AAA Policy on Sexual Harassment & Sexual Assault

This is the AAA’s official policy on sexual harassment and sexual assault. For information about specific procedures related to the Annual Meeting, please see Annual Meeting Harassment Prevention.

Executive Summary

Sexual harassment and sexual assault are forms of professional misconduct that impede us as individuals, and as a professional community, in fulfilling the mission of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). Sexual harassment is defined in US federal guidelines as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” Importantly, the legal definition includes harassment that is sexist rather than sexual: it can “include offensive remarks about a person’s sex,” with this form being “illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment.” In fact, the majority of sexual harassment is its sexist rather than sexual form, and has been tied to negative work and health consequences for victims.

AAA’s Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Policy (PDF) sets out an expectation of responsible professional conduct. It exists in tandem with AAA’s Principles of Professional Responsibility, which is intended to cover all professional behavior of AAA members, staff, volunteers, contractors, exhibitors, and sponsors. This Policy also applies to any non-member who participates in a AAA program or activity. AAA-sponsored programs and activities include, but are not limited to: meetings, publications, honors and recognition, and governance programs, and all appointed, elected, and volunteer positions.

This Policy applies to all settings where anthropologists conduct professional business. These settings include all regular workplace settings, but also the field settings in which many anthropologists train and work, the digital spaces associated with professional practice, and other settings associated with AAA-sponsored programs and activities (including, but not limited to: meetings, publications, honors and recognition, and governance programs, and all appointed, elected, and volunteer positions).

Importantly, this Policy also affirms AAA’s commitment to provide additional education and to cultivate awareness on how to achieve cultural and institutional changes to address this issue. AAA affirms its desire to foster and support professional institutional settings that promote opportunities to learn, teach, conduct research, and communicate research with integrity, respect, fairness, trustworthiness, and transparency at all organizational levels and in all research and professional endeavors. This includes all professional interactions within the research community, in academic and professional institutions, and with members of the public. We recognize that in addition to research settings, professional anthropologists work in many different sectors (e.g., public, private, non-profit) and in many roles, including research, evaluation, service and program delivery, strategy, policy, scientific or subject matter consulting, advocacy, leading teams or organizations, and administration. While this Policy’s primary audience is our own anthropological community, we encourage its application in other (e.g., interdisciplinary) settings where it may be useful.

AAA is not an adjudicating body; however, there are processes in place to support members in getting their grievances addressed when unwanted behaviors occur in the context of AAA-sponsored events and activities (e.g. conferences, editorial activities, governance events).

The AAA Ombudsperson for Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault will receive complaints of harassment in the context of AAA settings and activities. They will ascertain the view of the complainant to determine what outcome they want and, where appropriate, the Ombudsperson will refer the complainant to the police. They will also serve as a resource by, among other things, (i) educating the complainant on AAA’s Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault; and (ii) advising the complainant of publicly available anti-harassment resources. If the complainant wishes for the Ombudsperson to actively participate in resolving the complaint, and with the complainant’s consent, the Ombudsperson will discuss the complaint with the alleged harasser and give them an opportunity to respond to the complaint. The Ombudsperson will also facilitate discussion between both parties to achieve an informal resolution that is acceptable to the complainant. The Ombudsperson will follow up after the outcome of the complaints process to determine whether the behavior has stopped; record the dates, times, and facts of the incident and the results of the resolution process; and communicate and coordinate with the Anthropology Advocacy Council (AAC), where appropriate and including consultation with the complainant, especially if there is clear evidence of a possible instance of sexual harassment and/or assault in a AAA-sponsored setting or activity.

The AAA Ombudspersons for Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault are Stevie Merino and Ritu Khanduri. They can be contacted directly at

For incidents that occur outside the context of AAA-sponsored settings and activities, AAA members should seek out appropriate authorities with which to file claims of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Typically, the line of formal complaint is th