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A hell of a time (nerdchic.net)
171 points by ssclafani on Nov 6, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 328 comments

A friend in college was accused of something worse, luckily witnesses (her friends) and a video camera proved otherwise and she finally admitted the truth to the police two months later. No jail time for her lying, but this guys whole life was on the verge of destruction - jail time, registered sex offender for life, everyone in your social circle would think you are a monster, all friends in your hometown, your parents, their friends, any future employers that could Google, etc.

I'm certainly not saying that in this case, but this type of thing is completely your word versus theirs and an ounce of caution should be taken in the rush to judgement until all the facts come out.

Thats right. It happens and sometimes it even gets national publicity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_lacrosse_case.

Look, no one knows anything right now apart from what appears to be a credible accusation on a blog. People rightly want to believe that the truth is simple and want to see the accused held accountable; however, in cases like these one must take a measured approach to fully understand the situation.

It's easy to jump in with the lynch mob, but making an informed decision based on gathered data and collected facts is the right thing to do.

Everyone has a friend of a friend who was falsely accused of sexual assault.

Everyone has actual real friends who are women who've been victims of actual real sexual assault. Usually at least 10% of them. (That'll be 10% who've actually dared speak up about it, and another, probably larger percentage who don't, because they've seen what's happened to their friends who've spoken up. "What, no witnesses? How do we know you're telling the truth? Oh, you were drinking that night, were you? I guess you must have been leading him on...")

Let's get nerdy about this, shall we? It's classic outlier bias, like people who're afraid of the risks of flying, and prefer to drive everywhere.

In the time it takes you to read the article about the Duke lacrosse case, another woman will have been sexually assaulted. (One every two minutes in the USA. 1 in 6 women, 1 in 33 men.) But the Duke case is the one you'll remember, because it's far rarer than real sexual assault.

Maybe she's making it up, and the guy really is innocent. I wouldn't bet on it, though.

The lesson from the Duke case is not that false accusations are more or less rare than what we feel in our guts. It's simply that these sorts of cases elicit enormous emotional responses; however, we owe it to ourselves and our civility to recognize that fact and force ourselves to make judgments based on facts and reasoning and not those emotions.

I'm sure that you're correct in this matter and it is common knowledge that it is more likely that a woman is telling the truth in such cases vs a man being set up.

That being said (and take this with a grain of salt because I'm not stating it's a fact), in my experience I've seen more cases of male friends being set up. Not only with assault allegations, but pregnancy, rape, and other convoluted evil plans. I've even been accused of such things twice in my life, once when I was a virgin, and a second time when I had a stable long term relationship (my partner and my neighbor where with me at the time so I had both as alibi).

Yep - there just isn't enough information to jump to any conclusion.

I personally know girls who have been assaulted at parties, and girls who have grossly exaggerated or comletely made up accusations. No way of knowing which this is yet ... Sadly, both are more common than I would have expected a few years ago.

Time will tell, but it seems fairly likely to be true. Posting this account publicly like she did could make her liable for slander even in the US. We will see if Florian Leibert decides to take the matter up in court.

[Edit: actually, I think the correct term may be libel not slander]

I think this is an excellent point. Rape is a very difficult crime in this respect. Many victims don't want to report it and deal with the emotions associated with having it be public knowledge.

That doesn't mean it's ok to assume anyone accused of it is guilty.

That goes without saying, of course.

But if the veracity of the accusation holds up, the perpetrator fully deserves what is coming to him.

"No" does not mean "yes, please continue".

This is true and it's a good point.

But... if I had to guess, I'd say there are probably a hundred times more sexual assaults that go unreported versus false reports.

Sexual assault is, unfortunately, very common. False reports of sexual assault are relatively quite rare. These two things do not have parity.

I'm curious -- do you run around posting in every thread that concerns potentially criminal behavior that people shouldn't rush to judgement? And if not, what in particular makes this case prompt you to jump in with that story? And people wonder why more women don't come forward.

The article seems to be down, so I can't read it right now. But I went to DefCon when I was 17, and it was the most sexually threatened I've ever felt. Some things were benign, a lot of strange looks and stupid things like guys dropping stuff and asking me to pick it up. Someone followed me in a parking lot and then ducked out of sight twice. Someone grabbed my ass on the way out of a talk.

I otherwise had a great time there, but I didn't go back for 10 years. I had none of the same issues later, but I'm not sure if the crowd has changed or if they're just less interested in 27 year olds.

Okay... I am a pretty experienced party animal, and this stuff (sexual assault, that is...not random hookups) is NOT normal. I've heard the occasional story, but both you and the author of this post seems to imply that this is a pretty regular occurrence. Hell, if "it was everyone else's job to prevent being sexually assaulted" and her friends "managed to do this job on several occasions" (parapharasing here), this sounds like one of the seediest parties I have ever heard of. Stuff like this does NOT fly in any normal social setting - the guys usually have the decency to back off before things get too awkward, and if they don't, someone will usually break in and stop it.

I've never been to one of these conferences, but what's the deal here? Being a bit of a cynic in regards to the social skills of a lot of techies, I'm thinking that this is could be the result of alcohol + desperate and socially inept guys + a few women that don't have the critical mass to put up a proper pick-up shield. If this is really a normal phenomenon at tech conferences, I'm a bit shocked that no one have mentioned it before.

The incidents that have been mentioned sound more to me like completely clueless pick-up attempts than any genuine attempt at assault or rape, but the end result is pretty much the same.

The issue of this kind of thing simply not being talked about is a large part of the problem. Your friends may simply (understandably!) not want to talk about it.

It's uncomfortable to suggest but picking 10 of your close female friends and asking directly if they've been sexually assaulted at a party might be informative. I'll say that from my personal experience if you get fewer than 10 affirmatives I'll be fairly surprised.

It's definitely something women don't always want to talk about. It would suck to tell men you didn't want to go to a conference because you were vulnerable. I went to DefCon that year with my older brother, and he didn't want me to go the next year because he felt he had to spend too much time worrying about me.

That said, I've been to lots of other technical conferences without any issues. I'm not much of a party animal, but anything else I've encountered at bars or parties has been milder and less frequent than at DefCon, and has generally seemed more awkward and less predatory.

Is it possible that this happens more than you've observed or heard about at the parties you attend? One of the disadvantages of being male (which I'm assuming you are from your username, forgive me if you're not) is that we're often much less aware of this sort of thing going on than we should be.

Also keep in mind, there's a big difference between this happening (no matter the frequency) and it being accepted. It sounded like she was able to enlist the help of several other people to break in and stop it. The fact that this shit didn't fly with what was likely a vast majority of the people there didn't prevent the assault from happening.

Seriously, what percentage of the people who attended do you think were actually aware of this happening at the time?

> Hell, if "it was everyone else's job to prevent being sexually assaulted" and her friends "managed to do this job on several occasions" (parapharasing here)

You misunderstood.

Her point was it wasn't her job to avoid being assaulted, it was the job of the males present not to be assaulting her.

> If this is really a normal phenomenon at tech conferences, I'm a bit shocked that no one have mentioned it before.

As an example of this type of incident being mentioned before, while this list is not limited to incidents of physical sexual harassment it includes some:


sadly, sexual harassment has been a common enough occurrence in the open source community that countering it has been a major topic over the past 2 years. Open source communities as a whole have only 1% women, much lower than IT in general. This is because you must choose to join one of these communities, and women are choosing to do something where they wont be harassed.

DefCon is an outlier even by tech conference standards. Especially for DC2-DC11 or so, it was basically a party which had a bunch of computer hackers, and while there are lots of parties at other conferences, at early DC the party was basically all day (although I didn't go to DC2-DC5 myself). DefCon was basically Burning Man or a comic/fan conference, although it did become a bit more "industry" around 2000.

BlackHat (which runs contiguously to DefCon) is much more of a "professional" conference, while still being more "fun" than something like RSA, or the academic conferences from IACR.

(I really enjoyed DefCon, and have spoken a few times, but going without knowing what you're getting into would be a mistake)

While I don't condone at all this kind of behavior on behalf of men, I have also seen the other side of the story on various occasions. One specific incident actually comes to mind. A friend of mine had been dating a woman I was friends with from high school and used to keep in touch with. At this point I didn't know they where dating each other. One day he terminated the 'relationship' and the woman while seeking my advice made the comment that she could 'fuck up his life by saying he raped her'. I tried to convince her not to do so and though that she had desisted of such idea. A week later I was informed that my friend was being detained and charged with sexual assault, at that moment I actually put everything together, made a few calls and realized what had happened. I ended up telling everything she told to the police and my friend's lawyer and a week later the charges had been dropped.

I even had a closer to home to home experience with this in highschool, I was a girl's scape goat in a plot to make a boyfriend jealous while I was actually still a virgin. She told everyone that she had sex with me, when it wasn't true and it almost became a problem.

I'm not trying to say that this is the case here and that the author is lying though, but with lack of proof (and that certainly seems to be the case by reading the blog post) it is a very slippery slope to name the person on your blog. This could most probably ruin the guys life, the same way my friends life was on the verge of being ruined by someone with a bone to pick. Again, I'm not saying this is the case here, nor that I don't believe her, nor that I condone some men's behavior. As a matter of fact I'd rather side with the author on this one, but naming a person publicly like this, can easily destroy his and his family's life and future.

This is similar to a story which involves one of my (then) friends. Schoolies is what can be compared to as Spring Break in the US. It's a place where kids finishing high school go to celebrate for a week. There's plenty of drinking and socialising, your usual parties. We made friends with a group of girls who were staying in the apartment next to us. They were all friendly (or so we thought), offered to make us breakfast, we drank and partied with them a few times.

After one long day of partying, we were all just relaxing and drinking and watching some late night television. My friend is lead into the room by one of the girls and that's the last we see of him for the night. Now I can't say for sure what happened in that room, but all we know is that the next morning we find out this girl has a boyfriend, who now also knows of what had happened the previous night. Hours pass, doors are banging, my friend is now being threatened by the boyfriend. Then the police show up. The girl who had lead my friend into the room has gone to the police station and accused him of rape.

