The United Nations report on sexual and domestic violence that was released last week also draws attention to an overlooked driver of migration from Central America: violence against women. “It is taking on a magnitude and a level of cruelty that is devastating Central America,” a United Nations official asserted in 2016. Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador have among the highest rates of violence against women in the world: “Many female victims in Central America are assaulted or killed by gangs that roam where law has lost its grip. Societies that have long been harshly patriarchal revert to their worst instincts when people can be killed with impunity. That is the effective reality in large parts of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala… Women in Central America who escape the clutches of criminal gangs often face violence at home. Rates of adolescent pregnancies are among the highest in the world. Public health workers say this reflects a culture in which some fathers, stepfathers, and neighbors feel free to molest girls. A UN representative in El Salvador recently called the sexual abuse of children there a “very profound, difficult, and serious” problem. That applies to much of Central America. “It’s huge,” a judge from the Nicaraguan town of Leon told a recent interviewer. “Every day we process sex crimes.”… These threats to Central American women — assault at home, abuse at the hands of criminal gangs, and violent punishment for those who protest — propel many to flee. “Sexual violence is the major push factor,” concluded a study conducted at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. When researchers asked female refugees why they fled, most cited rape, gender-based violence, and fear of sex trafficking.”
A new study published in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine is the first to quantify “firearm-related loss of life” for black and white Americans, finding that black Americans lose twice as many years of life to gun violence as white Americans: “Using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data collected between 2000 and 2016, a team led by researchers from the Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health found that firearms shave 4.14 years off the total life expectancy of black Americans and 2.23 years off the life expectancy of white Americans,” TIME reports. “The ages at which assaults and deaths by suicide occur also matter, the researchers note. Gun-related assaults and homicides disproportionately affect young black Americans, so the cumulative effect of these very early deaths adds up to a sizable loss of total life expectancy. Deaths by suicide, meanwhile, are more common among older white Americans, who have already lived a greater proportion of their estimated lifespan, resulting in a smaller total dip in life expectancy.”
An investigation by ProPublica, Frontline, and the New York Times investigated New York City’s independent housing program for people living with mental illness and found that many of the most vulnerable participants have suffered and even died as a result of the transition away from institutions: “One man drank himself to death. Another suffered a fatal heart attack in the foyer of his building, during a blizzard, naked. One woman was choked and left dead in a bathtub last year; three people of interest in the murder are fellow supported housing residents. The family of another woman believes her mental health declined when she moved into supported housing, contributing to her suicide… In addition to the deaths, ProPublica and Frontline identified more than two dozen cases in which people in supported housing were not able to care for themselves, leaving them in unsafe or inhumane living conditions. Most of those people moved back to an adult home, but others ended up in a nursing home or a psychiatric ward. One resident landed in jail. One is missing, according to the police. “We put the cart before the horse. We committed to the housing before we knew what the needs were,” said James Introne, the New York deputy secretary of health from 2011 to 2013 and a principal negotiator of the settlement.”
California State Senator Scott Wiener introduced legislation intended to spur housing development near public transit, including the ability to override local low-density zoning policies. In an interview with Politico, Wiener said, “We are in a deep housing crisis and we need 3.5 million new homes. We are never going to dig out of this hole unless we start legalizing housing… We need more housing, and we need that housing near transit and good jobs — that’s what this bill will allow.” … Wiener’s bill would prevent cities from blocking dense housing projects within a half-mile of rail, a quarter-mile of high-frequency bus lines and near "job-rich" areas. He has not specifically defined such areas. Within the new transit and job zones, cities wouldn't be able to impose height limits for new apartment buildings lower than 45 or 55 feet. The bill includes a provision that would require developers who bypass local zoning restrictions to designate a portion of new units in development projects as affordable for low-income people, though Wiener has not indicated what percentage of new units would be set aside as affordable. Developers would also be allowed to scrap minimum parking requirements… Wiener attempted similar legislation during the previous legislative session that died in committee under intense opposition from cities and powerful labor, building and environmental groups in Sacramento — interests that have indicated they could remove their opposition this year… Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who opposed Wiener's original bill due in part to concerns about displacement of low-income tenants, indicated an openness to supporting this new effort. "Our state is coping with a housing crisis that threatens the California dream — and I applaud Senator Wiener for his bold efforts to help us get housing built while protecting people from being priced out of communities where they have invested so much of their lives," Garcetti said in a statement. "This bill is a good first step, and I will continue working with him to make certain that these statewide solutions are the right fit for Angelenos."”
New reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that life expectancy in the US fell for the second time in three years, and suicides and drug overdose deaths (70,000 deaths in 2017) continue to rise. In an interview with National Public Radio, William Dietz of George Washington University, observed that ‘the main themes of the reports are "very disturbing" — partly because deaths from overdoses and suicides are likely linked. Both may be caused by social shifts in the U.S. that have caused people to become "less connected to each other in communities… there are some data to suggest that that's led to a sense of hopelessness, which in turn could lead to an increase in rates of suicide and certainly addictive behaviors."