A warning to students in archaeology and anthropology: Enmanuel Gomez Choque

Enmanuel Gomez Choque
As readers of this blog know, one of its primary purposes is to report on investigations of sexual harassers, abusers, and bullies in academia. I have engaged in dozens of such investigations over the past six years, and this reporting has achieved significant results. A number of abusers have been either fired or forced to resign, and/or been shunned by the academic communities they are part of.

In those cases where an abuser has not been removed from the position in which he or she was able to harm others, the blog has served as a site to post warnings so that students and others can be warned about going into certain situations.

This warning post concerns Enmanuel Gomez Choque, an archaeologist who lives and works in the region of Andahuaylas, Peru, and whose record of abuses is well established from investigations carried out by two institutions: The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and the Institute for Field Research IFR.) I have reported about Gomez on this site several times since early 2020, and those interested in seeing the earlier reports can search this blog to find them. So what follows is a reiteration of those investigative findings, by the institutions as well as my own reporting.

Gomez was subject to a Title IX investigation at UCSB, which found him to have harassed students. 

I received the Title IX investigative report on Gomez from UCSB through the California Public Records Act. The events covered by the Title IX investigation took place during 2015 in and around Andahuaylas. A number of students had complained that Gomez's actions "created a hostile and learning and working environment for the female participants, several of whom are current UCSB students," the report states. At least one other complainant was a student from a university in another state; although that university is named in the report, the student in question has requested that the university not be identified to protect her privacy. I have agreed to do so.

I should add that UCSB decided it had Title IX jurisdiction over Gomez because UCSB students were involved and because Gomez was associated with a laboratory at the university at the time of the events (and continued to be until early 2020.)

There were several allegations against Gomez: That he had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with a female student at a dance club, including forcibly kissing her; that he had made inappropriate sexual jokes in front of students; and that he had engaged in sexually hostile behavior against a female student during a trip to a pilgrimage site. The allegations also included charges that Gomez had tried to get the female students to adopt "sexy poses" so that he could photograph them.

My own reporting revealed allegations outside the scope of the Title IX investigation, that Gomez had sexually assaulted at least two students in other years. To protect the identity of these victims, with whom I discussed the allegations directly, I am not giving details of those sexual assaults.

Gomez attempted to defend himself, submitting statements to the investigators claiming that he had not engaged in the alleged behavior, and that the alleged victim of the forcible kiss had actually tried to kiss him instead and he had turned his head to avoid it. Gomez also claimed that the accusations of sexually inappropriate jokes were misunderstandings based on a differences of language and culture between him and the female students.

The allegations against Gomez were based on eight witnesses. On page 27 of the report, the investigators concluded that the accusations, based on a  preponderance of the evidence, were "substantiated."

Gomez abused female students in Peru at least as early as 2011 and continuing until at least 2018.

In the course of my investigations, I have heard from women who were harassed or assaulted by Gomez going all the way back to 2011, and very often in the same way. Those students (or former students) who wish to remain anonymous I have identified by numbers.

Student No. 1: "Hi Michael, I've thought a lot about reaching out after I saw your article... in 2011...Manuel forcibly kissed me in a club on that trip. There were also several witnesses, whose names I've blurred [on a contemporaneous messenger thread she attached] since I don't know how they feel about being involved."

Student No. 2: This student describes going to a club with Gomez and a group of students in 2017 (the year after the Title IX findings.) "We were dancing in a group when Enmanuel came over and started dancing with me, pretty close up onto me. I thought he was showing me how to dance a particular dance, but he was way too close and touchy...I felt uncomfortable and asked another woman...if I could dance with her because he kept pushing himself at me....The rest of the [time in Peru] I felt very uncomfortable being alone with Enmanuel and and tried to avoid being alone with him as much as possible."

These are just some examples of the kind of behavior which I have tracked between 2011 and 2018. But in 2018, two years after the Title IX findings, things seem to have hit a new level of misconduct, and some students finally took a stand.

Taylor Johnston is a student at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. She told me that in 2018 she had a lot of contact with Gomez. "Manuel was always around me and trying to get me alone," she recalls. At first she thought it was because she speaks Spanish well, and Gomez speaks English very poorly. At one point, Johnston says, Gomez took a group of students to an archaeological site called Tukri. "None of us brought alcohol," Johnston says, but "Manuel was pushing that we needed to go into town and buy beer. He was pushing all of us to drink." Johnston says that Gomez told them it was disrespectful to refuse, just as he did during the 2015 field season.

Johnston says that they were accompanied by another academic from a university in Peru, and that both of them behaved towards her in ways that were "totally inappropriate," including "grabbing my ass." After they returned to Andahuaylas, Johnston says, Gomez would drunkenly try to get into the house where the students were staying, banging on the door and asking for her early in the morning. After that she began to distance herself from Gomez, she says.

Johnston also told me about a day trip the group took to some nearly ponds, where the students went bathing despite the cold of the Peruvian winter (which is summer in the Northern Hemisphere.) In an incident reminiscent of one described by the 2015 students, Johnston says she was wearing a sweater over her bathing suit to keep warm. "Take off your sweater, I want to see your body in your bathing suit," Johnston recalls Gomez saying.