At this stage, that girl has left with her boyfriend, while the other girls still remain in the room next to us. We chat across the veranda and the other girls still seem normal and friendly (you wouldn't expect this from friends of a girl who had just accused one of the guys of rape). The issue of the pending allegation of rape arises and one of the girls notifies us that she believes our friend is telling the truth and will give a statement to say that the last thing she saw was her leading him into the room. And that after speaking to her in the morning she seemed normal and didn't confide in them about any problems that night.

That night ends and a new day begins, my friend is clearly shocked and frightened. His phone rings, it's an unknown number. He picks it up and the person on the other end introduces himself as the father of the girl. (One of the other girls had given his number to the father). The father goes on to say that this has happened before multiple times. This girl has falsely accused men of sexual assault multiple times (wtf?). He goes on to say that he believes his story and apologizes for what he has been going through. Charges were eventually dropped, other girls made similar statements, things were supposed to go back to normal. I noticed a bit of a change in my friend from this experience, he was not the same person he was before the accusation.

I'm not saying women are liars or anything close to that about this story. I certainly do not advocate the naming and shaming this blog post is doing, it is unprofessional and frankly, ridiculous. Women say men exert power over them, yet they forget just how easily they can destroy a mans life and career.

I'm confused by this post, and the GP post. How are these stories about fraudulent accusations relevant to Noiren's blog post & tweet?

Of course there have been cases where women falsely claim sexual assault, and it has severe negative effects on the accused. But does it follow that women in general (including Noirin Shirley) should not publicly name a man who assaulted them unless they have iron-clad physical proof, because of the risk that... they might be lying or delusional, unbeknownst to themselves?

Correct me if I'm misreading either post, but that seems like a strange logical leap. If Noiren were lying, she would know that. If she has no personal history of mental illness, alcoholic blackouts, etc. etc. and has a clear recollection of what seems to have been a pretty clear-cut interaction, she can also cross off delusion from the list.

Certainly, she should be (and, I'm fairly confident, is) aware of the repercussions of a post like this. But it's certainly not "ridiculous and unprofessional"; on the whole it seemed like a very measured response to an assault. Any legal repercussions will have to come from a court, of course, but naming him is perfectly valid, and must have helped to give her back some control over her situation.

What if he had pushed her down the back stairs instead of sexually assaulting her? Should she be photographing her bruises (hoping they're visible enough...) and asking the bar if they have a video camera out back before telling anyone what happened, just to be sure she hadn't imagined the whole thing?

There are absolutely negative consequences to being publicly named as Florian has been here (though he'll face far worse if the legal process finds him guilty). Yes, if Noiren were wrong/lying/deluded, she would be doing him a serious wrong. If she is telling the story accurately, though, who's actually to blame for those negative consequences? (And why is this so obvious with any other crime, but not with sexual assault?)

Why wasn't this girl sent to jail? She tried to completely destroy somebody's life multiple times. That's about as bad as trying to shoot somebody in my opinion.

Probably because she's mentally ill. Same thing happened to a friend of mine; a girl who turned out to be schizophrenic accused him of rape; luckily her story didn't make sense and she later realised that she'd been delusional. On the other hand, I know at least five women who've been raped; only one went to the cops. The rest had credible stories and witnesses; they still couldn't do it.

This is not punished with jail time most of the time, but it easily becomes a case of defamation of character, which the person in the story could have easily pursued IF the event had clearly damaged his reputation in some way. If he had done serious jail time, been fired from his job, or expelled from college then you have a clear cut case of a libel suit.

Why is this? You don't walk free if you shoot but miss. Why do you walk free if you try to put somebody in jail for a long time and ruin the rest of his life too?

Generally this sort of cases are dismissed in court because of lack of evidence. The same way that woman needs proof of a sexual assault, a man needs proof that she has done damage to his name and reputation so he can file a civil lawsuit against her. This type of procedure rarely carry jail time, it at all. In this case, if the woman has no proof AND the man has been fired from his job he can easily file a lawsuit and seek damages.

Right, but that's not what I was wondering. I was wondering why does actual damage need to be done to file a lawsuit? Isn't trying to hurt somebody good enough? If you try to shoot somebody you'll end up in jail even if you miss.

Because technically, as a citizen of the United States (in this case) are protected by freedom of speech rights. If you ask me what I think of my neighbor, I might tell you that I think she's a whore and that she probably has syphilis. That is in no way illegal, BUT if I start a campaign to slander her name publicly, it can be taken as a deliberate attack on the victim's reputation and even then it's not so much that it's illegal, but that you caused another citizen damages from your actions.

I have a right to tell the world you're a rapist, there's a freedom of speech inherent to being a US citizen which allows me to do this, but you have the right to seek damages for the troubles you're being put through.

It's a tough question to be brutally honest. I agree there should be harsh penalties for false police reports especially in cases such as this. It shouldn't be an almost walk away, try again experience.

but with lack of proof (and that certainly seems to be the case by reading the blog post) it is a very slippery slope to name the person on your blog.

Let me get this clear: it's your opinion that unless somebody videotapes every moment of their life, that they should not publicly state negative things that happen to them?

edit: for the downvoters, which part of that question is inappropriate?

I'm upvoting you since I believe the question has some merit and does have to do with the discussion.

Anyways, I've made no such claims, but you have to admit that it is as easy for a woman to completely destroy a man's life with such allegations, the same way a man can destroy a woman's life by committing a sexual crime against her. For this reason it is a necessity to have actual proof, be it video, witnesses, and most importantly DNA.

To answer more clearly your question: Anyone has the right to state whatever negative things happen to them, but the moment you start pointing the finger (in this case the alleged sexual harasser) you better have proof not only because you might be potentially destroying the life's of many people in the process, but because you are also opening the door to a suit for defamation of character.

Think about it, if it so happens that it's not true, he might lose his job, the custody of his children, any future career in the field in which he has established himself, being labeled as a sex offender, etc. If you're going to completely turn someone's life upside down, you better have the proof to prove such allegations.

Tone, putting words in someone else's mouth and conflating a very specific action with doing anything at all.

And, like a few other comments, authored by an account registered specifically to jump into this fight.

It's a touchy subject, one where if you think differently than other people they may judge you for it. I wouldn't blame someone for coming up with a throwaway account.

I'll probably get downvoted for asking, but I'm curious, would everyone be as upset over this had it been a drunken female guest inappropriately grabbing a guy's package? And if the male blogger had then written a similar blog about being sexually assaulted at a party, naming the female who grabbed him?

I'm not endorsing this sort of behavior obviously, but the public shaming element here seems fairly twisted. If a sexual assault occurred she should go to the police about it and press charges. Not start an internet witch hunt.

So, I'm going to venture beyond the issue of consent (which legally, and ethically is the only issue), into a grey area of perception.

Often when men think about this situation, they think of some non-repulsive (to them) woman who doesn't have any power over them grabbing their package. Often they conclude "Well that wasn't so bad. I generally want to have sex with females. A female just pawed my package. Cool, maybe she'll sleep with me."

Now let's assume that's a hypothetical guy's default reaction. What are some nuances that might change that reaction?

1) What if the woman is repulsive to the man? What if his friends will mock or shame him?

2) What if rather than pawing at his package, she tried to stick her finger in his ass? There's a psychological (and physical!) difference in vulnerability to having stuff put in you, rather than probing with your appendages.

3) What if the aggressor has power over the victim (I'm not saying that's the case in the article)? I.e. She can paw you, and you're going to always wonder whether your next review depends on your reaction.

Now, you may think I'm distorting the situation, but I'm just trying to illustrate that even for a guy who thinks his reaction would be "Cool, gropage.", the real situation may well just feel like an attack.

I.e. it's fun to theorize about men's reactions versus women's, but unless you're actually a man who has been the victim of unwanted attention, you're unlikely to really know how you'd feel about it.

My reaction on reading the article was "Holy shit, people actually do that?" I guess I live in a sheltered world, oh and I'm a large male.

Another hypothetical:

4. The guy is gay and doesn't want to be inappropriately touched by a woman because he's attracted only to men.

I think that, in general, men getting sexually assaulted by women is something we take less seriously because, yes, as you say, men want sex, they aren't so bothered and because in general men have power (physical and otherwise) over women. But in most cases there are good reasons to challenge those assumptions, which we should do.

"I'll probably get downvoted for asking, but I'm curious, would everyone be as upset over this had it been a drunken female guest inappropriately grabbing a guy's package?"

Your analogy is flawed. It ignores a fundamental biological difference twixt men and women; that in general, men are bigger and significantly stronger (I won't look up the exact numbers, but a much larger proportion of a man's body is muscle).

Here's a more accurate analogy that carries with it the psychological overtones your analogy missed.

Imagine you are a man, at some party, and some big guy approaches. He's way bigger than you, maybe as much as a foot taller, and he's clearly much stronger. Even if he's not sporting his muscles visibly, it's clear. He's bigger than you, stronger than you, and ultimately if he wanted to force you to do something, the advantage would definitely be with him. He looks an you in such a way that it's clear he wants to have sex with you, and then forces a kiss upon you, and then rams his hands into your underwear.

You can struggle, but he's bigger and stronger and really your only option is to push free and go somewhere with other people who will protect you if he tries it again.

You'll be thinking about this for days, wondering what would have happened if there was nobody there to protect you. You'll probably feel weak and vulnerable and violated. You'll think of this every time you go to a party for the next year. Every party you go to that you should be able to enjoy, you'll be thinking about this; afraid that someone bigger and stronger might decide to sexually assault you. It's a fucking horrible way to live.

> If a sexual assault occurred she should go to the police about it and press charges. Not start an internet witch hunt.

This is true, but ...

There's a real benefit to knowing that this kind of thing happens, and how often it happens.

As guys, we're just not exposed to this as often.

For example, my wife used to regularly get heckled in our old neighbourhood. It never happened when she was with me. She just mentioned it one day, and it blew my mind. I was like "heckled, wtf, people still do that?"

