Steve G.

Rape trees and idiots, useful and otherwise

In Libertarian on March 14, 2009 at 8:11 am

While perusing the news links at reddit, I came across term new to me: Rape Tree. The headline which read, “‘Rape Trees’ Found Along Southern US Border” brought immediately to mind Michael Vick and I assumed that there was going to be some sort of dog fighting news on the border. I then remembered that the term in Vick’s case was rape stand and quickly learned that there’s a whole other brouhaha brewing up on the border. In the aforementioned article, Mariela Rosario writes:

Recently, a new method of marking territory has crossed over into the United States. “Rape trees” are popping up in Southern Arizona and their significance is horrific and disgusting. These “rape trees” are places where cartel members and coyotes rape female border crossers and hang their clothes, specifically undergarments, to mark their conquest and territory.

As a feminist living in Texas- a state in which our guard is on high alert due to “escalating border violence”- and frequent traveler to Mexico, I was especially interested in knowing more about what is being reported as a systematic abuse of illegally immigrating women. What I found may shock you because I found nothing of substance.

Because I’m not an avid follower of ultra conservative border blogs, I didn’t realize what a trigger this rape tree idea is for what I assume are anti-immigration and border wall types. From Minute Man blogs to far right leaning blogs (which, incidentally, link to each other) much of nothing has been said about the subject. One of the things that struck me in this search was the far too frequently repeated accounts such as the one found in a piece written by Clark A. Kirby, TX State Director and published in Canada Free Press which reads:

On Tuesday, April 17th, a routine event took place on the border. The victim, statistics show, was young, female, and of Latin American descent. We do not know her name and never will. She suffered, most likely, in silence. If she is still alive, she will suffer for the rest of her life. Evidence of her humiliation and subjugation was left at the scene for all to see – her underclothes hanging from the branch of the tree under which the detestable crime was committed. “Rape Trees” are a visible reminder of the dangers of our unsecured borders.

I’d say that’s a whole lot of conjecture on the part of Mr. Kirby but he’s not the only Texas politician running with this unfounded idea. Representative Ted Poe [R-TX] has submitted into the Congressional Record:

Ripped from the bodies of unwilling women, undergarments cling to branches of a tree just a few feet from the lawless U.S.-Mexico border, dozens of pairs of underwear thrown there by rapists.

These are called rape trees. Each pair is a trophy from a woman that was smuggled into the United States, victims that are heard screaming in the desert. They are raped, even gang raped by illegal human smugglers, then forced into silence.

These trees are a warning. Illegal immigrants evade our borders but crime doesn’t evade them. Some become criminals. Some become victims. They are raped, robbed and murdered by other illegals, human smugglers and brutal criminals who then claim other victims.

More than 70 percent of their rapes, murders and child sex crimes are against Americans. One expert who studies sex crimes says about a hundred illegal sex offenders cross the border every day, leaving thousands of victims every year.

Rape trees are a warning to illegals not to talk. They should be a warning to Americans as well, to shout out against illegal entry and human smuggling.

And that’s just the way it is.

Link after link provided the same blog stories all linking back to one or another similar post about ladies’ undergarments hanging in the trees near the border but not a one provided any sort of proof of rape. It would seem that in normal police work, underwear in trees without a victim or witness would not lead to a rape investigation. (This was verified by the dispatch operator of my local police department.) I did find though a blog that documented pictures of what is being termed “rape tree” as well as acres of strewn about clothing and garbage. To his credit, Gary Armstrong, the writer of that blog post had the integrity to use the word allegedly when describing a red panty in a tree as a trophy left by a rapist coyote.

While I’m certain that many of the bloggers writing about “rape trees” are genuine in their intent and concern, I can’t help but notice that the well meaning yet unfounded posts have led to a plethora of somewhat ignorant documentaries about the subject. Here’s a You Tube clip of one:

I’m assuming that the commentator has never been on a ski lift or visited a Dick’s Last Resort; ladies’ undergarments are frequently found on display at both. (Perhaps I should dial 911 and report a rape next time I’m skiing and see women’s underwear in the treetops under the lift.) “Border,” an award winning documentary directed by Chris Burgard has been reviewed as:

Fort Worth, TX (—The shocking documentary ‘Border’ shows how a porous border and limited enforcement enables human smugglers and drug traffickers to extort, rape, murder and humiliate those seeking a better life in the United States.