After Johnston began to keep her distance from Gomez, she and other witnesses say, Gomez began to take an interest in another young researcher I will call Student No. 3. On the night of July 13/14, shortly before the end of the field season, the students and Gomez went out to a club. According to several witnesses, Gomez began plying the students with drinks, especially Student No. 3. "He was bringing us shots every twenty minutes," Johnston says. "He kept pushing them on [Student No. 3.] He was with her all night at the club, dancing with her." Suddenly, around 1:30 am, the students realized that Gomez and Student No. 3 were no longer there. They began a frantic search for her, calling Gomez's cell phone and leaving messages but getting no answer.

At 5:30 am, Gomez returned with Student No. 3 in a taxi.

When Student No. 3 saw my initial report from last month, she contacted me directly.

"Hello Mr. Balter,
I saw your article on the bio anthropology Facebook news page... I...was personally assaulted by Manuel. Two days before leaving on a night out Manuel fed me drinks all night and then forcefully kissed me. There’s time missing from that night where I was with him alone and other members from the field school could not find me. This is very painful for me to write and think about, but I cannot fathom not saying something...The whole situation was very traumatic and I wish I had pressed charges, however this all happened two days before we were leaving and I wanted to get away as soon as possible..."

In a followup email, Student No. 3 added:

"Hi Michael,
I can tell you a bit more, but there really is a lot of time missing.  We started at a karaoke bar and after that I tried to go home. I remember Manuel saying no no we are staying out and putting me in a cab with him. I believe we went to a different night club after that but I’m not really sure. It goes pretty blank after that. The last thing I remember is being put into a cab by Manuel and him telling me “not to tell anyone” and when I got back...everyone was panicking and scared about where I had been. If I’m being honest with you, there’s no doubt in my mind non- consensual acts happened. I had bruises and aches the next morning but the fact is that I do not remember more than the kiss and then being put in the cab by Manuel."

The events that took place in 2018 were investigated by the IFR and its governing board, which, according to sources, concluded that "inappropriate" behavior had taken place. IFR took measures to insure that its field school students would not come in contact with Gomez again.

Since I have written about Gomez in the past, I am hopeful that archaeologists and other academics will do everything they can to warn their students and colleagues about his past conduct so that individuals can make informed decisions about whether to put themselves in contact with him. To that end, I hope readers of this blog post will make sure that it gets the widest possible distribution.

Post a Comment


Michael Balter said…
I've received a comment on this blog post which is okay to publish except for the very last line, which could violate a legal settlement I have agreed to. If the commenter could resubmit with the last line deleted, I will be able to post it. To other commenters, please make sure that only Gomez, IFR, or others who were not parties to recent litigation are mentioned. Thank you.
Michael Balter said…
Sorry, an addendum to the above: The term "field school" should also be deleted for the comment to be publishable.
Anonymous said…
“I should add that UCSB decided it had Title IX jurisdiction over Gomez because UCSB students were involved and because Gomez was associated with a laboratory at the university at the time of the events (and continued to be until early 2020.)”

If Gomez was associated with UCSB up until 2020, what happened to that Title IX jurisdiction when similar incidents happened in 2017 and 2018? Why did they brush aside the assaulted student’s plea for justice? Why does Chancellor Young continue to ignore all those in the UCSB community who wrote in solidarity of the student and demand institutional accountability?

“The events that took place in 2018 were investigated by the IFR and its governing board, which, according to sources, concluded that "inappropriate" behavior had taken place. IFR took measures to insure that its field school students would not come in contact with Gomez again.”

Why didn’t the IFR governing board investigate back in 2016, when they first canceled the field course Gomez was associated with because of the 2015 Title IX investigation? Why did they offer that program again and again in 2017 and 2018, with Gomez as faculty? Why didn’t they inform the archeological community that Gomez was a threat to students after their 2018 investigation?
Anonymous said…
Good to know. Gomez will do fine without foreign project support…his family is quite affluent and influential in Andahuaylas.
Anonymous said…

These are all excellent questions, anonymous @September 14
Very similar to today’s news about the FBI’s mishandling of Larry Nassar’s case, the spotlight on these cases justly shifts from the despicable individuals to the equally despicable institutions that put them there and then failed to act and protect the innocent.
Shame on UCSB. Shame on IFR. Their silence and coverups allowed this to continue for years. At least the FBI director publicly apologized to Nassar’s survivors.
Anonymous said…

Simone Biles: “To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar, but I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,”
Senator Patrick Leahy: “A whole lot of people should be in prison,”
Anonymous said…

This is the story of an entitled rich girl, who growing up received all she ever wanted from her influential Daddy and, in the process, learned to bully and manipulate her way through life. She then met and fell in love with a guy from humbler beginnings, who unfortunately turned up to be a serial sex offender. Instead of just dumping him like every normal person would do, over the course of time she enabled his access to additional young women. When one of the victims finally complained, she retaliated and threatened to destroy that person’s career. However, upon realizing the detrimental consequences this continued association may have on her career and reputation, she claimed to have distanced herself from the man and then used her family wealth and influence to sway various institutions to cover it up. It didn’t quite work out, since additional survivors found an open ear with a relentless investigative journalist who started to chase the story. Other influential people who were implicated in the events also tried to shut down the reporting, while she continued to surround herself with equally corrupt lawyers and friends. Despite the overwhelming evidence regarding her enablement of a sex offender and the numerous survivors’ testimonies of her retaliatory behaviour, to this very day she continues to plead “not guilty.”

Read all about it here:

And watch all 3 episodes here: