by Valerie Morales
The war on undocumented immigrants is providing shelter for the toxic male. Rather than inhibiting them, the policies of ICE are enabling violence and domestic abuse. Thomas Homan, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has publicly bragged in all his rhetoric about his desire for all undocumented immigrants to be afraid. But male fear has violent consequences with women as the target. Homan has his wish but the secondary fear he ignores begins in the kitchen and in the bedroom and in the garage. It is in the baby’s room and in the washroom putting clothes in the spin cycle.
Women used to have the police and the courts as their ally in a domestic violence situation but now they are in the dark, alone, fearful and bruised. They can’t call anyone anymore because to lift the phone and call 911, to say he is beating me, he is hitting me, he has raped me, is to have the breadwinner of the family deported. Women now have to make a Faustian bargain. My body or my children’s father.
Domestic violece reports in impoverished neighborhoods have fractured since Donald Trump took his oath of office and vowed to deport the undocumented back to their home country. Undocumented immigrants have been hunkering down in the dark, fearful and anxious, wringing their hands, emotionally paranoid. In the beginning, the reign of terror had a binary cost. Children missed school as worried parents feared a catastrophe was sprinting like a gold medalist toward their door. They conformed to the dark helix of fear as a way to push back anxiety.
Beneath the ignominy, violence against women is what violence against women usually is, dehumanizing, painful, shameful, terrifying misery. In the past, there was a visible hand waiting for someone to grab it, the sickled flesh of the abused reaching out. The drowning hand was then pulled up with a fist and vulnerable women were saved. But now there is nothing divine about the silence. The hand is still there, reaching, but the us against them resumptive soliloquy creates a vacuum no agency can reach. It is extreme.
All roads, even a beating in the kitchen, lead to deportation and Donald Trump.
In the Latino communities of Los Angeles, domestic violence reporting has plummeted, down 25%. Outgoing Police Chief Charlie Beck said the figures “far exceeds the reductions of any other demographic group.” He further classified the numbers as an “outlier that no other demographic group has been affected by. This is not a minor issue. This is the safety of the city. Imagine you daughter, sister, mother, your friend, not reporting a sexual assault because they are afraid that her family will be torn apart.”
In Houston, Latinos are not reporting rapes. The numbers have crashed. Police Chief Art Acevedo said, “when you see this type of data and what looks like the beginning of people not reporting we should be concerned. A person that rapes or violently attacks or robs an undocoumented immigrant is somebody that is going to harm a natural born citizen or lawful resident.”
There have been instances of women obtaining restraining orders against abusive partners as modestly as possible and then being detained in box like offices, aggressively challenged and then limping away. It is a transactional contempt women are faced with in the hot minute of their relational despair. Their plan A to report their abusers and stand up for their rights as women, wives and mothers is submerged as a procedure in the practicality of plan B. Say nothing about the punches and bruises and missing teeth. Keep the abuser and the entire family from lockup and eventual deportation.
Men in power are their most comfortable and guilt free when abused women of color are pretending they have a beautiful ugly lie they can manage. But women cannot manage violent men. It is the grand tragedy of compassion. Violent men end up killing them.
The oeuvre of marriage is the secret, the private rituals and punishments that happen behind closed doors. The psychotically aggressive exerting their physical and sexual power against the sexually vulnerable subsumes women who have no control or financial independence. When a woman takes a courageous stand to file a restraining order or she valiantly calls the police, she is erasing the power of the secret, of famly ties and burdens, of shame, as she protects herself and her family from a likely death.
Consider the apocalyptic pathology in the rest of the world. In Lebanon, rapists are forgiven if they marry their victims. In Kenya, domestic violence is not investigated by the local police. In the Congo, soldiers rape and then take those they rape as brides.
The United States has engaged resources, time, finances, personnel, policy, to implement laws to assist victims and create shelters as safe houses and and to criminalize the abusers. Police departments have initiated pilot programs to help identify victims and abusers, as well as the creation of training programs to assist and educate law enforcement professionals on how to talk and help victims through the horror of domestic violence, urging them to leave for their own safety. The synchronicity is preventive. Sons who witness abusive fathers serving punishment have a real life up close deterrent on what the consquences are when rage is eroticized and women are beaten.
The current President and his retinue have unraveled all the groundwork it took three decades to painstakingly build. Culturally, domestic abuse used to be a family matter. Then it was a criminal matter. In this slavish historical moment, everything is backwards. Domestic violence is a keep quiet, stay hushed matter,
The anxiety surrounding deportation is gestational. Silence induces a shut up culture as victims in abusive households go dark, holding on to the intractable secret with a death grip. Forced to withstand and absorb violence in order to remain with their children in this country, women cannot speak up or they may be locked up and deported. It is antithetical to emotional health when women have to absorb the pain, the beatings, the right cross to the jaw, the rape, the closed fist punch, so they won’t be thrown out the country with a celebratory Donald Trump high five-ing himself on Twitter. It is loyalty to the abuser on the one hand and disloyalty to themselves and their children on the other.
The sacrifice undocumented women are forced to make is translated through the lens of purity: whom do you love? This new normal legtimizes pretense. The family is fine when the family is violent and women are frightened victims.
There is no gray area anymore with domestic violence. The reporting has dried up. Deportations have created a silent class of women. The abused have tender names.