On-Air Highlights

Frontline Special: Rape in the Fields

Written by Fred Vigeant, Director of Programming and Promotions for TV and Radio | Jun 19, 2013 12:08 PM

For the women who pick and handle the food we eat every day, sexual assault often comes with the job.

Frontline partners with Univision News—the award-winning news division of the leading media company serving Hispanic America, Univision Communications, Inc.—for Rape in the Fields/Violación de un Sueño, to uncover the hidden price that many migrant women working in America’s fields and packing plants, especially those who are undocumented, are paying to keep their jobs and provide for their families.

While debate rages on Capitol Hill over the legal and economic impact of immigration reforms, this Frontline documentary focuses on the human side of the issue: how female farm workers fall prey to their field bosses and co-workers—and dare not denounce their attackers. Otherwise, they run the very real risk that they’ll lose their jobs or be deported.

“The abuse of undocumented women isn’t on anybody’s radar,” says correspondent Lowell Bergman, “and it should be.”

Rape in the Fields/Violación de un Sueño is the result of a yearlong reporting effort by Bergman, the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Traveling from the almond groves of California’s Central Valley to the packing plants of Iowa, from the apple orchards of Washington’s Yakima Valley to the tomato fields of Florida, the investigative team spoke with dozens of women who say they have been sexually abused on the job. And they have found that in the vast fields and orchards of today’s agribusiness, it’s easy for a rapist to stalk his victims—who are often, but not always, undocumented women.

“These women live in fear, but they were willing to go on camera to tell their stories at great personal risk,” Bergman says. “They didn’t want to see it happening to other women.”

The investigative team interviews women who speak on camera about their alleged abuse for the first time, as well as women who have tried to hold companies accountable in civil court for the actions of their supervisors. But the issue of sexual harassment in the agricultural sector is still uncharted territory. Forensic evidence is rarely gathered; few women are willing to report the crime, and even fewer rape cases are ever litigated. “There’s been little response from law enforcement agencies to do anything about this problem,” Bergman says.

The investigation will air as Rape in the Fields on Frontline on Tuesday, June 25, at 10:00pm on witf.

Tagged under , , , , , , , , , ,

back to top