|Guilty as charged? Luis Jaime Castillo Butters
Last June, I was contacted by members of a women's collective based in Peru and the United States concerning allegations of sexual harassment and related abuses by archaeologist Luis Jaime Castillo Butters of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP) in Lima. The allegations, which went back many years, concerned behavior that is typical of way too many men (and a few women) who reach positions of power in academia. Castillo, who had been vice-minister of culture for many years and was briefly the minister, is--or was--probably the most powerful archaeologist in Peru. The women's collective included colleagues who said they had been victims of his abuses.
Based on a number of interviews with survivors of Castillo's alleged abuses, I published a report on the matter last June 29, as part of a larger look at abuses in Andean archaeology. Even before the report was published, Castillo moved to attack both me and the survivors. He enlisted some of his allies in this intimidation campaign, while others, typical of sycophants everywhere, did not need to be prompted before they leapt to Castillo's defense. A major social media campaign erupted, which included mocking the survivors and accusing me, the reporter, of unethical conduct.
Castillo himself enlisted an attorney to threaten me and colleagues in Peru who had supported the survivors with legal action (his letter is included in the original report.) In addition, either Castillo himself, or a colleague, created a Twitter account in his name for the purpose of publicizing the legal threats against me:
In the face of the threats and the mocking, some of the survivors, in July 2020, bravely issued a detailed open letter to Castillo, countering his excuses and calling out his lies and those of his allies. I later had reason to call out the lies about me and my reporting, which were numerous.
(Castillo's reputation in Peru took another beating when I reported that he had allegedly tried to extort an honorary PhD from Yale University in connection with negotiations to return artifacts from Machu Picchu to Peru.)
As I continued my reporting and the survivors did their best to defend themselves from virulent attacks, PUCP began moving on a parallel, but confidential, track. Shortly after I published my first report last June, the university appointed a special commission on sexual harassment to look into the allegations. Over several months, the commissioners carried out a number of interviews (including with me), collected witness statements, interviewed Castillo, reviewed recordings of statements Castillo had made in his classes, and reviewed the relevant university regulations. On November 23 of last year, the commission issued its final report, which, in essence, found the allegations highly credible and noted contradictions in Castillo's versions of events; however, the commission also found that it did not have the power to recommend disciplinary action against Castillo, because the alleged abuses took place between 2007 and 2013, before the university adopted the appropriate anti-harassment guidelines in March 2016.
The report had remained confidential up until this month. Reportedly, the news that the university planned to return Castillo to teaching during the term beginning in March prompted some colleagues to begin circulating it, and it has now, inevitably, become public.
I am in possession of an authenticated pdf of the entire report, and I hope to be able to publish a version of it soon, once certain issues of protecting the survivors and other witnesses are resolved. In the meantime, however, a colleague has put screenshots of it on Twitter, and given that it is now public in that format, I would refer readers to that Twitter thread.
UPDATE MARCH 2, 2021: Here is a link to the original Spanish language version of the commission's report. This version strips out metadata that could identify vulnerable individuals, and is also redacted for that purpose. I hope to have an English translation of it available soon.
I should comment that the commission, which based much of its investigation on my original reporting, was able to confirm a great deal of what I published, despite legal and other threats from Castillo and his allies. This is obviously an ongoing story, one that many had hoped would be buried, along with the silencing of the survivors. Thanks to their bravery, and the determination of colleagues in Peru who want to study archaeology and other subjects free of harassment and abuse, Castillo and other abusers may still face their days of reckoning.