A new investigation by the BBC has uncovered scores of cases where women allegedly endured sexual harassment or may have been forced to do sexual favors to avoid eviction or secure housing.
It is a pattern that BBC News reporter Jessica Lussenhop found is under-documented by state agencies. Lussenhop speaks with host Frank Stasio about women in Laurinburg, North Carolina who were allegedly sexually harassed or faced predatory sexual behavior by two employees of Four-County Community Services, a local housing agency that distributed vouchers from the federally subsidized Housing Choice Voucher Program.
On the magnitude of the sexual harassment case in Laurinburg, North Carolina:
This case came to my attention – it was one that was brought up to me repeatedly as I spoke to housing advocates and lawyers who take these kinds of cases. For one because it was the largest monetary settlement that the U.S. Department of Justice has ever gotten for one of these cases, but also because of the sheer number of victims. The allegations that were made were really horrific.
On a Laurinburg resident allegedly being told to perform sexual favors to pass a home inspection:
She had to pass a housing inspection in order to be able to move into this home permanently. And she alleges that that housing inspector was, sort of right off the bat, pretty explicitly asking her for sexual acts in exchange for his signature on this inspection.
On the vulnerability of women who speak out against abusive housing authorities:
No one would believe her at first I should point out. I think a lot of the women when they make these complaints are not believed right away because, you know, someone like Khristen has a criminal background, and inherently people don’t want to believe them when they say they’re facing this kind of abuse.