Feds launch major crackdown on sexual harassment by landlords

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday unveiled a new public service announcement, first seen on Hill.TV's "Rising," aimed at combatting sexual harassment in housing. 

The PSA is a part of the DOJ's joint initiative with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) intended to protect tenants from sexual harassment from workers at rental properties, including landlords, maintenance workers and security guards. 

The 60-second video features three women, who have dealt with sexual harassment from their landlords. 

"He was like, well, if you don't sleep with me then the sheriffs will be putting you out on Monday," Autumn Weaver, who was sexually harassed while living in public housing in Kansas City, Kan., says in the video. 

"I felt like no one would listen to me. He had more power than I did. I was just a tenant. He was a property manager," she said. 

Weaver, who had received eviction notices, told Hill.TV that her property manager said he could help her in exchange for sexual acts. 

"He was like 'well I can make this disappear,' " Weaver told co-host Krystal Ball on "Rising." "He was like 'why don't you come sit on my lap, and I was like 'no,' " she added. 

"I didn't want to lose my housing because of my children," she said. "He was like ... either you have sex with me or I put you out on Monday. So I was backed into a corner to have to do that." 
 
Sexual harassment in housing includes demands for sex or sexual acts from tenants in exchange for buying or renting a residence, as well as other unwelcome sexual conduct that makes it difficult to keep living in a home, according to the DOJ.

DOJ has filed or settled 10 sexual harassment lawsuits in housing. 

Officials told The Hill that they expect this number to increase as a result of the initiative. 

“Unfortunately, there are still too many landlords and managers who attempt to prey on
vulnerable individuals," acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division John Gore said in a statement. 

"The launch of the nationwide PSAs is an important step in proliferating the stories of brave women and men across the country in order to raise awareness and help other victims,” he continued. 

The collaboration between the DOJ and HUD is in addition to DOJ's pilot program on the issue, led by the department's Civil Rights Division, which was was launched in October. 

The initiative comes as the "Me Too" movement has gained prominence in the U.S.

The movement was brought to the spotlight after women from Hollywood to Capitol Hill came forward to accuse a slew of powerful men including movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, journalist Matt LauerMatthew (Matt) Todd LauerMSNBC ripped by Soledad O'Brien after touting female anchors: 'Zero women of color in this picture' Study finds misconduct is the top reason CEOs are leaving large companies Robin Roberts, Gayle King most trusted morning show hosts: poll MORE and former Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersHouse to hold first hearing on slavery reparations in over a decade House to hold first hearing on slavery reparations in over a decade Reparations: The 'lost cause' of black politics? MORE Jr. (D-Mich.) of sexual misconduct. 

— Julia Manchester