Workshop informs students of abuse immigrant women face

By Alma Lizarraga

Picture Courtesy  Lowell Bergman

East Los Angeles Women’s Center held a virtual Zoom workshop and screening of the documentary “Rape on the Night Shift” detailing how immigrant women are taken advantage of after hours. 

The workshop started with introductions and a couple of slides showing statistics and hotlines of sexual assaults. 

The documentary took up much of the time of the workshop where first-hand accounts of women who felt overpowered gave candid accounts of their abuse. The main focus was on the janitor workers who were assaulted by managers and co-workers. 

Many of the women reported not feeling threatened by their future abusers at first, only for them to be cornered and assaulted once they felt safe. 

American Building Maintenance Industries Inc. is the largest employer of janitors in the United States and was presented in the documentary. It was shown that in two decades, the company had amassed forty sexual harassment lawsuits. 

The company claimed to take care of its workers through its workers protection programs. As of 2021, ABM will be working with equal rights advocates to change their sexual harassment prevention procedures after losing a multi-plaintiff sexual harassment lawsuit. 

In one of the incidents covered during the documentary, it was shown ABM hired a registered sex offender who had been jailed for raping an underage girl. The company hadn’t followed through on a background check.

In a prior sexual assault lawsuit ABM was found by a judge to have acted accordingly in the situation. ABM was shown to settle on a few cases.

The documentary brought forth the differences between being on the job at night and at day. It’s a lot harder to enforce protocols at night due to the differences of people on the job and the difference in contractors. Immigrant workers are more likely to take these jobs due to how unsupervised they can be. 

The assaults talked about in the documentary were graphic and often had other physical violence in it such as abuse. 

The course of the documentary saw women banding together and investigations being brought to these companies that saw them clearly not taking precautions to prevent this. 

Lack of background checks and not paying serious attention to complaints were among the company’s biggest mistakes.

After the screening was over viewers felt emotional and discussed the trauma and stories they’d just heard about. There were also talks about how immigration is a huge factor in not reporting assaults and tips to organizations that would help out. 

Lawsuits following the documentary were discussed as well as current laws and the ongoing changes around them.  

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