Report: Female farmworkers suffer sex abuse

May 15, 2012 - 11:15 PM

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A new report says female immigrant farmworkers in the U.S. are commonly subject to sexual harassment and assault, in part because their immigration status makes them fearful of reporting an offender, particularly an employer.

The report by Human Rights Watch included dozens of interviews with farmworkers, attorneys and advocates in seven states. The organization calls for laws to protect the workers, who "see these abuses as an unavoidable condition of agricultural work."

An estimated 630,000 of the 3 million people who perform farm work are female.

The study released Wednesday mirrors two previous reports that focused on California.

A spokesman for the California Farm Bureau Federation says sexual harassment is a universal problem not confined to the agricultural industry, which is why laws were enacted to prohibit it.