Even months after the official release of the documentary "Rape on the Night Shift"—an investigative piece that truly gave a platform to the voices of immigrant women who have been victims of sexual assault while working late-night janitorial jobs—the creators of the doc continue to feel the ramifications of putting an ignored issue of this caliber under a gigantic magnifying lens.
To award-winning doc-maker and journalist Andrés Cediel, one of the producers of the film, it's rewarding to know that janitorial corporations like ABM, which was featured in the documentary, agreed to change some of their internal policies to ensure sexual assault allegations are handled with transparency and dignity. "In other words, they are pledging to take this issue more seriously. [It's] a big deal because they are the industry leader," Cediel says. "The fact that we have that response should have effects throughout the industry as well."
He also refers to the more-than-a-handful of times other news outlets have referenced the documentary, as well as janitorial startups that have pledged to protect their workers—again, citing "Rape on the Night Shift" as the foundation.
Good news, if you missed out on watching the doc in the past, it'll screen at the UA later this week. Cediel, co-producer Daffodil Altan, as well as Nina Rabin of the UA College of Law and director of the Bacon Immigration Law and Policy, will lead a discussion after. (Check out the event's Facebook page.)
"Rape on the Night Shift," a collaboration between PBS Frontline, Univision, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, and UC Berkeley's Investigative Reporting Program, explores the tales of migrant women—living here legally and undocumented—as they faced sexual violence from co-workers and others. At the heart is the life-changing decision of choosing to speak up against the abuse or not, as well as the environments that directly or indirectly foster sexual violence against immigrant workers. (Watch the trailer for more):
"We never convinced anybody to speak. We would talk with them about their stories but ultimately they made a decision to talk to us," Cediel says. "The main reason why they did that was because they wanted to help someone else, hoping that sharing their story might save somebody else."
"I was always very humbled and impressed by the amount [of] courage that they showed. They were able to show vulnerability and it takes a lot of strength to be able to do that. To be able to say…'I need to share this deeply personal …event of my life with everybody and let's see how vulnerable I am.' Professionally, it makes you realize what small part you are playing. Our job as journalists is really just to be able to listen and to pass the message on."
And while passing that message on, more people open their eyes to the realities of our neighbors. Individualism and ignorance are what fuel issues like the one portrayed in the documentary. We have to pay attention to our fellow humans, and question what we witness—it could lead to big changes.
"Rape on the Night Shift" is merely one of many angles in a much bigger issue, Cediel says, adding that he is now working on a doc about labor trafficking—the umbrella above the problems that unravel in this film, as well as the unofficial prequel, "Rape on the Fields," which is on migrant women working farm jobs.
"[In many] cases, [it was] mostly women being held in domestic service. The employers take away their passport; they can't leave the house...and sometimes they are held like that for years," Cediel says. "The way they end up escaping is usually because the neighbors noticed. It is not because the cops came. It is because somebody else noticed what was going on and said something. Don’t take things for granted, don’t assume everything is OK."
The free screening of "Rape on the Nigh Shift" is happening Wednesday, March 2 at the UA Gallagher Theater at 6 p.m. Don't miss out.