Assembly Bill Aims to Protect Female Immigrant Janitors From Sexual Assault

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SACRAMENTO -- A single mother of three told FOX40 she was raped by a supervisor while working her job as a janitor and threatened with deportation.

"There's no escape because you're working and he's just behind your back," Leticia Soto said.

Soto's daughter, Leticia Velez translated for her Wednesday night at a screening for the PBS Frontline documentary "Rape on the Night Shift." The film was shown at the Citizen Hotel in downtown Sacramento as part of an effort to raise awareness for California Assembly Bill AB 1978, which aims to amend a current labor code to provide more protection to female immigrant janitors.

"She just remembers that he tore her blouse apart and started touching her," Velez said.

"It makes me angry, but it also motivated me to want to do something about it," Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez represents California's 80th assembly district in south San Diego. She authored AB 1978 and says it will protect female janitors in several ways: by ensuring female janitors who are often immigrants know their rights and know who to contact in the event that they are assaulted in the workplace, by forcing job supervisors to be trained on appropriate conduct, and holding employers and contractors liable for adequately responding to assault reports by putting their licenses at stake.

"We've heard time and time again about women who complain to their company and they get moved to a different building with the same supervisor. And this is trying to clear that up, to make clear what the law is and this is what happens if you don't follow the law," Gonzalez said.

Velez said it was hard to hear her mother recount her rape and ongoing history of abuse, but it empowered her to learn from her experiences so that the cycle of abuse stopped with her.

"Her courage is so amazing and it just shows me that if she can speak up about it then so can I," Velez said.

To learn more about AB 1978, click on the link below:

http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB1978

 

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