CREA struggle against Gender Violence in universities

Since the CREA research center’s foundation in 1991, one of the issues that most concerned us from the beginning was the fact of identifying that our universities were not spaces free of violence. Rather the opposite, there was a strong law of silence on sexual harassment; certain professors (catedráticos as they are called in Spain) were abusing their power counting on the silent complicity of academic authorities. What predominated was impunity with harassment, revictimization towards victims and second order sexual harassment against professors who showed solidarity with them. The few survivors who dared no to obey ended up discredited, alone, leaving the academic career, etc. There was an environment that favored the lack of protection of the academic community, students, faculty, administration and services staff. Who was harassing at the university was well known, but there were no mechanisms to stop it neither the will to face it. The founder and at that time director of CREA, Ramon Flecha decided to present the first complaint at his university as early as 1995, proposing to the rector administration to act in front of the continuous sexual harassment situations by creating those organisms and procedures that were being carried out at the universities of higher international reputation. This positioning was not free of reprisals.

As a research center, one of our main lines of research was the prevention of gender violence in all areas, including universities, led by the SAFO Women’s Group. In the search of our own coherence we decided to include in our code of ethics, a specific article mentioning that in situations of sexual harassment, we will always take position supporting the victims. This public positioning, the scientific and internationally recognized contributions in this respect, as well as the social impact that our research was generating (as for example the results of the first RTD project on Gender Violence in Universities, leaded by Rosa Valls) were fundamental to initiate the changes that are being implemented today in all universities.

However, all these progresses could not be tolerated by those who wanted to continue with the law of silence against sexual harassment. In 2004, the lobby of harassers allied themselves to start an anonymous and very aggressive campaign against members of CREA; including death threats in the early morning. This is what is known as second order sexual harassment (SOSH), suffered due to the support given to direct victims. But CREA was still dreaming of universities free of violence, where nobody would support the harasser but the victims; and instead of making us disappear and thus re-establish silence and complicity, they saw how the great international support that we immediately began to receive strengthened us; including personalities from Harvard, Cambridge or the European Women’s Lobby. This fact pushed CREA even more to continue working from science and coherence so that future generations will find more human universities. But the reprisals did not end here, in 2016 (the same day that the most famous professor denounced for harassment rejoined the university), the defamation campaign exploded again against CREA. The harassers’ lobby found support from a few journalists who positioned themselves in favor of the harassers, spreading their attacks against the victims; directly affecting members of CREA and their sons and daughters. Luckily, there are other ethical and rigorous journalists who do give voice to the victims and join the fight against harassment and the structure that keeps it within impunity. Despite the continuous campaigns of second order sexual harassment that we receive, we have broken the silence about sexual harassment in universities, and we would do it again.

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