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
Veronica is an immigrant queer writer, domestic artist, and music video enthusiast.