Another example: at one job in the 'burbs, it was about a 10 min walk to the coffee shop. I was walking about 20 m behind two women for about 5 min. One of them was very attractive. I admit that I discreetly checked her out and then let my eyes wander around the rest of the scene, so I wouldn't be a creep.

Here's the interesting part: every single guy in an oncoming car turned his head to look at her. They didn't heckle her, but the head-turn was extremely obvious.

So, I'm not saying that guys shouldn't look at women, but it offers an interesting change of perspective.

What does it feel like when every single guy you see turns his head to check you out? You might say "flattering", but now imagine the relentlessness of it. Mind-blowing.

She is not obligated to go to the police. She can, in fact, just tell the Internet what she believes happened, and tell him to go fuck himself if he has a problem with it. If she's lying, he can sue for libel.

Well, considering that he is innocent until proven guilty, he can sue for libel until her charges have been proven.

This is not correct. In the United States you must prove an intent to defame. Sure he can sue for liable, but he wont win unless he can prove intent. Even if the charges against him are not proven. This may seem harsh to you, but read about liable in the UK to see what a train wreck the other alternative is.

Accusing someone of sexual assault is defamatory. This would be a clear cut case.

You're not following. The intent must be malicious. That the impact is defamatory is, at least to some extent, besides the point. What's he's saying is that she could even be mistaken and still not be liable.

I'd find it pretty objectionable in that case as well. I guess the main difference is that I'd find it objectionable and very surprising/unusual, which sadly isn't really the case with this story. As a guy, I don't feel at all apprehensive about attending tech-conference afterparties for fear that someone's going to grope me, because I estimate the chances of that happening as very small.

I guess for me the interesting part of this post is discussing what we can do about the tech community's culture / conference arrangements / whatever to make these incidents very uncommon for all genders, as opposed to how to handle this particular incident. I suppose that could've been done without naming the person, and the post would've still been interesting to me.

If I had a guy friend who, say, had his ass grabbed by a woman at a bar, and he went home and wrote a public blog about it, whining, and described it as "assault" I'd think less of him as a person. Puh-lease. I'd think, "Grow up. Get some perspective. You'll live. Somehow, you'll live."

If you had a guy friend who, say, had his ass grabbed by a really big biker guy in a bar who put his hand inside your guy friend's jockey shorts, and he went home and wrote a public blog about it, whining, and described it as "assault", would you still think less of him as a person?

Or in that case would you actually admit it was assault and your guy friend had every right to feel intimidated?

A good point you make with such comment is that getting him fired from his job and the possibility of completely screwing his life in check with what he actually did do?

This has happened to me, though it was not a fun experience. A very attractive acquaintance of mine came up to me (it was at her and her boyfriends house), and started grabbing my junk, and i was already backed up against the wall. At nearly the same time her boyfriend got in my face, while she was holding my crotch through my jeans, and started hollering at me that he was going to beat my ass.

Long story short, it was a twisted joke and I was NOT amused. I was 18 or so, and they were 20 or 21.

I didn't think about this until your comment but I've had this happen to me (a man) by females at parties. The thought of publicly shaming the girl for what she did never occurred to me; a double standard I'm happy to live with.

Would I be upset? Nope.

Guys and girls are, in general, different. Guys' misunderstanding of this simple fact leads to events like the one described in the article.

And if the male blogger had then written a similar blog about being sexually assaulted at a party, naming the female who grabbed him?

This I would take just as seriously. Why should people that blog about their lives and their interactions with other people omit being pseudo-raped? Because it's a "wild accusation"? Well, fuck that.

I've had it happen to me - I guess on two occasions.

I was shocked, It felt repulsive (because a drunk woman 30 years older than you grabbing for your balls trying to stick her tongue into you mouth is hardly attractive). It didn't feel good, but I didn't feel "damaged" because of it either. I left the place and went home.

No blogging, no police, no drama. It's not like there was some sort of conspiracy to destroy my person. It was an unfortunate sexual misconduct that a person needs not to dwell upon.

There is a big difference between unwanted approaches, even being creepy - and actual rape or "sexual assault".

Brings back a mostly forgotten incident from several years ago. I'm a tall white guy living as an expat in Seoul, speak Korean on the job, am pretty deep into the local community and sort of forget from time to time that I look different.

Riding the subway one day during rush hour I couldn't help but notice the guy next to me, a total stranger, was pressing hard against my privates with his hand through his own coat pocket. Thinking it might just be an accident and immersed in my reading I turned away 90 degrees. Sure enough five minutes later they guy had changed position was once again attempting to stroke me, quite hard. Mind officially blown, I moved to the other end of the car, mused on the creepiness of the situation, then promptly forgot about it.

Uncomfortable? Mildly disgusting? Yes. But not "sexual assault."

This is my general take on it as well.

Most guys would not be upset over that, and I'd venture a guess that while there are many reasons for this, a big one is power. I know for me personally, 99% of the women in this world could do that to me, and I'd still feel like I was in control.

Why is that? Once again, various reasons, but always remember guys have a huge physical leg up. I dated an ex-cross country runner once, and while she'd never fess up to it, even though I was only 140lbs I could wrestle her to the ground. Why? I am 8" taller than her, with limbs to match. (She liked to wrestle. She never won.)

a sexual assault occurred she should go to the police about it and press charges

I disagree. I think she's chosen a pragmatic middle ground here. There's behaviour which everyone (I think) agrees is inappropriate. She says it's happened before, and she wants to stop it from occurring again. She comes up with a legal way to respond, and isn't required to press any charges.

It probably could be prosecuted as a crime, but she has judged (I'll trust correctly) that this does not merit legally wrecking his life and taking up months of her time as a witness. He was drunk and stupid, but she'll recover. She runs the risk of being socially shunned, but she's unlikely to have this happen to her again at a similar conference.

Yes, one could argue that this would have been as effective by leaving the perpetrator anonymous, and I'd agree. But like the choice of whether to prosecute, I've got to trust her with this decision. So long as her statements are true, she (in my opinion) has the right to use them however she chooses. It's certainly fair to ask her if anonymous might have been better, though.

For male versus female: no, this is still asymmetric, at least in modern American society. On the bright side, at least we've moved to having it be a matter of gender and role rather than solely sex. You might see such a blog post if the woman was in a position of power over the male: an employer, a law enforcer, a politician.

It would be pretty remarkable. But no, I wouldn't be as upset. Men don't have a history of being sexually assaulted by women, and then experiencing skepticism and anger when they tell the community about it.

Hell, let's be honest: a non-trivial percentage of men would love if it a woman hit on them by sticking her hand in his pants. Not all of them, surely. I won't even say most. But plenty.

> Men don't have a history of being sexually assaulted by women, and then experiencing skepticism and anger when they tell the community about it.

Actually, I'm pretty sure they do. Skepticism, questioning of their sexual preferences etc. People of all genders who report experiences of sexual assault can suffer for it.

To anywhere near the extent that women do? Be serious. I mean, of course it happens. Sure. There are billions of people on this planet. But you're gesturing a dripping faucet while others are pointing at a gaping hole in the roof.

> To anywhere near the extent that women do? Be serious.

I wasn't claiming that it happened anywhere near the extent that it does to women. I was questioning the previous commenter's claim that there was no history of men being assaulted by women and experiencing skepticism etc when they tell the community about it. Because sexual assault isn't about gender it's about power.

> But you're gesturing a dripping faucet while others are pointing at a gaping hole in the roof.

I was disputing the claim that the dripping faucet did not exist and stating that both dripping faucets and gaping holes in the roof are bad.

It wasn't my intention to minimize the issue of sexual assault by men against women--how would you suggest re-wording my response in future?

What about if your boss, an ugly 250 pound butch twice your size, pulls you into the stalls, pulls down her skirt whispers in your ear "You do want to keep this job right?" and proceeds to grab your head and pull it between her legs?

Would that do it for you?

Isn't that a scene from a John Waters movie?

Name and shame is a perfectly reasonable response to such behavior, in addition to contacting a DA at her discretion.

Not to give that dude an excuse for his behaviour, but consider this:

This happened at a private after-party in a private hotel room where a small crowd got all cozy with apparently too many drinks involved.

This did not happen at the conference.

The difference is important. Context is everything in these cases.

Maybe it's too much to hope for, but I would hope that tech events filled with smart people would hold themselves to a higher standard. Even if it's not a tech-event-specific problem (women get assaulted in bars in every city every weekend), we should try to get rid of it here.

I do agree that this is where most of the problems happen, though. I've only heard of something along these lines happening at one academic conference I've been to, and it was the most party-ish one, where the academic and non-academic/drinking parts were pretty loosely separated. The kind where 100 people get in a drab room on a university campus and listen to talks for 8 hours, then go sleep so they can get up again at 7am for the next morning's keynote, seems to result in no trouble of any kind (admittedly, there could be problems at those too and I'm just out of the loop).

Oddly, I've never heard of any problems at the most party-ish hacker event I've been to, SuperHappyDevHouse. I don't know if it's the culture, the frowning on drunkenness, the mixture of people it attracts, the physical layouts, or what.

> I've never heard of any problems at the most party-ish hacker event I've been to, SuperHappyDevHouse. I don't know if it's the culture, the frowning on drunkenness, the mixture of people it attracts, the physical layouts, or what.

We purposely encourage the culture at SuperHappyDevHouse that frowns on drunkenness.

Additionally, we have put a lot of effort into making SHDH an event that is welcoming to everyone, including women.

I try to greet everyone who comes to SHDH for two reasons: So that newcomers know they are welcome and so that everyone knows (at some level) that they will be held accountable for their behavior.

I'm confused by your first sentence; it isn't a higher standard to not assault others. Or do you mean that because techies are so .. something that they in particular should eliminate every possibility of someone being assaulted around them?

I guess not a higher official standard (nobody is supposed to commit sexual assaults anywhere), but it'd be nice if our events were safe/etc. even if bars on average aren't. I'm sort of objecting to a view that, as long as tech-conference afterparties are no worse than a typical bar, then there's no problem.

