Documents generated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) suggest thousands of migrant children allegedly suffered sexual abuse over the last several years. The report, released by Ted Deutch, a Florida Representative, said the abuse occurred while the children were in U.S. government custody. Allegations date back to 2014, and roughly 1,000 sexual abuse complaints have been made each year since 2015.
According to records, between October 2014 and July 2018, 4,556 children said they were victims of sexual assaults while they were in the care of HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The ORR assumes custody of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S. southern border or those who have crossed and separated from their families.
Children in custody are placed with local shelters. According to news reports, there are over 100 local shelters that house and care for these minors. These shelters are not government-run facilities but do operate under both state and federal oversight. The number of abuse cases may potentially be higher since the media also indicates the U.S. Department of Justice received 1,303 complaints between 2015 and 2018. Although, some media reports indicate it’s not clear if the complaints overlap with the ones also received by ORR.
The data suggests the alleged sexual assaults on these minors were initiated by other minors who were also in custody. However, reports indicate at least 178 of the abuses were initiated by people charged with the care of migrant children.
A CBS News report indicates the documents that have surfaced regarding the sexual abuse of minors while in government custody “offer a fragmented portrayal” of the allegations. For instance, the ORR documents don’t provide specific information related to the alleged perpetrators while the DOJ documents do. Some of the allegations include the following types of sexual abuse towards unaccompanied minors include:
The majority of the accused staff members at the housing facilities were removed from duty, others were terminated, and some were referred to law enforcement. Some of those accused were reinstated to their positions. Some members of Congress insinuate members of HHS and/or ORR are to blame. They also suggest there is a concealment of children being sexually abused since the allegations haven’t been thoroughly vetted. HHS leadership denies these allegations.
“Those are not HHS staff in any of those allegations,” said Cdr. Jonathan White, of HHS, according to a USA Today report. Caitlin Oakley, an HHS spokesperson, said the safety of migrant youth is the agency’s “top concern,” and that ORR takes their care seriously and care providers are mandated to report any sexual abuse allegations within four hours of learning about them (courtesy CBS News).
Regardless of who is to blame for the abuse, the evidence seems to suggest there is sexual abuse going on and children are suffering because of it. The victims should be protected and all allegations of sexual abuse should be thoroughly vetted to ensure no other children (or adults) fall victim to this sort of awful abuse.
Victims of sexual abuse not only suffer at the time of the crime, they often are subjected to long-term trauma, having to relive the event in its aftermath or suffer from PTSD. While some sexual abuse is perpetrated by strangers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of sexual abuse victims suffer at the hands of someone they know. As a result, many feel they are to blame or they are coerced into keeping quiet.
At the Law Firm of Raphaelson & Levine, we believe victims should always have a voice. Victims should never feel they are to blame for the abuse perpetrated against them. Historically, victims have been shamed into silence, but no more. Sexual abuse of any kind should never be tolerated. No one deserves to be violated in this way." — Andrew Levine, NYC Personal Injury Lawyer at Raphaelson & Levine
If you, or a loved one, have been through the horrible suffering caused by sexual abuse, you deserve to be heard. A New York sexual abuse lawyer can help. We are here to support victims of sexual abuse and we promise to be a voice to protect the rights of anyone who has been hurt in this way. To learn more about sexual abuse or to receive a free legal consultation, contact us online or at 212-268-3222.
Sex Abuse – Frequently Asked Questions