To Trump Supporters: You Don't Get To Politicize My Rape

If there is anything to be learned about the election of President Donald Trump, it’s got to be: Never underestimate the lengths people will go to in the name of xenophobic paranoia.
This week the lesson continued when a rape case in Rockville, MD, made national news. Last Thursday, a 14-year-old high school student was walking to class when a fellow student stopped her and allegedly solicited her for sex. According to police reports shared on Twitter, when she said no, the male student allegedly then forced her into a boys’ bathroom, where he and another friend raped her repeatedly.
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Because the accused, Jose Montano, 17, and Henry Sanchez Milian, 18, are both undocumented immigrants, the case is now being called the “public face of an immigration debate raging in this country.” At an emergency meeting held by school officials for concerned parents, protesters showed up carrying signs decrying sanctuary cities and states and imploring an unknown someone, maybe anyone, to “Save Our Daughters.”
The details contained in the police report are horrifying. The way this young woman was allegedly treated — at her own school, a place she deserves to be safe and to feel safe — is depraved and inhumane. If the allegations are true, she will probably not be okay for a long time. What I know for sure is that she will never again be the same.
But the way the crime has been usurped as a rallying cry for fears about undocumented immigrants is also disturbing. White House press secretary Sean Spicer answered a question about it in a press conference on Tuesday: “The president recognizes that education is a state-run and a ­local-run issue, but I think it is cause for concern what happened there,” he said, The Washington Post reported. “And I think the city should look at its policies, and I think that this is something authorities are going to have to look at.”
To say it’s “cause for concern” is the understatement of the century of course, but the bigger problem is what the Trump White House, the protesters, and the right wing media finds so concerning about it. Sadly, it’s not the simple fact that a crime was reported, or the culture of misogyny that encourages these crimes to happen, it’s that the accused in this particular case happen to be brown and undocumented.
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These people didn’t show up for the survivor in the Stanford case, or the Oklahoma case, or the Steubenville case. They weren’t there for the multiple women who have accused President Trump himself of sexual assault.

I understand intimately what the survivor in Rockville might be going through. In the the fall of 2010, I was raped by a man after asking him for directions. The man who raped me also happened to be an undocumented immigrant. I am reminded of this fact every time President Trump brings a contingent of victims of crimes by undocumented immigrants along to a speech or rally. One might think I should be there myself in Rockville with a sign, or with President Trump as a special guest at one of his speeches.
But I would never do that because their cause is not mine. These people didn’t show up for the survivor in the Stanford case, or the Oklahoma case, or the Steubenville case. They weren’t there for the multiple women who have accused President Trump himself of sexual assault. The protesters in Rockville weren’t carrying signs decrying rape, sexual assault, misogyny, or rape culture. Their message is instead that “we” must keep girls safe from the violence wrought by only a subset of men: those with the wrong papers and skin color.
A cry to “Save Our Daughters” from undocumented immigrants is nothing more than a distraction from the true problem, which is that men, regardless of immigration status, continue to commit unspeakable acts of violence against women on a regular basis. Today, 1 out of every 6 women has been the victim of a completed or attempted rape, according to RAINN. 82% of juvenile victims of rape are female, and girls between the ages of 16 to 19 are four times more likely to experience rape, attempted rape or sexual assault than the general population. The vast majority of perpetrators are men, and most of them (57%) are white.
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The right wing media and Sean Spicer are using the misguided grief poured into these signs as a straw man. There is no easy way to grieve, and no simple cure for fear. I don’t judge the crime victims joining President Trump in this cause for how they react to trauma. I’m sure those politicizing their trauma in this way believe truly that if only the government deported more people faster, things might have been different for them or for their loved ones. But still as much compassion as I have for their experiences, I disagree with them.

The protesters in Rockville weren’t carrying signs decrying rape, sexual assault, misogyny, or rape culture.

It may be easier for them, for our government, and for the right wing media to accept and cultivate hatred for the browning of America than it is to encourage empathetic acknowledgement of the violence women might suffer at the hands of any man, known or unknown, documented or otherwise. But the grief and very real fear of sexual assault should not be manipulated to antagonize the 11 million undocumented immigrants today in the U.S.
We can and should debate what needs to be done for our broken immigration system. But we must do so armed with facts. Immigrants commit fewer crimes and are incarcerated at a far lower rate than U.S. citizens, according to multiple reports. Unfortunately, there is no reputable data comparing the crime rate of undocumented immigrants against those who enter the country legally. But what we do know is this: The rate of violent crime in the U.S. has declined by 50% between 1993 and 2015, according to FBI data. During almost the same time period (1990 to 2013), the number of immigrants in the U.S. increased from 7.9 % to 13.1%, and the number of undocumented people tripled, from 3.5 million to more than 11 million, per a report from the American Immigration Council.
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Does this mean undocumented people are never perpetrators? Of course not. After all, they’re people too. And here lies the scariest truth those protest signs seek to avoid: sexual violence is a human disease, one that does not discriminate by skin color.

The grief and very real fear of sexual assault should not be manipulated to antagonize the 11 million undocumented immigrants today in the U.S.

The survivor in Rockville deserves her allegations be taken seriously, the crimes be investigated, and the perpetrators be punished.
I have little doubt this will happen in Rockville. The man who raped me is now serving 10 years in prison in New York State, after which time served, as a condition of his sentence, he will be summarily and immediately deported. When I reported my rape, I was believed. The police took my case seriously, and the assistant district attorney never questioned my credibility. Most rape survivors are not so lucky as I was.
I believe that my being a white woman and his being a brown, undocumented person played a role in shaping my luck. Would things have been different for me had I been the undocumented one, had the man who raped me been white? The facts of our society lead me to say, yes.
Part of my recovery was sitting in a room with four other women. Each of those women was raped by a card-carrying U.S. citizen. The men who raped were college students, cab drivers, religious men, men of different races. None of these things, and definitely not their immigration status, had any bearing on their likelihood to commit this crime or our ability to identify why they would choose to do such a horrible thing. Our collective grief and suffering and loss and rage makes me wish identifying rapists were that simple. I wish it were that simple because it’s true: We do need to save our daughters.
As told to Amelia Harnish.
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