I’ve not seen “Border” but it is interesting to note that the filmmaker was influenced by Kuki Gallmann, a writer and conservationist living in Kenya who was sued in 2001 by 915 Kenyans after their eviction by her allegedly resulted in the rapes of many women.

I certainly don’t mean to discount the very real occurrences of violence against any woman but all this reading of non-proven incidents of rape brings to mind the term “useful idiot.” It’s a term I heard used in a 1984 news program featuring Soviet KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov. In that interview, Mr. Bezmenov described how our country would be demoralised and ripped at the seams by useful idiots who parrot in news articles tripe fomented by those with larger agendas. That idea that some women are raped while attempting to cross the border should never be discounted; I don’t doubt there is rape and other violence in some situations. The idea of panties in trees being proof of widespread rape is what is laughable. The conjectures without victims, witnesses or other proof make a mockery of the very real subject of abuse and the people who copy and paste such nonsense in blog posts are either well meaning idiots or idiots with an agenda, but idiots nonetheless.


  1. I haven’t even finished your article, I got to the description of “the Rape Trees” and had to comment.. UNBELIEVABLE! I have personally seen these trees, but never thought, not in a million years.. this is what they were.. never crossed my mind.. how, why, where or who put those garments there, just found them interesting really. I’M SICKENED.. and I can PROMISE you, that when I come across another one again, on my travel, I WILL PUT UP A HUGE SIGN labeling the tree ‘RAPE TREE-TROPHY’ see if that gets enough attention to stop such a sick barbaric act.
    Sandra Ami

  2. // popular today…

    story has entered the popular today section on…

  3. Ok, now that I have read the entire article you have written, I’d like to add a few things. I have personally seen the trees that are described as “Rape Trees”, there are several of them between Arizona and California. These trees are not all on the Boarder, as I personally haven’t been there.

    As it is true, I have no ‘real definition’ of what the ornaments of undergarments that are adorned over these trees mean, in fact, I had never even given it a thought until I read this article; I can say it does give to some wonder and curiousity.

    I have also seen trees on this same stretch of highway, just at the border between Arizona and California (SEVERAL, perhaps even a hundred miles or more North of the Mexican border) that adorn hundreds of shoes hanging on them. What do you suppose those are trophy’s of? Again, I’ve never ‘investigated’, never ‘researched’ never even gave it a thought honestly.

    And about that ‘sign’ I’d put up on my next ride in the desert.. Probably will have to give it more thought too.

    I’m not discounting the fact that it is entirely possible that such a violence is going on, it would be ignorant to say it definitely isn’t, however.. I’d like to see interviews of people who would actually are in the KNOW, and sadly, I’d also like to see proof (not graphic proof, but personal accounts from victims).

    I have seen video surveillance, and News documentaries of people getting killed.. or .. ‘missing’ in the same desert area you speak of. It would also be ‘ignorant’ for you to discredit that though, and think that there is ‘no violence’ or ‘no drug cartel’ in the areas, then again.. proof is always a good thing right?

    Sandra Ami

  4. A company I worked for did a lot of first hand research on illegal immigration and border crossing. Every year a great deal of clothing is found along both sides of the border. Illegals and their guide routinely discard clothing for fresh clothes so they do not look like they have been traveling off road and can pass casual visual inspection. Violence does happen but unsubstanciated claims are not do not help.

  5. Ms. Ami,

    I knew that you’d not completed reading the piece and that’s why I waited to see if you’d come back and comment again before opening my mouth.

    I do not doubt for a minute that there’s violence near the border but I’ve noticed that reports of escalation always come from the same “build a wall” sources. I think there are much better ways to quell any drug violence and the easiest one that comes to mind is drug decriminalization. As to the alleged rapes, perhaps when our country isn’t a welfare state illegal immigration won’t be as attractive.

    I appreciate your thoughtful comment.

    Michelle Shinghal

  6. when i read that article on rape trees there of course was an immediate feeling of “oh my god that’s horrible!” then there was a part of me that was like, maybe this is a scare tactic by gangs to scare the immigrants into complying, I never even considered the other side of that coin. Nice article, thanks for showing a different side of the story, and for not demeaning the subject of rape or the atrocities of human trafficking.

  7. Useful idiots

    This saying is much older than 1980s, it originates from Lenin who was describing idealists in the West (such as GB Shaw) helping Soviet propaganda in the 1920s and 30s. It is a phrase well known and casually used in ex-communist countries,

  8. The first time I’d heard the phrase was in an interview with the KGB defector mentioned in the post but your comment makes total sense. Thanks for sharing, Luke.

