My dissertator group has often offered me sympathy on my struggles to write about people who are still living. Human subjects, anonymity, confidentiality, ugh, it boggles the already near-exploding mind.
But my research has recently become complicated by the fact that I know the area and some of the people I study well. Two of the things my dissertation discusses are 1) sexual harrassment and discrimination faced by women in workplaces that were, initially, largely composed of white male supervisors and black female line workers and 2) ways women work together, outside of formal processes, to resist this and other forms of harassment, poor treatment, and being defined by others as solely workers (denying the importance and salience of their roles outside the workplace) and sexually available (by virtue of a large portion of the workforce being black single mothers).
In my interviews, the following situation has come to light. There is one man in a supervisory position who allegedly routinely harrasses women for sexual favors. He is said to have had sex with line employees in company offices, in parked cars, and at local hotels on break. His hands and eyes, according to one employee, are always "busy." One woman claims to have reported him to his supervisor, to no avail, as the two men are friends. Some women constantly threaten to "turn him in" but don't, for fear of their jobs.
So they bond together and fight him in other ways. They do not approach him singly; if they must go to his station (not really an office), they go in pairs. They warn new hires about him. One woman, who has a reputation for not taking shit, has allegedly threatened to do him bodily harm if he touches her again (apparently, he placed his arm around her shoulder and whispered something suggestive in her ear). And finally, they have begun reporting his actions to plant management.
You are probably not shocked. I cannot say, truthfully, that I was either. Here is my problem: this man is the significant other of someone I know.
Someone about whom I care deeply. And while she does not fool herself about him, she does not know the extent of his alleged actions, that his job is eventually going to be on the line.
In some ways, I want to tell her. But I am bound by the promise of confidentiality. Right?
She does not read this blog. Yes, I am sure. I have three IRL friends/family who know her, who do read this blog, but they already know of the situation, from family members who work at the plant. It is an open secret, apparently, one that I knew something of, I will admit. But I did not know the extent or how much he is feared, either.