Thursday, June 27, 2013

rape in the fields

The following post was contributed by SOC 3193 student, Roxana Guerrero.

Rape in the Fields addresses the experiences of immigrant farm-worker women who have been raped by their supervisors. These women come to the United States with hopes of a better life for themselves and their families, and they are mainly undocumented. They risk much to cross the border, and the risk of losing their jobs and being deported makes speaking out about this crime extremely difficult. Although so ashamed, they also fear reprisal so much that they may continue to bear repeated assault.

Most of the U.S.grown food we eat has been touched by women like these who work long, difficult hours for poverty wages. Field labor is physically hard and exposes workers to dangerous equipment and the elements, as well as pesticides. These hazards and hardships are compounded by criminal victimization. Female workers endure sexual coercion and are consistently in fear. Their supervisors see them as easy, disposable targets. There are always more women behind them desperate for work. The value of machismo tends to amplify the problem. Men dominate women, and women are submissive to men. This leads men to see women as objects they can use whenever they want without a thought to their feelings.

My father supervised many undocumented immigrants years ago in the orange groves across the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. He typically had about fifteen people working for him. Most were men, but wives often worked alongside them. I told him about this documentary and asked him if he knew of instances in which women were assaulted or harassed while on the job. He told me that he could see how assault could happen. Orange groves are often located on the outskirts of town, isolated from the population, and stretching for miles on end.  If she yelled at all, a woman’s cry for help would be hard to hear. Many women in these jobs were in such need that they would have endured almost anything. The fact that only a few women spoke out is not hard to believe. Although my dad said he never witnessed such behavior, he did say he heard verbal abuse at times that would lead to scuffles between men.

This documentary helps to give voice to women all over the country who fall victim to assault at the hands of their bosses. Obviously, all women, documented or undocumented, should have the right to work without fear of harassment or violence. At present, the only federal agency that is pursuing this problem is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Victims are reluctant to come forward, but as they do, this will empower others to do the same. I admire these women for their strength and courage, and hope that more will be done to protect them should they continue to labor in the fields.


  1. Although people think that slavery ended over a century ago, this documentary is the prime example of how slavery & social injustice still persist within today's society. Workers are exploited by supervisors on a continuous basis each day and it often goes unnoticed and/or unpunished. Those in power have the opportunity to abuse their power at the expense of innocent people and that is just what happened in these fields. Women in this documentary have been sexually harassed in unimaginable ways but feared to speak up or did not know that they could speak up. Women feared losing their jobs and did not have proper labor documents to aid them in finding other jobs so they endured tragedy. Due to the sexually exploitative nature of the fieldwork, women referred to the agricultural field as "The Green Motel." In the rare event that harassment cases were investigated, the perpetrator went free and many people found it difficult to explain why. This documentary reminds me that injustice still exists in the world and authoritative intervention is often minimal.

    Alexis Harris
    SOC 3013

  2. Sad video. I had no idea this was going on. What I keep asking myself as I watched the video is: Is this really a better life than what they previously had? Just how bad is it in Mexico, for these women to be pushed to live this life in America and STAY? I don't know what its like to live or work in Mexico, but is staying in this line of work and getting continuously raped a BETTER LIFE than before? Maybe it is, I don't know. Is the process to become a legal citizen really that arduous that it is not an alternative for these women? There really needs to be more regulations and processes on what goes on in these farms.

    It is a shame that the Caucasian CEO John Harris chose to play the fool on these claims, and not support the victim. The jury found the supervisor GUILTY of rape, yet he still faced zero charges, even after losing 2 trials. Even when they interviewed Rodriguez again, years later, and asked him if he ever raped the girl... he just stayed mum and avoided the question. Most importantly, he never said No. It makes me wonder how many other women are being taken advantage of in similar lines of work.
    -Scott Jarvis, SOC 3013

