Anabella Aguirre, a janitor who was a victim of rape and sexual harassment in the workplace eight years ago, will become a coach to educate her fellow janitors in preventing this type of abuse under a new state law in California.

AB 547 (Empowerment Act of Surviving Concierges) from the San Diego assemblywoman, Lorena González obliges contractors of the California janitors to provide partner-to-partner education about harassment and sexual assault at work. It is expected to become a model for other industries in preventing violence against the most vulnerable workers.

“This law is excellent because it will give us the right to give training in the workplace. Something I did not receive when I was abused by a supervisor, ”says Anabella, an immigrant from Guatemala who has been working as a janitor in Los Angeles for 19 years.

Anabella Aguirre, survivor of sexual violence. (Aurelia Ventura / The Opinion)

"Many times we don't report because we don't speak English well, because of our immigration status or because we need the job," he says.

Anabella fought for the AB 547 law to be passed in Sacramento by participating in marches and hunger strikes. "We no longer want anyone to remain silent as I did but to speak and break the silence“, Emphasize.

Under the new law that will take effect in 2021, she will be one of the trainers who will talk to women and male janitors about the importance of reporting, don't shut up and don't be afraid.

"No matter the language and status, they should know that there are laws that protect them from working in clean and safe places from sexual abuse and assault," Anabella says excitedly.

"There are thousands of Anabellas who are afraid to report, but not anymore," he remarks.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez celebrated with the custodians the approval of a law of her own that gives them weapons to fight against sexual assault in the workplace. (Aurelia Ventura / The Opinion)

The new law is considered a historic triumph in the country and for women of color that constitute the main work force in the cleaning of buildings and offices.

"This law is so that janitors can fight against sexual abuse, and teach each other," says Assemblywoman Gonzalez.

"For the most part, janitors are undocumented. That's why it's important for coaches to be people like them so that they know their protections against sexual harassment at work", it states.

In general, the janitors work night shifts and in isolation, which puts them in a vulnerable state to sexual predators.

The colleague-to-colleague training model established by law is considered the most effective method to break the fear of reprisals, the victim's fault, the cultural and hierarchical barriers that put the custodians at risk and prevent them from reporting the Abuses at work.

Veronica Lagunas celebrates that janitors like her will have more protections against sexual abuse in their workplaces. (Aurelia Ventura / The Opinion)

Verónica Lagunas, who has been working as a janitor for 15 years, says that about five years ago she experienced a situation of harassment.

“In some offices that I had to clean, there was a very kind gentleman, but then I began to notice that he was hiding to take pictures. I felt uncomfortable, but I didn't give it much importance, ”he recalls.

However, when on one occasion the man left him in the garbage collector, a sheet with his photo surrounded by scanned bills was scared.

“I told my supervisor and she told me that I couldn't do anything because it was a very large account. I tried to arrive at different times to clean, but the man was always there, ”he says.

When Veronica did not endure the harassment, she complained again to her supervisor, and the only thing she did was to change her floor. "I didn't meet my stalker again, but I felt like it was my fault what had happened," he says.

Veronica says that many people don't know that taking photos without consent is stalking and harassment.

"This training will tell the custodians what is illegal in the workplace. It is also the employer's responsibility to prevent sexual harassment and abuse, and establish prevention policies," he says.

Under the new legislation, accredited promoters will teach their female partners their legal rights.

Concierge Carmen Sánchez says that many women are afraid to make public that they have been sexually harassed and raped in the workplace. (Aurelia Ventura / The Opinion)

Carmen Sánchez, a janitor of Salvadoran origin who suffered harassment about two years ago, says that these abuses can be perpetrated even by her co-workers not only by those who have power over them as supervisors or tenants of the buildings. "It is a serious problem, but we are happy because this law gives us enough weapons to protect ourselves," he says.

Currently the Center is Enough in the only entity established and qualified to provide colleague to colleague education under the law AB 547.

Yamileex Rustrian, organizer of the Ya Basta Center, says the training has to be done in person and at least two hours. “It will be the same janitors who have gone through the harassment who will give the training,” he completes.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here