Kayla Webley Adler of Marie Claire magazine has just published an article recounting the history of the SAFE13 study about sexual harassment and assault in fieldwork sciences: “‘It Gnaws Away at Me’: Female Scientists Report a Horrifying Culture of Sexual Assault”.
On field sites with clear codes of conduct and supervisors who enforced the rules, women thrived, but on the sites where rules did not exist or were ambiguous and there were no consequences for wrongdoers, they found instances of unwanted flirtation or physical contact and intimidation, verbal sexual advances, sexist jokes and comments about physical appearance, forced kissing, attempted rape, and rape. One respondent said field site leaders insisted on conducting conversations while naked. Another said the head of her field site “would systematically prey on women” to the point that some women in her group chose to sleep on the floor in the same room rather than their own beds: “I had to serve as a kind of bodyguard.”
The details uncovered in the course of this research have been outrageous. We must work to make scientific research safe for everyone, including local communities where the research happens, local collaborators, students, and early career scientists.
I recommend this article and plan to assign it for students next semester to highlight the importance of this issue.