  9. […] Last Free Voice […]

  10. What I wonder is when the “foot fetishists” video is going to come out featuring all those ominous tennies hanging from phone lines?

  11. Thank you for the clarification. The situations for woman immigrants, illegal or otherwise, and woman in general. The right wing psychopaths are always more interested in pushing their agenda rather than any womens issues. It’s just a matter of time before the incomplete information is all over the internet and news outlets. Either way I’m horrified by the willful stupidity involved.

  12. You’re use of the word “perusing” is wrong. “Peruse” doesn’t mean to “skim” words, as implied in your sentence. It means to carefully and seriously study something.

  13. I frequently use reddit linked articles to learn more about the world around me and, as evidenced by my consideration of the article linked, I was seriously considering the subject and sources (or lack of in this particular case) of information. Had I been skimming anything- headlines or articles- this post wouldn’t exist and the original author of the submitted piece would have simply had another upmod. Thank you for your comment though.

  14. I have to call attention to the fact that this article has nothing of substance. The author did no research, and interviewed no sources but merely checked out some blogs and then came to conclusions safe from the comfort of his/her air conditioned living room.

    There is a huge problem with human sex trafficking across the border.

  15. is it really only the “far right” that want’s to prevent Illegal Immigration? I don’t think so.

  16. […] Rape trees and idiots, useful and otherwise While perusing the news links at reddit, I came across term new to me: Rape Tree. The headline which read, […] […]

  17. Rhbee, that’s an urban thing of some symbolic measure…I can’t remember what it is, but there’s a powerline in Tempe near my office where tennies are hung once a year.

    To the author of this blog–exactly how many criminals do you think pass through Dick’s Ski Resort on a daily basis? A good friend of mine in the Border Patrol (I used to work with the guy at an ICE jail) says they also find used condoms, sleeping bags covered with all manner of bodily fluids, and other evidence that you’ll rarely hear about because the police don’t give that information away. I also talked to a woman who described being raped by her coyotes. She didn’t say whether her underwear was flung on a tree. She really didn’t give the lurid details. As she was being processed into my facility, I had to help do a medical exam and she admitted that it happened. I offered to help her take a report, and she said she didn’t want to jeopardize her chances at her immigration hearing by admitting she was sneaking in.

    There’s always more than what you see and hear. Sure, we’d all like more evidence before we believe everything we’re told, but in this case, there’s little else to believe about those trees. Discarded clothes are found everywhere, but what is the purpose of flinging just the underwear onto the tree branches? Think a little deeper about that.

  18. MelMaguire,

    My flippant remark about ski resorts or the Dick’s restaurant chain were with regard to the woman in the poorly produced documentary. She’d said that women do not show their undies and I provided two examples that she was incorrect.

    As to just underwear in the trees, I don’t know that to be entirely the truth and I’m not sure whether or not they were flung or blown by the wind. Unlike the “rape tree” supporters, I won’t speculate.

    I’ve no doubt that women are sometimes raped on their journeys and that is indeed a sad travesty which could be alleviated (I hesitate to say done away with because I don’t believe that we will ever stop evil) with a more honest look at the immigration and drug war problems. I am curious about your anecdotal example and I do hope you’ll oblige me- In what capacity were you processing the woman? Was she caught at the border or some time after living in the states? If your statement was intended as I think, how was she receiving a hearing upon sneaking in? Were you a treating physician and if so, are there protocols with regard to documentation of a rape during the H&P?

    I do believe that most people would like to understand what we’re really facing on the border especially in the human rights arena. I just think that focusing on these trees and guessing what they mean- if they really mean anything at all- is the wrong way to attempt to do that.

  19. […] that North America should feel so smug–not with the lovely rape trees that are springing up on the U.S./Mexico […]

  20. The reason there is not evidence is because speaking out against these people means putting yourself at more risk. The people who did this to the victim will do more than rape you if you speak out against them. Perhaps that is why we can only assume why there would be a tree in the middle of the desert adorned with women’s undergarments.

  21. Why did you mention Michael Vick’s name in your post? Why would you assume he would be involved in any “rape” story? Why are you making some correlation between Vick and rape?

    Anything…everything you say after that is complete garbage. Sorry, just like a right-wing lunatic, you start off showing your colors and destroy any vestige of credibility.

    Try again.

  22. Perhaps you didn’t read the part at which I said I assumed going in that the original link would be a dog fighting post. You also missed the part where I talked about some of the extreme right wing using such info for their own agendas. You try again.

