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Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is under no circumstances tolerated in all working environments, including fieldwork and research cruises. Everyone is encouraged to speak up about inappropriate and unjust behavior or make use of the formal channels provided by MARUM and the University of Bremen (see below "Contact"). MARUM will follow up every formal report of incidents.

sexual harassment


According to the German law, sexual harassment is defined as unwanted, sexually explicit conduct, including unwanted sexual acts and requests for such acts, sexually explicit physical touching, remarks of a sexual nature and unwanted display and visible display of pornographic images, has the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of the person concerned, in particular if an environment of intimidation, hostility, humiliation or insult is created (General Equal Treatment Act, AGG, esp. § 3). Sexual harassment can take many forms, ranging from subtle behavior to criminal offences and can happen to both women and men. It includes, for example,

  • Suggestive and embarrassing remarks about external appearance, e.g. body shaming, inappropriate compliments
  • Unwanted physical contact and intrusive behavior, physical advances, e.g., pats or pinches on the bottom, kisses, unwanted hugging or holding
  • Showing, displaying, and sending (e.g. by email) pornographic material
  • Sexist remarks and jokes, e.g. cat calling
  • Stalking, i.e. repeatedly following, monitoring, surveilling, harassing, threatening, or intimidating someone including by telephone, mail, electronic communication, or social media
  • Blackmailing or forcing someone into sexual relations, including with promises of benefits or under threat of disadvantages
  • Physical assaults, sexual assault and rape

The possibility of unintentional and intentional sexual harassment may increase during research expeditions. These are extreme situations in which a group of people is at sea or in the field for an extended period of time, working under high pressure to achieve their goals and, often under strenuous conditions. Moreover, many expeditions are characterized by small group sizes, reduced privacy due to spatial restrictions, stronger dependencies among colleagues, and limited options to keep physical distance from one another.


Awareness: Be respectful, mind your boundaries and those of others, and be aware of power dynamics. Even if you do not experience some behavior as uncomfortable or threatening, others might not experience it quite this way.

Act: Be a responsible team member - look out for each other! It is your duty to act when you witness a boundary-violating situation. Take appropriate actions and do not be afraid: it is better to act than to do nothing. Try bystander intervention strategies from the “5 D’s” (Distract, Delegate, Document, Delay, Direct). Examples can be found at https://www.ihollaback.org/bystander-resources/

Consent: Only ‘Yes means Yes!’ Consent to sexual activities requires an affirmative agreement of both persons. Take No! for an answer. Any lack of explicit positive feedback (lack of protest, or resistance, or silence) must be considered a “no” and should not be followed up with further advances.

In case of discrimination or harrassment

Speak up: Do not hesitate to resolve the violating situation. That is, explain to the respective person that their behavior is unwanted or talk to another person about it. This takes away the “private” or “secretive” character of the situation and helps you to gain control. Reactions such as ignoring or avoiding the harasser or dealing with the situation jokingly are less effective.

Keep records: Document the incidence, e.g. date, place, and time, and any witnesses. Collecting evidence such as letters, emails, images, calls recorded on an answering machine, text messages on your mobile, etc. strengthens your position and provides important evidence.

Seek help: Reach out to people you trust to seek support as soon as possible. However, to address a specific concern, it is important to speak with someone in a position to help you.

Offer support: If you have witnessed a violating situation, offer your support to the affected person. Studies show that the observations of witnesses add to the process of resolving the situation in question and provide emotional support to the affected person.


Your immediate superior (head of working group, chief scientist) should be notified of the incidence. If you do not want to talk to a member of your working group or a participant of an expedition, the following contact persons are available at MARUM: