Rape in the Fields: Exploiting the Vulnerable

Fear contributes significantly to the underreporting of rape and sexual assault. Survivors worry they will not be believed, that nothing will be done or that they will be blamed for what was done to them. Undocumented immigrant women working in America’s fields have another fear that keeps them silent: deportation.

The Frontline documentary Rape in the Fields gives undocumented survivors a chance to speak out about their experiences, and shines a shocking spotlight on the sexual assault epidemic in the agricultural community. Rape is so common for these workers that the fields are often referred to as “the green motel.”

Perpetrators know how unlikely it is that survivors would report an assaultbecause doing so could jeopardize the lives they have built, and they exploit this fear by making threats like, “One phone call and you will be deported.” According to one of the survivors in the Frontline documentary, Rape in the Fields, “They look at you like they own you.”

These women often have no one to turn to because going to law enforcement seems like a guarantee of getting deported. Perpetrators continue to rape with impunity because they know survivors feel they cannot seek help without jeopardizing the lives they have built.

To learn more about the experience of sexual assault for undocumented workers and stream the documentary, visit Frontline’s website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/rape-in-the-fields/

PBS also provides a list of resources for agricultural workers who have experienced sexual assault, including the contact information for legal aid organizations: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/social-issues/rape-in-the-fields/resources-for-agricultural-workers/

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