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If You Want Normative Reporting, Reporting Needs to be Independent and Anonymous

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Please forgive me for the quickie posts this week. I have bigger ones planned for the next two weeks.

I don’t have time to fully unpack this, but I think the Science Online community could stand to read this article (and the associated links therein that tell the backstory):

On Prosecutors Having Survivors of Assault Arrested: It’s Not a Zero-Sum Game

The folks at #scio14 are having hushed conversation after hushed conversation about Bora and our community more broadly. I’m also hearing that there are explicit conversations about harassment policies, appropriate conduct, boundaries, and reporting. I just want to remind everyone that reporting harassment isn’t a chicken and egg issue where we can endlessly discuss which comes first: creating the supportive environment that enables reporting, or reporting itself. Yes, there will always be some folks who will decide to report in the face of all sorts of personal, career, and physical risks. But moving towards a workplace culture where reporting is normative behavior cannot happen before the workplace has safer ways of reporting and zero tolerance for bad behavior.

So I would encourage those of you at #scio14 this week to make your conversations less hushed, and to start to talk about how one might create an independent, anonymous reporting mechanism for harassment. Some of the encouragement I am hearing that people need to report feels a little victim-blame-y. If we aren’t setting the reporting mechanism up for success we can’t expect people with the least safety and the most to lose to suck it up and tell someone when they have been harassed.


Kate Clancy About the Author: Dr. Kate Clancy is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois. She studies the evolutionary medicine of women’s reproductive physiology, and blogs about her field, the evolution of human behavior and issues for women in science. Find her comment policy here. Follow on Twitter @KateClancy.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. tuned 12:41 pm 02/28/2014

    Harassment reporting is a double edged sword.
    It has a proven ability to destroy careers and lives from malicious falsehood, as well as the ability to bring justice to a situation.
    The only way it can be just is for there to be evidence.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Kate Clancy in reply to Kate Clancy 1:14 pm 02/28/2014

    I don’t think the evidence has to come with the accusation, though. The evidence gathering follows from that. We worry a lot about malicious falsehoods, when the evidence (see what I did there?) suggests these do not happen in a proportion large enough for us to have that dictate how reporting mechanisms are created.

    Link to this
  3. 3. RogerTheGeek 4:52 pm 02/28/2014

    How many false accusations actually happen during any conference or meeting? I don’t think many women would complain about someone unless it was blatant. I’m not sure how someone would collect information on these incidents especially cumulative.

    Link to this
  4. 4. NerdyChristie 2:37 pm 03/3/2014

    Kate –

    I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on mandatory reporters. My university recently had updated Title IX training, and the one bit that was a surprise to me was that graduate students on RA or GAs are now considered to be mandatory reporters—even of instances involving fellow grad students. So even if a friend comes to me in confidence about a situation, unless she or he uses hypotheticals (which we were instructed to use if we don’t want to have our stories reported), I am obligated to report what I know. What do you think of the mandatory reporting system?

    Link to this
  5. 5. dsks1977 9:26 am 03/19/2014

    “It has a proven ability to destroy careers and lives from malicious falsehood, as well as the ability to bring justice to a situation.”

    Well, as far as “evidence” is concerned, it’s worth noting that there is precious little of it to indicate that false reporting is a phenomenon worthy of major concern. On the contrary, the number of genuine victims choosing not to report harassment far outnumber the fraudsters precisely because the current system tends to punish rather than encourage such reporting.

    However, as it happens there are ways to avoid this problem regardless, and one of them is as follows.

    A commenter (h/t michaelchwe) on Monica Byrne’s “This Happened” post who shared a very interesting link about using information escrows to address harassment reporting.

    The paper he linked to is <a href="paper is worth reading on its own.”>here.

    I commented on it here. I think something like this wold do well to be tested in a conference setting, and I’m putting a short proposal together to present to our society’s gender/minority professional committee just to fish for some comments and feedback.

    Link to this

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