Disturbing experience

W

Hi everyone
I just started my phd (uk) and to cut a long story short I met a guy at the welcome day who wanted to network as he said we had some similarities with our project areas. He said we should go for a drink in the pub round the corner and thinking it was phd related I agreed. Instead, while there he forced me to kiss him and held me against a wall and wouldn’t let me go.
He’s in his last year, already a lecturer and is on the phd council and he said nobody would believe me if I complained.
The uni is really pushing networking for us first years but if this is what it involves I’m scared to network with men. I don’t know what I’m asking exactly but I’m just scared... :(

A

I tried to write a reply to advise, but I realised I cannot, realistically, do that in a useful or informed way in terms of what to do, so I just want to reassure you this is not normal behaviour on his part and not acceptable at anywhere I've worked.

This is also not normal across academia, and not something you should expect, or be afraid is, the norm. This person sounds like a horrible human being, and perhaps this is a reminder academic qualification does not imply he is any better than any other sleazy guy at a bar.

W

Quote From abababa:
I tried to write a reply to advise, but I realised I cannot, realistically, do that in a useful or informed way in terms of what to do, so I just want to reassure you this is not normal behaviour on his part and not acceptable at anywhere I've worked.

This is also not normal across academia, and not something you should expect, or be afraid is, the norm. This person sounds like a horrible human being, and perhaps this is a reminder academic qualification does not imply he is any better than any other sleazy guy at a bar.


Ok thank you. I appreciate your response. It’s just so terrifying when someone has more authority than you and they do something like this. I just feel scared because I will have to see him again at phd events at the uni.

Thanks for listening- just wanted to tell someone else in academia as I can’t tell anyone at university

Avatar for rewt

I cannot speak from personal experience but what you experienced is not normal. I think the vast majority of academia would agree what he did was wrong. He is a piece of work but you shouldn't expect everyone to be like him.

The only thing I would possibly suggest as an option is quietly tell other PhD students. In the first few months of my PhD I got told about several post-doc and lecturer "creeps" to avoid one-on-one. Nothing was ever said about what happened other than they were creeps to avoid. It is probably the most low-committal way to warn other people.

W

Quote From rewt:
I cannot speak from personal experience but what you experienced is not normal. I think the vast majority of academia would agree what he did was wrong. He is a piece of work but you shouldn't expect everyone to be like him.

The only thing I would possibly suggest as an option is quietly tell other PhD students. In the first few months of my PhD I got told about several post-doc and lecturer "creeps" to avoid one-on-one. Nothing was ever said about what happened other than they were creeps to avoid. It is probably the most low-committal way to warn other people.


I haven’t gone to any of the phd events at my university because I just don’t want to be around anyone right now including him. But I definitely want others to steer clear of him so I will try to do as you suggest. I didn’t put all the details into my post but he was aggressive and violent and said he was going to ‘turn me straight’ (I’m a gay female). I’m just wondering at this point if it really matters to ‘network’ during a phd ? Will it affect me badly if I don’t?

P

That sounds terrible. By his actions that sounds like something he has done before. You say he's a final year student and just a lecturer? The council thing is probably meaningless CV padding. That means he is really a noob in academic terms. Report him, that is at least a sexual assault and shouldn't be tolerated.

Edit - some folk saying you should quietly warn others. That is precisely how such predatory behaviour continues. These things ARE taken seriously in academia these days.

W

Quote From pd1598:
That sounds terrible. By his actions that sounds like something he has done before. You say he's a final year student and just a lecturer? The council thing is probably meaningless CV padding. That means he is really a noob in academic terms. Report him, that is at least a sexual assault and shouldn't be tolerated.

Edit - some folk saying you should quietly warn others. That is precisely how such predatory behaviour continues. These things ARE taken seriously in academia these days.


I will think about reporting him but if I do I’m not sure who to tell. Do phd students have personal tutors as I don’t want to tell my supervisors?

