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Diane Sawyer Talks to Female Truck Drivers About Sexual Harassment and Assault on the Road

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The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have dominated a lot of the national conversation over the last few months. Women and men are standing up and speaking up, saying that the time is up for sexual assault and harassment in the workplace.

According to The New York Times, 85 percent of women and 43 percent of men say they’ve experienced sexual harassment or assault in the workplace. That number is staggering, and some industries are worse than others.

94% of commercial truck drivers are men. Women in the trucking industry are a drastic minority, putting them in vulnerable positions on a regular basis. Diane Sawyer sat down with several female truck drivers on 20/20 to talk about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault on the road.

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Several of the drivers pointed to flaws in the training process. Before a truck driver goes out on the road alone, a trainer accompanies them to show them the ropes. Several of the women interviewed explained that those trainers — usually male— have a say in whether or not you get the job, and they often want favors in return.

Another woman explained to Diane that she had been sexually assaulted on the road by another truck driver. She, along with several other interviewees, revealed that they carry weapons with them; she takes a switchblade with her everywhere she goes — even in the shower. Other weapons included mace, razor blades, a hammer, and a police-grade stun gun.

Diane also spoke with a male truck driver, who said female truck drivers carrying weapons was an open secret. He even said even though he didn’t carry himself, he didn’t blame them; the job could be dangerous for anyone.

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“We are the backbone of America,” said a female driver. “Without us, this country stops. Everything from food to things that go into a hospital to save your life, at some point or another, that has been on a truck.”

Ellen Voie, president and CEO of Women in Trucking, explained that she would like to see an alarm system implemented into big rigs, and pressing the button would alert security or police to the drivers’ location. Implementation of these products is still in the beginner stages. She also said she would be for rear-facing cameras in the trucks for training purposes.

While individuals are putting forward the effort to protect themselves, many say they need the companies to do more. After reporting her sexual assault, the woman previously mentioned received a letter from her employer, which said they “had taken appropriate action.” The lack of communication about the result left the woman wary, hence her dependence on a knife.

Sexual assault and violence in the workplace are not unending. With people standing up and speaking up, industries will begin to see a significant shift in focus.

Time’s Up is an initiative to end sexual assault and harassment in the workplace by providing a legal defense fund for victims across all industries.

Sources: The New York Times, Time’s Up Now, 20/20