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Farm workers are victims of sexual abuse and rape

In California and other agricultural areas, migrant farm workers are constant victims of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual abuse. It is not uncommon for female agricultural workers to be the victims of rape. Many cases go undocumented every year because women are concerned about keeping their jobs and do not want to be labeled as troublemakers.

Legal aid groups in California try to assist farm workers who have been the victims of sexual abuse. One was able to work up the courage to seek their assistance to file a complaint against her employer. She recounted that her supervisor continually harassed her and pressured her to engage in sexual activity. After months of this activity, she was returning one day from her job working in the fields when her supervisor raped her. She finally filed a complaint and was immediately fired. The company eventually agreed to a confidential financial settlement, but no criminal charges were ever brought against the supervisor.

Farm supervisors have a lot of power that workers are often afraid to challenge out of fear of retribution. A legal aid attorney has stated that the farm supervisor has the ability to decide who becomes hired, promoted or ultimately fired. Too often a sexual predator can take advantage of these conditions.

Currently, farms with over 50 employers must send their supervisors to a two-hour sexual harassment training program every two years. On the federal level, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been airing radio commercials targeted towards farm workers on the topic of sexual harassment. The agency continues to bring civil actions for lost wages and damages on behalf of farm workers who have been victimized by this conduct.

Source: NPR, "Silenced By Status, Farm Workers Face Rape, Sexual Abuse", Sasha Khokha, November 05, 2013

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