Context doesn't change that a woman was sexually assaulted. It didn't happen IN the conference but it certainly happened adjunct to the conference. And she says it happened at a bar nearby, not in the private room. And I certainly hope when you say "too many drinks involved" you are not implying that she should have drunk less (or not at all) to protect herself.

ETA: Or that she should have not put herself in the vicinity of drunken people.

How is the difference important at all.

Regardless, I consider the after-conference 'events' often more substantial than some of the conference, it is my favorite part and I often learn more out of the (usually drunken) disucssions.

The thought of having the anxiety or fear like this ruin that for me is terrible.

It makes a difference in terms of being able to tell women: You're going to be safer at the actual event than at the after-event drinking parties.

In terms of excusing the man's behavior, it makes no fucking difference.

Unfortunately, the after-event drinking parties are where most of the fun and the networking happen.

I don't think telling women "oh sure the conference is perfectly safe but watch yourself at the after-parties, geeks can get pretty handsy when they're drunk" is going to encourage more women to come to conferences.

(Sorry for the sour sarcasm, it's the only way I can handle such a uncomfortable subject)

Perhaps you should send the author a note asking to add your sentiments to her post.

Honestly the only thing that could possibly make any difference would be if the whole thing was fabricated. Which would be a huge difference.

Your statement is inaccurate.

I was in Atlanta.

I was at the original private party.

The party moved out to a nearbye bar.

The assault took place in a public bar. An expensive downtown Atlanta one.

Maybe 30+ people from the conference in the bar.

Regardless, it does not matter the physical location of the assault. It was wrong. It is unacceptable anywhere.

It sounds like it happened a public pub where many of the conference goers were congregating (planned or not).

Just to clarify, it wasn't in a private hotel room, it was in the pub adjacent to the conference hotel. It was in a public setting.

I know Noirin and I've helped with ApacheCon for years (first time in years I wasn't there).

I can't share the specifics to protect the privacy of the people involved. But, I help out with a lot of conferences and speak at dozens more every year. I've heard at least 3 accounts similar to this, just this year, at other conferences.

Very often they end with a minor hero, like Bill in this case, acting as a chaperone for someone who should never need one at all.

It frustrates me greatly that despite the effort that many conferences do to make conference going more egalitarian, welcoming and safe for women some men are still as ignorant, offensive, and disgusting as to treat women this way.

The presumption of innocence and punishment only following guilty verdicts at trials arbitrated by neutral parties are hard ideals to stick to when crimes are heinous, it is clear to any right thinking person what happened, and a message needs to be sent... and that is precisely when they are most valuable to society.

How is it clear to any 'right thinking person what happened'?

Until there is corroborating evidence (witness, confession, etc) I see no reason to believe anything about events that took place. It seems incredibly dangerous and irresponsible to default to believing one person's (as of yet) unsubstantiated tale.

I can think of half a dozen scenarios in which the accused was innocent. Everything from mistaken identity (that has happened to me!), to drunken mis-remembering, to flat out lying is still on the table.

This is why "right thinking person" is generally supposed to be read as an ironic marker: it is a subrosa way to say "the meaning of my words is different than than their literal import."

You will virtually never hear those words meant literally.

Ah, my apologies! With the new parsing, your comment makes perfect sense.

You are misreading the GP. The sentiment, as I understand it, is that the legal framework is most important when one is personally involved, even if the case seems very clear to oneself and even other observers.

I don't know any of the people involved here, but I would rather see this handled by the law than by an Internet lynch mob. The law maybe impotent and incompetent at times, but it's the best we have for dealing with criminal behavior.

While I realise this is a sensitive issue and I hope the author is ok, one thing I noticed is the implication that this is a thing that happens at tech conferences. I would just like to make sure we are not dissuading women from coming to tech conferences by gaining some sort of reputation here.

Most people in the world are good but unfortunately this kind of thing happens and when it does we have to show it will not be tolerated and will be properly dealt with.

the OP is the third friend of mine this year who's been sexually assaulted at a technical conference. sadly, this is not as rare an event as we'd like to think :(

we had a post about the whole "talking about all the bad stuff will discourage women in tech" bit a while back at geekfeminism: http://geekfeminism.org/2010/06/10/dont-mention-the-war/

> I would just like to make sure we are not dissuading women from coming to tech conferences by gaining some sort of reputation here.

Tech conferences already have a reputation for this kind of incident:


I have a few women in my life that were sexually assaulted at various ages ranging from grabbing of their asses to stuff I just can not write; and it saddens me that so many people in this thread are shocked that it is such a common occurrence. Statistics have shown that a woman is assaulted every 2 to 3 minutes in the US alone, and that 1 in 3 women will be assaulted in their lifetime. This is not an uncommon thing, and it happens whether it's in some dark alley or at a tech conference.

Just as a woman needs to be vigilant of what is going around her, us men (or other women) need to be vigilant of threats to other women around them when in bars or conferences or wherever.

If this allegation is true, I hope that the perpetrator is charged and his life altered so he can't do something like this again or worse.

This is a sensitive subject, and quite possibly she has been the victim of a crime, however it is impossible to ignore that a further sin in many ways as bad as the original has been committed, and that is to deny fair trial to a man, which is very much what has been done by accusation of sexual assault in such a public manner (just check some of the results for a Twitter search on @flo right now).

I can only hope she is beyond all doubt the situation as described could not have been perceived any differently, particularly after using language such as "told him I wasn’t interested (I may have been less eloquent, but I don’t think I was less clear".

It's also sickening to see how many people have sided with the accuser in the weblog's comments and elsewhere (especially on Twitter), given nothing more than a name and an accusation.

Not cool (either way).

AFAIK, it's not considered prejudicial to a fair trial for an (alleged) victim to name the accused before the trial begins.

After all, the name of the accused will be made public in any case if there is a trial.

Wow, this is... well both unbelievable and sadly believable at the same time. It is pretty amazing the alleged culprit has also been named, It makes me wonder what, if any, sort of resulting fallout will follow this.

Yes. Report it to the police and certainly write a blog post to bring attention to the matter! I assume sexual violence is a problem at any gathering with a large (intoxicated) mixed crowd. Perhaps the thought was that it was not as common in tech conferences as it might be elsewhere?

But naming a person before they are even a police suspect, that I do not agree with. Plus…as evidenced by myself…it may draw attention from the real problem at hand.

Edit: I disagree with naming names at this stage of events because it sets a precedent that will lead to irreparable damage at some point. Given the police has all the necessary details, the potential downsides of publicly naming a person outweigh the potential benefits. I will leave it at that.

If someone assaulted me, and I wasn't at all unclear about what happened or his identity, I would absolutely name him. You don't need to convince a court to convict first -- that's absurd.

Third parties may or may not believe or take action unless otherwise convinced. I would be highly suspicious of someone who has been credibly called out for something like this (and would probably not invite him to drink with me, especially if I were female), but would need more evidence before taking much more action.

Even in the UK, it's not slander or libel if it's true.

Sexual assault is a special crime in our society. If newspapers find it prudent to avoid publishing the names of victims of sexual assault, I don't see why the suspects can't be afforded the same courtesy. The potential damage is far higher for the suspect, anyway.

This. If some guy cornered me at the bar and punched me in the face, damn straight I'd name him on my blog if I recognized who he was.

Somehow I doubt anyone would accuse me of starting a witch hunt, or tell me that I needed to take better precautions for my own safety, too.

"it may draw attention from the real problem at hand."

This man (allegedly, to lawyer it up) sexually assaulted a woman. If that's not the problem at hand, what is?

That is the problem. It is somewhat being obscured by arguments about her having named the alleged assailant, as now evidenced by some 1/3 of this thread.

Edit: The currently top-rated comments would likely be nonexistent or with very low scores if the alleged assailant had not been named.

This kind of shit happens to women often. They just normally don't talk about it in public.

I believe it. I hate that I do, but...I do.

Also, site seems to have been hit pretty hard, but google cache to the rescue http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://...

Please lets not assassinate Florian Leibert character based off of the uncorroborated evidence of a single individual.

Noirin obviously has some strong opinions regarding gender and technology and I pray that these haven't had any role in this matter.

Her Geek Feminism affiliations - http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Heroes_Women_in_FOSS

Her involvement in the org.apache.women group - http://markmail.org/message/dwdadluiapbg5qrs

A blog entry about her divorce that pretty much blames it all on her husbands health. - http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:cm9PvCv...

Wait... whut? She has strong opinions about gender, etc. so we shouldn't believe her?

Occam's Razor, man! Use it! Why in the world would she blame this dude out of the blue? What does she possibly have to gain? Several commentators have mentioned the possibility of false allegations, along with anecdotes. But pay close attention to those incidents: in all of them, there was some prior relationship between the women making the false allegation and the guy. If this was the case here, there would be a dozen witnesses who could punch a hole in her claims. She has named names in her post; a person making such a false allegation would never do that, because then her story can be cross-checked.

But once again, I am shocked that you'd think that being a feminist or having strong opinions somehow makes her story less credible.

I am sorry that you feel that way however I never questioned any of her account. When did I ever say anything about being a feminist gives less credence to her story?

I am shocked that you would take such a forward stand on such a small amount of information from a single source. WE HAVEN'T EVEN GIVEN HIM A CHANCE TO RESPOND! Please, I beg you, wait for all information before jumping to a conclusion, that is all I ask.

Just to clarify for those who may not click through and read the links posted by the newly created "iopuy" account:

> Her Geek Feminism affiliations - http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Heroes_Women_in_FOSS

A web page created by Kirrily Robert (a.k.a skud) who was liveblogging a talk by Pia Waugh entitled "Heroes: Women in FOSS" at OSCON 2008. On that page in a list entitled "We gots hackers: a list of women" Noirin Plunkett's name appears along with ten other women.

