Farmworker Sexual Violence Facts

Facts About Workplace Sexual Violence Against Farmworker and Other-Low Wage Immigrant Women

   * There are an estimated 3 million farmworkers employed in the United States.

   * The National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) published by the Department of Labor in 2005 reports that 79% of the population is male. Thus, 21% of the farmworker population is comprised of women. Women represent an estimated 630,000 farmworkers in the United States.

   * The majority of these workers self-identified as being Mexican (75%), with U.S. born workers constituting the second largest group of workers (23%).

   * Farmworkers are employed in field crops, packing sheds, and nurseries in the United States. They harvest and pack fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, sod and a range of other agricultural products. They grow plants, trees, ferns, bushes, among other horticultural jobs.

   * Some of these workers are migratory, meaning they travel from state to state and/or from city to city to perform their work. Other workers are seasonal, meaning the live in one state and perform temporary or seasonal work in locations near them. Some farmworkers are guestworkers. These workers are temporary employees brought on special work visas, called H-2A visas, for specified periods of time to conduct agricultural labor in the United States.

   * Workplace sexual violence against farmworker and other-low wage immigrant women ranges from inappropriate touching and comments to rape. Sexual violence occurs on a continuum and escalates to more egregious acts.

   * According to a study done by Maria Elena Trevino, 90% of farmworker women interviewed in California said that sexual harassment is a major workplace problem.

   * During the course of an investigation into the problem of sexual harassment against farmworker women, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s San Francisco District Office found that hundreds if not thousands of farmworker women have been forced to trade sex in order to get or keep jobs or put up with a constant barrage of grabbing or touching by their supervisors.

   * A 1989 article in Florida indicates that sexual harassment against farmworker women is so pervasive that women refer to the fields as the “Green Motel.” Similarly, the EEOC reports that women in California refer to the fields as “fil de calzon” or the fields of panties because sexual harassment is so widespread.

   * Due to the many obstacles that confront farmworker women, including but not limited to fear, shame, lack of information about their rights, lack of available resources to help them, lack of information about the available resources available to them, poverty, cultural and/or social pressures, language access, and, for some, their status as immigrants, few farmworker women have ever come forward to seek justice for the sexual harassment and assault that they have suffered.

   * Farmworker women are not alone in the fight against workplace sexual violence. Other low-wage immigrant women employed in other industries, including meatpacking, poultry, hotels, cleaning services, restaurants, and factories, to name a few, face workplace sexual violence.

   * In 2008 the Southern Poverty Law Center interviewed low-wage immigrant women in the Southeastern United States, including dozens of farmworker women. 77% of these women revealed that workplace sexual violence is a major problem for them.


From the Southern Poverty Law Center