So, Jessica Price, with Paizo, spoke openly about being sexually harassed by Frank Mentzer of Red Box D&D fame. She posted screen shots, showing that he had instigated the entire thing, and what was said.And… assholes still came crawling out of the woodwork to accuse Jessica of lying, call her names, everything that happens every gods damned time that a woman accuses a man of anything ever in the history of always.
So, we’re not going to rehash that, apart from saying that Yes, I believe her. Yes, the majority of women I know believe her. And most of the dudes I associate with also believe her, which is reassuring.
Now, what I want to talk to you about is what you do when a woman speaks openly about having been sexually harassed or assaulted, particularly by someone you look up to or idolize.
In this case we are specifically talking about women, more specifically in the gaming industry. Save comments about men also being harassed for another post. I will get there. But now is not the time.
So, here’s the list.
1. Stop using passive voice. Instead of “she was harassed” or “she was raped,” use “someone harassed her,” “someone raped her.” You don’t have to name names, although if you do expect to hear a chorus of “allegedly”s.
Frank Mentzer sexually harassed Jessica Price.
See how easy that was?
2. Before you demand proof of a woman, stop and think back to a similar situation with a dude. When your buddy said that the quarterback beat him up, did you ask him to prove it? Did you ask him what he was wearing, or if he led the guy on? Did you say, “Aw, but Chad’s always been nice to me?” Or did you believe him and respond with sympathy because you know Chad’s only nice to you because you let him copy your math homework, or your dad’s the football coach?
3. “We don’t do that here.” “Not cool, dude.” These two statements will achieve two things. 1. They will let the jerks know you are not on their side. 2. It will let the victimized know that you are on THEIR side. And that you have their back.
4. Quit supporting abusers. Do not make excuses for them. Do not “protect” women by excluding women instead of abusers. Do not signal boost their projects. I would urge you not to buy their products, but you do you.
5. Learn what a real apology is and do not accept substitutions. A real apology consists of a recognition of what you did wrong, accepting responsibility for having done the wrong thing, and stating that you have learned and will endeavor to do better. Do not let abusers get away with weaselly “I’m sorry you were offended” apologies. Hold them accountable.
6. Recognize that victims are not obligated to accept even a real apology, let alone a bullshit one. Forgiveness is not an entitlement. Victims do not have to forgive the people who wronged them. Nor is forgiveness necessary for healing. People who insist rape victims forgive their rapists are assholes who should be stopped.
7. Read the Five Geek Social Fallacies and eradicate them from your life. I’m fucking serious here. So many problems in geek circles come from these five things so many of us do. http://www.plausiblydeniable.com/opinion/gsf.html
8. Ask victims/survivors what they would like you to do. (From my friend Rowan Cota)
Do not assume the victim wants you to get all angry on their behalf, or that they want you to go beat the guy up. Maybe they’d just like you to back them up when they ask people not to invite the creep to the same places they invite the victim. Maybe they just want to know you have their back and will provide an out should it be necessary. Maybe they just want to get this off their chest. Holding secrets like this sucks and hurts.
9. No, really. Do not get angry on our behalf. One of the reasons I never told my parents about the guy who raped me in high school, was that on the off chance my dad DID believe me, I knew he’d wind up in jail for kicking the shit out of a high schooler. Often times anger on our behalf is just as threatening to us as anger aimed at us. You can say, “Wow, that makes me really angry, but I’m going to try to keep my cool, and not do anything that makes you uncomfortable.” Also, even if/when we believe a thing is not our fault, we may want to keep it quiet for our own sanity. Dealing with the attacks made on women who dare speak up, on top of sexual trauma sounds like a nightmare to me.
Every time a woman speaks up, she opens herself up to yet more abuse and harassment. Every. Single. Time. Without. Exception. It doesn’t matter if she comes out with a ton of evidence, or just her word, people will leap up to call her a whore and a liar.
But seriously, look at it. What do they have to gain from coming forward? Especially in an industry as incestuous as the gaming industry? Coming forward gains them endless abuse, makes it harder to get jobs, among other things. Creeps who idolize the person who harassed them may threaten them and their pets and families.
So, before you assume that the victims are lying, maybe look at who actually has the most to gain in these situations. It’s almost never the women.