> Her involvement in the org.apache.women group - http://markmail.org/message/dwdadluiapbg5qrs

In which, amongst other things she asks if the charter for the group "could replace every instance of 'women' with a word that includes both genders - 'people', 'newbies', 'interested proto-participants', anything that's not discriminatory." and concludes with:


If we can make the ASF a more open, comfortable, easy-to-work-in environment, everyone wins. I understand that it's very easy for a group of women to focus on helping other women - it's easier to put ourselves in the shoes of those who are similar to us. And I'm certainly not saying we should insist on fixing everything at once. However, I do think we should start the way we mean to go on, and that, to me, requires a much more inclusive charter.


> A blog entry about her divorce that pretty much blames it all on her husbands health. - http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:cm9PvCv...

And also links to a blog by her ex-husband wherein he says "How Noirin lasted so long, i’ll never understand. She’s amazing."

I don't want anybody in the tech community to die at the hand of character assassination, Florian, Noirin, you or me.

" I don't want anybody in the tech community to die at the hand of character assassination, Florian, Noirin, you or me. "

Absolutely right, that's why it is so important we have ALL that facts before arriving at a conclusion.

What does feminism and being part of apache.women have to do with this? True there are a couple of men-hating feminists, but read that geek feminism page, or the apace.women page. Don't those sound completely reasonable and women and men friendly? In her apache.women message she is arguing to use neutral wording ("women" -> "people")! I don't see how you could interpret that as hostile to men.

I know Noirin and I also know her ex-husband (they spent time on their honeymoon with my wife and I in Hong Kong). I've helped plan and run ApacheCon for years. Noirin is not one to exaggerate, she's one to call it like it is. So quit with the antagonism towards her. She's the one who was assaulted.

I think that the most appropriate way to deal this is with consistent and timely enforcement of rules: if someone gropes you or worse, call him or her out in front of the group and ask for help from bystanders to remove the person from the place, or, if appropriate, hold him or her and call the police.

There's no shame in asking other people for help when there's a situation to be dealt with, and I'd be surprised if a bunch of ApacheCon attendees were less than helpful in this regard, even in an after-several-beers state. Independently of whether someone barfed on you, stole your wallet, sexually assaulted you or wanted to start a boxing fight.

I agree that is a good way to deal with these situations. React immediately, in the moment, and enlist the people around you.

That turns out to be very hard to do. It's difficult to have the presence of mind. I've done it many times, but haven't always managed to react immediately, 100% of the time. I believe it takes practice. It's worth setting up a situation to role-play and actually say the words to call someone out and shut their bad behavior down, and how to support someone who's trying to do that.

The Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Project might be helpful: http://backupproject.org/faq.html

> if someone gropes you or worse, call him or her out in front of the group

In a way that's what has happened with this blog post. And look at the response.

> There's no shame in asking other people for help

There is if someone calls you a liar or comments on your sexual behaviour as a result. It's reasons like this that people are reluctant to report incidents like this.

I'd post this to her site if I could but I'd like to sincerely thank Noirin for speaking out about this. We as a community have a long way to go and speaking honestly and openly about problems is the very first step.

Apparently this guy is a twitter dev. Should heinous behavior like this at an after party be grounds for firing him? What would you do if you were his boss?

What would you do if you were his boss?

I would show him the post and ask him to explain himself.

All we have here is an unsubstantiated allegation; it happens to be an allegation I personally believe, but it's still not reasonably enough to fire someone over. If he was my employee and responded "that's all lies and I wasn't even at the pub" I'd encourage him to sue for libel. If he said "oh shit... yeah, I screwed up", I'd reconsider any important responsibilities I had assigned him (since such behaviour is evidence of not being able to act responsibly) but continue to employ him as long as he could contribute in other ways. If he said "yeah, so what's the big deal?" I'd fire him on the spot and phone the complainant to encourage her to press charges.

But above all I'd wait to hear both sides of the story before passing any judgement.

>If he said "oh shit... yeah, I screwed up", I'd reconsider[...]

Really? I think that doesn't cut it here. "yeah, I screwed up" is an appropriate response when you show up hungover for an important presentation,not when you try and force yourself on someone.

I don't believe that anyone is beyond salvation providing that he is willing to confront his sins and avoid repeating them. If I thought an employee was likely to sexually assault someone else, I'd cut him loose immediately; but if he was as shocked by his behaviour as any reasonable person would be, then I wouldn't necessarily think he was any more likely to reoffend than anyone else.

But I come from Canada -- a country which eschews the death penalty and even gives parole to multiple murderers on occasion. We're more forgiving than Americans.

I'm American and I agree with you.

Ideally the accused, if guilty, would man up, admit wrongdoing alcohol or no, apologize, and do whatever is in his power to right his wrong, make whole, undo the damage, seek counseling, stop drinking, donate a large sum to a women's shelter, speak out against sexual assault at tech conferences, that sort of thing.

Incredibly embarrassing for him yes, but the fact that she has only so far publicly shamed him and not actually pressed charges is more than charitable on her part.

She's left the door open for him to respond in kind and for this to be resolved between the two of them. But he has to realize the generosity she's displaying here, and reciprocate ten-fold.

To me that would be evidence that someone was not only shocked by their behavior, but sincere about being shocked, and willing to make it right. I'm not one to throw stones in such cases.

That is a very interesting interpretation, and very charitable; but it could just as easily be explained by malice because justly or not, the revelation has pretty much destroyed his reputation with a very, very small potential of successful redemptory action.

I think that she did it without really thinking it through because she is personally involved. People do not always make the best decisions under those circumstances, which is why we have the legal framework.

I must stress that I cannot really blame her, I do not know how I would have acted in similar circumstances. I just wish she had not done it because when naming names becomes precedent, something bad will happen to someone undeserving of it.

Agree with your second and third paragraphs. I was also a bit shocked as I was reading it when she named him. It would have been even more charitable not to, since he clearly would have known who she was referring to upon reading that blog post even without his name, and would have had the same opportunity to find a way to right his wrong.

But you can't expect a woman to act charitably after being sexually assaulted. That she hasn't pressed charges is still above and beyond the call of duty on her part, and I do think the road to redemption for a guy in this situation is clear, though not easy.

PS - all this presumes guilt; consider it hypothetical.

I do not think we should really presume anything.

> That she hasn't pressed charges is still above and beyond the call of duty on her part, […]

This I disagree with. A public outing can be just as, if not more damaging to the alleged assailant. It is possible that she also thought or thinks along your tracks, but I do not think it is factually true that this is somehow a "soft" option.

Wouldn't pressing charges = public outing + legal ramifications? Seems clearly worse than just a public outing.

And no, definitely shouldn't presume anything in these cases, which is what I meant by that last line.

Let's assume he denies this, which is a likely scenario. This puts me in a tough spot. The logician in me wants to agree with you. From her description, it was a secluded section of the bar so no one else probably saw. It would be her word against his.

On the other hand, I believe her. As far as I know she has no motive to falsely claim this against him. Also important, tens of thousands will read this story and most of them will believe her too. The company may face pressure for me to act. Do I throw my employee under the bus, on the basis of my judgment of her statement?

I still don't know the answer but I don't think it's clear cut either way.

... It would be her word against his.

At that point you'd have to make a judgement call. If someone is being publicly accused of a sexual assault which he denies too place but doesn't show any interest in launching a libel suit, that makes me rather suspicious. On the other hand, if he files a libel suit, or if criminal charges are filed against him, it seems reasonable to step back and let the courts decide what happened.

I'm not saying that I have a good answer for all possible situations, only that I know that I'd start by listening to both sides.

The company may face pressure for me to act. Do I throw my employee under the bus, on the basis of my judgment of her statement?

You're really asking two questions there. Is it reasonable to fire someone based on your judgement of what happened? Quite possibly. Is it reasonable to fire someone based on public pressure alone? I would say absolutely not -- but I come from an academic background, and I feel the greatest moments of academic history have been when universities have defended their faculty against public opinion. Most CEOs would probably throw an employee under a bus at the first hint of public pressure.

If not pressing libel charges makes you suspicious, doesn't not pressing sexual assault charges make you suspicious too?

If I were the guy and not guilty, I wouldn't really be all too interested in pressing charges, mostly because I'm too lazy and I hate lawyers etc.

EDIT: Now that I think of it, actually I would probably end pressing charges, but my initial reaction would be that of "wtf, why do I have to summon lawyers because someone did something stupid", with emphasis on the wtf.

If not pressing libel charges makes you suspicious, doesn't not pressing sexual assault charges make you suspicious too?

Somewhat, but the contexts are a bit different. Victims of sexual assault often decline to press charges because testifying about assaults can be traumatic (and even more so being cross-examined). Many simply want to hide and pretend that nothing ever happened.

In contrast, people who are wrongfully accused of crimes tend to shout their innocence from the rooftops.

above all I'd wait to hear both sides of the story before passing any judgement.

Definitely. Actually, even the story we have already is open for multiple interpretations. If this became a case and I were his lawyer I would certainly point out that a) she admits to having been drinking and b) she states: I may have been less eloquent, but I don’t think I was less clear. If she doesn't know, how can a judge? To me, in the absence of other evidence, I do not see how he could lose a libel case, or how she could win a sexual harassment case. And yes, in general (and quite possibly in this case, too) it is unfortunate (I would use a stronger term, but cannot think of one that doesn't have four letters) that such cases often do not lead to an outcome that people would feel to be just. However, the only way to fix that I know involves Big Brother-like changes to society (e.g: require everybody to record their entire lives, let the government keep the tapes for a couple of years)

Better be careful about making any decisions on a blog post. That's how wrongful termination lawsuits get filed. The correct response is to talk to him, get his side of the story, wait to see if the authorities will get involved, and make a decision once more of the facts have been aired.

It's AT-WILL in California. I don't know why the above person below me who pointed this out is getting downvoted.

At-will employment doesn't provide a blanket exemption from wrongful termination suits. The fact that you can fire someone for no reason doesn't mean that you can fire them for a bad reason -- and if, for example, a whistle-blower is fired, there will be a strong presumption that the whistle-blowing was the cause of the firing.

