Skip to main content

“They Talk Like That, But We Keep Working”: Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Experiences Among Mexican Indigenous Farmworker Women in Oregon


In order to examine the experiences of sexual harassment and sexual assault among indigenous and non-indigenous Mexican immigrant farmworkers in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, a community–academic participatory research partnership initiated a study, which included focus groups, conducted and analyzed by skilled practitioners and researchers. The themes that emerged from the focus groups included direct and indirect effects of sexual harassment and sexual assault on women and risk factors associated with the farmworker workplace environment, and the increased vulnerability of non-Spanish-speaking indigenous women due to low social status, poverty, cultural and linguistic issues, and isolation. Recommendations for prevention and improved services for vulnerable women will be discussed as well as limitations and future research directions.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    Over the past decade, the Oregon Law Center has represented a number of agricultural workers, including indigenous farmworkers, in a number of discrimination (sexual harassment/assault) cases throughout the state of Oregon, in response to complaints of verbal sexual harassment, graphic images, assault, retaliation for complaining about harassment, and quid pro quo.

  2. 2.

    This partnership included Oregon Law Center, Northwest Treeplanters & Farmworkers United, Oregon Health Sciences School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and Virginia Garcia Health Center. This article presents results from a qualitative descriptive study designed to describe the experience and knowledge of, and attitudes about sexual harassment and assault of indigenous Mexican women farmworkers.


  1. 1.

    Farquhar S, Shadbeh N, Samples J, et al. Occupational conditions and well being of indigenous farmworkers. Am J Public Health. 2008;98(11):1956–9.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    EEOC. Press release: Willamette tree wholesale sued by EEOC for severe sexual harassment, retaliation. 2009. Retrieved from:

  3. 3.

    Khokha S. Prosecuting harassment on California farms. National Public Radio, 2006. Retrieved from:

  4. 4.

    Waugh IM. Examining the sexual harassment experiences of Mexican immigrant farmworking women. Violence against women. 2010;16(3):237–61.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Krieger N, Waterman PD, Hartman C, Bates LM, Stoddard AM, Quinn MM, Sorensen G, Barbeau EM. Social hazards on the job: Workplace abuse, sexual harassment, and racial discrimination: a study of black, Latino and white low-income women and men workers in the United States. Int J Health Serv. 2006;36(1):51–85.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Krieger N, Chen JT, Waterman PD, Hartman C, Stoddard AM, Quinn MM, Sorensen G, Barbeau EM. The inverse hazard law: blood pressure, sexual harassment, racial discrimination, workplace abuse and occupational exposures in US low-income black, white and Latino workers. Soc Sci Med. 2008;67:1970–81.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Viswanathan M, Ammerman A, Eng E, et al. Community-based participatory research: assessing the evidence. Summary, evidence report/technology assessment: number 99. AHRQ Publication Number 04-E022-1, August 2004. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. Retrieved from:

  8. 8.

    Corbin J, Strauss A. Qualitative research: 3e. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage; 2006.

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Krueger RA, Casey MA. Focus groups: a practical guide for applied research. 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage; 2009.

    Google Scholar 

Download references


The Project Against Workplace Sexual Assault of Indigenous Farmworkers was funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Local Funding Partnerships. The authors would like to acknowledge the work of Bonnie Bade, PhD, California State University San Marcos, and of Nancy Glass, PhD, MPH, RN, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. They would also like to thank the Project’s community educators Marcelina Martinez, Carmen Gonzalez and Cecilia De Jesus and Oregon’s indigenous farmworkers who participated in the creation of the research questions, in the focus groups, and in the analysis of data resulting in this publication.

Conflict of interest

This study was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jeanne Murphy.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Murphy, J., Samples, J., Morales, M. et al. “They Talk Like That, But We Keep Working”: Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Experiences Among Mexican Indigenous Farmworker Women in Oregon. J Immigrant Minority Health 17, 1834–1839 (2015).

Download citation


  • Indigenous
  • Mexican
  • Farmworker
  • Women
  • Sexual harassment
  • Sexual assault