  3. Wow. This video shows how not just women but people in general what we as a society will sustain just to keep our jobs. It’s so sad what this country has come to, and to believe it is still going in is even more unbelievable. Living in the shadows unheard and unseen huh? I think that the supervisors would be doing all the work themselves and I would have quit the first day this happen. This video made me angry rather than sad, or mad. These innocent women going to work day in and day out I’m sure with husbands at home, brothers, fathers, etc. that probably do nothing to help because they are stuck in the mind set of losing a job. I pray that after this video those supervisors get a taste of their own medicine in jail. sad to say but I really do hope they learn that this is not the way of life and it’s not tolerated as the norm.
    -Samone Lindsey

  4. This video was very sad to watch, mostly because it happened for so long to these women and that it's probably still going on for others. What made me so mad was that the men who were found guilty of rape showed no remorse whatsoever.They acted like it was a joke and that there would be no serious consequence for their actions and that taking advantage of women, young and old, is perfectly okay. It makes me wonder if their mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces and girlfriends were being treated this way would they still think this behavior is acceptable. I also found it sad if these women do decide to step forward and reach out for help they are either fired on the spot or worse, deported loosing everything they have. Illegal immigration is obviously against the law, but I think something should be done to help these women. Yes they are not U.S citizens, but they are people just like you and me and deserve to be treated like human beings, not sexual objects.

    Britney Malloy

  5. The greater the power difference, the more helpless the people at the bottom feel. If there is no power to address the problem, it is better to put up with issues than to suffer the consequences. With that said, Mexico is a country where the gap between haves and have-nots is greater than in America. The undocumented women on this video come from a society where it is better to stay silent than to protest against its government. Mexico is also a country where machismo and man honor is very much a part of society. Women are less likely to hold important jobs; instead, they play a more traditional role where they cook, clean, and raise children. Not that woman cannot attain important jobs or be live nontraditional lives, but the majority of the general population still holds many of these values. The mixture of being docile to politics and laws, plus being submissive to men, made the perfect victims for the men in charge of the fields. To add to that, these women were also undocumented which meant they were at the mercy of being deported and stripped from their families. It took a lot of courage for these women to stand up and take back their dignity. But it got them nowhere.
    I am not sure of what these women were trying to achieve; where they trying to imprison every last alleged man, ever? Where they striving for stricter laws on sexual harassment? Or was a monetary compensation in their minds? The fact is that there are thousands of illegal immigrants in the fields and unfortunately, rape happens more often than we know. It would be impossible to charge every criminal, and it would be impossible to guarantee the safety of other women to come. Because these women are here illegally, they fall victims to those in power; my personal opinion to help them is to get women to come across legally. That gives them the right to be working on American soil, and better yet, they fall under the rights that protect the American labor force. With immigration out of the picture, their voice and complains will be more effective at bringing change.

  6. Silence, fear, terror, and mistreatment is what many women immigrant women in the video face while working. Supervisors using their power to mistreat them and rape and sexual harass them while they work. The threatened the women with fear for their life or deportation. Many women in the fields are afraid of losing their jobs because they support their family back home in Mexico. Evan Fruit Facility is where many of the women that came out on the video faced rape for the first time from their supervisor. He sexual harassed them and saw them like they were his property. He denies every woman that came out saying he raped them. Supervisors in the fields take advantage of these women and they face fear the rest of their life. A woman came out saying that ever since she got raped she isn't the same person she was before. She faces fear and terror every time she clocks into work. Women working at DeCoster Eggs Facility face the same fear. They are put in many harsh situations. Many of these women don’t know who to tell or what to do. Sonia Parras became recognized after helping two dozen women and girls that spoke out about being raped and sexual harassed while working in DeCoster’s Eggs Facility. Many of the women that came out in the video have faced fear and have stayed quiet for months or years till they finally came forward and spoke the truth, but more than three hundred women have not came forward because of the horror they face in being killed or losing their job. Men and supervisor take advantage of these poor immigrant workers that don’t know what to do after going through something so scary that scars their life. I hope many immigrant workers working in facilities or plants come forward and speak out their stories after watching this video. There is help and they shouldn't stay in fear because there are some people they could confront too.
    -Karina Ramirez-