  23. Thank you Michelle, but I would like to add it would be a disservice to those that could be victims of any possibility to “Rape Trees” if we discount it completely. If true and undocumented or unsubstantiated we are left to only wonder the facts, it could not warrant the people “doing anything”. Again, if not true, it would be in my opinion, a busy-body way of attracting efforts to a place that could be well used elsewhere.

  24. Thank you Michelle, but I would like to add it would be a disservice to those that could be victims of any possibility to “Rape Trees” if we discount it completely. If true and undocumented or unsubstantiated we are left to only wonder the facts, it could not warrant the people “doing anything”. Again, if not true, it would be in my opinion, a busy-body way of attracting efforts to a place that could be well used elsewhere.
    Sandra Ami

  25. Oh my God, this is shocking. I didn’t know the existence of ‘rape trees’.
    “Ripped from the bodies of unwilling women, undergarments cling to branches of a tree just a few feet from the lawless U.S.-Mexico border, dozens of pairs of underwear thrown there by rapists.”
    How come the rapists can stay alive.. just so they can throw display their trophies? Terrible..

  26. “Rape trees” = the new “meth mouth”.

  27. That’s just horrible! They hang their victims’ clothes on the trees to claim their territory?!

  28. Thanks for your thoughtful analysis. You are right. If the undergarments hanging from those trees are the only proofs offered by the documentary, then they’ve not done their work. On the other hand, it also doesn’t negate the premise. Targeting and exploiting women isn’t something new for the human race. I think humans need to do something drastic to change their impression on other species, or they should change them meaning of the term humanity.

    Licks n Wags,

  29. Hello! Call please on advertising(adsense). I quite have nothing am from after crisis I was discharged from a favourite office. My children starve.
    Thank you.

  30. I only read a handful of comments because I’m actually supposed to be working but nonetheless, I couldn’t help notice that there’s evidence of people not reading the entire article before expressing their horror at something you profess not to exist, or at least something for which there is no real evidence of existence.

    Is it possible that the above comments are, in fact, a microcosm of the symtomatic misinformation and hysteria the blogosphere facilitates?

    Sorry if this is completely off the point with regards the rape trees, but I think its closer to the question you were really asking

  31. […] biases completely warp their interpretation of anything in conflict with their biases. In the  illustrative post the author observes that ladies’  women’s undergarments can be found in trees at ski […]

  32. […] biases completely warp their interpretation of anything in conflict with their biases. In the  illustrative post the author observes that ladies’  women’s undergarments can be found in trees at ski […]

  33. You have chosen to ignore the overwhelming volume of sworn victim statements and corroborating witness statements of the husbands and children of the rape victims overflowing in law enforcement files and court cases. The liberal newspapers of every major city in America have reported the police actions on these cases repeatedly, year after year, so there is no excuse for your false claims. You have let your bias warp your perception of reality. You are so delusional that I have written a post to rebut your psychosis:

  34. After having read your entire article (except for watching the video, the speakers on my laptop dont work) and all the subsequent comments, i feel i can offer a comment without being too inacurate.

    I have never before heard of a ‘Rape Tree’ and as such your inclusion of the origional article combined with your commentary has allowed me to understand. If the appearance of underwear in trees is representative of an individual being raped then it indeed should be investigated. the trouble that i can see is that if the local police force is to investigate every instance then that would take what i assume are much needed resources away from other areas for what may simply be a stray piece of clothing escaped from a broken suitcase. Just the other day i saw an article of clothing stuck to some trees not far from my home in the UK, to my knowledge nothing has come of this event other than curiosity of passers by. I believe it is a sign of the times we live in that we take a unexplained event and automatically assume the worst.

    In addition i would like to thank you for providing what is in my opinion a strong argument relating to the portrayal and background research (or lack thereof) of a news story, and not the alleged crime itself.

  35. Because my comment is awaiting moderation at her site and I’m not sure that it’ll be published, here’s my response to Ruthtalks.

    0 responses so far ↓
    anotheranarchist // March 15, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Dear sister,

    Your rebuttal was entertaining but I must ask, “Are you listening to too much Rush?” A few items of note:

    1) I didn’t compare the route of an illegal alien to a ski resort. I was poking fun of the idiot in a You Tube video who said wrongly that women don’t show their underwear.

    2) Where in the world would you get the idea I’m a progressive liberal? While it’s truly none of your fucking business, I’m what would be called classically liberal or a Goldwater conservative. If you don’t know what that means, perhaps you should turn off the idiot box and pick up a book.

