A 6-year-old girl was sexually abused while being held at an immigrant detention facility after she was separated from her mother under President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, according to a report.
The little girl, identified only by her initials, D.L., was then forced to sign a Prison Rape Elimination Act “safety plan” form accepting responsibility for maintaining her distance from her abuser, identified as a boy at the facility.
She also underwent psychoeducation, including “good touch, bad touch” training on reporting abuse, according to documents obtained by The Nation.
The girl and her mother were fleeing gang violence in their native Guatemala when they entered the United States at a point of entry in El Paso, Texas on May 24, according to the report.
D.L. was separated from her mother on May 26 and was sent to Casa Glendale near Phoenix where the alleged abuse took place on June 4.
Southwest Key Programs officers contacted the child’s father to explain that a boy had fondled his daughter at the facility.
They assured him, however, that his daughter was safe, and that no such abuse would occur again, family spokesperson Mark Lane told The Nation.
D.L.’s mother remained detained in Texas when she learned about the abuse her daughter had allegedly suffered.
“I felt really horrible. I couldn’t do anything for her, because we were separated,” she told The Nation. “It was a nightmare. When my husband told me what happened, I felt helpless. She was so little, she was probably so scared, probably afraid to say anything to anyone. It was a total nightmare for me.”
The same boy allegedly abused D.L. again on June 22.
The Southwest Key staffer who reported the abuse to D.L.’s father could not say how the facility allowed the abuse to happen again, according to the report.
Southwest Key Programs issued a statement Saturday accusing The Nation of mischaracterizing the nature of the incidents, saying that the alleged abuser is a 5-year-old boy.
“He routinely sexually acted out,” the statement reads. “An older child said he touched her and the 6-year old referenced in the story.”
Southwest Key said it took appropriate action, by putting the boy on “one-on-one constant adult supervision, 24 hours a day.”
Facility management claims the 6-year-old in the report said “he never touched me,” and that video footage supports her assertion.
It said there is an addendum to the PREA report stating that “clearly the 6-year old girl said he didn’t touch her and this was not sexual abuse.”
The family has since been reunited, though D.L.’s mother says her daughter’s behavior has changed.
The moment they first came together again was at once joyous and heartbreaking, she said.
“I hugged her, I was crying. She didn’t recognize me,” her mother told The Nation. “She told me that she thought I was never going to be with her again and that she was going to have to live with another lady. She behaved like she was still in detention. She wouldn’t touch me, hug me, or kiss me.”
Her mother said D.L. still struggles to regain her footing outside of the facility.
“She is still behaving following the rules of the detention center,” her mother said. “She doesn’t let them touch her, she doesn’t touch them. She wakes up at 6, and bathes and eats. She behaves like she is programmed.”