Earlier this summer we saw a heartening backlash on Twitter to comments by Nobel laureate, Tim Hunt, when he declared at an international conference that the "trouble with girls" in the laboratory is that "You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry." The hash tag #distractinglysexy showed a solidarity and sense of humor among female scientists and support by many of their male colleagues, deriding the ridiculousness and insensitivity of Hunt's statement, however much he tried to pass it off as a joke.
A much more sobering report just out is one of rape by a Ph.D. student's advisor. It is rare for someone to go public about such matters, and in fact, it started nearly 20 years ago. Unfortunately various forms of sexual harassment that may or may not escalate to rape have not been extinguished from the hierarchical relationships that exist among students and mentors or supervisors and subordinates. This story emphasizes the isolation and helplessness felt by the victim. We may think this couldn't happen to us, but take a close look at the photo of her lab space and what do you see?
The ESA reminds all registrants for this year's meeting that there is a Code of Conduct expected of all participants. Every university has a similar policies and procedures, and employees are often required to undergo mandatory training to help recognize and know how to deal with reports of such issues. If you think you are the recipient of harassment, please share the problem with someone you trust and help get it stopped before it worsens or spreads.