My name is not Helen
My Worst Moment: I was raped in a hotel room at a conference – he was a well-respected leader in my field.
I went to meet this person for a ‘professional’ chat about research, the potential of an idea I had shared with him. It was my first international conference, there were lots of leaders in my field, lots of opportunities to for me. I waited in the lobby, he called down and asked if I could I just come up to his room for a minute, he was finishing up a ‘work thing’. I went upstairs. I had no reason to think [foolishly] there was a nefarious intention and I said no.
I said NO.
After that I tried to convince myself we were friends, he was going to help me on my career path you see, that’s what he said. I tried to wash away the ‘no’ with ‘maybe I wanted it too’. In my attempts to befriend this man and others around him, I found myself in his location, in his office – he was ‘my friend’ after all. I said no again. In the middle of the afternoon, his colleagues behind a thin veil of frosted glass, I said NO again.
He said he was ‘my friend’, and provided affirmations to himself that he didn’t really take something that wasn’t his to take. I am not his friend.
I thought I was strong. I thought that I could say ‘NO’ and I knew what it meant, that I wouldn’t tolerate the manipulation and exploitation of my body, of my mind. I didn’t understand what ‘power dynamics’ really meant after that. I didn’t understand the psychology of confusion that swamps your gaslit mind, when your rapist is in your professional circle and knowing that your future in your chosen field is at stake if you raise your voice.
I Have Given Up On Coming forward with the accusation publicly. He will not suffer, I will, my career will be over, I will be the one shamed.
I’m Afraid: That the societal conditioning of us, the gaslighting of women, is so engrained and insoluble that it will remain a barrier for myself and others coming forward, that those perpetrators will remain clueless to their assaults and live without consequence.
Something You Should Know About Me: I am a successful ECR academic, I can confidently talk about my research. I love what I do, and I do it because I want to make the world a better place, and the biggest thrill I get is working with other people who want to change the world too. I have always tried to vehemently stand up for other women and call out sexism when I see it, and inappropriate behaviour towards others. More than anything, I want to help promote kindness in STEM.
Is There a Bright Side? Along with positive personal development and understanding from unpacking that event, I have made a conscious effort in my professional world to surround myself with strong women mentors and collaborators, which has been incredibly empowering. Working with women, who are passionate, capable, humble and compassionate is the thing that gets me out of bed, it makes me love my work.
My Fight Song:
My Secret Weapon: Setting long term goals and working only towards them.