Rape on the Job in America
June 26, 2013 1:14 PM   Subscribe

Rape in the Fields is a Frontline documentary that explores the persistent allegations that female agricultural workers in the U.S. are frequently sexually assaulted and harassed by supervisors who exploit their (often undocumented) immigrant status. Victims typically do not seek help from US law enforcement, either out of fear that they will be fired, deported or worse, or from a lack of understanding of U.S. law. Reviews: Popmatters. NY Times

The show aired last night on PBS stations nationwide. The Spanish-language version, "Violación de un Sueño," airs on Saturday evening. The documentary is a collaboration between The Center for Investigative Reporting, Frontline, Univision and the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
"The films are the result of a year-long reporting effort. Bergman and his team traveled from the almond groves of California’s Central Valley to the packing plants of Iowa, from the apple orchards of Washington’s Yakima Valley to the tomato fields of Florida. They spoke with dozens of women who say they have been sexually abused on the job.

And they found that in the vast fields and orchards of today’s agribusiness, it’s easy for a rapist to stalk his victims — who are often, but not always, undocumented women who dare not denounce their attackers for fear they’ll be deported.

“These women live in fear, but they were willing to go on camera to tell their stories at great personal risk,” says Bergman. "They didn’t want to see it happening to other women.""
Links (from Frontline's page)
* Resources for Agricultural Workers. Includes links to rape/sexual violence crisis hotlines and support groups, legal aid organizations, community-based organizations and government workplace civil rights agencies.

* Frontline conducted a live chat online this afternoon. Transcript here.

* CIR Video: Hidden in the Harvest. "Three women came to the U.S. looking for a better life, but what they found wasn’t the American dream."

Related Interviews
* Luis Gutierrez: Exploitation is the “Ugly Sin” of Immigration. Gutierrez is a U.S. Representative for Illinois’ Fourth Congressional District.
* Dolores Huerta: An “Epidemic in the Fields”. Huerta is a labor leader, civil rights activist and founder of the United Farm Workers of America.
* Bill Tamayo: Criminal Cases Needed to End Immigrant Abuse. Tamayo is the Regional Attorney for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, San Francisco District. Hundreds of cases of rape in the fields have been filed with the agency, and Tamayo’s office has brought more than a dozen to court.
* Manuel Cunha, Jr.: Harassment Not “A Big Problem” On Farms. Cunha, Jr. is the president of the Nisei Farmers League, a trade association representing farm owners across California.

Related Articles
* Female Workers Face Rape, Harassment In U.S. Agriculture Industry
* Why Have There Been So Few Sexual Assault Prosecutions In the Agriculture Industry?
* The EEOC: At the “Vanguard” of Fight Against Discrimination
* Courting Foodies: The Modern “Fair Food” Movement
posted by zarq (18 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

Saw part of this last night. I had to turn it off, it was so upsetting to me.
posted by magstheaxe at 1:17 PM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Be advised, the documentary is safe for work, but may be disturbing to some viewers.
posted by zarq at 1:18 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

This one deserves as much attention as it can get. Lowell Bergman did an excellent job on this doc. Also, the exteriors are beautiful despite the repugnant subject matter.

Just for fun, Here's what the FRONTLINE office looks like right now.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:32 PM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Funny thing; over in the Orson Welles thread there's a linked film excerpt where Welles asserts that our modern era is basically the first time a civilization has tried to exist without slavery.

I'm not so sure we are actually doing that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:36 PM on June 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

From the PBS link: "In a statement, CEO John Harris said the company denies any wrongdoing. The workers had a consensual relationship that the company did not know about, Harris said in the statement."

That seems like a bit of a contradiction - the company didn't know about the relationship, but did know that it was a consensual one?
posted by el io at 1:39 PM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'll leave it to people more expert in law and precedent than I to rip to shreds the notion of "consensual" where there is an overwhelming power imbalance, genuine terror and an ignorance (or effective absence) of rights and protections.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:49 PM on June 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

Ugh. Googling around to see if I could casually find any examples of ancient civilizations that didn't practice slavery, I found this repugnant link extolling the virtues of slavery and arguing for "Natural Slavery". Holy shit. There are actually still people unashamedly and actively advocating for slavery as an institution right now! Sometimes I forget that. As I learned recently, some of my direct ancestors were slave owning Southern aristocrats, but casting in their lot with that dying institution ultimately tore the family apart. Some people just won't let go of the past. I've said it before, history is not a prison. There's no more reason to believe that civilization requires slavery than there is to believe that the hunter-gatherer mode is man's natural state. No, it's not civilization but the establishment and preservation of a generational, wealthy aristocracy that depends on institutions like slavery or serfdom.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:01 PM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

MoonOrb: "I came here to mention Bill Tamayo, who is a leading voice on this issue, "

Yes! Have seen other interviews with him before and am very glad they included this one. I actually nearly quoted this whole answer of his in the post because of how well it sums up the problem:
"What kind of difficulties do you run into [with] getting people to step forward?

There’s many difficulties. The general statistics, particularly in rape cases, is less than 10 percent of women who are raped ever report it, and this is largely English-speaking women, largely white.

