Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

Doe v. Penzato United States District Court for the Northern District of California (2011)

Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

Plaintiff Jane Doe (“Doe”) filed a lawsuit under a pseudonym and alleged 23 causes of action including human trafficking, sexual battery, forced labor and involuntary servitude against Defendants Mr. and Mrs. Penzato. Mrs. Penzato had offered Doe $1,500 per month, free room and board, and transportation to the United States in exchange for child care and housekeeping services. Doe accepted the offer and moved to San Francisco, California. Doe alleged that during her employment Defendants physically assaulted her, sexually molested her, threatened her with cancellation of her visa, and abused or exploited her in various other ways. She eventually left the Penzatos’ household and moved to a transitional housing residence for female victims of violence. Doe filed a motion for a protective order and requested permission to proceed with the lawsuit under a pseudonym. Doe argued that this was necessary to avoid additional psychological trauma due to the sensitive and personal nature of her claims. Further, she argued that the use of a pseudonym would help maintain the safety and anonymity of her fellow transitional housing residents. Defendants argued that because they were publically accused of sexual abuse, human trafficking, and forced labor, Doe should also be publicly exposed. Defendants also argued that they would be prejudiced by the extra effort they would have to take to keep her identity a secret. The court granted Doe’s motion and allowed her to proceed under a pseudonym, holding that Doe’s need to remain anonymous outweighed Defendants’ arguments and the public’s interest in knowing her identity. The court noted the strong interest in protecting sexual assault victims’ identities—to encourage them to report the assaults without fear of being stigmatized as a sexual assault victim.