My Worst Moment: I was struggling with my work in a graduate program due to severe health issues. My advisor suggested I speak with a much older grad student for support. He was nice and helpful at first, but this soon turned into violation of boundaries and persistent sexual harassment. When I spoke to my advisor about it, she said she could not believe he would act that way, and that I must have misunderstood or invited that kind of treatment. I worked hard to avoid this person for as long as I could, but eventually, the stress it caused exacerbated my health problems so much that I ended up taking a medical leave of absence that lasted two years. Along with my other health issues, I became deeply depressed, and frankly, I was scared to go back. He was gone by the time I returned, and I finished my requirements as quickly as possible. I will never forget that my advisor, who was another woman, didn’t believe me. That still hurts.
I Have Given Up On: Expecting anyone else to protect me, even if it’s their job to do so. No matter what anyone says, it’s clear that faculty members and other university representatives are primarily interested in preserving their reputations, pretending everything is fine, and protecting whichever party is more powerful, which is almost never the victim.
I’m Afraid: That my career will be ruined if I ever have anything truly awful to report.
This Has Cost Me: I lost two years of my life that should have been very productive.
Something You Should Know About Me: This is just one example out of many when I’ve been sexually harassed and/or received unwanted romantic overtures in an academic or laboratory setting.
Is There a Bright Side? I’m now much more cautious about what I share with people and maintaining very well-defined boundaries. Maybe that’s a good thing.
My Fight Song:
My Secret Weapon? I’ve made myself more intimidating. I’ve made myself harder to mess with. I’ve made sure that everyone knows exactly how I feel about sexual harassment, & that I will not let it slide, whether it happens to me or anyone else. I don’t think any of these should be necessary, but they’re the only answers I can think of.