AUSTIN — A letter received by advocates at Grassroots Leadership last week from inside the Hutto immigrant detention center describes sexual assaults against two women at the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center in Taylor, Texas and names two different guards as perpetrators. Laura Monterrosa describes a pattern of sexual assault at Hutto that she has endured since June. She writes how a female guard forced her into sexual acts against her will:
“She harassed me, telling me threatening words and forcing me to have unwanted relations with her. She looked for or took advantage of every moment she could to touch my breasts or my legs, she knew where and when she did it, I don't remember dates because there are many. She worked in the recreation area and what she did with me she did with other residents.”
Laura Monterrosa initially broke her silence to a trusted community member who is part of Grassroots Leadership’s visitation program. Ms. Monterrosa said that another woman in detention was accused of lying and removed after making a sexual assault complaint, part of a pattern of abuse and retaliation inside the detention center.
Ms. Monterrosa told a trusted community member that CCA officials learned that she had been sexually assaulted after receiving an anonymous call. After receiving this call on Friday, CCA officials questioned her about the sexual assault and her mental health and threatened her with solitary confinement in medical isolation.
Ms. Monterrosa has provided the Williamson County Sheriff’s Deputies, as well as ICE and CoreCivic/CCA, with the names of multiple witnesses, one of whom is a former guard at Hutto. Both guards named as perpetrators are still employed.
“The victim blaming and accusatory manner in which this investigation is being conducted is exactly what prevents most sexual assault survivors from seeking help and allows most perpetrators to go unpunished,” said Chris Kaiser, Director of Public Policy for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. “Thorough, trauma-informed investigations are especially crucial in confinement, because detained individuals are at extreme risk of sexual assault, due to the power dynamics of incarceration and threats that speaking out can impact their asylum cases. Williamson County law enforcement must intercede to conduct a just investigation to ensure the safety of Ms. Monterrosa and the other 500 women being detained at Hutto on county property.”
The T. Don Hutto detention center, which imprisons only women, has been at the center of sexual assault scandals before — one former guard even served time for multiple assaults. However, from 2010 to 2016, out of approximately 33,000 complaints of physical and sexual abuse filed with the DHS Office of Inspector General, less than 1 percent were actually investigated.
“Speaking out about sexual abuse perpetrated by a guard while still detained takes incredible courage,” said Bethany Carson, immigration researcher and organizer at Grassroots Leadership. “As ICE has proven incapable of taking reports of abuse seriously, the least the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office can do is immediately launch a just and transparent investigation into reports of sexual abuse by guards at Hutto. This includes talking with any witnesses named by Ms. Monterrosa and ensuring that her attorney is always present during any questioning.”