On Friday, Stephanie Szvan posted a pair of anonymous accounts of sexual harassment by Christie Wilcox at ScienceOnline events. The second of those accounts relates to me.
While it is true that I was not comfortable in the situation described in that post, and still feel it was wrong, the event happened within a larger context for which I am to blame.
Beginning after the ScienceOnline 2011 conference, Wilcox and I began a flirtatious relationship over text that crossed the line into sexual suggestion. This was consensual. There was no physical affair or contact, but what was said over our phones was inappropriate for my marriage.
I was ashamed of what I had said, and wanted this aspect of my relationship with Wilcox to stop. That is why I forcefully and repeatedly said no during the night in question at ScienceOnline 2012. My rejection was not respected, but I was afraid to speak out or approach conference leaders. Given what had transpired over text, I thought no one would believe me and I wanted to forget about what happened. So I said nothing.
But even after initially withdrawing, the same sort of texting relationship eventually started again by the fall of the same year. While this was also consensual, I felt guilty after every exchange and wanted it to end. I had made a terrible mistake. I started to distance myself from Wilcox. This led to an argument and a second uncomfortable situation in February of this year at a bar after a speaking event in New York City.
Yet even after this incident, which ended the over-the-line texts, I still kept in touch, hoping that these events would fade away and be left behind. Being prominent members in the same community, I wanted to stay on good terms with Wilcox. But through all this, I simultaneously felt ashamed of my actions and that I could not speak out about how uncomfortable the past interactions made me. I had created my own disaster. My guilt and unease have only intensified as our community has been torn apart by instances of sexual harassment over the last week.
My relationship with Wilcox was never physical. It was only in texts. The details of what Wilcox and I said to each other over text are between my wife and I. That is our issue to deal with and ours alone. I continued an inappropriate relationship far longer than I should have. I ask that my wife and I be allowed to deal with my mistake privately, between each other.
And even though my answers of “No” were not respected, I deeply regret that what transpired between Wilcox and I was not resolved privately. I should have said something from the very beginning and have only my own fear to blame for how far all of this has transpired. I have asked that Szvan’s post be taken down, and I am sorry that these events have came out in a public way that only continues to do harm to all of those involved.
- Brian Switek