From Postdoctoral Fellow:
During my first two years as an undergrad at a top tier research university, I worked in a prestigious lab where the PI treated me very well. The problem was that one of the techs, who was in his late 30’s or so at the time, sexually harassed me. I had worked in restaurants before (where sexual harassment is very prevalent and sadly, often it’s openly accepted) and had gotten through my time in those restaurants by putting my head down and pretending it wasn’t happening. So I attempted to do the same thing in the lab. Looking back on it, I’m horrified I didn’t realize that I had the power to report this to my PI as I’m sure he would have at least attempted to correct the situation. It’s easy to feel powerless and think that reporting something like that would cause more trouble than it’s worth, especially for a young person. After that lab moved to another institution, I joined another lab and have been through many labs since then. I have never experienced anything that blatant since then (partly I think it’s because I am very selective in the labs I join) and I went on to get my PhD, but I can imagine if I’d had to endure that experience a lot longer, it may have made me doubt my desire to stay in science, and sometimes I wonder if it affected my confidence, which I struggle with (and that causes problems in my scientific career). I also think I didn’t realize exactly how bad the situation was at the time. Years later, someone else who had been in that lab with me told me how he talked about me when I wasn’t around – it was much worse than I’d ever realized. I was completely horrified that behavior was tolerated in an otherwise wonderful lab environment.