Celeste Kidd said she’s one of the lucky ones.
Though the University of Rochester professor has been made headlines locally and nationally as a victim of sexual harassment who spoke out, she had support of other women who had been harassed and senior faculty who supported and joined both her federal complaint and lawsuit.
Kidd, speaking to an audience of some 150 people at Rochester Institute of Technology Thursday, said many other women are deterred from their educational and professional goals when they aren’t believed and supported.
“We can’t let these people be harassed, assaulted and talked out of their dreams,” Kidd said. “We all lose out when sexual harassment pushes women off the paths of their dreams.” She was able to avoid her harasser by shifting the focus of her graduate studies.
The brain and cognitive sciences professor spoke, along with student Lindsay Wrobel, as part of a program honoring Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. The talk was sponsored by RIT’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program.
Kidd said since she “broke silence” many students have come forward to talk with her about their experiences. Undergraduates who have been sexually abused or harassed told her, she said, they were talked out of filing a formal charge because authorities told them that learning graphic details of their abuse would cause their families to suffer, or that they wouldn’t be believed because they had been drinking before being attacked, or because another student called them a slut.
Wrobel, an undergraduate student at UR who wasn’t part of the complaint against T. Florian Jaeger but embarked on a hunger strike in protest, cited several times when student leaders were rebuffed in their efforts to change policies at UR. The Jaeger scandal is emblematic of a much larger issue than a single professor’s misconduct, she said.
“We live in a historical moment when you must question what’s you’re told repeatedly,” she said. Wrobel urged people to avoid common assumptions that the systems and procedures in place to address sexual misconduct are correct or adequate, and that those systems or procedures are actually followed.
She also noted that groups that are already marginalized, such as students of color, are not being heard on such issues.
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