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Women Forced into Sex for Critical Housing Repairs Reach Settlement

The Baltimore Sun reported earlier this week that twenty women public housing tenants who were sexually harassed and abused by maintenance workers will receive $8 million dollars as part of a class-action lawsuit. 

The maintenance workers were paid to fix critical repairs, like insect infestation and exposed wiring, for public housing complexes across the city. But they decided to demand sexual favors from the women tenants in exchange.

According to Cary Hansel, the women’s attorney, every abuser that they could identify has been fired — 50 so far. A criminal investigation is ongoing.

The city is currently conducting a media campaign to alert other abuse survivors that they may be entitled to the class action settlement. Along with receiving the $8 million dollars, which will be split equally among the women, the case’s plaintiffs will also be permitted to change housing so that they can move out of an environment that triggers memories of the abuse.

The class action exposes the city’s systemic abuse of low-income women whose environments were already dangerous. And the nature of the case — civil rather than criminal — points yet again to the reality that sexual assault survivors have more faith in civil suits than criminal trials — a searing indictment of this country’s criminal legal system.

As part of the court settlement, Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano met with each of the plaintiffs and toured the homes where the abuse occurred. In the understatement of the century, he said, “Mistakes have been made here, and some of them very serious.” City employees, who were hired to improve these women’s homes, instead systematically abused them — and got paid to do it. “Mistake” doesn’t seem to quite cover it.

Header image is the Baltimore City Flag

San Francisco, CA

Suzanna Bobadilla is a writer, activist, and digital strategist. According to legend, she first publicly proclaimed that she was a feminist at the age of nine in her basketball teammate's mini-van. Things have obviously since escalated. After graduating from Harvard in 2013, she became a founding member of Know Your IX's ED ACT NOW. She is curious about the ways feminists continue to use technology to create social change and now lives in San Francisco. She believes that she has the sweetest gig around – asking bad-ass feminists thoughtful questions for the publication that has taught her so much. Her views, bad jokes and all, are her own. For those wondering, if she was stranded on a desert island and had to bring one food, one drink, and one feminist, she would bring chicken mole, a margarita, and her momma.

Suzanna Bobadilla is a writer, activist, and digital strategist.

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