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Serving Migrant Communities

Risk Factors for Sexual Violence

The migrant population experiences many of the same societal and community-level risk factors for sexual violence as non-migrant populations but have additional challenges associated with isolation, power imbalances at their work sites, and risk factors based on gender and age.

Environmental Risk Factors

Migrant farmworkers are prone to exploitation because of the inherent power imbalance that exists between worker and employers/supervisors. Farmworkers are often dependent on employers/supervisors for their basic needs in life, such as pay, transportation, housing, clothing, health care, education, legal papers/documents, information, and language/translation. Employers often misuse their power to bribe, punish, and sexually coerce workers.

The nature of agricultural employment—working long hours alone in remote fields, farms, orchards, and factories—places many migrant workers at a unique risk for victimization. Perpetrators often have access to victims and opportunity to commit sexual violence without anyone noticing or intervening. Often, migrant workers are paid by the pounds of goods they produce daily/weekly.69 This pay structure can undermine bystander intervention, pitting worker against worker in a race against the clock.

Many migrant farmworkers live in communal housing quarters, called labor camps. These camps are often on the outskirts of town in very isolated areas. They tend to lack appropriate lighting and do not generally have public phones for workers to call to report an emergency. In addition, their housing situation often requires them to share sleeping, eating, cooking, and bathroom facilities with many other workers. They may not have doors that close and lock. Individuals often lack the means necessary to keep themselves safe from perpetrators in these living environments.

Risk Factors Based on Gender and Age

Power imbalances and threats of exploitation based on gender and age also occur within the migrant community. In addition to being victimized by their employers, migrant women and children—minorities within the migrant farming industry—may also be victimized by their family members, partners/spouses, parents/caregivers, friends/acquaintances, and others within the migrant community. Migration can exacerbate women's vulnerabilities to sexual violence, increasing their dependency on their perpetrators for basic needs, language/translation, and legal papers/documentation and making it dangerous to report the violence and access services.70