Sexual harassment by researchers during field expeditions is surprisingly common, with 21 percent of women in a new survey reporting that they had experienced "physical sexual harassment or unwanted sexual contact."
Kathryn Clancy, a bioanthropologist at the University of Illinois, has been using her Scientific America blog (where she goes by Kate) to report confidential interviews with women who say they've been sexually harassed in the field and generally told that any attempt for redress against the perpetrators could destroy their careers. Most have chosen not to name names.
Most recently, she spoke at an ethics panel at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists about a survey in which she and her colleagues found alarming rates of sexual harassment occurring during field research. Clancy details the results in an April 13th post at her blog.
You might think the press would be all over these reports, but that doesn't seem to be the case. In Science, John Bohannon reported on Clancy's talk at the anthropologists' meeting, both in a blog post and in the magazine. Jef Akst also covered the story for The Scientist, as did a scattering of others. But most of the big media were absent, as far as I can tell, despite the issuance of a press release by the University of Illinois.
How could this be so widely ignored? Because people don't understand what field work is? Because scientists are somehow different, and the usual rules don't apply? The idea of a superior making unwanted sexual advances to an employee should be a story we are now all familiar with, and one that should generate news, whether it occurs in an office in Manhattan or a tent in the Kalahari.
The major media missed a big story here. But there's still time…
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