Inciting fear, separating families no way to end sexual violence

Inciting fear, separating families no way to end sexual violence

With the nation’s immigration policies and scenes of family separations in the news, we want to take the opportunity to share with you, our supporters, how recent policies and decisions are affecting some of our clients and other survivors of sexual assault in our service area.

First, we wish to let you know that we stand with and for survivors everywhere who are seeking safety and to regain their lives.

Like many organizations who work to end violence, we have become increasingly alarmed over the decision to prosecute every person who crosses the US border, including those fleeing violence and seeking asylum, as well as parents traveling with minor children. As a provider of services to thousands of abused children and teens each year, we are particularly concerned about separating children from their parents. Parents have a paramount interest in protecting and providing for their children, and families should remain intact unless the child’s basic right to conditions of basic nurture, health, or safety is jeopardized.  Separating children from their parents and sending children to facilities that are out of view of public scrutiny and oversight, and where parental visitation is not possible is a recipe for increased risk of harm to children, including sexual abuse.

As a provider of direct services that serve Spanish-speaking survivors, KCSARC programs like Abriendo Puertas and Dando Voz give survivors access to linguistically and culturally competent client care specialists, legal advocates, therapists, and family support specialists. Abriendo Puertas is King County’s only advocacy program for survivors that includes civil legal services in partnership with private attorneys.

Our program staff serving these survivors and families report:

  • Clients who have fled sexual violence in their home countries are now on heightened alert as they see these prosecutions and separations happening; some are even afraid to leave their homes for fear of being arrested;

  • Clients who already received legal permanent residency status fear that status could be revoked at any time, even for being the victim of a sexual assault, so they are reluctant to report to law enforcement;

  • Children who have been abused fear arrest of undocumented parents or family caregivers if they report.

We offer these programs because our mission to end sexual violence is greatly impeded when people live in fear of interacting with authorities. Our theory of change calls for empowering every survivor to speak up, holding offenders accountable, believing and supporting survivors, and preventing sexual violence from happening in the first place. It’s sadly ironic and frustrating that, in a moment of collective awakening and empowerment about the broader issues of sexual assault and harassment, our government would create scenarios where some people are actually more fearful of coming forward. We know perpetrators trade on that fear: the recent news of the arrest of a Texas sheriff’s deputy for sexually abusing a 4-year-old, who had threatened to report the family of his victim to immigration authorities if they spoke up about the abuse is one example of how these policies have empowered abusers.

We find these policies morally reprehensible, and in direct conflict with KCSARC’s mission and values.  

We are proud to ally ourselves with organizations and practitioners with deep expertise in immigration matters and policies, and stand in solidarity with them in advocating for people fleeing violence, with victims, and with our supporters calling on our leaders to consider the impact – actual and perceived – of laws and rules regarding immigration and asylum. The heightened vulnerability created in our community at this time is the exact opposite of what we know works in ending sexual violence.

DeAnn Yamamoto, Deputy Executive Director


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