Police want Latina sexual victims to come forward

August 31, 2012 1:55:22 AM PDT
Oakland police are urging Latina immigrants who've been victims of sexual assault to come forward. Investigators believe many cases have gone unreported because of fear within the community.

"Maria" doesn't want to be identified, but feels compelled to share her story. She was sexually assaulted in Oakland a few months ago when she returned to her car after getting some tacos.

"He grabbed me and he had me pinned against my car. He grabbed my hand and put it on his private part," said Maria through a translator.

She went to police, which investigators say is unusual because most immigrant Latinas don't. Oakland police are now trying to spread the word, encouraging victims of sexual assault to alert authorities.

Officers say there've been several attacks in the Fruitvale District over the past few months and most of them haven't been reported. In every case, the victim was walking alone.

"There is an escalating level of violence associated and the women have? one individual has been hospitalized," said Ana Martinez from the Oakland Police Department.

Rape counselors believe many of these women are being targeted because they are here in the country illegally. Attackers know there's a good chance many of them won't come forward for fear of being deported.

Kristina Molina with Bay Area Women Against Rape is working with the Oakland police to let people know that Latina immigrants who are sexually assaulted qualify for immigration protection.

"She does have rights and that in this country a woman that has been sexually assaulted is treated with respect and is provided with a lot of services," said Molina.

Maria's attacker hasn't been caught yet, but she says going to police was worth the effort.

"I'm an example that when you go to the police, nothing happens to you, and they help you a lot," said Maria.


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