Disclosing surviving sexual assault in job materials to contextualize recent performance?




In our August “how can we help you?” thread, an anonymous postdoc writes:

In the last stretch of my PhD, I survived a sexual assault. I was able to finish and defend my thesis and to start my planned research postdoc despite that. However, I haven’t been productive in the first 6-8 months of my postdoc because I was recovering and going through the criminal system. A year after the event, I have now almost fully recovered; I don’t have PTSD, but I am still in therapy. As I am approaching the job market season, I was wondering whether this is something that can/should appear in my job materials or disclosed by a letter writer to explain the slow pace of my research. All my letter writers know what happened, but I haven’t been public about that. Having gone through that experience might also influence my future work in social philosophy and shape my interest for service work (e.g., university committees on gender-based violence).

This is an important (and delicate) query. Although as a search committee member I haven’t seen any candidates disclose being survivors of sexual assault, I have seen job materials that disclose personal hardships in cover letters, and my sense is that it can helpfully contextualize a candidate’s file–particularly if they are otherwise good candidates for the job. However, given that this is a special case, I think it would be really helpful to hear from search committee members here. What do you think the OP should do? Would it be helpful for them to mention it in a cover letter? Would it be advisable for their letter writers to discuss it? Or, do you think the OP would be best served as a candidate not mentioning it at all?

A couple of quick notes to guide discussion:

I ask that only search committee members weigh in, along with perhaps past or present job candidates who have been though similar circumstances.
I ask that all commenters approach this topic with due sensitivity to the OP’s traumatic experience. Readers should feel free to offer honest advice and explanations for it, as the OP is asking for sound job-market advice. However, please be kind and otherwise mindful that they are a survivor of gender-based violence.

Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More