Stella Preston

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One of the fundamental ideals the United States was built upon is that its citizens must have their rights and freedoms protected. Historically, however, there have been numerous groups of individuals who have had their civil rights infringed upon, and what is worse, not protected by the legal and political institutions of the country. What the United States is experiencing now is an increase in the widespread fight for those who have historically been discriminated against in one way or another. Citizens these days seem less apt to sit back and silently let injustices go on without any repercussions. In particular, one social fight of importance is the fight for those who have been victims of sexual assault or sexual misconduct.

All around the country, more and more men and women are coming forward about their experiences as victims of sexual assault in hopes that it sparks real change. In fact, according to a poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs research, about half of Americans (54%) say they are now more likely to speak out if they become a victim of sexual misconduct or assault. Specifically, within the housing industry, instances of sexual misconduct have garnered heightened attention and have warranted fundamental changes to be made.

Fox v. Gaines, decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, highlights the importance of protecting individuals from sexual assault or sexual harassment in any aspect of life. The holding in Fox allows men and women to seek redress for quid pro quo and hostile housing environment sexual harassment they may encounter in the housing context. By using a similar interpretation to that of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the court held, as a matter of first impression, that sexual harassment qualifies as sex discrimination under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), joining four of its sister circuits around the United States.