Too Scared to Report Abuse, For Fear of Being Deported

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Since the presidential election, there has been a sharp downturn in reports of sexual assault and domestic violence among Latinos throughout the country, and many experts attribute the decline to fears of deportation. Law enforcement officials in several large cities, including Los Angeles, Houston and Denver, say the most dangerous fallout of changes in policy and of harsh statements on immigration is that fewer immigrants are willing to go to the police.

The number of Latinos reporting rapes in Houston has fallen by more than 40 percent this year from the same period last year, Art Acevedo, chief of the Houston Police Department, said this month. The drop, he added, “looks like the beginnings of people not reporting crime.”

In Los Angeles this year, reports of domestic violence among Latinos have dropped by 10 percent and reports of sexual assault by 25 percent from a year ago, declines that Charlie Beck, the chief of the Police Department, said were likely due to fear of the federal government. Dozens of service providers and lawyers interviewed said immigrant women were deciding not to report abuse or press charges.

. . .

n Austin, Tex., the nonprofit organization Stop Abuse for Everyone provides forensic exams for sexual assault survivors, and more than half of the clients are Latino. While the organization does not have precise numbers, Kelly White, the chief executive, said that fewer rape victims were coming forward this year, and that many call the organization’s hotline for support but say they do not want to contact law enforcement.

In Nassau County on Long Island, N.Y., the district attorney’s Office of Immigrant Affairs tip line for crime victims used to get up to 10 calls a week. But it has had none since December. And at End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, which helps about 700 women a year get restraining orders against their partners, the requests this year have dropped to almost zero, the lead attorney there said.

The Los Angeles County Domestic Violence Council typically received about a half-dozen calls a week, with at least half from Spanish speakers. But since January, it has received only two calls, said Olivia Rodriguez, the executive director.

“This is not normal,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “They assume that if they call a government entity it’s all connected, that they will be reported to ICE and sent away. So instead they are just taking the abuse.”

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