Thursday, July 17, 2014

Most young scientists experience sexual abuse or harrasment in field work

Scientific American   She was a young, enthusiastic graduate student when she traveled to her research site outside a rural town in a foreign country. She had spent years immersed in her research and, as is the case with many young scientists, the field study was a vital opportunity to gain experience and advance her career.

The harassment started with intimate questions about her love life and sexualized comments about her body. At first, she even joined in the banter, trading insults with her mostly male colleagues. She was already uncomfortable, then colleagues started joking about selling her into prostitution. Pornographic photos began to appear in her private workspace.

When she walked unaccompanied through the nearby town, catcalls and the groping hands of local men followed. At work, she felt only marginally safer. The joking had spiraled out of control. When she confronted her professor about it, he told her she was being overly sensitive, their relationship deteriorated, and he eventually revoked his promise to fund her through graduate school.

The scientist posted her anonymous story to University of Illinois anthropology professor Kathy Clancy's blog on the Scientific American website in 2012. The story is one of several Clancy has posted on the blog and is also, according to new research led by Clancy, a disturbingly common feature of scientific field research.

A survey of 142 men and 516 women across scientific disciplines found that many of them suffered or witnessed sexual harassment or sexual assault while at work in the field. A report analyzing the data, published yesterday in the journal PLOS ONE, found that 64 percent of survey respondents said they had experienced sexual harassment. More than 20 percent reported that they had been victims of sexual assault.


  1. I really don't know why this is relevant to anyone reading this blog, as the opening paragraph reads: she traveled to her research site outside a rural town in a foreign country. Unless that country is England or Israel, but I highly doubt it.

  2. I think it is relevant for a completely different reason. When we see how a distinguished, formerly exemplary, educator or rabbinic counselor behaved inappropriately, it can bring us not give the Torah its proper respect - since people who were teaching it behaved this way. An article like this helps to put it in perspective.

    1) The perpetrators probably represents less than one percent of our educators and rabbinic counselors.

    2) The level of misconduct of the two people mentioned recently (EM and DW) - while unequivocally wrong and completely unacceptable - was limited to touching "affectionately" (actually, that "affection" is probably close to murder and certainly destructive).

    Compare it to the honorable scientific world. 20% are victims of abuse or harassment. 64 % admit to witness sexual harassment.

    Compare it to our world. We are still way better off as Torah-true Jews.We still must do all we can to protect ourselves, and rid ourselves, from even one case of abuse,

    (I don't know if this was Rabbi Eidensohns intent, but this is the relevance it has for me)

  3. I didn't realize it needed to be spelled out - isn't it obvious?

  4. Yes, the rest of the story is, meaning the survey and the general information. I guess that the opening story caught my eye and I ignored the rest.

  5. Is it possible the article is mixing organic apples and GMO apples? In some "primitive" cultures (sometimes actually advanced cultures that haven't debased themselves as some others have), all kinds of safeguards are in place to prevent harassment women who don't want to be harassed. These safeguards also may preclude entry into certain professions. Enter the "liberated, 'Westernized', "feminist" with her "[---] the torpedoes , full speed ahead" attitude expressed in her dress and speech, and it's confusing to some of the local men: there's resentment to the ignoring of the taboos and mores of the local culture, and there may be a reaction of "if it looks like a woman inviting attention, it must be a woman inviting attention." Throw in the reality in some cultures that the women in that culture actually like and expect some level of sexual attention through speech and touch, and Voila!, we've whipped up a recipe for micro-Kulturkampf.

    It works the other way, too. Someone from a country where friends who meet routinely hug and kiss coming to the U.S. may react by thinking how distant people are. There's a book published years ago that was for people visiting the U.S. that broke down American-style humor into its elements to make it comprehensible to them. The State Dept. has specialists in protocol to train their personnel, and even the President gets briefed when he meets foreign dignitaries.


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.