    3) Nothing in my post glamorized criminal activity. Now that I think of it, perhaps you aren’t yet ready for a book. Learn to read.

    4) Show me the law enforcement files. All I’ve seen on the subject comes from one of two sources. The first being neo-con border nazis with an agenda or the human rights suppressor masquerading as bringer of equality called the UN. That the WSJ or NYT picks up an article based on those sources does not prove anything. Here’s an interesting source on trafficking. Get somebody to help you read it; you might learn something.

    5) I am a female and you’d have known that if you’d read my post with a critical mind rather than knee-jerk haughtiness. Generalizations such as yours underscore the point of my post.

    Of course, based on your poorly written rebuttal, I don’t suspect that you possess the capability to understand any of this comment.

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  36. Your comment about our country being a welfare state attracting illegal immigrants perplexes me. Perhaps someone has addressed this. I didn’t read all the comments. But most illegals come here to work. They go where there are jobs. How would that relate to the welfare state? I don’t understand the correlation.
    Illegals are attracted to work, and an amenable environment, and neither of those things seem like they’ll disappear as long as the US is a strong country. Maybe you can detail why you think welfare attracts illegals who don’t have a chance of benefiting from said welfare and who often end up paying into a system they will never receive much from.

  37. Crepitate,

    I should have explained myself better with that and any misunderstanding about it is my fault. The issue with immigration, legal or otherwise, is our current welfare economy. Immigrants are the scapegoat- not the problem. The real issue is class warfare within our own society. Many here are robbed blind to support those who won’t care for themselves or make bad choices or, even worse, further enrich those who depend using the club of government to warp any sense of fair play. That is not the fault of immigrants- legal or otherwise. They are just the punching bag.

    Most of my writing is somewhere else and my position on the issue is much clearer there. I don’t blame you for questioning me as that was written. To be clear here, I don’t know any immigrants of any ethnicity who don’t work their asses off and make good lives even with all the barricades in their way. Get rid of our welfare state and peaceful people will hopefully be able to enter through the front door easier.

    Again, I am very sorry for the confusion caused by my incomplete thought. You can check out my other website for a more complete idea of how I think on this issue. After my dinner, I will pull immigration posts and add them here.

  38. this was certainly one of the more interesting articles / blog posts I have read recently… I seems that if you don’t believe these exist you are feeding the conjecture on the subject by blogging about it but couldn’t really discern from your tone a real conclusion (which there may not be one either).

    The subject matter is very serious but you are correct in saying that just because you find undergarments in a tree doesn’t mean a rape has taken place. I would really like to find a little more factual information from the border but like you said, there isn’t much to be found. It did get my thinking though, so thanks for that.

  39. great piece was really glad to read that, thanks

  40. […] features about rape this weekend on the internet. They have different angles. The first is about “rape trees”. The setting is the US-Mexican border. We have a nation wealthy in money ( so far) next to a nation […]

  41. I just want to say this, though I have no explanation to the “Rape Trees” I can assure you it is not just a garment on a tree, or even one or two or three.. the trees are literally LITTERED with strategically placed bras and underwear. They look like over decorated Christmas trees, with these garments being the icicles we use to throw onto the trees, or garland. So, you can rest assured that this is not just a piece of clothing that has blow up from the ground or fell off of a passing truck. These trees can not be missed, as they stick out like a sore thumb in the desert. The under garment are of different colors so again they are like ornaments on a holiday tree.

  42. Wow! Your comment on my post rebutting your totally erroneous Rape Tree article is so delicious that I published it as a new post so more people are able to see your lack of professionalism and lack of logic. Feel free to comment on it, but please use more rational thought? SMILE!


  43. ” they deny the existence of Rape Trees because they wish to increase illegal immigration, with the concurrent drug smuggling, rape trees, sexual slavery and infiltration of terrorists.”

    Maybe they didn’t pack a clothesline?

  44. Let’s assume for a moment that this rape-tree thing is absolutely real. I don’t understand why any person who opposes freedom of travel over borders would want to speak openly of them. Clearly rape trees, if they are real, exist because we have central planners who regulate human migration. Get rid of this central planning, and people would be able to cross the border much more safely. When a person who opposes freedom of travel brings this rape-tree concept up, I cannot help but to think they’re really saying, “Hey, come look at the horrible results of our statist policies!”

    Alex Peak

  45. Your points were well thought out. Please don’t let the bizarre rants of some of the posters cause you to think otherwise.

