The messages are part of Mexico’s broader reckoning with sexual harassment and assault, which in recent years has spilled onto social media with hashtags such as #MiPrimerAcoso (“My first harassment”) and #YoNoDenuncioPorque (“I don’t report because”).
The outpouring in Mexico has prompted a fierce public discussion about the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in the country’s universities, and the part that educational institutions should play in confronting and preventing such behaviour.
But change must also come from scientists themselves, says Antígona Segura, an astrobiologist at the Nuclear Sciences Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City.
The team last year published results from its survey of the steps that 40 universities and research centres have taken to ensure gender equality — including policies to prevent, monitor and punish sexual harassment and assault.
“It’s always a question of protecting the prestige of the university at the expense of the human rights of students,” says Damián, who worked at UNAM in Mexico City from 2017 until earlier this year, in a job that involved helping victims of gender violence file complaints with the university.
UNAM’s general counsel, Mónica González Contró, rejects any suggestion that her university does not adequately evaluate claims of sexual harassment and abuse.
Since UNAM put in place its protocol for handling complaints in 2016, the university has sought to ensure that victims of sexual harassment and abuse can "file a complaint without re-victimization, and with legal and psychological support during the procedure", she says.