As the #MeToo movement sweeps across Hollywood, Washington and the world of media, it’s easy to ignore the sexual abuse of women in low-profile jobs. This is especially true in the case of female janitors working the night shift. Image: Matt Rota for Reveal.
Our multiplatform Rape on the Night Shift investigation – a collaboration with KQED, the UC Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program, FRONTLINE and Univision – was released in 2015. Since then, it’s helped spur a wave of reforms, including a new law in California that mandates sexual harassment training for all janitorial companies. This week, we’re updating the investigation with new insights and interviews.
First up, Reveal reporter Bernice Yeung and KQED’s Sasha Khokha examine the conditions that led to an epidemic of rape and assault. Female janitors often work alone at night, in buildings that are nearly empty. Some are in the U.S. illegally, which limits their ability to report abuse to law enforcement. And although such incidents are widespread – they occur in tiny mom-and-pop shops and large corporations – one company, ABM Industries Inc., stands out for its pattern of problems. ABM is among a rare group of 15 American corporations that have been sued at least three times by the federal government for failing to protect workers from sexual harassment. The company still is receiving sexual abuse complaints from women.
Next, Khokha and Yeung discuss how the #MeToo moment has changed America’s perspective on sexual assault and what it means for low-wage workers. Although some of the janitors with whom our reporters spoke are happy the issue is getting more attention, they also are asking what took so long.
“Nobody listened to me,” said janitor Georgina Hernandez. “These are women with money, women in Congress, and they get help. They get the attention. They are women who are worth something. But I am a woman who is worth something, too.”
Finally, Reveal host Al Letson chats with Rebecca Corbett, an investigative editor at The New York Times who oversaw the paper’s bombshell exposé on film producer Harvey Weinstein. Corbett explains why her reporters succeeded where so many others had failed, why America was ready for #MeToo and what the movement’s next steps might look like.