Domestic workers

Domestic workers seek to be visible during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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Photo: Diverse Photography (Shutterstock)

In 2013, Jamaican immigrant June Barrett (they/them) landed a new job as a caregiver working as a home help for an elderly man. Due to the pay raise, they were thrilled to get the job, however, on the first night the client had asked them to come sleep with him. After that night and for years later, Barrett had been repeatedly sexually assaulted by the man, feeling isolated, ashamed and embarrassed. They did not raise complaint to the agency because they would have put them out of work, which Barrett could not afford with rent and mediation involved.

“I had no safety net. I had nowhere to turn at that time. It was just me and him or them, the family who literally saw him touch me and grab me by the chest. That’s what happened at home from 2013 to 2018,” Barrett said.

During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it’s important to shine a light on the survivors of sexual assault who often go unnoticed: domestic workers. the National Alliance of Domestic Workers wrote a Bill of Rights ensure workers are provided with safeguards to prevent them from being sexually assaulted at work and retaliated if they report.

Barrett, now leader of the NDWA and Miami Workers Center’s We Dream in Black project, used their story to signal a call for stock. They said racism, sexism, classism and immigration play a role in the lack of attention paid to domestic workers. Specifically, the legacy of slavery was woven into the power dynamic between domestic workers and the clients they work for.

the NDWA Survey 2021 also found that domestic workers, containing a majority immigrant population, work only in private residences, making them more vulnerable to sexual harassment. They are also excluded from protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because they are independent contractors.

More from the NDWA survey:

Domestic workers are one of the fastest growing labor forces in the country, but these nannies, housekeepers and home care workers have historically been left out of worker protections and, therefore, not often have no benefits, few protections and few remedies or enforcement mechanisms. . A 2021 National Domestic Workers Alliance survey of domestic workers also reported:

Only 16% of domestic workers have a written agreement with their employer.

More than a third of domestic workers do not benefit from meal and rest breaks and among those who do, only 34% of those who benefit from meal and rest breaks are paid for these breaks.

81% of domestic workers receive no pay if their employer cancels them with less than three days’ notice, and 76% receive no pay if their employer cancels them after they arrive at work.

23% of domestic workers do not feel safe at work.

Domestic workers began to raise awareness about their experiences through the #MeToo movement with NDWA Executive Director Ai-jen Poo making their voices heard. The campaign has since inspired states, including New York and California, to extend their protections under sexual harassment laws to domestic workers, reported Voice.

In addition to #MeToo, NDWA supported the TIME’S UP Foundation by joining the discussion on sexual harassment with women in Hollywood as well as entering the global conversation about sex assault by meeting the women of the United Nations.

“In 2016, for the first time [NDWA] had a domestic workers assembly where over 500 domestic workers came together to share their stories. I was at home in Jamaica when I received a call and they asked me: “Can you tell your story? I was scared but that day I told my story for the first time. The shame I felt went away and my healing started and it allowed other women to take the first step,“, Barrett said.

Barrett says to continue to raise awareness, sign the petition to urge Congress to pass the National Bill of Rights for Domestic Workers.

“It is very important that we pass this bill because I am tired. It’s been 20 years. I don’t want to die without seeing this bill passed – so we can leave a legacy for the caregivers and nannies who follow us. We will have written agreements, fair wages, affordable health care, paid vacations, training and workforce development. I don’t just speak for myself, but for the women I speak to every day,” Barrett said.