If You’ve Been Sexually Harassed
The recent anonymous post by a female theoretician about her experience of sexual harassment and rape, made it very clear that we (the TOC community) are not immune to evil (also see our previous post and a post by Boaz).
I believe that there is much that we can do as a community. Perhaps not to prevent the acts of the most egregious offenders but to prevent what we could refer to as the “harassment by a thousand cuts” that the anonymous post described. The cumulative impact of numerous unprofessional and harassing behaviors. I will discuss this further in a future post, but today I would like to ask: what are the resources available to those that have been sexually harassed? Based on discussions with experts at Stanford (that generously shared their knowledge and wisdom), I must say that things are still very complicated and that obtaining justice or even protection from retaliation is not easy. I want to share an important article that tries to answer this question from a legal perspective. I’d like to make an additional point that even if misconduct happens in a professional context (or even semi-professional context) outside your home institution, you are very likely to get legal support from the relevant members of your home institution. You should be aware though, that faculty and stuff in most institutions will have legal obligations that may force them to take additional actions (like reporting what you tell them to appropriate authorities).
I also want to make a point about psychological support. If you have been harassed, the support of family members, friends, colleagues or anybody you trust may be powerful. Nevertheless, you should consider consulting a trained expert as their professional knowledge and experience may make a huge difference. Universities and other institutes usually offer access to such professional support and there are numerous other (often anonymous) support options. If the readers have knowledge or recommendations please add them in comments.
A final important aspect is the professional impact, which could be daunting. This, again, is where we as a community should do more and I am aware of multiple discussions on how to do exactly that. I plan to further discuss it in the future, but for now I want to point to a depressing but important document: a database of harassment in academia, based on Karen Kelsky’s post and presented with the help of David Karger here.
Please use the comment section for additional pointers and suggestions.
Not directly related, but it would be nice to see suggestions for what people can do to change environments that support or encourage social or intellectual aggression (in which people don’t necessarily make sexual comments, but for instance ignore/talk over women or put others’ work down). These kinds of toxic environments normalize harassment and erode the trust required to seek help when something truly devastating happens.