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Laura Monterrosa Courageously Speaks Out Against Sexual Abuse in Hutto

Image from Grassroots Leadership

On November 9, 23-year-old Salvadoran asylum seeker Laura Monterrosa spoke out about the sexual abuse she has experienced since June while she has been detained at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center, operated by private prison corporation CoreCivic (formerly called Corrections Corporation of America). The Independent reported on Monterrosa’s story on November 7 following advocacy by Grassroots Leadership.

In her letter, Laura writes how a female guard forced her into sexual acts against her will:

“She harassed me, telling me threatening words and forcing me to have unwanted relations with her. She looked for or took advantage of every moment she could to touch my breasts or my legs, she knew where and when she did it, I don't remember dates because there are many. She worked in the recreation area and what she did with me she did with other residents.”

Monterrosa spoke out publicly on November 9 following several media articles. Since then, she reports that she has experienced retaliation from within the detention center.  She remains  detained while her abuser continues to be employed at the facility by CoreCivic. “In this place, we don’t have rights, only duties," she said in a letter to Grassroots Leadership.

Two women joined Monterrosa in denouncing sexual abuse they experienced while detained at Hutto on November 22. One woman, ‘Ana,’ was transferred to another private detention center in Laredo after filing her formal complaint.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement told Rewire on November 22 that the agency conducted an investigation in collaboration with Williamson County, where Hutto is located, and found Monterrosa’s claims “unsubstantiated.” Williamson County has remained silent on the issue.

The T. Don Hutto Detention Center, which detains 512 women, nearly all of whom are seeking asylum, has been at the center of sexual assault scandals before — one former guard served time for multiple assaults.

From 2010 to 2016, out of approximately 33,000 complaints of physical and sexual abuse filed across the country with the DHS Office of Inspector General, less than 1 percent were actually investigated according to the national detention visitation program CIVIC.

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