Report Finds Sexual and Gender-based Violence Major Cause of Flight of Central American Children to US

by KIND Press Release   on May 4, 2017

Listen to KIND’s tele-briefing releasing new report:

May 4, 2017 –Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is a significant factor in driving girls, women, and LGBTI people to flee Central America, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) found in a report released today. The increasing violence perpetrated by gangs in Central America includes widespread use of SGBV to exert and maintain control over populations and territories where they operate. Near total impunity perpetuates this violence against girls and women.


“SGBV is all too common in Central America; particularly when gangs are involved, girls and women receive little to no protection or justice from their governments,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “With no place to turn, many are forced to flee their country to save their lives.”


El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are among the most dangerous countries in the world. In addition to staggering homicide rates, these three countries have some of the world’s highest rates of femicide—gender-motivated killing—which has increased significantly in recent years. SGBV rates are also very high, and include rape and sexual assault, domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and sexual abuse of children.


The report, Neither Security nor Justice, which draws on interviews with migrant children from Central America and KIND child clients’ case documentation, describes the many ways in which girls and women are targeted by gangs in their neighborhoods and communities. They most often do not report violence because they believe nothing will be done to help them, particularly when the perpetrator is a gang member and when a victim lives in a gang-dominated area. In fact, going to the police may endanger them and their families even further.  Those few who do report violence confront the unwillingness or inability of the government to provide either protection or justice.  Children often do not disclose SGBV to a family member or another adult due to a widespread culture of victim blaming and stigma against SGBV survivors, in addition to a lack of confidence in police and judicial systems, and fear of retaliation.


Very few services exist in these countries to help survivors of SGBV. The report provides recommendations on how the governments of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala can work to reduce gang-related SGBV and increase assistance and justice for survivors, which will provide affected individuals and families with alternatives to forced migration. The report also makes recommendations to the U.S. government on how to direct and prioritize aid to Central American countries to effectively bolster efforts to prevent and address SGBV.


KIND, in partnership with Guatemalan organizations, launched SGBV prevention programming in 2016 aimed at educating Guatemalan girls and boys about sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender roles and stereotypes, SGBV, and healthy non-violent relationships.


Other key findings of the research include:

  • In many cases, shelters and witness/victim protection programs lack the capacity to guarantee the safety of SGBV victims when gangs are involved
  • Sexual violence threats by gang members have forced girls to leave school and have caused many to stay in their homes, too afraid to go out

Click here to download the full report

Click here to download a 2-page summary

A comprehensive report on SGBV in Central America by KIND and CDH Fray Matías will be released in early June.

For more information, please contact Megan McKenna,, 202-631-9990

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