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There's Safety in Numbers: Creating a Campus Advisors' Network to Help Complainants of Sexual Harassment and Complaint Receivers

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 5 Issue: 8 Dated: August 1999 Pages: 950-977
Liz Grauerholz; Heidi Gottfried; Cynthia Stohl; Nancy Gabin
Date Published
August 1999
28 pages
This article discusses efforts at one university to establish a quasi-formal network to create a safer environment for victims of sexual harassment to report their experiences and for persons receiving complaints.
The network was prompted by recognition that most victims do not report their experiences to officials, often due to concerns about safety. Persons receiving complaints also have safety concerns. Eleven faculty and staff members at Purdue University established a Sexual Harassment Advisers' Network as an alternative model. This network was formal in the sense that it was recognized by the institution and used its resources and informal in that it maintained a distance from formal grievance procedures. The network at Purdue originated in the School of Liberal Arts and initially consisted of 11 members and 1 liaison to the dean of the school. All had been informally involved in resolving sexual harassment complaints for years. All received formal training to handle cases of sexual harassment. The network has recorded more than 100 individual complaints and spoken to many student and faculty groups during its 7 years. The network has been effective in making the institution more responsive to concerns about sexual harassment. It has also unexpectedly empowered complaint receivers. The network continues to evolve in its identity, sometimes feels co-opted, has experienced conflicts over member roles, and continues to encounter new dilemmas rooted in its members' multiple roles. It is not certain whether it has increased victims' sense of personal, social, or professional safety any more than any other formal or informal process might. Nevertheless, its benefits are numerous and its costs are small. Notes and 44


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