    These papers, as well as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, and U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement have all commented on sexual abuses suffered by women illegally crossing the border from Mexico into the US, both by the coyotes and by Border Patrol agents. Clearly your research skills leave much to be desired.

  47. Mariposa,

    I wasn’t researching rape for any ethnic group of women. I was questioning rape trees.

    I’ll read your links later- I have a show to prepare for tonight- and will comment back in the next several hours.

  48. OK, I see your point as far as the specific existence of rape trees are concerned. BUT a special report on immigration which aired on 60 minutes years ago mentioned this scare tactic being used by coyotes and apparently it is so well known across the South Western USA that it was even mentioned in an episode of WEEDS on Showtime! I’m interested to hear what you find.

  49. Mariposa,

    I’ve not yet looked at your links as I’ve 47 things to do before tonight but I couldn’t help notice your latest comment. I love “Weeds” as much as the next person and have seen the episodes with Andy’s friendly coyote ways. “Weeds” is a work of fiction though and even it doesn’t show rape trees. My point is that the description of rape trees hardly exists outside of certain very biased groups. It’s not something that has been mentioned at any depth outside the Mexico/U.S. illegal immigration circles. It is, in my opinion, propaganda to polarize people. That is not to say rape doesn’t exist even in very large numbers. I’m reading Judge Napolitano’s newest book (got an advance copy to review) and he says something very striking about the “white obsession with rape” performing “the crucial task of reinforcing white supremacy.”

    The book, in manuscript format, was delivered yesterday but as I read those words, I thought again of “rape trees” and useful idiots.

  50. […] Rape Trees: Anti-Immigration and Humanitarian Interpretations The idea of rape trees is horrific. One blog I read, however, noted that there is no substantial evidence that proves women were raped at that location. The author also calls herself a feminist which is just interesting to note. Because I’m not an avid follower of ultra conservative border blogs, I didn’t realize what a trigger this rape tree idea is for what I assume are anti-immigration and border wall types. Rape trees and idiotds, useful and otherwise […]

  51. Thank you much for your post! I, too, am a feminist — and also a journalist who has written a lot about immigration issues, particularly at the US-Mexico border. In addition, I specialize in writing about “sex panics,” including urban-mythic and exaggerated or false claims of danger to women and children. Such claims often come from one or the other side of the political spectrum, then spread over the entire range. That does not make them any more true.

    I was recently in southern Arizona, where I saw a “lay-up” — a spot near the border where undocumented immigrants change their clothes before being picked up by their smugglers. Some clothing was caught on cactus thorns and bushes. This made me think that women’s clothing could easily get blown onto branches,just as men’s and children’s items are.

    When I started reading recently about “rape trees” in the liberal press (e.g. a recent issue of The Texas Observer) I, too, went to the blogs and noticed that the “rape tree” claim was emanating from vigilantes. I looked at the Southern Poverty Law Center site, which tracks hate groups including border vigilantes. They note that the “rape tree” trope is not substantiated. They quoted Border Patrol spokesman Doug Mosier saying that the Border Patrol has never heard of or seen “rape trees.” I am no fan of the Border Patrol, but I know enough about them (having done years of journalism and activism in El Paso) to know that if there was even an inkling of truth to the rape tree stuff, they would be playing it up. They love to stress how dangerous illegal crossing is, with the hope of discouraging illegal immigrants from making the trip. Also, I knew Mosier when he was a journalist in the El Paso in the 1980s. I think he still has some reportorial integrity, though I think it’s ikcy that media people leave the 4th estate and become BP flaks (though is is common on the border).

    In Charles Bowden’s and Julian Cardona’s new photo-essay book Exodo/Exodus (U Texas Press), Cardona (the photographer) includes a picture of a big, fat, anglo vigilante in Southern Arizona, holding some bras. The label to the picture notes that this man has a strange obsession of collecting women’s underwear when he’s out on his “patrols” in the desert. In the next picture, of a bra hanging from a tree, the caption says something like, “It is said that many rapes occur at this site.” Note the passive “It is said.” Who said? The obsessed male vigilante? Did he, perhaps, play out his obsession by hanging the bra? Bowden and Cardona leave a bad taste in my mouth, because 13 years ago they did a horribly graphic article in Harpers about all the young women being killed at the time in Cd. Juarez. They published graphic, sexualized photos of women’s corpses, and Bowden, the writer, fantasized having sex with Juarez “whores” and victims of serial killers. Now Bowden has been going around on the book circuit, scolding people who ask about the dead women and saying that the crisis of violence on the border is about poverty, not raped and murdered women. And yet — their little use of the passive voice, and their picture of a “rape tree.” Which ended up being used in the Texas Observer, and has been picked up by other pro-immigration groups.

