The Haunting of U.S. Housing by Sexual Exploitation
Source: WBAL-TV/YouTube (October 2015)
Each year, hundreds of lawsuits against agencies and individuals associated with housing management in the U.S. are filed, the tip of the iceberg of rampant sexual misconduct and abuse disrupting housing security for poor and low-income women. Landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, security officers, and housing program managers have demanded sexual favors from tenant women in exchange for continued residence or program coverage, including qualification for Section 8 housing. A combination of an affordable housing crunch, long wait times for housing program intake, the threat of homelessness via retaliation, and the consequences of eviction on future housing access have left many women vulnerable to sexual exploitation and many men engaging in coercion with impunity.
While the lack of robust national studies and uneven state reporting practices on sexual harassment in housing have long obscured the problem, legislators have introduced House and Senate versions of a bill to amend the Fair Housing Act with explicit anti-harassment language and federal agencies have announced steps to target exploitation, including piloting an initiative to identify reporting barriers. Similarly, advocates have begun building consciousness amidst the burgeoning national conversation on gender-based sexual misconduct driven by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
“A woman’s choice – sexual favours or lose her home” (BBC News | January 2018)
“HUD charges Wichita landlord with housing discrimination after alleged sexual harassment” (KWCH-TV | November 2017)
“Justice Department Announces Initiative to Combat Sexual Harassment in Housing” (U.S. Department of Justice | October 2017)
“Complaints of Sexual Harassment in Public Housing Go Ignored” (The Real News Network | September 2017)
“Justice Department sues KCK Housing Authority for sexual harassment” (KSHB-TV | October 2015)
Combat Sexual Harassment in Housing Act (Proposed Senate bill)
Combat Sexual Harassment in Housing Act (Proposed House bill)
Sexual Harassment and Fair Housing Toolkit (Equal Rights Center)
Memo: Questions and Answers on Sexual Harassment under the Fair Housing Act (U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development)
U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division (firstname.lastname@example.org / 1-844-380-6178)
U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (1-800-669-9777)