The first night at my flat in Wuhan was marred by Roger and the case of his underpants.We had heard about him from a fellow volunteer who had the misfortune of sharing a hotel room for the duration of our in-country induction training in Xi’an; the home of the terracotta warriors. Roger was that certain type of old skool conservative who appeared forever disapproving of the younger crowd. Our generation, who just wanted to have fun as we tried to save the world long before any of us ever heard of white saviour complex in all its insidiousness. For that was jargon from a time yet to come. Roger, by all accounts, liked nothing better than to salute the sun every morning as nature intended. The VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) field office in Beijing had arranged for us to be met by representatives from our respective universities. The wai ban or foreign liaison officer who was assigned to me made his way on to the train and introduced himself; trying to put us all at ease by cracking topical jokes about mad cow disease. Which was a sign of the times back in Britland. Yet due to a mix up over dates, Roger and his project partner, Dan, had to spend the night in a guestroom at the university that would be my home for the next two years; before proceeding with their onward journey to the sticks the following day.And that was when it happened. The three of us were sitting in my flat having a cuppa. The conversation was strained. Dan and I were planning to go for a walk, venturing beyond campus gates. Imagine our collective relief when Roger announced he was too tired to join us. In his usual authoritative style, he asked if he could use my shower and nap in my room while we were out. And while the thought of an overgrown and bearded Goldilocks sleeping in my bed did not best please me, I reluctantly agreed. A moment later, he was calling for help to work the hot water. Once in the bathroom, the sight of ol’ Rog in his underpants greeted me; before he promptly left me to it. On my way out, I had the misfortune of a second encounter. There he was. Underpants gone.Throughout the extensive pre-departure training, much was made of cultural differences and local community sensitives. Meaning that following any ill-fated affair, we would be able to leave while a Chinese paramour would be left to deal with the fallout alone. But never once was the term ‘abuse of power’ mentionedIt was some months later when the VSO field officer for Hubei came to check on the handful of volunteers teaching across the province. I only managed to pluck up the courage to tell him about what had happened as he was leaving. Thankfully, he appeared to take the matter seriously. Though this was the same chap who, when I faxed him about available medication to counter allergic reactions to mosquito bites, had replied by citing advice from the British embassy nurse suggesting that it might be better to avoid being bitten in the first place. So, who knows? Who, indeed, given that at the annual conference at the end of the year some young women found themselves comparing notes. And what they discovered was this: one particular field officer for another province had, by all accounts preyed upon those on his watch. Especially those living in rural areas. All of us — by which I mean, we women — got together to lodge a complaint with the in-country programme director. Yet it was only when we raised it with one of the visiting bigwigs from London that action was taken. Not that we ever learned what happened after that; whether he was sacked from the organisation or simply relocated to another country.The VSO assessment day involved a combination of team-building exercises involving coloured ping pong balls as well as one-on-one personality appraisals. During the latter, I recall feeling rather uncomfortable as the middle-aged chap sitting across me began stressing that Chinese students were not as ‘exposed’ as their British counterparts. Which was, of course, another way of warning us about inappropriate relations with our students. Especially given that many of us at the time were just a couple of years older than those we would be teaching; if that. Indeed, throughout the extensive pre-departure training, much was made of cultural differences and local community sensitives. Meaning that the point was relentlessly driven home about how, after an ill-fated affair, we would be able to leave while a Chinese paramour would be left alone to deal with the fallout. But never once was the term ‘abuse of power’ mentioned; or at least that is how I remember it. And certainly, such notions never occurred to any of us in our dealings with fellow do-gooders or field officers. During my first semester, another middle-aged man was my next-door-neighbour. Dennis, from Cleveland, Ohio was not part of VSO. He was back in Wuhan to finish what he had started some seven years earlier; before Tiananmen Square happened and he was evacuated. This unquiet American always had young Chinese women in his flat. One at a time. Some of them students, others young professionals. His door was always left ajar. For appearances’ sake. And while there was never any suggestion of anything untoward going on — it was a different matter when he got to class. For when he left, I took over his writing course only to discover that much precious time had been wasted by telling students the story of his marriage and how his wife did not understand him. This was what I heard from female undergrads; all of whom expressed the utmost sympathy for him. Today, this would be called grooming.China was not a conflict zone. But imagine if it had been; if those over whom we wielded undue power had been dependent on us for daily food supplies. Consider how much worse it could have been. And maybe it was in some areas. After all, the fruits of the country’s anti-poverty drive were not as pronounced as today. Which, according to one of my Chinese female friends, explained the not uncommon sight of much older western expats romancing young local women; oftentimes with the promise of a ticket out of there. Quite literally. Given that some 20 years ago, it was tremendously tedious and expensive for ordinary citizens to apply for passports. A shame, then, that during all our pre-project training no one brought up the matter of empowering young women across the culture divide to recognise and report and stop predatory behaviour by men in power. In the wake of the Oxfam sex scandal, the time has come for the international development sector to have its #MeToo moment. Enough is enough.The writer is the Deputy Managing Editor, Daily Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets @humeiweiPublished in Daily Times, March 25th 2018.