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Tuesday
May312011

High-Profile Sexual Assault Cases Shed Light on Vulnerable Housekeepers

(Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After alleged sexual assaults by two high-profile international businessmen in New York City in the last couple weeks, many are saying it is time to give more protection to hotel workers, especially vulnerable housekeepers.

"These working women are afraid if they complain about a guest they won't be heard, they will be ingnored, they will be shamed," Lorena Lopez, a spokeswoman for the Housekeeper Equality Initiative, told ABC News.

Former head of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn is being held under house arrest in Manhattan after a grand jury indicted him on seven charges relating to an alleged sexual assault on a hotel maid at the Sofitel in midtown Manhattan on May 14.

Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar, 74, a prominent former Egyptian bank chairman, was accused Sunday of allegedly sexually assaulting a housekeeper at the posh Pierre hotel in New York City.

Sources say on Sunday at 6 p.m., Omar called to have tissues delivered to his $1,000-a-night suite. A 44-year-old hotel maid alleges that when she arrived at the room, Omar, wearing pajamas, asked her to leave the tissues on a table. He then allegedly locked the door and tried to kiss and grope her.

The maid said she told Omar, "I am not here for that," at which point he allegedly stopped and asked her for her phone number. After slipping him false digits, the maid said she was able to get away, and immediately reported the incident to supervisors.

Omar was arrested on charges of sexual assault and unlawful imprisonment.

Hotel union officials insist requests of sex, sex for money and even outright assaults can all go underreported because housekeepers, who often come from immigrant backgrounds, are scared to lose their jobs.

"They're put in a very difficult situation," Lopez said. "If they speak out, their job might be on the line -- the guest is always right. They're afraid to speak out and complain to management because they know they might be disciplined and might be found guilty."

Hotels also don't always act promptly to address complaints of sexual assault, she said. In the case of the maid allegedly attacked by Omar, the superintendant to whom she reported the incident only noted it in a log book. It was only after another supervisor saw the entry the next day that police were contacted.

Union officials say hotels should make sure housekeepers work with another person in close proximity, doors are left open during cleaning and maids have the option of wearing long pants instead of dresses.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio