The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Business

November 1, 2013

Watercooler: She doesn't want to be a victim again

Q: In graduate school, I was sexually assaulted by a student from another school. I didn't tell anyone at the time because he was friends with my adviser, alcohol was involved, and those who knew something had happened thought it was consensual. Eventually, I sought counseling and tried to put it behind me. To this day, I've told only my husband and closest friend.

My attacker and I went into the same field, in which women are underrepresented and collaboration is important. During the past 10 years, I've seen him occasionally at professional events; I've kept my distance, and other than a "hi" from him there hasn't been any interaction.

Now I've been invited to a meeting that will include social obligations with this person and others. Some attendees are big names in our field, so declining would hurt my career.

Do I grit my teeth and work with this person, at great cost to my mental health? Do I decline and tell my supervisors why? They're all male and part of the field's "good old boys" culture, so I'm not comfortable discussing personal issues with them. While my immediate supervisor would probably try to help, I'm not sure I want him to know this about me.

I've thought about returning to therapy, but part of me just feels angry that I have to spend more time, energy and money dealing with this intrusive presence in my head.

A: So your choices are (1) keep mum and work with your attacker at the risk of re-traumatizing yourself into a career-derailing breakdown; or (2) tell your bosses what he did and run the risk of being interrogated, disbelieved, subjected to humiliating speculation about your morals and motives, and marked as a troublemaker in a field where you're already a minority.

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