Rape in the Fields, Little Did I Know

Rape in the Fields

BY CHRIS KERRJune 27, 2013

As a naive undergraduate student I made my first visit to Immokalee, Florida, in 1997.  Little did I know I would encounter an epicenter of modern day slavery in that migrant farming town just 45 minutes from well-known vacation hot spots like Naples and Fort Myers.   During what became the first of many visits, I encountered male and female farm workers with harrowing stories of struggle and marginalization as they tried to seek a better life for themselves and their families.  Some spoke about being taken across the border by a coyote, others shared experiences of mistreatment and abuse by employers, and more than once I visited the home of a migrant family and viewed firsthand the deplorable conditions they endured day-to-day.

Univision and PBS have produced “Rape in the Fields,”  a 51-minute documentary examining three  landmark cases against companies accused of condoning the abuse of female agricultural workers.  The accusations of woman plaintiffs ranged from verbal harassment to rape.   In some of the cases, women were awarded damages for the abuse they experienced and in others their pleas for justice went unheard.   According to a USA Today article about the documentary, an estimated 560,000 women work in the U.S. agricultural industry.   They face the fear of demotion, termination, further harassment, and deportation (if undocumented) for reporting abuse.

While the documentary focuses on the overall problems of harassment and abuse, a number of media sources have offered additional interviews in connection with the film.  Highlighted are several efforts to develop solutions to the agricultural industry abuse crisis including an interview with Andres Cediel of the Coalition of Immokalee Worker’s Fair Food Program.

“Rape in the Fields” is a reminder of the important role that the rights of workers and the situation of those most marginalized by current policy, often women, must be at the core of a humane reform.

“Rape in the Fields” VIDEO:

Watch Rape in the Fields on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

 Additional interviews can be found here.

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