‘Couldn’t say no’

Asylum seeker speaks out about being sexually assaulted by ICE guard at detention facility when she was 19

"E.D." came forward to speak out about alleged rape she suffered at the hands of an ICE guard. (The New York Times/YouTube)

The Trump administration’s controversial and now abandoned policy of separating suspected illegal immigrant mothers from their children has intensified public scrutiny of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and brought renewed attention to a reportedly rampant problem of sexual assault within the organization. Between 2013 and 2017, ICE reported 1,310 claims of sexual abuse, but watchdog organizations have said that actual frequency of abuse is likely to be significantly higher, as the vast majority of victims find themselves in no position to speak out. The New York Times spoke with two women who lodged claims against their former caretakers — as well as a 42-year-old white married guard who acknowledged having sex with one of the victims, and pleaded guilty to institutional sexual assault, but insisted that he had never explicitly threatened her.

“E.D.”, a 19-year-old asylum seeker from Honduras with a 3-year-old son, said that Daniel Sharkey, a former guard at the Berks Family Residential Center in Pennsylvania, where she was detained while her application was processed, had told her that “he liked me.” But at the time she wanted to dismiss the come-on as just “playing.”

“The first time he sexually abused me was in August,” recalled E.D., who suffered domestic violence and rape by her partner in Honduras before fleeing to the U.S.. “He came into the bathroom and he took off my clothes, and he took off his clothes. I couldn’t say no, I couldn’t say anything. I just simply did what he wanted.”

Speaking at a deposition, another detainee backed up her account, saying that Sharkey had forced her to keep watch over the bathroom while he raped E.D., and adding that he had also propositioned her for sex as well.

Sharkey, who has since been removed from his position as guard at the residential center, told the Times, “I did have feelings for her,” and that things had “kind of snowballed” as his relationship with his wife went through tough times.

“Me being in a power position and her being kind of a resident there — she was never — I mean, I never threatened her or anything like that,” said Sharkey. “I never said any of those words to make her think that.”

But Sharkey allegedly propositioned another immigrant woman, who discovered what was going, for sex — and, the Times reported, there was evidence that Sharkey’s managers at the facility were aware of what was happening, but did nothing to stop it.

“At the beginning, he was like any other staff member who worked there,” E.D. lamented.

Below watch The New York Times’ interview with E.D. and Maria, another woman who appears on camera and tells her story of allegedly being assaulted by an ICE employee.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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