We have heard this narrative before. Women are forced to remain silent about the sexual trauma that they have experienced due to a gross imbalance of power between themselves and their perpetrators. This unfortunate reality exists in all parts of the world, especially for undocumented women who cross the US-Mexico border. A New York Times article recently shed light on this issue, explaining how migrant women and girls are repeatedly subjected to sexual assault that tends to go unreported, uninvestigated and unprosecuted because the victims are usually threatened with the possibility of deportation. President Trump has even used this issue as evidence for the necessity of a border wall, as he believes that these women will not be threatened with sexual trauma if they cannot cross the southern border.
While I am not surprised about either this trend or President Trump’s interpretation and manipulation of it, I still am left with strong feelings of uncomfort and disgust. Over the course of the past few years, women have been coming forward to document their stories of sexual trauma, and these stories have made an impact in multiple communities ranging from the government to the media and Hollywood. Furthermore, for many of these women, their assault had occurred years prior. However, they either only felt comfortable speaking out now or were only just given a platform. Thus, if we have learned anything in the past few years, imbalances of power — especially in regards to gender — are apparent everywhere, which contributes to my lack of surprise.
I also feel no astonishment about President Trump’s interpretation of the issue, as surprise is something I now rarely feel when talking or learning about Trump. Why wouldn’t the president use the trauma experienced by these women as proof for the dire need for a border wall? Trump is using these women as political pawns to further his own agenda — as the men who sexually assaulted them did — so what makes him different from them?
My feelings of disgust and discomfort are strong and only growing. These young girls and women choose to make such a dangerous life-changing journey to ensure the safety of themselves and their loved ones. However, they are stripped of any sense of security by men who capitalize on the fact that their greatest fear is of getting deported. These women, as a result, choose not to report the trauma that they are experiencing — which can range from being forced into prostitution to getting impregnated by strangers — because those who would seek justice on their behalf would probably be more fixated on the fact that these women do not have proper documents.
We now have a never-ending cycle of sexual abuse and trauma on the southern border. Regardless of what the president says, a border wall will not stop people from entering the US without documentation and will thus not stop the sexual trauma experienced by migrant women and girls.
Thus, it only makes sense that the next thought is what can be done — what can we or the government do to not only hold these people accountable for their actions but also ensure that this pattern doesn’t continue? And quite frankly, I don’t have a definitive solution. With our current administration, nothing will be done to help or protect migrant women and girls, but I still have hope. I have hope that through investigative pieces like the one that the New York Times published, people will become aware that this is happening, and that it won’t end any time soon. While we may need stricter immigration laws, we also need to ensure that basic human rights are maintained for all people. So both — not just the former — need to be priorities for the government, and hopefully people will realize that and reflect it in 2020.