    I haven’t said anything about this until now because any expression of skepticism about claims of violence against women incites more heat than light, usually. And I have asked myself, “What difference does it make if liberals and feminists pick up a right-wing, anti-immigrant symbol to make a point? Who does this hurt? Is it OK to use a bullshit, fantasy claim made by immigrant haters to advance the activities and interests of immigrant lovers (and the immigrants, incuding women, that they advocate for)?

    I will leave the decision to readers.

    Debbie Nathan

  52. Ms. Nathan,
    Thank you very much for stopping by. It’s an honor as you are an author I linked to when suggesting that “RuthTalks” get some real info on trafficking. I’d love to chat with you more on the subject. Interested?

  53. Hi… i just want to say one thing then I’ll probably never post again… on another blog(forgot which one)(this was like 4 months ago before this someone made up this story…about rape trees…and how they existed… then a news reporter commented on it thinking it was real… so he had it broadcasted it on our local news… then other news channel saw it and they were like “we need to report this…how didn’t we know that” so they broadcasted it… then major t.v. stations caught on… and so on and so on… just had to tell you about that

  54. sorry forgot to notify myself about it

  55. It is sad the author of this is writing off a actual crime that is committing a daily basis towards illegal alien women. You should be ashamed to call yourself a feminist, and disregard this horrible act. Then further sound like a fool for blaming this on right winged sources. Rapes happen daily on the border by ruthless thugs that treat people like products instead of human lives. It is hard to prove it because none of the women want to admit it happened to them. They are too afraid of the cartels and coyotes will do to them or their families. Whatever, go ahead and live in your fantasy world and I will deal with this reality.

  56. Given the monsterous things humans can do, I at first thought it possible. But the vitriol of Tea Party reactionaries, racists and nationalists also makes me question the source of every statement (even liberal ones).

    Thank you for taking the time to write this. Its a thoughtful piece on a serious question.

  57. I find this article offensive. Crossing the border is a very dangerous, scary thing to do. These people are literally risking their lives to seek a better life. Its not Dick’s Last Resort and its not a ski resort. The comparison is ridiculous. They aren’t drunk teenagers that are going to strip their clothes off in celebration. I do know that many immigrants change clothes after crossing and perhaps the wind could blow them into trees, but wouldn’t there be a comparable amount of shirts and pants?? Perhaps this explanation could account for a few, but not all.

    This article diminishes the acts of violence that immigrants are subject to daily. Police just found 72 bodies of hopeful immigrants from central american countries in Northern Mexico (Tamaulipas). They were killed by the drug cartels that were extorting them. You think they wouldn’t rape a woman without a second thought? As a woman, I think you should be ashamed.

    Wake up, the world is a dangerous, terrible place. The right-wing crazies don’t have to invent this stuff. Its there.

  58. I believe that your “feminism” has biased your judgment. You can’t find victims because they are afraid of speaking out. Who can they speak out to if they are illegal? They are afraid of US law enforcement and retaliation by perpetrators. Mexican law enforcement won’t help either. Sure, people getting hot leaving clothing behind can account for some of it, but the underground world that exists because of illegal immigration only cultivates this sort of thing. It makes me sad to think about what these women have to go through. Enforcing the law and defending our borders against the cartels and illegals while finding a way to allow foreigners to work and pay taxes legally would go a long way towards making sure this sort of thing happens less frequently.

  59. I wrote this article more than a year ago and the indignant comments are still coming in. Wow, who would’ve thunk it? Read my last paragraph again please and then check out Debbie Nathan’s supporting comment here in this comment thread. (Here’s a linky about her if you want to know her expertise. There isn’t any definitive evidence of widespread rape resulting in rape trees. That’s isn’t to say there aren’t occurrences of rape and I made that point clear throughout.

    The inability of many people to look dispassionately at facts coupled with the inability of same to understand what they’ve read is what prompted me to spend my time in more pleasurable pursuits than writing. The people who get it already do and I don’t particularly enjoy singing to the choir. On the other hand, you cannot teach quantum physics to retards. If you’ll excuse me now, I’m off to play golf.

  60. If you may doubt that rapes occur at such trees, perhaps you’d be willing to camp out beneath one for a couple of evenings then post your findings on your blog site.

