Geek Girls Rule! #457 – Green Ronin’s S.T.O.P Proposal: How NOT to Handle Sexual Harassment

So, I said I’d get to this.  I was giving Green Ronin a chance to update their proposal, or at the very least take it down pending massive edits, but two and a half weeks later neither of those things has happened, so here goes.

The Green Ronin S.T.O.P. Proposal for dealing with sexual harassment is a mess.  I understand that they mean well, but it’s bad, guys.  So bad.  This thing is victim-blaming wrapped in concern for abusers.  And I know that’s not what they mean to do, but it is what they’ve done.

It opens with a paragraph addressing the #MeToo movement and offering up an exceptionally incorrect history of how sexual harassment has been dealt with in the past.  Sexual harassment cases have not been traditionally handled in the courts.  They are nearly almost always handled in house, by companies more interested in making it go away than justice.  Victims frequently found/find themselves offered hush money in return for signing non-disclosure agreements.  Cases that make it to an actual criminal court are, in the words of my grandfather, “rarer than hen’s teeth.”

When you see a sexual harassment case in a court, usually it’s in a civil court, where a victim who wouldn’t accept the hush money to quietly go away is trying to wrest damages and perhaps to get rules and guidelines for actually dealing with sexual harassment put in place so no one else has to go through what they’ve gone through.

After the historically incorrect paragraph, we get into a paragraph that is overly concerned with the reputations of harassers: “…a consequence of this power is the risk of destroying the careers and families of innocent persons.”

This would be my unimpressed face.

I know that many people have bought in to the narrative of the “socially awkward dude” who is “falsely accused” of harassment.

Here’s the skinny.  The majority of actually socially awkward people, don’t engage in predatory behavior, because they are awkward.  A symptom of most people’s awkwardness is not engaging with people at all, and certainly not predatorily.  But let’s say for the sake of argument that the accused is just awkward: THAT DOES NOT MAKE THEIR BEHAVIOR OK OR ANY LESS HARASSMENT.

Allow me to repeat that for emphasis:  Being socially awkward does not make predatory behavior ok, nor does it make harassing behavior magically not harassment.

And the majority of the awkward people I know, once they find out they’ve done a thing to make someone uncomfortable, they change that behavior.  They don’t keep doing it.

Also, I would just like to point out, that even when harassers and rapists are convicted/fired, that does not often result in “destroying their lives and families.”  Wives frequently side with their husband over “tramps who are trying to trap/seduce her man.” The ability of people to rationalize the bad behavior of loved ones is pretty epic.  Even the authorities will ask victims if they really want to ruin this “nice young man’s life” like this.  So, no, a charge of harassment, false or not, is unlikely to destroy a life or marriage.  Trust me, dudes who have been convicted of actual rape have little trouble surviving in the world, let alone someone let go, likely in a state* where labor laws prevent company HR people from saying anything beyond their dates of employment, and “Yes, we would hire them again,” or “No, we would not hire them again.”

I’m gonna stop here, because I could go on for days about that particular hobbyhorse.

The next section talks about the intent of the proposal.  So, I get it. You mean well.  You didn’t do well.  Next.

Their definition section is not awful, but it’s not awesome either. It could be better.

The Members section is who they would like to sign on.  Nothing inherently terrible here.

The Freedom of Speech and Artistic Integrity section should never have seen the light of day.  This is just a red flag telling victims that these guidelines do not take charges of harassment seriously, because “free speech” and “artistic integrity” are more important.  This section hands harassers and abusers a tool to slip culpability for their bad behavior. Otherwise, why mention these at all.  Reporting someone for sexually harassing you is not an infringement of their rights.  Nor is anyone saying all artists everywhere have to quit drawing cheesecake art. When that reaches the level of harassment is when you keep sending it to or leaving it in the workplace of someone who has asked you not to.

The Non-Retaliation paragraph is nice.  It’s also rendered nigh meaningless by later paragraphs and the fact that there is little to no impetus for other publishers to sign on to this, or once they do pay it little more than lip service.

Reporting Procedures is where things are really awful.  NO ONE SHOULD EVER TELL A VICTIM THAT THEY HAVE TO COMMUNICATE WITH THEIR HARASSER IN ORDER TO REPORT OR BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY. This is just straight up awful and in violation of Human Resources best practices in the US.

The Investigative Board section is also awful.  First, it doesn’t really elaborate about who will be on this Board, and what the requirements are to do this.  Will there be training?  Because there probably should.  Also, you do not merely recommend that someone with ties to the accused/accuser recuse themselves, you MANDATE it.  Someone with economic, familial or personal ties to either party should recuse themselves.  Period. Full stop.

The Investigative Guidelines are also a disaster.  They don’t actually offer guidelines for how to do an investigation.  Instead they talk about how hearsay is inadmissible in a legal court (not always true, ya’ll have watched too many episodes of Law & Order), and will therefore be inadmissible to them.  Also that they are going to ask for “Clear and Convincing Evidence.”  Just no. They’re asking for more proof than a judge or jury in a civil case would in most legal venues.


Sorry, just felt that was important enough to mention.

The Confidentiality paragraph is… sigh.  No, you should not have to disclose the name of the victim to anyone outside the proceedings.  That flies in the face of your Non-Retaliation statement above.

And the “False Allegations” section should not be included.  And it is a mess.  Throughout this thing, it has sounded like Members described the companies in the Gaming Industry who sign on.  But we get to this last paragraph where it sounds like it’s saying that only Members can bring these accusations forward.

Now, why do I say the False Allegations section shouldn’t be there?

Because it lets victims know that if they can’t prove the harassment to the satisfaction of a bunch of unqualified people with no training, who may be emotionally, financially or familialy invested in their accuser, they could find themselves sanctioned.  On top of the harassment, the social ostracization that happens whenever victims of sexual harassment or assault report, and whatever psychological damage these things cause, they now have to worry about these people inflicting more harm on them.

Ok, guys, I do Human Resources for a living.  You know, the people who are responsible for taking reports of sexual and other types of harassment, doing the initial investigations and then leveling the first several levels of sanctions on the front lines?

This is a mess.  If I were interviewing somewhere and this was their sexual harassment policy, I’d likely ask if that was a joke, because I would already have decided not to work somewhere this (best case) naive, or (worst case) unethical.

*Several states have these laws, btw.  Enough that national HR organizations caution their members to be sure of what they are allowed to say by local and state ordinance.


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