed police logs and found that law enforcement officers have responded to at least 125 calls in the past five years alleging sex offenses at shelters that primarily house immigrant children. Experts say the real numbers are likely far higher because many kids don’t report abuse out of fear of retaliation. “If you’re a predator, it’s a gold mine,” said Lisa Fortuna, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Boston Medical Center. “You have full access and then you have kids that have already had this history of being victimized.”