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National Domestic Workers Alliance Stands with Sarah Roe as Virginia Federal Court Holds Her American Diplomat Traffickers Accountable

Washington, DC -- Yesterday, after a week-long trial, a federal court in Virginia ordered $3 million in favor of Sarah Roe, a 30 year-old Ethiopian domestic worker, who was trafficked and sexually abused by an American diplomat, Linda Howard, and her spouse. This is the second time the Howards have been held liable by federal courts for human trafficking.

Before Sarah began working for Linda Howard, she was promised a regular salary, support for Sarah’s daughter, access to medical treatment and a secure job. Instead, Sarah was forced to work without pay in abusive living conditions and subject to physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Similarly, in 2012, a federal court awarded a $3.3 million judgment in favor of another domestic worker, Jane Doe, who experienced human trafficking and similar working conditions to Sarah, at the hands of the Howards.

Below is a statement on the verdict from Sameera Hafiz, advocacy director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance and its domestic worker-led campaign, Beyond Survival:

“Unfortunately, the experiences of Sarah and Jane -- false promises, stolen wages, abuse, isolation, and other degrading treatment -- are not uncommon in the domestic work sector, which holds the largest number of reported labor trafficking cases in the United States. As we’ve learned from Sarah, Jane, and other domestic worker leaders who have survived human trafficking, seeking justice can take years, frequently with no recourse. We continue to call on the State Department to hold traffickers accountable, be they members of its own diplomatic corps or those who engage in the trafficking domestic workers on U.S. employment visas. Given the high rate of immigration enforcement in our country, the divisive and dangerous rhetoric from our top government officials about immigrants and people of color, as well as Trump’s own public condoning of abusive policing, it is critical to take action now. Domestic workers, many of whom come from immigrant communities, must overcome insurmountable barriers to come forward and report abusive working conditions. Often, the threat of deportation is used as a tool to silence those seeking justice. We hope Sarah’s victory can disrupt these prevailing conditions and encourage others to come forward to report abuse and trafficking.”

About National Domestic Workers Alliance

The National Domestic Workers Alliance is the nation’s leading voice for dignity and fairness for the millions of domestic workers in the United States, most of whom are women. Founded in 2007, NDWA works for the respect, recognition, and inclusion in labor protections for domestic workers. Through its Beyond Survival campaign, NDWA has organized domestic workers to end human trafficking, while building the voices of survivors to lead the anti-trafficking movement. The Alliance is powered by over 60 affiliate organizations—plus its first local chapter in Atlanta—of over 15,000 nannies, housekeepers, and caregivers for the elderly and people with disabilities in 37 cities and 18 states.