Yesha Callahan

Women In Baltimore Public Housing Were Forced To Trade Sex For Basic Repairs

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On Friday, lawyers for 19 women who alleged that employees of Baltimore’s public housing agency demanded sex in return for critical housing repairs announced a settlement for all victims of sexual harassment in public housing.

Besides a financial award between $6 million and $7.5 million, the settlement required Baltimore to fire and ban all the abusers from Housing Authority property and move the plaintiffs into livable homes. The Housing Authority also created 50 new maintenance positions with new policies and procedures, and cut down their backlog of repairs from over 4,000 to 1,500.

The lawsuit, filed in September, alleged that maintenance men demanded sex from women living in public housing before they would make repairs to their “deplorable conditions,” which included rodent and insect infestations, lack of heat, mold, and electrocution risks. It also claims that at least one employee threatened a woman with violence if she didn’t give into his demands for sex, while another offered a woman cash for sex. The men also allegedly tried to intimidate women out of requesting repairs by sexually harassing them.

“These victims are too poor to move out and relocate their families,” the complaint says. “Consequently, they are left with the impossible choice of either succumbing to unwanted sexual demands in order to save themselves and their children from life-threatening conditions in their homes, or, living in squalor.”

Reportedly, women of nearly all ages — under-aged to in their 50s — and both the disabled and able-bodied were targeted by the harassment and abuse. “These affronts are about power and control over the most vulnerable members of society, including the poor, the young, and the disabled,” the complaint states.

“The practice of demanding sex for repairs is so widespread that it is a pattern of practice by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City,” the complaint says, “whose housing officials have repeatedly turned their backs on the most vulnerable city residents.” It claims that officials ignored “numerous” complaints and let the men keep their jobs for years: an email with a complaint from one of the plaintiffs reached the housing authority’s inspector general as early as December 31, 2013. More than 10 complaints were filed.

Since the lawsuit was filed, two maintenance employees, Clinton Coleman and Michael Robertson, have been fired. The head of the city’s public housing authority, Paul Graziano, has also set up a hotline for victims to call and anonymously report future abuse. Even so, residents have called for Graziano’s resignation.

This is just the latest abuse to be uncovered in a series of harrowing discoveries about the squalor those living in Baltimore’s public housing have been subjected to, from lead poisoning to widespread foreclosure and eviction.

  1. January 11, 2016 - Reply

    Of course this would go unnoticed for years, because when it comes to black women, no one cares! And that is a FUCKING SHAME.

    That could have been my mother or aunt.

    • January 11, 2016 - Reply

      @jay@cha

      Yes and is banning the only punishment these rapists got, they were not arrested and listed as sex offenders?! Some of the victims are minors, so none of these thugs were arrested for pedophilia-just banned from those projects. And only two were fired. Wow.

      • January 11, 2016 - Reply

        @vintage3000

        Unfortunately, this is how the criminal injustice is. Those rapists should be in prison for a very long time.

    • January 11, 2016 - Reply

      @jay@cha

      or sister! and co-sign!! Let this have been white women, u know heaven and earth would have been moved to get justice, Gloria Allred would have been ON THE CASE!!

  2. January 11, 2016 - Reply

    this is just said and heartbreaking. im sure this goes on in more places and i hope more victims come forward to state their cases….i have no words…this is why i hate humans…well what we have become

  3. January 11, 2016 - Reply

    We black women matter. We have worth, value, and meaning as human beings. To be victimized by males of our own race, who are suppose to protect, cover, provide etc, just angers, sickens and disgusts me.

    • January 11, 2016 - Reply

      @OSHH

      Agreed. This reminds me of how after the earthquake in Haiti, there were widespread reports of Haitian women who were raped by Haitian men. All of these people were terribly affected by the crises- no food, water not even shelter. Yet these savages still were deviant enough to prey on women who were left alone and defenseless. I read there were emergency assistance centers where the people handing out food would sometimes escort women back to their makeshift homes because there were so many instances of males snatching food from women travelling alone. I never read about widespread rape during the aftermath of the tsunami in Asia, nor after any other natural disaster. And I read about this also on a lesser scale in New Orleans after Katrina. There are black males who will use any opportunity to violate a Black woman or girl like these gd beasts demanding sex for doing their jobs.

      • January 11, 2016 - Reply

        @vintage3000

        This is sick, it’s like some of these black males like to see black women hurting or abused.

    • January 11, 2016 - Reply

      @OSHH

      You should have more up votes than this OSSH! We have to protect each other.

  4. January 11, 2016 - Reply

    It is so sad that the voices of black women in this story have been ignored for years. The rapists are not in prison (which is a total injustice), and the black women victims of sexual abuse suffer life long trauma. This story should make anyone furious. This isn’t just happening in Baltimore. It happens all over the nation where corporate exploiters harm the lives of black people and the poor. It has happened internationally where Afro-Brazilian women have been assaulted. That is why there was a recent protest in Brazil made up of thousands of black Afro-Brazilian women who are fighting back against rape, sexual assault, and police brutality. Capitalist exploitation has caused foreclosures, lead poisoning, and other evils in the world. The lives of black women matter. Their human rights are sacrosanct and when one person harms one single black women, it is an attack on all of us. No stone should be unturned involving this tragedy. Anyone directly or indirectly involved in this abuse should be punished.

  5. January 11, 2016 - Reply

    These slum lords are on the same level as that human feces Daniel Holtzclaw.

  6. January 11, 2016 - Reply

    The ever increasing violence, sexual assault, and crimes against women, particularly Black Women, is alarming and disgusting there is clearly an epidemic happening that we need to address NOW. I hope these women get justice and that these pigs rot in jail and hell.

    • January 11, 2016 - Reply

      @binks

      Amen

    • January 11, 2016 - Reply

      @binks

      Right on Sister.

  7. January 12, 2016 - Reply

    sadly this is not unusual, in any society when women are not protected by their natural protectors predators are bound to prey on them in many ways.

    • January 18, 2016 - Reply

      @trueletterson*vwfone@gmail.com

      I think you are right. It’s not just black women, but women in general, in many societies, have a difficult time without their natural protectors. I’m a black woman, but I surely would not want to live in some place like Saudi Arabia without a male “protector” who really cared about me and wanted to insure my wellbeing.

      • January 18, 2016 - Reply

        @Jacqueline D. Stephenson

        your comment is spot on point, I must say women are equality important or maybe more important in some ways and there is a reason nature gave us both male and female, but as a friend of mines old grandmother use to say, she died at the age of 102 years old about 15 years age and she was a very wise old lady full of “wit”, she use to say in her broken English “where there is no man [real man] there is no rule” meaning their is no protection, discipline and order in the house thus community.

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