May 12, 2013

FRONTLINE partners with Univision News for Rape in the Fields/Violación de un Sueño, to uncover the hidden price that many migrant women working in America’s fields and packing plants, especially those who are undocumented, are paying to keep their jobs and provide for their families.

While debate rages on Capitol Hill over the legal and economic impact of immigration reforms, this FRONTLINE documentary focuses on the human side of the issue: how female farm workers fall prey to their field bosses and co-workers — and dare not denounce their attackers. Otherwise, they run the very real risk that they’ll lose their jobs or be deported.

“The abuse of undocumented women isn’t on anybody’s radar,” says correspondent Lowell Bergman, “and it should be.”

Rape in the Fields/Violación de un Sueño is the result of a yearlong reporting effort by Bergman, the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Traveling from the almond groves of California’s Central Valley to the packing plants of Iowa, from the apple orchards of Washington’s Yakima Valley to the tomato fields of Florida, the investigative team spoke with dozens of women who say they have been sexually abused on the job. And they have found that in the vast fields and orchards of today’s agribusiness, it’s easy for a rapist to stalk his victims — who are often, but not always, undocumented women.

“These women live in fear, but they were willing to go on camera to tell their stories at great personal risk,” Bergman says. “They didn’t want to see it happening to other women.”

The investigative team interviews women who speak on camera about their alleged abuse for the first time, as well as women who have tried to hold companies accountable in civil court for the actions of their supervisors. But the issue of sexual harassment in the agricultural sector is still uncharted territory. Forensic evidence is rarely gathered; few women are willing to report the crime, and even fewer rape cases are ever litigated. “There’s been little response from law enforcement agencies to do anything about this problem,” Bergman says.

The investigation will air as Rape in the Fields on FRONTLINE on Tuesday, June 25, at 10 P.M. (check local PBS listings), and on the Univision Network as Violación de un Sueño on Saturday, June 29, at 7 P.M. Both broadcasts will be accompanied by original, multiplatform content from all partners.

“This is the very first time FRONTLINE has collaborated with a domestic broadcast partner on a premiere,” says Raney Aronson-Rath, deputy executive producer for FRONTLINE. “The sexual abuse of immigrant women in our farms, fields and factories is a story that needs to be told — and this unprecedented broadcast partnership with Univision is a remarkable opportunity to expand the footprint of this important journalism.”

“This program will undoubtedly be of very special interest to Univision’s audience,” says Isaac Lee, president of News for Univision. “We are committed to quality journalism and are proud of this partnership and of airing such an extraordinary investigative piece that brings to light the terrible sexual abuse that so many female migrant workers are being subjected to.”

“CIR is proud of our role in this important story,” says Robert J. Rosenthal, executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting. “Collaboration is central to our model, and working with such distinguished fellow journalists can only heighten the strength, reach and impact of the story.”

“FRONTLINE is known for its investigative reporting and for forging collaborative partnerships to tell important stories,” says Beth Hoppe, chief programming executive and general manager of General Audience Programming at PBS. “This collaboration with Univision will help bring the results of this investigation to a large and diverse audience.”

Rape in the Fields/Violación de un Sueño is a Cam Bay production for WGBH/FRONTLINE and Univision News in association with the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and the Center for Investigative Reporting. The producers and writers are Andrés Cediel and Lowell Bergman. The director is Andrés Cediel. The correspondent is Lowell Bergman. The deputy executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is David Fanning.

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