U.S. Attorney’s Office Hosts Roundtable on Sexual Harassment in Housing
Roanoke, VIRGINIA – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division hosted a roundtable in Roanoke today for community organizations, United States Attorney Rick A. Mountcastle announced.
The event included representatives from legal aid offices, fair housing organizations, shelters, transitional housing providers, and local law enforcement agencies. Each organization was asked to attend because they often work with Roanoke’s vulnerable populations, clients of whom often become victims of sexual harassment in housing.
“The goal of today’s roundtable was to open a dialogue about sexual harassment in housing. This form of harassment, while not discussed as much as sexual harassment in the work place, can be just as pervasive and damaging to its victims,” U.S. Attorney Mountcastle said today. “We are proud to be one of the first districts in the country to hold this type of event and look forward to working with our community partners toward making progress in the future.”
While most people are familiar with the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, harassment also occurs in the housing context, and the Fair Housing Act prohibits it. Sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, and others with power over housing often affects the most vulnerable populations – single mothers, women who are financially unstable, and women who have suffered sexual violence in their past. And the victims often do not know where to turn for help.
The Justice Department brings cases each year involving egregious conduct, including allegations that defendants have exposed themselves sexually to current or prospective tenants, requested sexual favors in exchange for reduced rents or making necessary repairs, made unrelenting and unwanted sexual advances to tenants, and evicted tenants who resisted their sexual overtures.
In 2017, the Justice Department recovered for harassment victims more than $1 million in damages. Many instances of sexual harassment in housing continue to go unreported. The Justice Department’s investigations frequently uncover sexual harassment that has been ongoing for years or decades and identify numerous victims who never reported the conduct to federal authorities.
The Justice Department’s initiative seeks to identify barriers to reporting sexual harassment in housing, increase awareness of its enforcement efforts – both among victims and those they may report to – and collaborate with federal, state, and local partners to increase reporting and help women quickly and easily connect with federal resources. The Department encourages anyone who has experienced sexual harassment in housing, or knows someone who has, to contact the Division by calling (844) 380-6178 or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.