Immigrant Agricultural Workers Victims of Sexual Abuse

A Human Rights Watch report recently brought some alarming numbers to the public’s attention.

The 95-page report, “Cultivating Fear,” revealed that almost all of the 52 women interviewed were victims of sexual violence or knew someone who had been. The women say that their abusers are usually “supervisors, employers and others in positions of authority over women and girls working in fields, packing houses and other agricultural workplaces across the country,” according to the report.

Cultivating Fear contains over 160 interviews in total, including interviews of farmworkers, police officers, attorneys and members of the agricultural industry that list sexual violence as a primary concern for women, according to Reuters.

Grace Meng, the author of the the report, told the news source the women sometimes feel they have no other choice in the matter.

“Farmworker women can feel utterly powerless in the face of abusive supervisors or employers, and with good reason,” she said.

The report contains gruesome tales of rape, groping and stalking, according to Reuters. It also states many of the women who did not have U.S. citizenship were afraid to report the abuse to authorities because they were often threatened with deportation by their abusers. Some of the women that did come forward say they were prohibited from working at other farms.

The report is released at a crucial time for immigrant women. The House voted on a controversial revision on May 16 which is an adaptation of the 1994 legislation drafted by Vice President Joseph Biden, the Violence Against Women Act. The GOP-written bill eliminates abuse victim confidentiality for immigrant women, which some fear would allow their abusers to find the victims and could result in a deadly aftermath.

According to The Associated Press, President Obama released a veto announcement just hours before the House was expected to decide whether the bill would pass.