How does the Smithsonian’s sexual misconduct policy actually work?

Over a period of years, the administration of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and the Smithsonian Institution (SI) mishandled a confirmed case of sexual assault: as detailed in an investigative report published by The Verge, NMNH administrators lied to me and refused to provide me with reasonable accommodations to protect me from Miguel Pinto, who had sexually assaulted me in 2011. One of the main excuses that the administration used for denying me reasonable accommodations was that I had failed in my quest to file an official report with the Office of Equal Employment and Minority Affairs (OEEMA).

Recently, the NMNH administration has praised OEEMA’s reporting system, and has explained it to a certain extent in an all-staff meeting. However, two main questions remain unanswered. I e-mailed Mike McCarthy, Associate Director for Operations at the NMNH (and I cc’ed Sarah Goforth, Assistant Director of Communications), with a link to this blog post. I will update this post when I receive a response from him, so that the entire NMNH/SI community can gain a better understanding of how OEEMA’s reporting system actually works.

Question 1. How must victims communicate with OEEMA in order to file a report?

Why I’m asking. The official Smithsonian sexual misconduct policy states that the victim must contact OEEMA her- or himself within 45 calendar days of the incident, but does not say how this contact must occur — implying that reports can be made in person, via phone, or via email; however, during the investigation conducted by The Verge, SI employees said that the report must be made in person.

What needs to happen. An e-mail should immediately be sent out to the entire NMNH community clarifying whether e-mail, phone calls, and in-person meetings are allowable ways to file reports. The NMNH should lobby OEEMA for edits to the written policy so that this is made clear in the official document.

Question 2. If I had managed to file a report with OEEMA back in 2011, how would my situation have turned out differently? Would the NMNH have acted quickly and effectively to keep Miguel Pinto away from me?

Why I’m asking. During the summer of 2014, when I first began to meet with administrators (Eric Woodard, Chandra Heilman, Wendy Wiswall, and Mary Sangrey), I thought that there was a report on file with OEEMA detailing the 2011 incident of sexual assault — and apparently, all of the above-mentioned administrators also thought so. And so I was told that the administration could not keep Miguel away from me because I had not filed a police report.

In other words, when administrators thought that I had filed a report with OEEMA, they told me that the report was not sufficient cause for meaningful action; when they realized that I had not filed a report with OEEMA, they used this as an excuse for not taking meaningful action. The administrators’ contradictions have left me with no idea of what actually happens when a report is filed with OEEMA.

Clearly, NMNH administrators can protect us from sexual predators if they have the will to do so, even in the absence of a report with OEEMA: soon after my story became public, Miguel Pinto lost his affiliation with the museum. And because the museum can get rid of sexual predators even in the absence of an official report, I do not understand the function of OEEMA’s reporting system — other than providing administrators with an excuse for denying reasonable accommodations to victims of sexual misconduct.

What needs to happen. In addition to praising the official policy, NMNH administrators need to send out an e-mail detailing how this policy actually works and how the museum can or cannot protect victims depending on whether a report is filed with OEEMA.