Tufts University Scholar Finds International Aid Workers Are Subjected to Sexual Harassment and Assault

A new study led by Dyan Mazurana, an associate professor and research director at the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University in Massachusetts, finds that many women who work for nonprofit humanitarian agencies are subjected to sexual harassment and assault. The report finds that the women are often victimized by colleagues or security personnel assigned to insure their safety.

In a survey of humanitarian workers, the authors of the study found that 55 percent of the aid workers who were women reported romantic or sexual advances and 48 percent reported unwanted touching. Many of the survey respondents said they were victimized by superiors or security personnel.

Humanitarian workers are often stationed where the rule of law has broken down, conflict is ongoing, and the connection with the outside world is tenuous — and where colleagues not only work but live together in a self-contained bubble. These characteristics are similar to other locations where high levels of sexual harassment and assault have been found, such as the military.

Dr. Mazurana stated that aid agencies need to establish formal systems to prevent, report, investigate, and respond to sexual harassment and assault, and enforce those policies. They also must hold perpetrators accountable and support survivors — including protecting them from retribution when they report incidents.

“We can’t have people assaulting and harassing others and causing people to leave their jobs,” she said. “We need really highly qualified, good men and women in these positions.”

Dr. Mazurana holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wyoming. She earned a second master’s degree and a Ph.D. in women’s studies from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The full report, Stop the Sexual Assault Against Humanitarian and Developmental Aid Workers, may be downloaded by clicking here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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