Among the many horrors that the Central American refugee children are fleeing, Mónica Ramírez and Anne Ream focus on the epidemic of sexual violence, which is often ignored, or even committed, by the police:
One key factor driving this crisis is the well-documented and widespread sexual and gender-related violence in Latin America. In a 2014 report conducted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 70 percent of children interviewed cited domestic violence as well as violence at the hands of gangs, cartels, or “state actors” (such as police), as reasons for fleeing homes in Mexico and Central America. Sexual violence has become so widespread in Guatemala in recent years that in 2009 Doctors Without Borders launched its first Latin American mission dedicated to treating rape and abuse victims. And gender-based violence is now the second highest cause of death for women of reproductive age in Honduras. …
Anti-violence advocates on the ground say that two factors drive the high incidence of sexual and gender-related violence in the region: a lack of awareness about the nature of gender-based violence, which has historically been downplayed or normalized, and the absence of official efforts and channels that might encourage reporting of such crimes. The fact that law enforcement and judicial systems are most often dominated by men who are disinclined to pursue sexual violence or trafficking cases, and may in fact be implicated in such violence themselves, further exacerbates the crisis.
(Photo: An undocumented immigrant sits after being detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents some 60 miles north of the U.S. Mexico border on July 23, 2014 near Falfurrias, Texas. She said she was from Guatemala, one of a group of immigrants Customs and Border Protection agents caught moving north through dense brushland in Brooks County. By John Moore/Getty Images)