In the Field of Panties: Sexual Violence and Immigrant Farmworkers

They call it the field de calzon — the field of panties —because so many rapes happen there.

Last Wednesday, the organization Human Rights Watch released the report Cultivating Fear: The Vulnerability of Immigrant Farmworkers in the US to Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment. It’s filled with tales that would make Jeremiah, or Amos, or Micah weep: stories of some of the most marginalized, exploited, and impoverished people in the country.

HRW talked to 160 farmworkers, growers, law enforcement officials, attorneys and other experts in agricultural workplace issues in 8 different states, finding that most women working in agriculture have been — or know someone who has been — victimized sexually at work; confirming the findings of a 2010 survey of California Central Valley workers in which 80 percent reported having experienced sexual harassment or abuse on the job.

It’s common enough that some women farm workers see it as “an unavoidable condition of agricultural work.”

In the US generally, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and rape are underreported, but the groups that make up farmworkers are even less likely to report. For one thing, nearly 70 percent of agricultural workers are Mexican born; Latinas in the US are estimated to report fewer than 7 percent of the incidents of sexual harassment they experience.

“For a woman alone, there is much danger,” said one female farm worker, “A man can catch you in the field where the plants are taller than you.”

Because an estimated 50 percent of farmworkers are unauthorized workers (a number that’s held steady for more than a decade), they are particularly vulnerable, with just 30 percent of them speaking English well. It is estimated that 20 percent of agricultural workers are not fluent either in English or Spanish — because they speak indigenous languages — and are especially at risk of being mistreated.

{From my most recent post at Sojourners’ God’s Politics blog. Read the rest here.}

About Rachel Marie Stone
  • http://thesocialeater.org thesocialeater

    This is horrible. I’m glad it’s being reported because maybe awareness will lead to less of this.

    But…I’m wondering if there is anything else I/we can be doing to stop this nightmare? What do you think?

  • http://thesocialeater.org thesocialeater

    This is horrible. I’m glad it’s being reported because maybe awareness will lead to less of this.

    But…I’m wondering if there is anything else I/we can be doing to stop this nightmare? What do you think?

  • Tim

    Rachel, when I first saw an article on the report you mention it made me think that I have not seen this much in our agricultural county here in northern California, and I wonder if it is going unreported or is not as big a phenomenon here as in the southern regions of the state.

    At work, I see a lot of instances of under-reported crimes involving immigrant communities. Sometimes it’s due to the fact the victim is in the country illegally and feels unable to go to the authorities, and sometimes it’s due to cultural issues with reporting crimes. Domestic violence is a major under-reported crime in these groups, but sexual assault is another one.

    Good job shedding light on this today, Rachel.

    Tim

  • Tim

    Rachel, when I first saw an article on the report you mention it made me think that I have not seen this much in our agricultural county here in northern California, and I wonder if it is going unreported or is not as big a phenomenon here as in the southern regions of the state.

    At work, I see a lot of instances of under-reported crimes involving immigrant communities. Sometimes it’s due to the fact the victim is in the country illegally and feels unable to go to the authorities, and sometimes it’s due to cultural issues with reporting crimes. Domestic violence is a major under-reported crime in these groups, but sexual assault is another one.

    Good job shedding light on this today, Rachel.

    Tim

  • Pingback: Resources For Labor Day Weekend, Emphasis on ‘Labor,’ as in ‘Unions’ « Rachel Marie Stone

  • Pingback: Resources For Labor Day Weekend, Emphasis on ‘Labor,’ as in ‘Unions’ « Rachel Marie Stone

  • Pingback: Resources For Labor Day Weekend, Emphasis on ‘Labor,’ as in ‘Unions’ « Rachel Marie Stone


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X