#MeToo: Dutch professor speaks out about sexual abuse in science

Vanessa Evers
Vanessa Evers. Photo: Vanessa Evers / Facebook

Inspired by the public outrage around reports of American film producer Harvey Weinstein sexually abusing numerous actresses, and thousands of women sharing their experiences on social media under , Professor Vanessa Evers of the University of Twente decided to speak out about sexual abuse and harassment in the science world. "I thought: damn this does not just happen to beautiful actresses in Hollywood, but also to people like me", she wrote on UToday's website, AD reports. "Sexual harassment happens in all worlds."

In around a thousand words, Evers candidly shared her story of sexual emails, porn on work computers and intrusive professors. Evers repeatedly fell victim to explicit sexual harassment from someone in a position of power and implied intimidation due to a"lack of social skills". Not at UT but in the past. She did not tell anyone that she was going to do this. "I was afraid I would not do it anymore", she said, according to the newspaper. "I have to do this. Someone must be the first to speak in science."

"In my case, it was a vice president at the Boston Consulting Group, where I worked in the beginning of my career. During a dinner, he asked if I shave under my armpits. Then, while the whole table was laughing along with the joke, he pulled down my top to see what it looks like", Evers wrote. She also gave other examples. A famous robotics professor from America who wanted to give her a good massage at a conference in Japan. Sexual abuse by a fellow student. A professor who could not drive home after a party and had to "overnight". She doesn't mention names. "To protect the careers and private lives of the above mentioned assholes, unforutnately."

Evers works in a man's world, and emphasized that not all men are like this. As a female senior researcher, however, she feels obligated to pave the way for other victims of sexual harassment. She feels ashamed that she did not speak out sooner, she wrote. But better late than never. 

She wrote that she hopes she is wrong, that it's not as bad as she thinks. "But we all know that the stories are true." She calls on men to help. "If so many women have this kind of experience, then it might help to look at others' behavior and your own behavior. Am I doing well? Is this acceptable." 

Evers doesn't know what kind of reaction she will get from telling this story. "I'm scared. Scared of the criticism I'm going to get for this story", she wrote on UToday's website. "I'm nervous about what storm I'm getting into. I'm also afraid of the consequences. No, I do not feel brave."

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