Last year, the NIH announced that at the direction of Congress, the organization would tighten rules for reporting sexual and workplace harassment by investigators funded by the NIH.
This was seen as a step in the right direction—to try to close the loopholes that have contributed to the ability of these types of perpetrators to continue in their careers and advance with no repercussions.
These new rules are meant to stop the pervasive culture of “failing up” and “pass the harasser” that has perpetuated within health care and academia for years. The hierarchal structure and male-dominated leadership in academic medicine can contribute to an environment more conducive to sexual harassment.
Academic medicine has the highest incidence of gender and sexual harassment, compared to other scientific fields with 30-70% of female physicians, and as many as 50% of medical students reporting being sexually harassed.
By implementing DARVO—an acronym for deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender—falling back on hierarchal traditions, citing the “old boys club” or discounting behavior as “locker room talk,” it often feels like accountability for acts of harassment, sexual or otherwise, is a pipe dream.
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