VOLUME 6 - 2013-2014 - ISSUE 2

Cultivating Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault in America’s Agriculture Industry

Laken Gilbert

6 Ky. J. Equine, Agric. & Nat. Resources L. 347 (2014).

In America, over 500,000 women work in the agriculture industry cultivating, planting, growing, and harvesting our food. Most of those women are undocumented immigrants, which subjects them to increased vulnerability to unwanted sexual advances by farm supervisors. It is uncertain how many women working in America’s agriculture industry have been sexually harassed or assaulted, as it is a scarcely reported epidemic. There are many reasons for this lack in reporting, including fear of deportation and lack of alternative work. Indeed, since 1998, not one agriculture industry supervisor accused of assault or rape in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) lawsuit has been tried in criminal court. The lack of criminal convictions indicates a perverse disregard for the safety and well-being of survivors of sexual assault in America’s agriculture industry. Before justice can be cultivated for survivors, America’s laws and policies must recognize and address the culture of fear and silence that deprives these women of the ability to realistically seek criminal convictions of their perpetrators.