This week, for the very first time in the nearly eight years that we’ve been podcasting stories, The Story Collider is running a story anonymously.
In this story, featured in part two of our recent episode, “Help," a marine scientist describes her experience being raped by a fellow student from her lab and then having to work alongside him every day, as both academia and the legal system failed her.
At the storyteller’s request, I—along with our executive director, Liz Neeley, and senior podcast editor, Zoe Saunders—made the decision to run this story anonymously because while the storyteller felt strongly that she wanted to share her story, she has, since sharing her story live on stage here in New York, faced harassment and professional retaliation.
You probably will not be surprised to learn that I find this infuriating—that victims of sexual assault should have to fear repercussions more than rapists and the people who enable them makes me sick to my stomach. But after nearly eight years producing stories for The Story Collider, I also know full well that this is sadly the reality today for many people in science and academia.
Last June, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report on sexual harassment in science, based on decades of research. Among other striking details in the report: About half of all women in science experience some form of sexual harassment. As artistic director of The Story Collider, I cannot tell you how many scientists have privately shared with us their stories of sexual assault, harassment, gender discrimination—stories that they cannot share on our stage because their careers and their livelihoods would be threatened, or in some cases, even their health and well-being.
If you’d like to read more about sexual assault and harassment in science, our team recommends the following:
- The group 500 Women Scientists has written a great summary of NAS's report on sexual harassment in science, and there's also a quick and helpful run-down on Vox.
- In her article “Have the Sciences Had a #MeToo Moment? Not So Much," from the May 2018 issue of National Geographic, Kathryn Clancy does a great job spelling out why this problem persists in science and why abusers and harassers often don’t face consequences.
- In "Confronting Sexual Harassment in Science" from Scientific American last October, Cristine Russell details some of the measures being taken to combat this problem.
If you yourself have been a victim of sexual assault, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) has a free and confidential hotline that you can call: 1-800-656-HOPE. You can also chat with someone at rainn.org.
In our last exchange, our storyteller said to me, “I dream about the day that I am not going to care anymore about the consequences. That day I will call you and let you know that I am ready to share a second story and link them together publicly for real, with my full name.”
I dream of that day too, my friend. May it come sooner rather than later.
—Erin Barker, artistic director of The Story Collider