(Obviously this is not a whistle-blower case here, and I don't know if there would be any grounds on which to sue for wrongful termination; I'm not a California employment lawyer.)

It's pretty laughable that all of the "at-will" proponents are getting downvoted. Here's a quote from actual lawyers on this matter:

"If the accused is an employee at-will, his or her employer is free to terminate him or her for no reason or even a bad reason, so long as it is not a reason prohibited by law. Discharging an employee based on an accusation of sexual harassment is not unlawful, even if the accusation is not correct."


Not sure why you're so adamant about this. The OP asked if he should be terminated and the folks you're responding to simply said it's best to wait until you have more facts and can make an informed decision. Firing anyone at any time can open you up to a lawsuit. There is nearly zero barrier to filing a lawsuit; and a lawsuit, even one without merit, requires time, energy, and investment from the company to defend itself. That's why so many companies go out of their way to stay out of court and only fight those cases that are so clearly black and white they have little to no chance of losing. When a case falls into the grey area the cost of loss typically drastically outweighs the cost of settling. You have to make sure you do it properly. Proper documentation, proper reasoning, and proper legal support--especially in a case like this.

Pretty sure the responses were to this: "Better be careful about making any decisions on a blog post. That's how wrongful termination lawsuits get filed."

Also not a layer, but I've heard discussions of California employment law from people who are, and the impression I've got is that the law can go a whole lot further than whistle-blowers. Essentially, you can let someone go for no reason at all, but they can still sue for discrimination, breach of contract, etc.

(Disclaimer: Again, not a lawyer — that's just my layman's understanding of what I've heard and you should probably not cite this comment in court.)

"At-will employment doesn't provide a blanket exemption from wrongful termination suits"

Well, yeah. Stipulations include forcing someone to do anything illegal, firing someone because they're involved in union activity, or terminating someone based on discrimination. Please CITE a source or a case that concludes you can't fire someone for getting involved in the aforementioned mess in the link above whether he is guilty or not guilty. Thank you.

Can you cite a case that found the opposite?

at-will employment in california bro

At-will employment doesn't matter. The suit can easily be filed based on grounds that the employees future work capacity has been materially damaged because the firing gave implicit truth to the accusations, whether they be true or not.

In the United States of America anyone can sue anyone for anything. Once it gets to the court, everything is open to interpretation. Thats why most legal documents are written with vague language that leaves intent and outcome up to the interpretation of the court.

Yes, it does matter. I'd love for you to send us a link that says it doesn't matter, or cite a victorious case in California that has been "filed based on grounds that the employees future work capacity has been materially damaged because the firing gave implicit truth to the accusations" under an at-will employment.

The article is down - but, without evidence (a conviction, confession, or eyewitnesses) I wouldn't take any action.

Assuming the twitter dev contests her version of events, I see no reason to believe either one over the other. It would be stupid, and frankly sexist, to default to believing either side.

I'd say yes. At a conference-related event, you still represent your company on some level. (This of course assumes that the events happened as stated.)

As someone pointed out, this is still an allegation. If the allegation alone leads to firing, then another way to look at it is : the best way to have someone fired, is to make an allegation like that against them.

Also, since the developer is still representing your company at a conference. Accusing the developer of an assault is also a good way to tarnish the company's image.

I'd fire him in a second with sufficient corroboration of the story. There's a non-negligible chance that such poor decision making isn't confined to just women.

With corroboration, I'd fire him in a second. You're opening your company up to a world of pain if one of your execs has a proven history of sexual assault. Furthermore, I know me personally would be looking for work elsewhere. I'm male, but I wouldn't want anything to do with someone I know has sexually assaulted a woman.

If the story was proven to be correct I would, in an industry where it's hard enough to attract females what sort of message does it send if this guy doesn't have repercussions. Especially being at a tech related event where some females are intimidated to attend and get involved already.

I'd fire him. If Twitter doesn't fire him they are spoiling their pool of potential hires. Who would want to work with this guy? I bet the female employees at Twitter are already fairly creeped out by him now.

Okay, this sounds a bit harsh... so I'll explain more.

As others have stated, employment in California really is at-will. For example, I know someone who has been fired for getting too drunk at a company party!

So yeah, companies in California can fire you for any reason, or no reason at all. In this case I see the negative effects of keeping the person employed (such as the loss of potential employees and damage to the company reputation) outweighing their value as an employee.

If I were his boss, I should have never seen his name in public, or her name in public, at this stage of matters, before the legal system has dealt with it -- assuming it does at all. It's simply nobody else's business -- or very few, anyway -- as to what exactly did or did not happen that night. Her post should never have been made publicly at this point, or, if it did, should not have explicitly named a guy. A guy who could, very possibly, be totally innocent. None of us know for sure what happened. And even if what was claimed to happen did happen, it's not at all clear to me that it was some horrible thing that deserves somebody being jailed or being punished for the rest of their life for. Sexuality and hormones are messy animalistic things -- add alcohol and it gets more messy. There's even a school of thought that could argue: no harm, no foul.

> And even if what was claimed to happen did happen, it's not at all clear to me that it was some horrible thing that deserves somebody being jailed or being punished for the rest of their life for.

So forcing one's hand in to or near someones underwear is acceptable behavior? It's a crime. Whether under or above clothing, it is a crime.

perhaps it should not be a crime.

I think about things like this, and compare it to say the US-Iraq situation, one in which no US leaders have been charged with any crime, and I'm just shocked really. It feels like living in some Orwellian mad house. Perspectives and priorities are so backward. Hand in/on/near/above another person's clothes/underwear --- CRIME! ALERT THE POLICE! JAIL TIME! Invade another country on the explicit premise and justification of threat of imminent use of WMD's by that country, causing thousands of US and Iraqi deaths, which turns out there were no WMD's and the US administration appears to have spun matters and manipulated the public and Congress into getting the mandate to it -- not a crime. Oops. No big deal. A simple mistake. Oh well. It's life. Let's move on. Back to prosecuting the hands-in-panties situations! :)

This article/post is not about what was or wasn't a crime during the war (this or any other) - nor was it about politics and how you or I feel about the way things are running within the government.

Perhaps you should realize the pain this "non-issue" causes people on a day to day basis. I hope your mom, sister or wife - perhaps your daughter or your best female friend - NEVER have to deal with such a situation - sadly this is not the case and at least one of those mentioned will experience it to some degree. Let's see how you feel about it then.

Anyhow that is all I have to say about this - I won't feed the troll anymore.

It's obvious that the OA and thread is not primarily about war. That's obvious. What should have been obvious, I hoped, was that I was making a point about comparing the act we were talking about with another, arguably much much more heinous and violent and massive act, and one that has not been considered a crime. I was trying to put things in perspective. I honestly feel sometimes that America is some Orwellian madhouse when it comes to sex and violence and warfare and say massive financial matters. Weird private things involving two people or a mere $50, where no physical harm is done, and could be attributed to alcohol and misreading body language can be considered much bigger crimes and acts of evil than something involving definite physical damage, or millions or billions of dollars, and the sickening, crippling or loss of thousands or in some cases millions of lives. It's hilarious in some insane tragic way, I think.

And you shouldn't imply I'm a troll, that's pretty rude.

Based off of your comments throughout this thread, it seemed/seems quite clear, to me at least, that you were and are trolling. But that's my opinion - guess we are all entitled to having one - so I will entitle you to yours - as fucked up and delusional I might think it is.

Why is that site slow to load. Isn't it just coming from google?

It is loading Javascript from her site. She probably has Apache KeepAlive on with a maximum number of connections far insufficient for the number of people currently trying to request files. They all get into a line and request their file, get it almost instantly, then keep the connection open for 2 ~ 3 seconds waiting for another request to come in... while several thousand people behind them have their requests time out. Javascript included in the HEAD of a document will block rendering until it is either downloaded and parsed completely or times out. Thus, it doesn't matter if Google's CDN gives you the HTML in 5 milliseconds -- your user-visible experience is dominated by her server's timeout on the Javascript.

Apache KeepAlive: it kills more blogs than cancer.

For learning about this general subject, I recommend the YSlow presentations.

Hi there,

I'm the administrator of the box running the blog. I'm also colm@apache.org, one of the authors of Apache httpd. KeepAlive's are enabled on the host, but with a deliberate timeout of 1 second. The listen backlog is 25, which can contribute to a backlog looking like the above but it isn't.

The hosted ended up getting wedged due to poor MySQL contention, there is a limit of just 80 server processes (and hence connections - we're running pre-fork on this host), and they were each getting blocked on MySQL reads.

That's been sorted now, and some better caching, compression and more put in place. It's a 1Ghz, 1GB RAM box is a colo that got slammed by HN, Reddit and Techcrunch in one go - to an uncached wordpress instance. I'm surprised it did as well as it did ;-)

Hit the 'text only' link

She, and a lot of commenters, are talking as if Florian Leibert thought this was a good idea, or that this behavior is OK, or something. It looks like he had a few too many and lost control. "Thousands and thousands of years of civilization and education" (as emmanuel lécharny put it in the comments on that page) just don't come into it. If he'd gotten into a car and accidentally driven off a cliff, no one would call him suicidal. I don't think he has a "double standard", and I don't think he was planning to "get patted on the back for it", as L. claimed.

But if he had gotten into a car, and accidentally driven into a pedestrian, he would be called a drunk driver and he would face punishment for his actions.

What I'm saying is, there are limits to "losing control".

My point is, he KNOWS that it's a bad idea to drive off a cliff / hit a pedestrian, and normally he can avoid this.

Telling Florian this stuff ahead of time, or sending him to a groper's equivalent of defensive driving classes, isn't going to help.

I commented this earlier, but I think it's worth commenting again: Alcohol use doesn't increase the risk that of committing a sexual offense in people who aren't likely to offend while sober. It does, however, increase the likelihood of someone committing a sexual offense if they would also commit a sexual offense sober. (Greenfield 1998) So if someone sexually assaults someone while drunk, they are likely to do it sober. They didn't lose control; they just had a lower threshold for a behavior they would already do.

Agreed. When people have alcohol, they often lose inhibitions and do or say things they otherwise would not. There's a good chance this applied to many of the people described in the story.

One implication of this statement is that some people hold back from committing sexual assault in large part due to societal pressure. Perhaps true, but not much of an excuse on a moral level.

No one said it was any excuse. I'm worried that people will get the wrong answers when they ask the wrong questions. My point wasn't about social pressure but mental exertion: consciously examining one's own thoughts in real-time. Definitely the only thing that keeps people back from sexual assault is consciously deciding not to.

" Definitely the only thing that keeps people back from sexual assault is consciously deciding not to."

That is so not true. Don't extrapolate your own pitiful lack of morality onto others. If you have to explicitly remind yourself not to rape people, it doesn't mean everyone else does too.

This isn't just about rape, it's about ANY physical contact.

Oh, I'm sorry. I'll rephrase.

That is so not true. Don't extrapolate your own pitiful lack of morality onto others. If you have to explicitly remind yourself not to sexually assault people, it doesn't mean everyone else does too.

Is that better?

Yeah, it's better. But the reason I don't do those things is specifically because I think they're immoral. I can look at the impulse and say, "No, that's wrong." Do you think that makes me immoral?

sexual assault != rape

Rape is a subset of sexual assault.

By the common legal definition of sexual assault it includes acts like a pat on the ass or on the clothing outside the breast area. Hardly rape.

What one person would call sexual assault another may call just being aggressive and forward with their sexuality. In that scenario, it is not a pitiful lack of morality. Just sexuality. Sexuality itself is not, or is not necessarily, immoral. It's a natural biological process and urge. We're not talking about murder here, or theft, or bombing, or starting a war. We're talking about an unwanted kiss or touch. If the very same act was wanted and explicitly consented to by the receiving party it would not be a crime. That's how subtle and delicate of an issue this is, and so controversial.

I cannot recall ever consciously needing to decide not to commit sexual assault.

I bet you very likely did, and may not be aware of it. Because all it depends on is how loosely "sexual assault" is defined. If you've ever been near a female you were attracted to, and you were horny, at least some part of your brain(s) may have thought about wanting to touch her -- especially in a sexual way or a sexual part of her body. And you may have thought, nah, you shouldn't do that, for whatever reason, at the time. You my friend had come really close to committing an act of legal sexual assault. But, you chose not to do so, at the last minute, through conscious decision.

Again, we're not talking necessarily about rape (in the old fashioned sense of the word) but about "sexual assault" which is a more recent and genericized and watered down term used in the law enforcement system, designed intentionally to include a much wider variety of acts beyond the traditional rape act.

> When people have alcohol, they often lose inhibitions and do or say things they otherwise would not.

But that doesn't make criminal acts any more acceptable. If you do illegal things when you drink, don't drink.

Wow, think about waking up from a drunken night to realize not only that you made poor decisions the night before, but that you are now the Internet douchebag.

This guy probably wishes he kept his hands to himself.

Probably not the first time. Most guys who pull this shit are serial offenders. Once they realize they can act with impunity, they repeat the behavior.

I'm not defending either side in this situation, but it seems unfair to immediately think the accused is a serial rapist.

As the father of two daughters I am somewhat appalled by the responses here. I'm not taking anyone's side, but the responses here are shocking to me. I don't know what to say, but, WOW! Maybe I need to rethink the advice I am giving my daughters.

Defensiveness, denial, etc

Are you reading the same site? What I see is lots of perfectly reasonable people saying "it's really horrible that this sort of thing happens, and we've got the pitchforks and torches ready, but we're not going to put a noose around this guy's neck based on a blog post alone".

My original post contained the words you quoted. As I scrolled down the page I realized that the posts were less offensive and edited my post. Yet, at this point in time, a number of the top upvoted comments are quite defensive and in denial.

Could you cite some specific examples of replies that appall you, and perhaps give a short explanation of what you take issue with? That would help make this discussion more concrete, and hopefully more productive.

Sure, Here was the original top comment I found appalling:


This right here is called denial. In short "I have a friend, who is like this guy, who was accused of the same thing and he got off." Which in my opinion is denying that the female involved is telling the truth and that this person is completely innocent.

Additionally, this is the second highest post as I type. I don't think I even have to respond. At this time, the comment that makes the same point as me is downvoted to the negative:


At this point I don't want to continue further defending my point. Downvote me if you like. I find the responses here about 50% disturbing and 50% uplifting. That is no reflection on HN, but on the tech community. Before today I would have gladly recommended to my daughters to follow a tech path. But after tonight I've lost my innocence on that. I've never really thought about these issues from a woman's perspective before tonight. And I've never really been involved in a situation like this. So my responses might be a bit different than the typical younger 20's male responses. And I'm fine with that. Maybe I've just lost my innocence.

> Before today I would have gladly recommended to my daughters to follow a tech path. But after tonight I've lost my innocence on that.

This type of thing is, unfortunately, by no means exclusive to or even at all more common in tech than anywhere else. By all means try to prepare your daughters for the world, but I think evaluating tech as any different in this respect would be a disservice to them.

You may be 100% correct, it's just that it hadn't become real for me. I am in my late 30's and have father-friends in various industries. When I went to school there were a couple of female students in the class here or there. We treated them no different than any other students. There were plenty of embarrassing sexual advances by students, but nothing along the lines of sexual assault. Men and women of the tech community were the smart students.

I've talked to many father-friends who have sons and daughters who go to various high schools and colleges. I've heard stories of sexual assaults and very unfortunate situations. But I could always justify them to myself as inferior disciplines and sad situations.

It's not like I thought this never happened in tech. Just the combination of highly skilled, top company, person in tech and the response of a general community that I highly respect give me pause.

In general, I think I am older than the HN crowd, so I am fine with thinking a bit different.

we had a conversation on the geekfeminism blog a while back about the issue of not talking about the bad stuff in tech - you might find it insightful, in terms of how some women who are in tech, and have deal with this shit, think about it: http://geekfeminism.org/2010/06/10/dont-mention-the-war/

Is there any other career path where women are LESS likely to be assaulted?

Nuns seem pretty safe.

False accusations of sexual assault are not uncommon.

I'm not logicalmind, but I think the single most appalling comment I've read thus far was http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1876272

The "anyone involved in feminism and getting women involved in open source is a man-hating liar and is probably lying about sexual assault" tone is too misogynistic for words, cloaked in a thin veneer of "let's not rush to judgement" for plausible deniability.

Was the comment edited? I can't find your quote.

The first item in quotation marks is my interpretation of the author's tone, for better or for worse. The second is a slight paraphrase of "Please lets not assassinate".

If what happened, happened, it's non-ideal. Was it a horrible thing? Not so sure. Should it be a crime? Not so sure. Look I think I should never have to encounter someone who's rude to me, or launches into some long story about their life just because I bumped into them in the hallway one time -- but should that be a crime? Probably not. Sexuality and romance and human relationships are very very messy and irrational and play by a different set of rules than a lot of our "civilized" thought processes and paradigms follow. Should every woman who goes to a bar expect to be groped? Of course not. Should every woman probably expect that it could happen, and may happen eventually? Of course. Will they survive afterward? They should. Unless they traumatize easily, of course. Some people have weaker personalities than others, and no two people are alike exactly.

And I can guarantee that for every father who worries about how his daughter might one day be groped by a man, that there's at least one daughter who hopes or fantasizes about being groped by a man someday too. (Of course, probably by a man she is attracted to or perceives of him as an Alpha, etc.) Sex. It's messy stuff.

>there's at least one daughter who hopes or fantasizes about being groped by a man someday too.

I like to fantasize about all kinds of disgusting things.

However, if a stranger came up to me in a bar, and simply presumed that I would like to have one of these disgusting things done to me, I'd be quite offended.

Fantasy is one thing, reality is another.

She has tweeted a link to a working copy of the article: http://blog.nerdchic.net/archives/418/

The tweet quotes the line: "It is not my job to avoid getting assaulted. It is everyone else's job to avoid assaulting me."

I think that statement is wrongheaded. Not the second part - it is indeed everyone else's job to avoid assaulting people. The responsibility for the crime lies entirely with the perpetrator.

Unfortunately, because of this, making any statement as to the victim's behavior is always seen as "blaming the victim".

The problem is, in this world, we only reliably control the actions of one person: ourselves. We can take principled stands that "it's everyone else's job to not assault me", and that's so true, but in the end, being right isn't a suitable stand-in for being safe.

That is why I don't like the statement, "It is not my job to avoid getting assaulted". Because regardless of where the responsibility should lie, in reality, we are ALWAYS the stewards of our own personal safety. We have to be, because we're the only person in the world who will treat the job with the gravity it deserves.

If I walk down a bad alley, it is not my fault if I get shot. The person pulling the trigger is 100% at fault. But, I was not being a good steward of my own safety.

Towards the end of the post, she says, "I’m tired of people who think I should avoid having a beer in case my vigilance lapses for a moment." You have a right to be tired. I've lived in a couple of unsafe places where I grew tired of the fact that I had to be vigilant just to go about my daily life. It is draining and it is frustrating to have to alter your behavior because of the threat posed by others. But we only have one life, and safety must take priority over principle.

It is right to say that the perpetrator is the one at fault. It is right to call them out and make them account for their actions. Innocent people shouldn't have to alter their behavior to avoid danger. But the reality is that they have to anyway.

EDIT: Allow me to clarify a couple of points. Some people are taking me as saying, "you have to do everything possible to protect yourself, and if something happens, then you didn't protect yourself enough."

This is false. Sometimes, stuff happens even if you do everything right. The point was simply that you have a responsibility to your own personal well-being to do everything right, even though you can't guarantee 100% safety.

Also, I have avoided applying my comments to her specific sequence of events. Some people have taken me as lecturing her in failing. Folks, she was largely successful in doing what I'm saying. Her attacker was clearly intending to do more and was foiled. This may not have been the case if, say, she had been too drunk, or in a place where she was not able to make the escape she did, etc.

