When I was in the midst of Yale’s reporting process for sexual harassment, I held on to the phrase “I don’t want this to happen to anybody else.” I said this phrase hundreds of times, both to myself and out loud to others. Part of the reason I reported was personal — I was hurt, what had happened to me was not okay and I needed to share what had happened with somebody who could do something about it.
But reporting was never about healing. Sometimes, it was the complete opposite: scary, overwhelming, beyond any boundaries of comfort. Reporting was injuring a raw wound over and over again. Healing, in contrast, was something I had to do on my own time and in my own way, both by myself and alongside the people I trusted. For me, it is an ongoing process, slow but steady. Healing was what I needed to do for myself — reporting retired professor Eugene Redmond to the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct was what I needed to do for the rest of the world.
I didn’t want what had happened to me to happen to anybody else ever again.
Thinking back, I never understood why Redmond acted the way he did. Though I was his target, the sexual harassment he enacted seemed to have nothing to do with what I said or did. I did not encourage him. In fact, I actively confronted him on multiple occasions, but neither my words nor my actions had any meaning to him. “No” was a word that lacked any power in the face of his actions. By the end of the summer, I knew that there was never anything I could do or say to him that would bring his actions to an end. That’s why I sought out the UWC — just because I was powerless against this professor didn’t mean that others had to be as well. After reading the UWC’s official report and tracing the pattern of inappropriate behavior that characterized Redmond’s interaction with students, all of what I had felt and seen began to make sense. To him, I was merely another victim, the intern he happened to be sharing his room with that particular summer in St. Kitts.
I am glad that I reported Redmond when I did, despite the emotionally and mentally exhausting process that was both terribly designed and more difficult than it needed to be. While painful, it finally ended a cycle of sexual misconduct that had existed for years and years. This investigation, as well as the thorough care and time that independent investigator Deirdre Daly gave to it, have finally put my worries — that I didn’t do enough, and that what happened to me might happen to somebody else — to rest. I feel empowered by this in some ways, how seriously my report was taken and the investigation that followed have proved that words and actions can have meaning and power.
That being said, this report also deeply saddens me. This isn’t the first time students have come forward regarding Redmond. In 1994, a group of students’ words and actions about his sexual misconduct were swept by the wayside. It took over 10 years for Yale to acknowledge this: In their most recent report they point out that “if Yale had implemented a longstanding monitoring program after the 1994 investigation, Redmond’s ongoing misconduct might well have been detected and stopped.”
This University provides professors with wealth and power so that they can pursue their research interests and mentor the next generation to carry on the torch. Wealth and power, however, come laden with responsibility. It is clear in this instance that both Redmond and Yale were not prepared to shoulder that responsibility.
The burden of student safety cannot be placed on students, if only because students have the least power in the professor-university-student relationship. Between 1994 and 2018, five students were sexually assaulted by Redmond, none of whom felt able to come forward. It took the collective voice of 20 years’ worth of survivors to finally see this cycle of sexual misconduct put to an end. University President Peter Salovey may state that “sexual misconduct and sexual assault have no place in this university,” but that doesn’t acknowledge my experience and those of thousands of other students over the years. My hope is that the University will learn from this and listen to its students moving forward. Daly’s investigation of Redmond may end here, but the University’s consideration of its role in battling sexual harassment needs to be an ongoing process.
What happened to me was not an individual incident. From July 1, 2018 to Dec. 31, 2018, the UWC received 140 reports of sexual misconduct. The fact that the UWC exists, and that the University has infrastructure in place to deal with such complaints, is a great first step — but it’s not enough if we hope to treat the underlying problem rather than mere symptoms. The future I want to see is one where reports of it decrease because sexual misconduct becomes less pervasive, one where the University vows to address such problems not only through policy, but also through changing the culture around sexual harassment.
I don’t want what had happened to me to happen to anybody else, ever again. My only hope is that the University feels as strongly as I do.
Bri Matusovsky graduated from Yale College in 2019.