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Two exclusive sexual harassment stories break through secrecy veils

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New Zealand correspondent Nick Perry reviewed court records and internal communications and interviewed more than a dozen current and former employees of a remote U.S. base in Antarctica to uncover a pattern of women who said their claims of sexual harassment or assault were minimized by their employers, often leading to them or others being put in further danger.

Meanwhile, New York investigative reporter Jim Mustian and Latin America correspondent Joshua Goodman, based in Miami, penetrated the CIA’s secrecy culture to report on an officer trainee convicted of assaulting a woman colleague in a stairwell at the spy agency’s headquarters, a case credited with sparking a sexual misconduct reckoning at the CIA. They reported that at least two dozen women have come forward in recent months with their own complaints of assaults, unwanted touching and coercion.

In November 2022, Perry received an email from an Antarctic worker which said: “I’m a longtime reader of the AP and I see that you cover stories on Antarctica. The US Antarctic Program has a major issue with sexual harassment/assault. … ”

From his office in New Zealand, 2,500 miles away, Perry began digging and reaching out to workers. Perry travelled to Christchurch in February to meet with two sources as they rotated out of Antarctica for the season.

Neither was initially sure about going on the record, but Perry spent months working with them to win their trust, and other workers followed suit. Their accounts illustrated a culture of abuse and harassment at the base and the dangers when victims’ claims were minimized by employers.

Perry also petitioned a judge in New Zealand to get court records revealing the history of the accused perpetrator at the center of the story. Perry scored internal emails and communications from the company, including a recording of a conversation between HR representatives and the main character that corroborated her account. Jennifer Farrar in New York helped Perry track down U.S. court records and contacts.

AP was the only outlet to have this story. While the National Science Foundation, the federal agency that oversees the U.S. Antarctic Program, published a report last year focused on abuse and harassment at the base, Perry’s reporting showed the problem goes far beyond the harassment itself.

The report received excellent play worldwide, sparking widespread discussion of employers’ treatment of victims of harassment and abuse. It was also lauded by many former Antarctic workers who said Perry’s depiction of the culture at the base was entirely accurate.

On Yahoo alone, it garnered 2,500 comments. It was the lead story on the website of the New Zealand Herald, the country’s largest newspaper. Michelle LaRue, an ecologist and associate professor at the University of Canterbury, posted the story on X/Twitter with a comment: “This is awful and I’m not surprised, nor is any woman who has set foot in McMurdo. What brave f—-ing people these women are.” 

For tough reporting revealing sexual misconduct problems in Antarctica and at the CIA, Perry, Mustian and Goodman earn Best of the Week — Second Winner.

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