…By the time the inquiry concluded, 71 additional women came forward with complaints deemed credible by the justice department. In December 2014, the DOJ filed a federal lawsuit against Four-County.
……Every year, hundreds of state and federal civil lawsuits are filed against landlords, property owners, building superintendents and maintenance workers alleging persistent, pervasive sexual harassment and misconduct, covering everything from sexual remarks to rape. This includes so-called “quid pro quo” sexual harassment, wherein the perpetrator demands sex in exchange for rent or repairs.
…The Laurinburg case illustrates a larger point of concern – housing authorities and agencies who disburse federal housing benefits are not obligated to record or report the number of harassment complaints they receive each year.
… There has never been a comprehensive national survey of tenants to track the frequency of sexual harassment in housing, or to determine where or to whom it occurs most often. Most advocates and experts believe poor women and women of colour are disproportionately affected, though that is based mainly on experiential evidence and a single, 30-year-old study. Advocates say victims who are undocumented or who do not speak English are also easy targets, as are women fleeing domestic violence.
…The BBC filed a Freedom of Information Act request in May of 2016 for HUD complaints of sexual harassment going back to 2010, in the hope of parsing out any trends. A year and a half later, the request has yet to be met.
…The BBC requested data from state civil and human rights agencies and found many cannot easily report how many of their housing cases involve allegations of sexual harassment each year. Of the state agencies that did provide that information, the number of cases per year were in single or low-two-digit numbers. California was the exception, recording dozens of complaints each year, including 159 complaints in 2015.
Lawsuits brought in the private housing market can be settled in complete secrecy, since defendants often demand confidentiality agreements, not unlike the nondisclosure agreements Harvey Weinstein reportedly used to keep women from speaking publicly.