UAA to host #MeToo event in response to sexual misconduct investigation
Organizers of an upcoming #MeToo event at University of Alaska's Anchorage campus aim to shift the focus from the perpetrator to victims and survivors of sexual harassment and assault.
The effort is a direct response to a Title IX investigation that found reports of sexual misconduct against former UAA anthropology professor David Yesner all credible, highlighting an environment that protected a predator for decades.
"[The investigative report] raised some bad memories for people to whom stuff had happened many years ago and then there are people who had more recent cases that are still being investigated," said assistant anthropology professor Sally Carraher.
In the wake of the investigation into Yesner being made public, Carraher recognized the difficult revelations about sexual misconduct on campus would fuel an important conversation. She doesn't know why these stories are so prevalent in the world of academia, but she believes the field Yesner worked in lends itself to opportunities for predators.
"You’re out at field work and so there’s that power imbalance that has historically existed in a male-dominated space," Carraher said, "that lends itself to basically a really easy situation for somebody who is a predator or an abuser to abuse their power."
She wanted to help create an event that would give the #MeToo conversation a platform at UAA.
"Our focus from the moment we started planning it was that we want to re-center attention around supporting people and making sure they feel safe to speak their truths and ensuring that people at UAA are actually going to listen to that and do something with those revelations," said Carraher.
Anthropology faculty and the Anthropology Club are hosting, "Dear #MeToo, We hear you," an event at the Wolf Den from 6–8 p.m. Monday, April 22.
An online storytelling tool allows people to share their accounts of sexual harassment and assault anonymously, to be read aloud by a panel of readers during the event. Carraher said all students, past and present, are invited to submit their stories.
Those wishing to submit an anonymous story can do so here.
"This is a time, if you want, that you can tell us what happened to you and that it will be paid attention to," Carraher said.
The form is already receiving submissions. There's no way to know who has written stories, but the content she's read so far tells her this outlet has been needed for a while.
"It's people telling their stories about things that have happened that have nothing to do with Dr. Yesner, other things that have happened, so to me, I'm like, 'OK, this is definitely like, a broader conversation that does need to happen,'" said Carraher.
The tool will remain active through 7 p.m. Monday, in case someone wishes to share a story while at the event.
Counselors, advocates and an emotional support dog will be present, as well as a representative from the UAA Title IX office, should someone wish to make a formal report.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, resources are available on the Standing Together Against Rape (STAR) website or by calling the statewide crisis hotline at (800) 478-8999.
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