Washington, DC - The Department of Justice announced the release of a public service announcement (PSA) aimed at raising awareness and reaching victims of sexual harassment in housing. To enhance the effectiveness of the campaign, the Department has enlisted the assistance of victims to share their experiences and help convey the message that sexual harassment in housing is a violation of civil rights. The Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are working together to distribute the PSA.
The Department developed a 60-second video featuring three women who were injured parties in sexual harassment lawsuits brought by the Department under the Fair Housing Act. In the PSA, the women, in their own words, share the stories of how they were harassed and the impact the experience has on their lives.
One victim featured in the video, Stephanie, had a landlord who threatened to evict her if she didn’t have sex with him. “It was something that I didn’t want to do but I had to do it. I didn’t know I had a choice at that time, but now that I do, I want other people to know that they do. [I want] other women to know that they don’t have to take this. This is just uncalled for. It’s unspeakable.” Another victim, Temika, featured experienced a landlord who subjected her to unwanted sexual advances and comments, including exposing himself to her while inside her unit, causing her to scream, “Get out!” and run out of the unit.
The PSA released today is a joint effort between the Department and HUD, designed to raise awareness and make it easier for victims all over the country to find resources and report harassment. HUD distributed the video today to all Public Housing Agencies across the United States. The video is intended to air in all national media markets and will be distributed by social media to followers of the Justice Department and HUD, and amplified by other government agencies, partners, and organizations. In addition, the PSA will be circulated to fair housing groups, legal aid organizations, and other related partners across the country. The Justice Department also previewed the PSA last week at two U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the Middle District of Florida and the District of Colorado, during separate sexual harassment in housing roundtables, engaging over 80 local law enforcement officers, fair housing organizations, universities, civil rights organizations, and other groups.
“Unfortunately, there are still too many landlords and managers who attempt to prey on vulnerable individuals. The launch of the nationwide PSAs is an important step in proliferating the stories of brave women and men across the country in order to raise awareness and help other victims,” said John Gore, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. “Our goal at the Justice Department is to make more people aware that no one should have to choose between a home and the right to be free from sexual harassment.”
“A person’s home is where they should feel the safest, not to live in fear of being subjected to sexual harassment,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “This campaign will let the public know that they have help should they find themselves a victim of this type of behavior. The Justice Department and HUD are committed to working together to address the problem and protect their housing rights.”
In October 2017, the Justice Department launched an initiative to combat sexual harassment in housing. In April 2018, the Department announced the nationwide rollout of the initiative, including three major components: a new HUD-DOJ Task Force to combat sexual harassment in housing, an outreach toolkit to leverage the Department’s nationwide network of U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and a public awareness campaign, including a partnership package with relevant stakeholders, launch of a social media campaign, and Public Service Announcements (PSAs) run by individual U.S. Attorney’s offices. The Department and HUD are working together to distribute the PSA as part of the Task Force’s coordinated public outreach efforts.