Investigators Head to Antarctic Amid Assault Claims

( – An Antarctic research station happens to be one of the largest hubs of sexual harassment and rape allegations. McMurdo Station is a United States base run by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF’s Office of Inspector General announced that they’re sending investigators to the site in advance of a more permanent presence at the icy station.

Renée Ferranti was assigned to prevent sexual harassment and improve responses to complaints made to the NSF. She’s worked in the field to prevent abuses in the workplace for over two decades. Complainants have suggested that their concerns were ignored or downplayed by leadership in previous instances, causing the problem to get worse.

NSF published a statement last week, on November 2nd indicating that Ferranti’s responsibilities will be on implementing new policies and coordinating cross-agency efforts aimed at reducing incidents of harassment and rape at the South Pole.

The Associated Press pointed out that over half of the women at the base have claimed to have experienced harassment or assault according to the NSF’s data from last year. They further claimed that their complaints were ignored by management.

A spokesman for the NSF Office of Inspector General said they made prior trips to the site to give seminars on criminal accusations regarding inappropriate sexual behavior. NSF is planning to send a delegation of investigators for two weeks November 6th through the 17th.

Chief of staff for the inspector general Lisa Vonder Haar said they’re looking into allegations of stalking, abusive contact, and aggravated sexual assault.

Earlier this fall, staff was prohibited from buying alcohol at the station’s bars. They could still buy limited quantities from the station’s store, however. NSF representatives told the AP that the shift was to boost morale and improve welfare and wasn’t related to efforts to reduce harassment.

NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said via a statement published on November 2nd that the problem was a “top priority” for himself and the NSF and that they hoped adding Ferranti to the team would improve outcomes for all involved.

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