Braving heat and coyotes to be raped at border

Cindy holds her son, Adonai, whom she said was born of rape by a smuggler while she crossed the border. Of all the hazards facing migrant women along the southwest border, one of the most ubiquitous and devastating is sexual assault. Caitlin O’Hara/New York Times

MCALLEN, Texas — It was dark in the stash house where they kept her, the windows covered so no one could see inside. At first, the smugglers had her cook for the other migrants who had recently crossed illegally into the United States. Then they took her to a room upstairs, locked the door and began taking turns with her.

It was the summer of 2014, and Melvin, a 36-year-old mother of three, had just completed the journey from her native Guatemala, crossing the Rio Grande on a raft before being led to the house in the Texas border city of McAllen.

For weeks in that locked room, the men she had paid to get her safely to the United States drugged her with pills and cocaine, refusing to let her out even to bathe. “I think that since they put me in that room, they killed me,” she said. “They raped us so many times they didn’t see us as human beings anymore.”

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