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In this photo made Thursday, March 6, 2015, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents enter an apartment.
LM Otero/AP
Girls & Women

ICE Detainee Says She Was Sexually Assaulted & Thrown in Solitary for Reporting It

A Salvadoran woman who fled sexual and physical violence at home and sought asylum in the United States now alleges that federal immigration officials abused her and then bullied her to stay quiet, according to reports.

Laura Monterrosa has been held at a detention facility in Taylor, Texas, since she crossed the border in May and is appealing her request for asylum in US courts with the help of the advocacy group Grassroots, according to the Austin Statesman.

Last year, she filed a complaint with the Williams County sheriff’s office alleging that in November she was assaulted by one of the guards at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center, run by the private prison company CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), according to the Austin Statesman. The sheriff's department referred the allegations to the FBI, though the guards remained employed, according to the report.

Take Action: Tell World Leaders to Redouble Their Efforts By Amending Laws to Prevent Sexual Violence

Now, Grassroots alleges that Monterrosa was put in solitary confinement and held for 60 hours after guards told her they would not release her until she retracted her story, according to The Guardian. Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Hutto facility following the allegations this week, according to the Statesman.  

CoreCivic referred inquiries to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, which denied the allegations, releasing a statement saying that Monterrosa was actually held in medical after a self-reported medical issue, and was offered a transfer to another facility that she declined, according to the Statesman.

According to Grassroots, two other women also filed complaints of sexual assault against the same Hutto guard. One woman who also filed a complaint was quickly transferred to another facility, which Grassroots said suggested she would be deported, according to the Statesman.

Monterrosa fled her home in El Salvador to escape physical and sexual abuse by her family in May and crossed the border into the United States illegally, seeking asylum, according to the Statesman.

Read More: Trump Signs Order for Border Wall Funding, Immigration Crackdown

In January, Monterrosa reportedly tried to kill herself. She later released a statement about the incident.

“I feel very desperate because I tried to report the abuse from ICE and facility officials, but they continue to psychologically abuse me through intimidation. I do not feel safe or secure. I am not receiving the medical treatment or help I need,” she said.

There were 1,016 reports of sexual abuse filed by immigration detainees between 2014 and 2016, only 2.4% of which were investigated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General, according to the Guardian.

Sexual assault and harassment have been part of an ongoing national conversation about gender inequality since late last year, when the #MeToo movement brough claims of harassment and abuse in several industries — including film, media, and government — to light. But the movement has yet to fully encompass marginalizaed communities, including immigrants, where claims still go uninvestigated.

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