C

This is a very serious matter. I advise speaking to your students union, they will have student advisors who will inform you of what you can do, these people are trained to know of university processes in dealing with these matters. I speak as someone who spent many years working in professional services in universities before starting a Ph.D.
I would advise against warning other students as has been suggested, this will not help matters and could be deemed inappropriate by the University. The University should deal with this matter promptly and appropriately. Even if no action is taken in your case a complaint against this individual could stop them doing this again as once a staff member starts to get multiple complaints against them the University is more likely to take notice and this person will likely know that.
This culture of silence surrounding bullying and harassment in academia needs to end.

W

Quote From Cat123:
This is a very serious matter. I advise speaking to your students union, they will have student advisors who will inform you of what you can do, these people are trained to know of university processes in dealing with these matters. I speak as someone who spent many years working in professional services in universities before starting a Ph.D.
I would advise against warning other students as has been suggested, this will not help matters and could be deemed inappropriate by the University. The University should deal with this matter promptly and appropriately. Even if no action is taken in your case a complaint against this individual could stop them doing this again as once a staff member starts to get multiple complaints against them the University is more likely to take notice and this person will likely know that.
This culture of silence surrounding bullying and harassment in academia needs to end.


Thank you for your response. I will think about going to the student union. I’m so scared of him and I’m terrified I will be seen as a trouble maker when I’ve only just started my course. This whole phd just seems like a terrible mistake now. Maybe I should just leave.

C

These environments can be very difficult. I recently resigned from a postdoc in an area I like due to how I was being treated, I learnt from that experience and had some advice since about how to better deal with the politics in this area and people with big egos who belittle postdocs and make them feel worthless after working so hard to get to that stage. I concluded I just wasn't at a particularly good university, it wasn't in the UK. But also it does seem the postdoc level can be challenging regarding the politics and depression is common as it seems to be among Ph.D. students also. Its worth thinking about where you think the Ph.D. will take you, what you want to do after etc. I think I took a risk moving outside of the UK in my case and it didn't work out. The place is important so you should consider if where you are now is right for you.
I think it would be worth talking to your students union advice service, this should be confidential unless you choose to do something about the incident. You shouldn't be seen as a trouble maker but there can be toxic environments in academic where you may be, which is wrong I know.
I would say if you don't feel happy on your Ph.D. programme itself then I would consider other options at this stage.

S

Hi waitinggame - we hope you're finding support on this forum - but are concerned about the experience you have described and have sent a you DM. ^Sarah

D

Quote From pd1598:
That sounds terrible. By his actions that sounds like something he has done before. You say he's a final year student and just a lecturer? The council thing is probably meaningless CV padding. That means he is really a noob in academic terms. Report him, that is at least a sexual assault and shouldn't be tolerated.

Edit - some folk saying you should quietly warn others. That is precisely how such predatory behaviour continues. These things ARE taken seriously in academia these days.


This x2. This is very serious and needs to be dealt with properly. Final-year PhD students and ECRs are frankly nobodies in terms of the hierarchy, the university is not going to cover for him in the event a report is filed.

OP, hope you are finding the support you need, and I hope this guy gets kicked out.

W

Really? It’s confidential? @cat123

W

Quote From directdrive:
This x2. This is very serious and needs to be dealt with properly. Final-year PhD students and ECRs are frankly nobodies in terms of the hierarchy, the university is not going to cover for him in the event a report is filed.

OP, hope you are finding the support you need, and I hope this guy gets kicked out.


Ok that makes me feel slightly more confident because he told me he had a lot of power and is friends with the head of the graduate school. He said nobody would believe he did it and he said this because I had injuries and I suppose he didn’t want me to tell anyone anything when they saw me that way.
I’m trying to build the courage to report it - I’m just feeling so paralysed by fear about it

T

Hi, waitinggame.

Agree with all the others here. A final year student/ECR is a nobody. No one in academia would be stupid enough to protect a nobody who has done something so wrong.

If you have student union, totally speak to them. And your postgrad coordinator after that. Go get the support you need to get rid of this pervert.

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