9 December 2010, by mblanding
My latest story for Boston Magazine, investigating sexual abuse of immigrants working in Massachusetts, has just been published in the December issue. It tells the harrowing story of Luisa Gonzaga, a woman allegedly sexually harrased for years before coming forward to confront her abuser. As difficult as Gonzaga’s story is, however, it is only one of nearly a dozen cases I examined as I was putting together the piece. Due to the frustrating culture of silence that exists around these issues, it took over a year of investigating, reporting, and writing to bring this story to fruition. In several of the cases I first looked at, the women were forbidden from speaking due to court settlements. In others, charges were never filed by prosecutors for lack of evidence despite convincing stories of abuse. In another case, a woman ultimately declined to talk with me for fear it would traumatize her too much to relive the experience. Immigrant workers in Massachusetts and other states face multiple challenges in speaking out about abuse–in addition to the shame felt by victims in these circumstances, there is fear of deportation, cultural pressure from within their own communities, and insistence on confidentiality agreements by the courts that all conspire to keep them silent. That makes it all the more inspiring and impressive when someone like Gonzaga comes forward to tell her story.