While most workers endangered as a result of the
Bakken oilfield boom are men, who may work on unsafe rigs, drive improperly loaded
trucks on overcrowded roads, and drill for oil under unsafe conditions,
the boom has also meant increasing danger for women—and for women
who are not directly involved in the oil patch. Although women are represented
among those who drill, drive, and maintain the Bakken oil patch, conditions
in the Bakken have meant an increasing lack of safety for women in the
overall community as well.
Sexual crimes such as assault have spiked in the past few years. There
has also been a surge in prostitution. However, while many would argue
that prostitution is a victimless crime—and historically, common
when large groups of single men are present--there is also widespread
fear that sexual
trafficking (in which the women may not be free to leave) is increasingly present
as well. A first-person
account last year by an
Atlantic reporter who wrote on her experiences as a store clerk in the Bakken noted
that this was a fear on the part of the customers. These issues are not
only traumatic for the women involved, but for the small communities in
which they take place, which prior to the oil boom were notable for safety.
Perhaps the most dramatic case was the 2012
murder of teacher Sherry Arnold by two men who had recently arrived in the area
to work in the oilfields. Drugs were involved in her abduction and murder,
and the killers are serving an extensive jail sentence.
We fight for safe conditions and worker's rights in the Bakken.