News / USA

Assault Cases Focus Attention on Maids' Vulnerability

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, right, with his attorney Benjamin Brafman, is arraigned Monday, May 16, 2011, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, right, with his attorney Benjamin Brafman, is arraigned Monday, May 16, 2011, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York.

Multimedia

Peter Fedynsky

In recent weeks, two high-profile former bankers have been arrested on charges of sexually assaulting hotel maids in New York City. The cases highlight a danger faced by maids, many of whom are seen as vulnerable, poor and anonymous women. Dozens of hotel maids lined the sidewalk to jeer former International Monetary Fund chairman Dominique Strauss-Kahn as he arrived in court Monday for arraignment on charges of sexual assault.

They shouted, “Shame on you” as he exited.  The maids came in solidarity with the alleged victim.  One of them, Biviana Vasquez, said they have a basic demand. “We need respect and justice.  That is all what we are looking for, because we are working to survive like everybody else," she said.

On May 29, New York’s posh Pierre Hotel was the scene of another alleged sexual assault involving the former chairman of Egypt’s Bank of Alexandria, Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar.  He too was arrested on charges of abusing a maid.

Many hotel maids in America are immigrants.  Strauss-Kahn’s accuser is a widowed 32-year-old from Guinea raising a 15-year-old daughter.  

Dorchen Leidholdt of Sanctuary for Families, a group that helps abused women, paints this portrait of the alleged victim based on her frequent meetings with Guinean women. “If she is typical, she would be somebody who is extraordinarily hard-working, who is doing everything to support herself, and her daughter, and very likely also sending money back to family members in Guinea to help them as well," she said.

Sanctuary for Families Counselor Mariama Diallo says predators often exploit fears that immigrant maids have of losing their jobs if they report an assault. “The criminal is going to think like that, ‘Oh, if I do this to her, maybe she does not know how to make a police report, maybe she is undocumented and she will not come forward because of her immigration status to report," she said. "Or maybe, because she is so needy she will just let me do that.’"

The vulnerability of maids behind closed doors is an issue being seized by hotel worker unions to help protect them against harassment and assault by guests.  Security specialist Anthony Roman says hotel management can do things to help maids. “They involve technology, management procedures and protocols, and good security management.  Those are things unions can fight for in terms of hotel workers and other domestic positions," he said.

One of the proposed technical solutions is a panic button, an electronic device that would send an alarm in case of trouble.

Whatever the outcome in court, the Strauss-Kahn and Omar cases have focused attention on the plight of hotel maids, who hope the attention will result in better protection against dangerous guests.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid