A report released yesterday by Human Rights Watch, Cultivating Fear, describes how deeply vulnerable immigrant farm worker women are to sexual harassment and assault:
This 95-page report describes rape, stalking, unwanted touching, exhibitionism, or vulgar and obscene language by supervisors, employers, and others in positions of power. Most farmworkers interviewed said they had experienced such treatment or knew others who had. And most said they had not reported these or other workplace abuses, fearing reprisals. Those who had filed sexual harassment claims or reported sexual assault to the police had done so with the encouragement and assistance of survivor advocates or attorneys in the face of difficult challenges.
The report is full of horrifying – if unsurprising for those of us who have worked with farm worker women – stories of assault, and repeated abuse at the hands of employers or people in positions of power on the job, often using their immigration status as a tool of control and abuse. Additionally, farm workers often depend on their employers not only for their jobs but also their housing and transportation, creating a number of opportunities for abuse and control for vulnerable women.