Many more women and young children are migrating to the U.S. than in years past. But the academic research about their experiences is limited.
Laurie Cook Heffron studies forced migration, domestic and sexual violence and human trafficking at St. Edward’s University in Austin. In her study, “Latina Immigrant Women and Children’s Well-Being and Access to Services After Detention,” Heffron says women fleeing violence in Central America often face more violence as they migrate northward, and the risk of violence continues during and even after their stay in U.S. detention facilities.
“We also looked at the experiences of women after they are released from detention,” Heffron says, “and we found increasing evidence that women’s vulnerability to continuing violence may be increased upon release from detention.”
Heffron says women face particular risks of violence because they are often isolated during their migration and detention experiences.
“One of the pieces of that isolation is related to the experience of trauma,” she says. “Another is the experience of living in fear of continued trauma, but also fear of repercussions – deportation, detention, etc.”
She says women also live in fear that they will be separated from their children.
Most women know that they may face violence and abuse as they migrate, Heffron says. But they often choose to come to the U.S. anyway, believing there’s a chance that they will be able to avoid or survive the risks, and make a life in this country.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.