It’s an enduring but overlooked problem: America’s agricultural workers, among the lowest paid and most vulnerable in the country, face persistent threats of sexual harassment, physical assault and even rape on the job.

Now, you can watch and discuss our documentary on the issue, “Rape in the Fields,” Wednesday at UC Davis.

In collaboration with the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and reporter Grace Rubenstein, I spent a year traveling the country to dig into cases and hear workers’ stories of workplace sexual abuse.

Though the exact number of people who have been affected is impossible to calculate – the federal government estimates that two-thirds of sexual assault and rape victims never report the crime – hundreds of agricultural workers from across the country have complained to the federal government about being harassed at work.

Our reporting resulted in a multiplatform project that included articles, radio segments, illustrated videos and the first TV documentaries to be produced in both English and Spanish. The films were aired on PBS’ FRONTLINE and on the Spanish-language network Univision.

The English-language version of the documentary, “Rape in the Fields,” will be screened at UC Davis on Wednesday at an event sponsored by the Chicana/o Studies Department and Women’s Resources and Research Center.

I’ll participate in a question-and-answer session following the film, along with Juanita Ontiveros, community education and outreach advocate for the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.

I hope you’ll join us for the discussion that will touch on questions such as why the problem has flown under the radar for so long, what can be done to address the issue and how we reported out a subject that no one – neither growers nor farmworkers – wants to talk about.

Event details
Date: Wednesday, July 31
Location: UC Davis Student Community Center, Multipurpose Room
Time: 2:10-4:25 p.m.

Bernice Yeung is a reporter for Reveal, covering race and gender. Her work examines issues related to violence against women, labor and employment, immigration, and environmental health. Yeung was part of the national Emmy-nominated Rape in the Fields reporting team, which investigated the sexual assault of immigrant farmworkers. The project won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. Yeung also was the lead reporter for the national Emmy-nominated Rape on the Night Shift team, which examined sexual violence against female janitors. That work won an Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award for investigative journalism, and the Third Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition. Those projects led to ​​her first book in 2018, “In a Day's Work: The Fight to End Sexual Violence Against America's Most Vulnerable Workers.”  

A former staff writer for SF Weekly and editor at California Lawyer magazine, Yeung has had her work appear in a variety of media outlets, including The New York Times, The Seattle Times, The Guardian and PBS FRONTLINE. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a master's degree from Fordham University, where she studied sociology with a focus on crime and justice. She was a 2015-16 Knight-Wallace fellow at the University of Michigan, where she explored ways journalists can use social science survey methods in their reporting. Yeung is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.