Sexual assault endemic for agricultural workers

Photo credit: NPR

Photo credit: NPR

When your assailant is has control of your livelihood, and even whether you can stay in the same place as your family, you might think twice about reporting it. This is exactly the position of many women agricultural workers in the U.S, the vast majority of whom are immigrants, and many of whom are undocumented:

Like many other undocumented women, she was afraid she would be branded a troublemaker if she reported the supervisor to management. “I saw my choices: I lose my job, I can’t feed my family,” she says.

But, she says, after seven months, she finally worked up the courage to lodge a complaint against the supervisor. And she was fired. With the help of a legal aid group, Ladino eventually filed a civil suit against the grower. The accused supervisor denied the allegations. But the company agreed to a confidential settlement in 2010.

Ladino agreed not to tell anyone the company’s name and how much money it paid her in damages. She didn’t file a police report, and the supervisor never faced criminal charges or went to jail.

Of course, jail, prison, or police intervention stands less as an actual solution here (they’re not), but rather as the way we have to formally address these assaults today – and they are not being formally addressed. In fact, a Human Rights Watch report from last year, Cultivating Fear, describes the ways that agricultural workers are vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault, and its endemic nature in the context of a largely undocumented immigrant workforce. In this context, assailants often have the power to determine the kind of work given to the agricultural workers they are targeting, whether they have a job at all, and even report workers to immigration authorities.

This article is a part of a two-part investigative series on sexual assault and agricultural workers in the U.S. – make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the next installment

1bfea3e7449eff65a94e2e55a8b7acda-bpfullVeronica is an immigrant queer writer, domestic artist, and music video enthusiast.

New York, NY

Verónica Bayetti Flores has spent the last years of her life living and breathing reproductive justice. She has led national policy and movement building work on the intersections of immigrants' rights, health care access, young parenthood, and LGBTQ liberation, and has worked to increase access to contraception and abortion, fought for paid sick leave, and demanded access to safe public space for queer youth of color. In 2008 Verónica obtained her Master’s degree in the Sexuality and Health program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She loves cooking, making art, listening to music, and thinking about the ways art forms traditionally seen as feminine are valued and devalued. In addition to writing for Feministing, she is currently spending most of her time doing policy work to reduce the harms of LGBTQ youth of color's interactions with the police and making sure abortion care is accessible to all regardless of their income.

Verónica is a queer immigrant writer, activist, and rabble-rouser.

Read more about Verónica

Join the Conversation