“I never thought I would be raped geting into the USA.” Ms. Sherpa (32) asked us not to reveal her name with tears rolling down her eyes. She shared her story with us saying, “On the journey to the USA I was raped a number of times. I started believing I was a corpse. I had almost forgotten I was alive.”
On her way to illegally enter the USA from Mexico via Honduras, she was repeatedly raped by the agents and by the time she reached New York she was 20 weeks pregnant. She did not even know who the father of the child was. She carried an American dream but in reality it was rape that she received. Her deeply saddening story can bring tears to the eyes of any listener.
“Suicide was better than carrying a rape baby in my womb” with this thought she had already written a suicide note. It was then she met a New York based Nepalese social worker who gave her the hope to live. She suggested her to have the child aborted and then give her life a fresh start.
The social worker took her to Elmhurst Hospital in Queens. But the hospital refused the abortion. This social worker Gautam (33) tells, “Since the victim was 20 weeks pregnant and her health condition was weak, the hospital was scared to undertake the abortion. After the hospital denied us we were worried more. The victim was highly depressed and very much of suicidal tendency”.
After being denied from different hospitals and clinics, they finally found a private clinic in Queens which agreed to do the process but only after the payment of $1,400. The victim had just entered the USA after paying nearly 37 thousand dollars to the agent, she barely had $14 in her pockets let alone $1,400. The social worker helped her with the money and she proceeded with the abortion. The victim is currently working in New Jersey as a baby sitter. Her application for asylum is still pending.
“This seems like a frightening nightmare. Let’s not dwell in past. Just thinking about it makes me suicidal” said the victim with eyes full of tears. She left her 10 year old son and 8 year old daughter with her husband back in Nepal; she has yet to confess to her husband. “How can I tell my husband this story? I think my husband will leave me if he knows about the incident. How will I face society?” says she.
It’s not only the pain of this woman, high number of women crossing the U.S. border illegally through Mexico are raped or are physically assaulted. Previous report from Amnesty International says 60 percent of women are raped on their way to reach the USA illegally. A recent report from Fusion Investigation claims that 80 percent of women are raped. Ms. Sherpa says, ”It’s not only me, other women who came along with me were raped too. Some gave up their body instead of money and some were forcefully raped. They even drugged us to rape us.”
On the topic of investigation, New York based immigration attorney Basu Phulara (42) says, “Before entering the U.S. while on the move there are incidents where agents do not bother until they are getting paid but when they are not paid they start abusing and giving a lot of trouble. While in Mexico there are incidents where agents abandon some people in jungles when they don’t get enough money, they are put in drug cartel in Mexico or they rape them. But still Nepalese women dare to take the risk.”
Not all the women get raped on their journey to the USA. There are examples of women being saved and protected by the people accompanying them. Mr. Adhikari (28), a Nepalese man who crossed the border illegally and now is in the USA says – “We had a Latino woman in our group who had sex with an agent regularly. It felt like the women had given up her body in place of money to the agent. But we didn’t know about any Nepalese women in our group being raped.”
Mr. KC (35), a man who entered the USA similarly, says-“We had only one woman in our group. Before she met us, she was abused by the agent. The agent tried to abuse her again when she was with us, I protected her saying she was my wife. The agent stopped once I said that”.
Though many women who cross the border illegally through Mexico to reach the USA are raped along the way, they do not want to tell their story. They believe that there simply is no point, no punishment that the rapist will face and hence they hide themselves in a box of fear and secrecy. Mr. KC says “How will these poor women tell anything? It’s just shaming them. Back home in Nepal it’s not the rapist but the rape victim who is the one looked down upon. They have no benefit in telling.”
Attorney Phulara says ”Nepalese women do not want to tell they were raped. They have difficulty saying the truth but when I read the human rights reports, there are a large number of women who have been raped. Even if Nepalese women get raped or not, they certainly do face a lot of difficulties on their way to cross the US border illegally. As they have to cross many countries and sometimes spend a week or two in one place, there can be situations where they run out of money and sadly get abused and raped by the agents.”
Report by Kishor Panthi (firstname.lastname@example.org)