Sexuality Education

Widespread reports of sexual abuse of migrant children in custody revealed by HHS documents

For Immediate Release
February 27, 2019

Contact: Zach Eisenstein
Phone: (202) 265-2405 ext 3330

(Washington, DC) – Yesterday, federal records from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) were released, showing that 4,500 complaints of sexual abuse against unaccompanied minors were made to HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement between 2014 and 2018. Additionally, 1,303 complaints were reported to the Justice Department, including 154 allegations against adult staff. Samantha Dercher, SIECUS’ Federal Policy Director, released the following statement in response:

“These reports of sexual abuse against children in custody are beyond horrific. Children in detention centers are extraordinarily vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. And we already know that the Trump administration cannot be trusted to care for immigrant detainees–particularly unaccompanied minors. This is the same administration that forcibly separated families, kept children in cages, and allowed three children to die while in federal custody in the past year alone.

SIECUS commits to working to dismantle systems of power and oppression that perpetuate disparate sexual and reproductive health outcomes. This includes the ways in which institutions create dangerous environments that allow for sexual predation and abuse. It is inexcusable that HHS has allowed an environment that puts migrant children at risk of sexual violence and exploitation.

While the administration claims to have rigorous standards and background checks in place to prevent such abuses, reports show that this is far from reality. In fact, this administration has failed multiple times to check the backgrounds of employees at these facilities that house migrant children.

This is not just a tragedy. This is a pattern of systemic abuse and neglect against children. SIECUS will be working with our partners to hold this administration accountable for its lengthy record of reported child abuse and to ensure that the administration has fully and fairly investigated every single complaint.”


The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS) has served as the national voice for sex education, sexual health, and sexual rights for over 50 years. SIECUS asserts that sexuality is a fundamental part of being human, one worthy of dignity and respect. We advocate for the rights of all people to accurate information, comprehensive sexuality education, and the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health services. SIECUS works to create a world that ensures social justice inclusive of sexual and reproductive rights.