Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It's not actually about my feelings

A couple of months ago, I posted about a fellow grad student who has been harassing me for some time. He graduated at the end of the last semester, so in theory, he should be gone and the situation should be over. Not so. The first time I came to campus after the holidays, I ran into him a half dozen times. This may be coincidental rather than stalking - I have no means of judging his intent. But it's scary. He still has access to graduate office space and computing facilities, and someone in the department has employed him as a research assistant. So, I wrote to our chair to voice my concerns.

The chair met with a university conduct officer. Apparently, my options include going through human rights (tried that and failed), speaking to the ombudsperson's office (ditto), working with the campus safety officer (which I plan to do, though I'd hoped to resolve this at the departmental level) and speak with the guy's supervisor at his other job, in the hopes of changing his behaviour there. None of the options that the chair listed included anything that would change his behaviour within our department, where he is still present.

What irks me most, though, is that my chair's response focused on what could be done to address my feelings about the situation. Not addressing his behaviour, his ongoing presence. I don't need a safety officer to speak to me and try to get me to feel less afraid. I need someone to address the actions that are making me feel afraid. This is about harassment, about intimidation, about power - not about my individual feelings.

If someone was flicking a lighter menacingly at somebody's home, you wouldn't tell the homeowner to talk to the fire department about their fear of fire. You would speak to the lighter-wielder about the dangers of their actions, and potentially ban them from the vicinity.

As a woman, I will probably always be afraid of harassment. I don't truly anticipate that changing. My fear will go away when the harassment stops.