Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin has revealed she was repeatedly harassed by a colleague at UCD over the course of two years.
Opening up about her experience for the first time, Aoibhinn told the Irish Times that she wanted to shed light on the harassment of female university academics and students in Ireland.
The broadcaster started working in UCD in late 2014 on a temporary assignment, before she was contracted as an assistant lecturer after she completed her PhD.
Aoibhinn said Prof Hans-Benjamin Braun began harassing her in 2015, and it continued for two years before she decided to officially report the harassment to the Gardaí.
1.Sexual harassment in academia is a serious and systemic issue that is too often left unchecked. I spoke with @IrishTimes about my experience of sexual harassment by a colleague @ucddublin
— Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin (@aoibhinn_ni_s) September 5, 2020
Over the course of two years, Aoibhinn reported multiple inappropriate incidents involving the professor to UCD’s HR department, but the harassment continued.
The incidents included Mr Braun repeatedly asking her out on dates, interrupting her meetings, turning up at her office in an agitated state, persistently calling her mobile phone, and sending her unsolicited emails.
A particularly scary incident in May 2015 involved Braun showing up at a hotel in Cork demanding to see Aoibhinn, while she was on a weekend away with friends.
The professor had to be removed from the hotel twice by Gardaí, before Aoibhinn and her friends received a Garda escort out of the county.
Once again, Aoibhinn reported the incident to HR, who advised her to work from home for a few days.
After many more incidents involving Mr Braun, Aoibhinn was told by university staff that the professor had been told not to contact her – but the harassment continued.
Around July 2016, Braun had received a written warning from a senior university faculty member, and Aoibhinn said: “Nothing happened then for a couple of months, so maybe the warning did work at some point.”
But in January 2017, Braun approached her again while she was meeting a colleague for coffee on campus, and Aoibhinn told him to “go away”.
“It sounds very innocuous, but I guess after all of the repeated incidents you just get very nerve-racked,” she told the Irish Times.
In May 2017, Aoibhinn decided “this has to stop” after she locked herself into her office when he arrived at her door.
She said: “I was really just getting afraid with all of it, because even if something didn’t happen, you were always on edge wondering if it would happen, wondering when he would next turn up at a meeting, or at your office.”
“The mental energy that it took, I really felt that it impacted on me personally, but on my professional work as well because you just couldn’t concentrate properly for all that time.”
After making another complaint to HR, Aoibhinn said someone in the department advised her to go to the Garda.
She explained: “I was getting married at this point. I was really, really, really afraid that he would turn up on my wedding day. I got a few more phone calls from him, in July of that year, July 2017, in the run-up to my wedding – one I answered because I didn’t recognise the number… I blocked all the numbers after that, made a statement to the guards.”
Following a Garda investigation, Mr Braun was brought to court in late 2019, and the 58-year-old was charged with harassment under section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997.
The court heard the harassment took place between May 9th, 2015, and July 7th, 2017, and issued an order barring the professor from contacting Aoibhinn for five years.
Aoibhinn also made a formal complaint to UCD about the harassment in August 2018, and while she was on maternity leave the following year, she received an email from UCD confirming Braun was leaving the university.
When asked to comment on Aoibhinn’s story, UCD’s director of human resources Tristan Aitken said “UCD had a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment.”
He also confirmed the university’s dignity and respect policy and procedure is “currently under review” and said UCD “takes serious note of the outcomes of these cases to improve the university’s policy and procedure”.
The news comes after Aoibhinn recently announced that she’s expecting her second child.
The RTÉ presenter welcomed her first child, son Naoise Garcia, last summer with her photographer husband Carlos Diaz.
The former Rose of Tralee winner subtly announced the news via her Twitter page last month, while promoting the next series of RTÉ show 10 Things To Know.
Showing off her growing baby bump, Aoibhinn wrote: Delighted to be back filming for the new series of @10Things_ToKnow!
“(I recently read that part of the reasoning behind the marriage bar was to do with ensuring young boys wouldn’t have to see pregnant teachers & get ideas ???? Very happy to be filming while 6 months pregnant ☺️).”
Delighted to be back filming for the new series of @10Things_ToKnow!
(I recently read that part of the reasoning behind the marriage bar was to do with ensuring young boys wouldn’t have to see pregnant teachers & get ideas ???? Very happy to be filming while 6 months pregnant ☺️) https://t.co/8pZ32d6Xci
— Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin (@aoibhinn_ni_s) August 6, 2020
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On this week’s episode of #GossChats @itsalirose chats to @the2johnnies ahead of their highly anticipated debut RTE series ‘The 2 Johnnies Do America’. From wanting to duet wth @paul.mescal to how they stay so grounded, the lads open up about their careers to date. #GossChats is sponsored by @haus_of_jejuve