An unsettling shroud of silence hangs over the Latino community in America. Last week a study found that over 50 per cent of Latino immigrants living in America know a domestic violence victim and at least one in four know a victim of sexual assault. What the interviewees all had in common was a belief that to ask for help or assistance regarding domestic situations would be risking deportation from America. There is an underlying fear that the police will arrest them or take away their children until they can prove that they are documented to live in America. Senior director of the Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities, Juan Arean, says this fear of deportation comes from anecdotal evidence. At times when these domestic violence or disturbance cases are investigated, it results in both parties being arrested. Although only the offender may be charged, even having an arrest on your record as an immigrant can cause suspicion, investigation and unfair treatment.
In some cases the husband has actually manipulated his wife’s fear of being deported as a way to prevent her from going to the police. Julieta Garibay says that her now ex-husband warned her he would keep their children in the U.S if she got deported as a result of approaching the police about his violent abuse. Garibay’s husband was a U.S citizen who then held her citizenship as a bargaining chip over her when they fought. Since they broke up Garibay has adjusted her citizenship to no longer be reliant on her marriage to a U.S citizen. This is possible under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which gives female immigrant victims the opportunity to gain permanent residence without the cooperation of an abusive spouse. This is one of the very limited acts in place to aid female immigrants who feel at risk of domestic abuse.
House of Cards actress Robin Wright has come forward as a spokesperson at the annual Women in the World summit to talk about her most recent trip to the Congo—also known as the “Rape Capital of the World”. Wright is a part of the Raise Hope for Congo organisation, which aims to educate people on the direct link between the role of large companies using illicit trade for cheap resources and sexual violence used as a weapon of war against Congolese women and children. Global manufacturers have realised it is significantly cheaper to source minerals and gold from mines in the Congo. Militia in the Congo have seen a chance to gain profit and taken over the land and territories surrounding the mines. This means that the companies importing cheap minerals are actually funding these militias.
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Rape is the militias’ most effective tool to take power from the mining communities without killing them. When the people live in fear it ensures that they will work hard for the militia and are unlikely to revolt.
Wright called on the electronic and gold exporting mega-industries to “clean up their supply chains” and make the first attempts to take responsibility for the poverty that their illicit trading has caused. “It was shocking to see the plight that these women and girls go through on a daily basis.”
Right now the Raise Hope organisation is focussing on raising awareness and making the struggles of Congolese communities’ salient in the media. They have funded extensive studies into the participation of large gold trading companies in illegal trading.