My Name is Michelle

Michelle attended what should have been a useful networking event, instead to witness and experience sexual harassment. Michelle declined to use her name or provide a photo out of fear of retaliation.

My Worst Moment: I was a PhD student in science, and I had been invited to participate in a summer school, where dozens of bright young minds would gather to network and to get a crash course in our field.

It all happened at once at the end. One of the organizers, a professor in the field at a top institution, invited a friend of his (unrelated to the school) to join us onsite. The friend hounded us, especially focusing on recent comments made by another scientist about how women cannot be in the lab because they cry and fall in love with their mentors. He kept pushing the point, even getting in the hot tub with many of the students (male and female, all easily 20-25 years his junior). I and a few other women ended up having to leave, pushing us out of what should have been a useful networking opportunity. 

Later that evening both of the men showed up on the porch where we were drinking and joined us. The professor offered to open up the “exclusive” bar onsite…because he didn’t think we were imbibing enough? Then his friend started giving unwarranted and undesired massages (shoulders and *legs*) to all of the women, working his way down the couch.

He didn’t reach me because of two people: 
1) a woman at the event who was about to get (or had just gotten) married and announced that she didn’t feel threatened by him, making herself a target by choice. 
2) a man who was sitting next to me helped me out of beig cornered and took me to the other side of the patio. 

I don’t know at what point the massages stopped, but it was after I suggested to another male participant that he should ‘save’ the next female participant in line. He got her up and took her place, only for the friend to joke about how it didn’t matter, and start giving the man a backrub. 

If that wasn’t bad enough, the professor at one point suprised me and put his arm around my shoulders. He was very intoxicated. He told me I didn’t look like I was having fun, and suggested that I drink more. At some point everyone left and I stayed outside with the man who pulled me out until early in the morning.

Later that week at an auxillary event at professors home institution, I was out with my friends and stumbled upon him, drunk out of his mind, in public, trying to hit on girls who were probably just barely old enough to drink. 

The kicker? I have been free with this story, I have not lied or covered up. But I have also never reported it in any official capacity for two reasons:
1) the school took place off campus, and the students were from all over the country. I don’t even know where to begin to report, especially considering…2) for the longest time I didn’t believe it was bad enough to report. It was just a couple creeps being creepy. I wasn’t assaulted, I wasn’t attacked, and I haven’t seen this professor again. I still struggle to submit this story because the other stories I know about are “worse”.

I Have Given Up On: Trusting male professors in social settings. I now check every conference I go to making sure that the professor won’t be there.

I’m Afraid: That my job search will be hampered because this professor will be on the hiring committee. I don’t even know if he remembers what he did. That is why I am scared of submitting a photo or using my name. I’m also terrified that by not reporting I have enabled this professor to continue harassing young women.

Is There a Bright Side: The man who pulled me out of the line is now my boyfriend. He is an ally, and has continued to support me through grad school. Also I met some fantastic women at the school, who I believe I am closer to through this shared experience.  We all have stories beyond this one night, and we’ve tried to keep each other safe and sane.

My Fight Songs: