Kathryn "Kate" Clancy - professor of anthropology
July 18, 2014

Sexual Harassment, Assault Are Common On Scientific Field Studies

University of Illinois

A survey of 142 men and 516 women with experience in field studies in anthropology, archaeology, geology and other scientific disciplines reveals that many of them – particularly the younger ones – suffered or witnessed sexual harassment or sexual assault while at work in the field.

A majority of the survey respondents (64 percent) said they had experienced sexual harassment (inappropriate sexual remarks, comments about physical beauty or jokes about cognitive sex differences, for example). And more than 20 percent reported they had been the victims of sexual assault (unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature, including touching, physical threats, or rape).

The survey and analysis, reported in the journal PLOS ONE, comes after a preliminary survey offered evidence that many of those engaged in biological anthropology field research – most of them younger women, but also men – were sexually harassed and/or assaulted while conducting field research far from home.

“Our main findings – that women trainees were disproportionately targeted for abuse and felt they had few avenues to report or resolve these problems – suggest that at least some field sites are not safe, nor inclusive,” said University of Illinois anthropology professor Kate Clancy, who led the new analysis. “We worry this is at least one mechanism driving women from science.”

Study co-authors are Robin Nelson of Skidmore College; Julienne Rutherford of the University of Illinois at Chicago; and Katie Hinde of Harvard University.

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