This morning, I read a thought provoking New York Times article about sexual assault against female farm workers.
Coinciding with the Norm McAllister scandal in Franklin County, the message seemed very timely.
Even when undocumented labor is not involved, farm work is dirty, low-wage labor that falls primarily to teenagers and economically unstable adults. Among this population, women exist on the lowest rung of vulnerability.
That suspended senator McAllister still insists he “did nothing wrong” says even more about the culture that allows him this delusion than it does about the man himself.
This is not a far-off issue affecting only immigrant laborers in the American southwest. Even though Mr. McAllister’s story is the most sensational in recent memory, for years I have heard rumors of mistreated wives and other women who live under the masculine thumb of dairy farming.
A senator and a respected pillar in his community, one must assume that Mr. McAllister is representative of the culture from which he has emerged.
He hasn’t even hinted at remorse. The passion he brings to absolute denial that he has done anything wrong suggests that in whatever community he thinks he belongs, the standards of that community are very different from what we would expect them to be.
That means that some frank conversations are long overdue in Franklin County.
This is a wake-up call that health professionals, spiritual advisors, educators and local media would do well to heed.