American News Broadcasts and social media have been very much lately dealing with cases of sexual harassment upon women over whom they have power by high profile men in the entertainment business and politics. Politicians have either resigned or lost elections. Media personalities are fired and even the so called president of the USA has admitted harassment of women and has been accused of sexual crimes by numerous women.
Bernice Yeung in her forthcoming superb work of investigative journalism, In A Day’s Work: The Fight to End Sexual Violence Against America’s Most Vulnerable Workers shows us the terrible sexual violence that has long gone ignored against women who work as night janitors, agricultural labourers (mostly seasonal workers) and household staff. Yeung tells us that crime statistics indicate that women in these occupations are the most often sexually abused women.
The women in these jobs often are poorly educated, have weak English skills, come from cultures where no one reports assaults to the police and are totally under the authority of men. In the case of female night janitors cleaning offices and big stores, the women often work alone. They have no witnesses to back up their assertions and desperately need to keep their jobs. Yeung takes us along when a worker for an NGO makes contact with night janitors and we hear stories of horrible abuse, including rape.
Female seasonal agricultural workers are especially vulnerable. Mostly speaking little English, often without permanent residency status their male bosses often feel they are fair game for anything. If the women submit they get to keep working, maybe get preferential treatment if lucky, if they resist they are usually fired. As they often live in company housing, this makes them homeless. In one heartbreaking case, a law suit was mounted against an apple Company where a long time supervisor had abused women for years but the women lost because the companies attorneys were able to destroy their credibility. The jury were all financially comfortable whites.
Yeung lets us get to know the women involved, bringing them to life. They all want little more than to support their families.
Yeung does show us how some women have fought back, have won law suits.
The next time a Hollywood producer is charged with abuse or a politician apologises contritely thing of the women in the shadows with little or no protection. Ask your self why do some women matter and others do not.
Given the current attempt to demonise immigrants, I think this will produce an environment where women in these job fields, legal or not residents, may fear speaking out even more. Immigrant Women are seen by many, including other women, as probably prostitutes on the side and are judged only by their looks.
Bernice Yeung is a reporter for Reveal, covering race and gender. Her work examines issues related to violence against women, labor and employment, immigration and environmental health. In 2014, Yeung was part of the national Emmy-nominated Rape in the Fields reporting team, which investigated the sexual assault of immigrant farmworkers. The project won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. A former staff writer for SF Weekly and editor at California Lawyer magazine, Yeung has had her work appear in a variety of media outlets, including The New York Times, The Seattle Times, the Guardian US and KQED-FM. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a master's degree from Fordham University, where she studied sociology with a focus on crime and justice. Yeung is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.