The Time’s Up and #MeToo movements have helped shine a light on systemic sexual abuse and harassment in Hollywood and across the country. And while these campaigns have done much to empower women in the entertainment industry, there are still many workers in less high-profile positions who face sexual harassment every day.
Women employed in the hospitality, waitressing, trucking and delivery industries spoke with ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer about the harassment they face from those in authority and the customers they serve in a new special report, My Reality: A Hidden America. During six months of reporting, women far and wide—from rural America to urban centers—share their stories about the physical and verbal abuse they experienced and the continued fear of experiencing it once again. By telling their stories, these women hope to enlist the help of colleagues, bystanders and men to help bring an end workplace harassment. Sawyer also hopes to empower grassroots organizations who are working to find solutions.
“As we traveled the country, working women told us the hidden reality of their lives. The secrets of workplaces without cameras and red carpets,” Sawyer tells PEOPLE. “There are concrete things these American workers hope everyone from Hollywood to Main Street will do.”
Many of those interviewed said if they reported the misconduct they encountered, they were met with disinterest or even retaliation from higher-ups. Some worried that if they reported the harassment, they would end up losing their jobs, which would put the well-being of their families in jeopardy.
In one case, a hotel housekeeper said male guests often believe she is “included in the hotel price” in response to the men who have appeared naked when she arrived at their door. Another woman emotionally recalled a time she was sexually assaulted while waitressing at a popular restaurant chain, her first job as a teenager.
“I can’t imagine a 16-year-old girl working there and not knowing what to do and being so afraid,” the woman told Sawyer. “I don’t want them to get away with it anymore.”
My Reality: A Hidden America will air during an April 20 special edition of 20/20 on ABC (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET).