A man at a National Science Foundation base in Antarctica was charged with assaulting a female colleague.
The female employee said Stephen Tyler Bieneman was suffocating her with his leg.
Bieneman was arrested in Antarctica and transported to Hawaii.
A man on a search and rescue team at the US National Science Foundation base in Antarctica was arrested and transported to Hawaii after being accused of assaulting a female colleague, according to court documents filed in the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii.
Officials charged Stephen Tyler Bieneman with assault within the maritime and territorial jurisdiction, according to a criminal complaint filed on December 12.
The incident occurred at the McMurdo Station, one of three research stations managed by the National Science Foundation under the US Antarctic Program, according to a federal affidavit filed by Deputy US Marshal Marc E. Tunstall, a federal agent stationed in Antarctica.
Tunstall writes in the affidavit that he was informed on November 25 of an assault that occurred at McMurdo. The victim, a woman, had initially disclosed that she did not want to name herself or the man she said had assaulted her, but she later agreed to meet with Tunstall, a doctor, and a sexual assault advocate present, per the affidavit.
The woman, a US national, told Tunstall that while she and Bieneman — who she described as a casual friend — were sitting on a couch, she tried to prank him by taking his name tag and jokingly stating that she would not give it back. She then said, according to court documents, that they both stood up and moved behind the couch when Bieneman “put her on her back, placed his left shin over her throat, and began going through her coverall pocket” to find his name tag.
According to the affidavit, the woman told Tunstall that she then tapped Bieneman’s leg and made a “choking symbol” to indicate that she couldn’t breathe, but he did not remove his leg until he found his name tag, which took one minute. The woman rated the pain as an 8 out of 10, according to the affidavit.
She was eventually helped by another man who helped her receive medical care, per court documents.
Bieneman made his first court appearance on Thursday and was released with an unsecured bond of $25,000.
His first hearing is set for January 12, 2023, before Magistrate Kenneth J. Mansfield.
A public defender representing Bieneman and the US attorney prosecuting the case did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
The NSF, through the US Antarctic Program, employs thousands of scientists, staff, and military personnel who oversee research operations in the southernmost continent.
Assault, especially sexual assault against women, has been long documented in the remote base of Antarctica. A report released in June by the NSF revealed that many employees viewed sexual harassment as a pervasive issue.
Over 70% of female respondents and nearly 50% of male respondents said sexual harassment is a problem within the US Antarctic Program, while 47% of female respondents and 33% of male respondents said sexual assault is a problem.
“Every woman I knew down there had an assault or harassment experience that had occurred on ice,” one person said in the report.
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