    Additionally, do you doubt that tennis shoes strung over utility lines are a signal to drug dealers and / or users?

  61. I live in a neighborhood in Dallas, TX that is currently 90+% hispanic. I talk to my neighbors, many of whom admit to me that they are here illegally. I have heard horrific stories of rape, rape trees, extortion, torture, murder, etc form these folks. I do not doubt either the existence nor the purpose of these rape trees. Sorry that these folks didn’t justify their misery by filing formal complaints, but then again…how could they?

    The tennis shoes flung over phone lines, by the way, are a symbol of gang / drug activity. My teenaged son’s friend explained that when you are admitted to a gang, after they beat the crap out of you, they throw your shoes over the wire. Also, some drug dealers will toss their shoes over after their first major sale.

    I appreciate your efforts to remain neutral and non-judgmental in your post, but there are more ways to research than just cruising (or perusing) the internet. Access police crime logs from border areas…or better yet, come on down here and talk to my neighbors.

    Another Libertarian

  62. @ N/A & Another Libertarian,

    I don’t at all doubt that rape occurs on border crossings; my doubt is about “rape trees” signifying widespread occurrences of rape. As far as sneakers over wires go, I’m sure there are many meanings. Here are some theories from before and after the drug war.

    When the shoefiti phenomenon started appearing in larger cities, several more sinister rumors became popular urban legends. One persistent rumor is that the shoefiti designates locations where illegal drugs are sold. Seeing a number of shoes dangling from wires tended to suggest a crime problem in the neighborhood. The connection between shoefiti and known drug houses is tenuous at best, however, since drug dealers frequently change their advertising campaigns to thwart law enforcement.

    Here’s another shoe linky.

  63. One more shoe thingy from Snopes since somebody (un?)kindly suggested this go there:

  64. Not only have I seen rape trees, not only have I met women who have been victims of the “rape tree”, but in the movie “Border” there is are interviews of women who also have been victims of the rape tree. You sound to me a lot like Rush Limbaugh and the Abu Gharib prison photos. This is a serious problem that you seem to brush off as some kind of “frat house frolic.” I understand you have your politics and you will do and say anything to prove your point, even if it means being ignorant of facts. So I guess I won’t allow facts to cloud your severely flawed and unchecked writing.

  65. LOL @ the Rush comparison. I was JUST today visiting my golf instructor at Hank Haney’s in Dallas and we laughed how unlike that man and I are. (Hank is fixing Rush’s swing for his TV show…)

    Again, for the umpteenth time, I don’t discount that rape happens on border crossings and I certainly didn’t discount rape as frat house frolic. Meh, nevermind. It’s obvious that this sort of story is being recycled in the general news right now and on cue, some peeps are frothing at the mouth on a > year old post so they too can feel involved.

    Shampoo, rinse and repeat works for more than just washing your hair.

  66. One more thing (because I’m too lazy to go into admin to edit last comment), can you describe how one can fall victim to a tree?

  67. Hundreds of women have been raped and murdered in juarez over the past few years, and the mexican authorities have done little to stop it. Why does the person that wrote this article think that same violence would not go on on the US side of the border? The same animals that rape the women in Juarez are likely the same gang members that smuggle the immigrants into the US and hang the womens undergarments in the trees after they had there way with them. There is plenty of evidence that these immigrant women are raped in drop houses in Phoenix.

  68. Dear,.where is your proof supposed to come from?
    Are the women/girls supposed to whip out their iphones to dial 911?
    All you’ve done is display a callous lack of interest, and decided that your apathy was not enough; you try to mock those who do care.

    You have so little knowledge of misogynist Mexican culture.
    The age of consent in Mexico is 12.
    Kidnapping &raping a girl (rapeto) is a minor crime in Mexico. One prominent lawmaker called it romantic.
    Tieing a victim’s underwear to a tree isn’t impossible. It’s also been seen in some states in Mexico.
    So many of these girls end up forced into prostitution.
    Maybe it is easier to laugh this off,.pretend it isn’t happening. Then you don’t have to do anything.
    The shoes on the electric lines mark gang territory.

  69. Hey there would you mind letting me know which web host you’re using?
    I’ve loaded your blog in 3 completely different web browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot faster then most.
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  70. As a former rape crisis counselor, I can say rape happens on a daily basis and most women do not report it. Since they are illegal why would they report it when it’s legal citizens have a problem reporting it. I don’t believe you researched your article enough. Did you even try taking to a victim?

  71. And I did finish your article.

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