I’m beginning a new research project about professor-on-student sexual harassment and sexual assault on university and college campuses. Since the publication of Billie Wright Dziech and Linda Weiner’s excellent book The Lecherous Professor in 1984—30 years ago—discouragingly little has changed. Sexual harassment and sexual assault remain prevalent at universities and colleges, and students who are taken advantage of are reluctant to report violations. Many students don’t even consider themselves harassed, but, instead, see themselves as consenting adults. As they continue to mature into adulthood, however, their view may change; instead of idolizing and idealizing a professor, the student who once felt fortunate to be singled out may interpret the professor’s behavior as inappropriate at best and, at worst, as indefensibly selfish, arrogant, and more about exercising power than about affection, respect, or love.
Harassed students’ mixed feelings and confusion contribute to the severe under-reporting of incidents. I want to tell the stories of individual students who have been sexually harassed or assaulted by professors or perhaps senior staff in various ways and who have handled the violation in a variety of ways. I’m looking for people to interview who have an experience of this kind that they’d be willing to share. I’d be willing to keep the identities of my subjects confidential by using pseudonyms and even masking the institution where the violation occurred. I’m aiming for institutional and geographical breadth, and I hope to include same-sex violations. Nor do I want to confine these stories to recent events, but hope to represent victims whose experiences are long past, but whose trauma remains; such people have also had time to reflect.
If you or someone you know may be interested in speaking with me, please contact me.