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*- Justice Dept. aims to tackle sexual harassment in U.S. housing -*

The U.S. Department of Justice launched a major new visual campaign Monday to bring out into the open what it sees as an under-reported issue -- sexual harassment by landlords.

The campaign is presented in a 60-second video featuring the stories of three women involved in sexual harassment lawsuits brought by the Justice Department under the Fair Housing Act.

The public service announcement, part of a Justice Department initiative launched in April, was posted on the department's YouTube channel.

The goal of the campaign is to address the issue of harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers or other people who have control over housing.

Officials say women who are poor or have limited housing options are particularly vulnerable to such harassment, which is illegal under the Fair Housing Act. It might include demanding sexual favors from tenants or creating a hostile environment.

One woman, Autumn Weaver, told The Hill she received eviction notices while living in public housing in Kansas City and her property manager said he'd help, in exchange for sexual acts.

"He was like, well, if you don't sleep with me than the sheriffs will be putting you out on Monday," she said. "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."

The campaign is a joint effort between the Justice Department and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to raise awareness and make it easier for victims to find support -- particularly now, in the #MeToo era.

"Unfortunately, there are still too many landlords and managers who attempt to prey on vulnerable individuals," said Civil Rights Division Asst. Attorney General John Gore. "Our goal at the Justice Department is to make more people aware that no one should have to choose between a home and the right to be free from sexual harassment."

The initiative announced earlier this year includes a task force, an outreach toolkit and the awareness campaign, which includes social media and public service announcements.


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