Now, in agriculture, the workforce is largely Latina, non-English-speaking, and women who are culturally and geographically isolated. So the chances for them to report are even less, in part because they know they’re vulnerable. They know they’re in a vulnerable population. They don’t have a whole lot of options in life.

And the other factor is, like many rape victims, they wonder whether anybody is going to believe them. In our cases, though, they’ve always also been combined with threats of retaliation or actual retaliation, so the threats being “I’ll fire you; I’ll fire your siblings,” or, “I will kill you; I’ll kill your family.” So that exacerbates the vulnerability of these women and makes them less willing to come forward, which creates quite a challenge for the EEOC.

We’re also the federal government, and I’m very aware that many immigrant groups are not always believing in the federal government. Yet I always say we’re one of the unique agencies that can make a difference for these victims."

posted by zarq at 2:16 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I was working in hospitals in Mexico, there were several public service announcement campaigns urging people to report rape.

Their latest statistics, from a poster I recently saw in a Mexican consulate in the United States, claimed that 7/10 women have been sexually assaulted by the age of 30. I can't speak as to their methods in that study. From what I remember, outside of maybe Mexico City, reporting and prosecution of sex crime is nonexistent in Mexico.

Even in the United States, I feel very ambivalent about urging women to report sexual assault.

Not to trivialize the crime, but our treatment of these women is so abhorrent that I feel that it can sometimes absolutely be as traumatizing as the rape itself, depending on who is handling the report. Like this article says, if you're not an ideal victim, the case is very unlikely to go anywhere.

In conclusion, issues like this are why I laugh out loud when people refer to the USA as a first world country, or really, to any references to our justice system.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 2:38 PM on June 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Mod note: Hi - rape is a difficult topic. If you could possibly make an effort to not toss this thread under the bus in the name of grinding your same old axe or making your same old joke, the site would be stronger and better for it. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:01 PM on June 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

I found this repugnant link extolling the virtues of slavery and arguing for "Natural Slavery".

Thank god the link is not working right now, otherwise I would have to read it and be angry all week.
posted by lbebber at 3:24 PM on June 26, 2013

Reading some the links in this (very excellent) post, I simply do not understand how the narrative about undocumented workers that we hear from, usually, the Right in America completely flips the issue on its head: they frame it as the undocumented workers being the ones who are taking advantage of us instead of the other way around.

Reading these stories of abuse, how in the hell do you come to that conclusion? That these women -- and their families, who surely feel a ripple effect from this abuse -- are yukking it up over how they sure are putting one over on the stupid Americans by working shitty jobs for shitty pay and having to deal with sexual assault and abuse on top of everything else?
posted by lord_wolf at 4:09 PM on June 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

Politicians (all of them, not just Republicans) like to appeal to peoples' sense of righteous indignation. It's a very effective persuasive and motivating tool. "Those people are cheating you out of what is rightfully yours."
posted by zarq at 5:28 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

This kind of thing--sexual abuse of farm workers and other worker immigrants, human trafficking--happens right under our noses all the time here in Florida's farm belt, as the fpp notes. Prime Mushrooms operated from here. Just a couple years ago here in my own city, police raided and shut down a forced labor/prostitution operation running out of a Chinese massage parlor. And their have been similar cases with immigrant farm laborers. But it's a hard subject to confront directly, because these are actual human beings going through these horrors, and it's frightening to imagine anyone being treated that way by other human beings. I shouldn't have blithely flown into a jeremiad against slavery and blah blah blah personal anecdote in my first comment, but that blog (that's apparently down now, though there's probably a Google cached version out there) knocked me for a loop coming after this thread and yesterday's Voting Rights Act ruling. It's sad to think this kind of thing is probably going on in the next farm down the road.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:34 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live in Yakima. The fact is that no one really talks about it. As things stand we happen to be the repository for a disproportionate number of the state's sex offenders.
A big fruit packing company, Evans Fruit was embroiled in a huge lawsuit over sexual abuse/ harassment in the work-place. The lawsuit got dismissed.
The fact is women working in agriculture get this mistreatment and abuse everywhere.
It's a big reason you can't get American-born people to do this work of any other option exists.
If farm workers were paid fairly and treated decently, there would be no need to have endless illegal immigration.
People come, they work in the fields. Their children tend to go to college and enter other types of work.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:33 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Not to belittle this awful subject, which is awful and I had no idea, but I know a song about fields of rape. (Lyrics) It has been playing in my head as I've read this thread.

I first heard it before I'd even heard of rapeseed. I'm sad to see what I first imagined isn't that far from reality.
posted by Mezentian at 6:19 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's a pretty amazing series, from what little I've seen of it, and puts a helluva lot more perspective into the immigration issue.

By increasing punishments and deterrents for illegal aliens, only one thing is guaranteed on this issue: the women who are threatened will have less recourse to protection and justice.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:12 AM on June 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

I knew this was happening, but now I'm watching this show and I'm sobbing. Is there some sort of resource available for white Americans to help us protest this? Or at least not financially support this? I feel sick that the money I'm spending at the grocery store is going to companies ignoring these issues.
posted by jaguar at 9:28 PM on July 11, 2013

« Older Before Midnight   |   Confidential: Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments