HOUSTON, Texas. Sexual harassment in an office can be a traumatic experience for victims who suffer from it. While it can be frightening and challenging to report sexual harassment to human resource departments, many offices have human resources personnel on staff who can offer some support to victims. However, what happens when victims suffer sexual harassment in the field where there isn’t support or help? How do victims seek justice? In many cases, they just don’t.
For women in the sciences and in other fields where they must spend days away from home, often in close quarters with other co-workers, sexual harassment and assault can be devastating. Outside Magazine recently reported on sexual harassment faced by women in the sciences. Oftentimes, the women report that they have been harassed by their mentors or by professors who have tenure. The academic system makes it very difficult for women to speak up because often women who speak up are speaking out against the very people they need to write them letters of recommendation for grants and other jobs. In fact, women in academia rarely speak out against their professors because these are the figures who can make their careers—or end them. The community is small and it can be very difficult to fire or confront a person with tenure. Worse, women who rebuff the advancements of their superiors may face repercussions for doing so. Either they fall silent, or suffer through the harassment alone.
For women who perform field work in remote areas, it can be difficult to escape a situation where they no longer feel comfortable.
In science in particular, the problem is pervasive. One researcher performed a survey of field scientists and found that 72% of scientists had seen or heard verbal harassment in the field, while 64% percent reported having experienced sexual harassment. Additionally, women reported that they weren’t always given active roles in the field. Men would perform the experiments with women taking notes. The fact that these roles fell along gender lines serves to reinforce gender stereotypes and gender inequality. A lack of established codes of conduct for field work could also be contributing to the problem.
According to the Atlantic, fieldwork may be a place where abuse can thrive, because of the very nature of the work. Abusers already have their victims isolated. The abuse victims want something the abusers have a monopoly upon: whether it’s power, jobs, prestige, or money in the form of grants. Because victims are isolated, they can’t easily report the abuse or escape the cycle. When they return home, they may be so emotionally broken down that they feel that they can’t fight back.
If you’ve faced sexual harassment on the job, you have rights and you can speak up. Moore & Associates are employment lawyers in Houston, Texas who can work with individuals facing a range of challenging workplace situations. Visit us at https://www.mooreandassociates.net/ to learn more about your rights and options under the law.
Moore & Associates
440 Louisiana Street, Suite 675
Houston, TX 77002