What her attacker did was the sexual assault equivalent of a sucker punch. He found the ever-so-slightest opening and exploited it. She successfully shook off the initial attack and defended herself from any further assault. We're talking about a situation that could have ended much worse, and didn't because she was able to take ownership of her safety. And she had to do so because there was no one else to do the job.

Which is why I found the comments in her blog/tweet that I replied to a little puzzling, and made this post to address them.

She said no, he groped her. What do you propose she should have done to be a "steward of her personal safety"? Live as though every male could attempt to sexually assault her? Is that how you want your wife/girlfriend/daughter going through life? Do you think that's how they want to go through life? Is that how we want female members of the tech community feeling at these types of gatherings?

Look, I appreciate the fact you're trying to make a reasoned, pragmatic argument on an emotional issue. But the fact of the matter is this is a situation that we can change and do something about. Anyone should feel comfortable participating in our community without fearing for their personal safety; we have the ability to support victims and make clear to those who would commit these crimes that it's not something they can get away with, which is not the current status quo.

I'm not necessarily saying she did anything incorrectly.

I made comments towards the general attitude she espoused at the end of the post. I quoted exactly what I was responding to. Anything else is stuff that I wasn't responding to.

>> Anyone should feel comfortable participating in our community without fearing for their personal safety; we have the ability to support victims and make clear to those who would commit these crimes that it's not something they can get away with, which is not the current status quo.

I agree with all of this. Everyone should be able to participate without feeling unsafe, victims deserve support, perpetrators deserve to be called out, would-be perpetrators should be put on notice. All of that is very much consistent with what I said.

I should have made more clear I think we're generally in agreement as well. My point was the respond to the implication that sexual assault is just a fact of life for women: it doesn't have to be. It's something we can change, and in that sense it's the job of all of us to make sure it doesn't happen to other members of our community.

In all seriousness, thanks for your articulate and reasoned comment.

>"But the fact of the matter is this is a situation that we can change and do something about."

What can we do something about? Aren't loud, drunken, dark, crowded venues the kind of places that sexual assault happens? Is the hypothesis that if we shame people more that we can eliminate sexual assault?

I am not sure that insufficient shame is the problem. I doubt the males that do this think it is a fine thing to do when sober.

Our society thinks frat parties, dance clubs, and drunken after parties are a swell way to have fun and a huge percentage of our women are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. These two facts are related. It's dumb to think we can pack people together and dull their inhibitions with alcohol and nothing bad will happen. It's not harmless fun.

Maybe the Mormons have the right idea about alcoholic partying. We're playing with fire and we're lying to ourselves if we think we'll ever make it safe.

Actually, if someone wouldn't commit a sexual crime, they're not going to do it drunk. Only 30% of reported rapes and sexual assaults involve alcohol use on the part of the offender. (Keep in mind that this is reported rapes and sexual assaults; sexual crimes are extremely unreported.) The Center for Sex Offender Management quotes a 1998 Greenfield study when it says that "[a]lcohol use, therefore, may increase the likelihood that someone already predisposed to commit a sexual assault will act upon those impulses. However, excessive alcohol use is not a primary precipitant to sexual assaults." Note: These numbers are from 2000, unfortunately. However, there has not been a dramatic change in the last decade.

Actually, if someone wouldn't commit a sexual crime, they're not going to do it drunk. Only 30% of reported rapes and sexual assaults involve alcohol use on the part of the offender. (Keep in mind that this is reported rapes and sexual assaults; sexual crimes are extremely unreported.)

The underreporting is not uniform, though. I wouldn't be surprised if intoxicated victims are less likely to report than sober victims; and the sobriety of victims and assailants is highly correlated.

How often is someone drunk? 30% is absolutely huge conditionally.

Really? There is going to be some correlation between the times that people are most likely to commit sexual assaults and the times that people are likely to be drinking.

I'm sure people spend a lot of time doing things like commuting to work or sleeping at night, but it's highly unlikely that they will commit sexual assaults during those times. People are just more likely to be drinking at times when they are looking for sex (e.g. at a party, at a bar, etc).

You should probably be following something like the following line of reasoning:

1. How many sexual assaults happen on dates?

2. How prevalent is drinking while on a date? (Maybe you'll have to divide the data up regionally or something for it to make sense)

3. How many sexual assaults happen when there was drinking on a date?

Then you can start to look at how likely it is that alcohol is really the cause of sexual assault (at least for the dataset that you're looking at).

  >  I doubt the males that do this think it is a fine thing to do when sober.
I resent the idea that once people are 'under the influence' they lose all grasp of reason. I've been drunk on a number of occasions and I never once thought that sexual assault sounded like a keen idea. And even if I had ever mis-read a woman and kissed her when she didn't want it, I sure as hell wouldn't have thought it was a good idea to then move on to grabbing at her genitals. Don't blame the alcohol here.

That part of your post is almost as bad as the film, 'Reefer Madness.'

  > Our society thinks frat parties, dance clubs, and drunken after parties are a swell
  > way to have fun and a huge percentage of our women are sexually assaulted at
  > some point in their lives. These two facts are related.
You're ignoring a huge number of factors and focusing in on just the idea that you want to be true.

This line of reasoning is typically used to let people off the hook for sexual assault. I get what you're saying--- you're making a practical argument, here, that people have to protect themselves.

She didn't do anything extraordinary, though. A crowded bar is hardly an "unsafe place," for crying out loud. And I would ask you what you, specifically, think she should have done differently, but who are any of us to judge in the first place? Going to a bar with some friends for some beers is eminently normal.

I am not accusing you, personally, of justifying sexual assault. But people can and do presume that a woman who is assaulted was in some way foolish or asking for it. And they make legal decisions on this basis.

As I said, I get that you're making a narrower point that speaks to reality over principle. But it is spectacularly unhelpful and in extremely poor taste to counsel a victim of sexual assault that she is responsible for her own safety and, by implication, she needs to be or should have been more careful. Why do people feel like it's OK to lecture women in this way?

Finally, I must point out that your experience of living in unsafe places is a very, very small subset of a woman's experience living in places that might otherwise appear "safe." For all practical purposes, men don't have to worry about being sexually assaulted. This is a case in point: she was at a bar, among numerous fellow professionals, many of whom she considered trustworthy.

>> This line of reasoning is typically used to let people off the hook for sexual assault.

That is exactly what I was taking great care not to have my comments construed as. I don't think I could have any more emphatically stated that the fault lies entirely with the assaulter.

I was hoping that it was possible to separate the issue of the assailant's responsibility from taking care of one's own personal safety. It seems to me that these discussions are never able to do that.

I don't see any logical reason why talking about taking care of your own safety should be considered in any way logically equivalent to taking the blame off the assailant and putting it on the victim. The two concepts should be wholly separate. It is my opinion that it is emotion instead of logic that tends to make the two become confused in these discussions.

As for your comment about it being in poor taste to counsel someone who has just been a victim of assault, that is why the post in question is a comment on the HackerNews post (which was NOT posted by her) and not a response to her tweet, or comment on her blog, or a private email, etc.

"I was hoping that it was possible to separate the issue of the assailant's responsibility from taking care of one's own personal safety. It seems to me that these discussions are never able to do that."

This distinction may exist in theory, but in practice, it requires some ability to judge the victims actions in retrospect. Aside from being practically impossible, it's presumptuous to think that you or someone else would have exercised better judgement. Actually, it's patronizing. Everyone's a little bit (racist|sexist), so for my part I would not call this some deep character flaw on your part. But it's an antipattern that men fall into pretty easily and women are quite sensitive to.

"As for your comment about it being in poor taste to counsel someone who has just been a victim of assault, that is why the post in question is a comment on the HackerNews post (which was NOT posted by her) and not a response to her tweet, or comment on her blog, or a private email, etc."

I get that, but you--- as a man, I presume--- help set the tone of any discussion about this. Other men will read what you write. Some of them are smart, and they'll get you. A lot of other people won't.

I don't know HN's audience, but I presume there are women here that read what you wrote. What you say colors and informs their perception, too.

Think for a moment about how what you write affects the discussion. You have the power to influence it as much as everyone else. I wouldn't presume to advise you not to write your thoughts or anything like that. Rather, this is one of those "with great [freedom] comes great responsibility" areas. What feeling would you expect a victim of sexual assault to come away with after reading that? What would you want them to think, both about you and about men's attitude towards assault in general?

You know, absolutely none of what I've said applies in any special way to women only. We could be having a discussion about a man and some other risky situation, and every bit of it would still apply.

It's not about singling out or patronizing women.

I've put a lot of thought into my own personal safety in sketchy situations, and seeing someone say something along the lines of "protecting myself isn't my job" just rubs me the wrong way. It really has absolutely nothing to do with women and sexual assault in specific.

I was hoping that it was possible to separate the issue of the assailant's responsibility

I don't think that flies, because the point of her post was to identify a sexual assailant. She said she was the victim of an assault by another person, an issue of injustice which is a social and cultural question, and you said "Yes, but everyone is responsible for their own personal safety." This isn't about personal safety, it's about social justice, and yes, those are two very different things. So why are you trying to change the subject? The reasonable conclusion is that you're trying to weaken her claim to justice, which implies that you think we focus too much on justice, using social resources to protect women and they need to look out for themselves more.

He was responding directly to her comment: "It is not my job to avoid getting assaulted. It is everyone else's job to avoid assaulting me."

It is not a question of identifying a sexual assailant (it is clearly the guy), or in trying to assign blame to the woman (this is out of her control.) If you read what he wrote, he was not denying any of these points. He was not talking about social justice. He was nitpicking one of the things she said which was not about social justice.

He also did not deny that she was not looking out for her personal safety. He simply said that it was incorrect not to take responsiblity for this -- she did appear to take responsibility but in her message says that it's "not her job". He is just being pragmatic. Predatory people exist; often we have to protect ourselves from them.

I believe everything the author of the blog post has said. The guy in question deserves everything that is coming to him.

  It’s not the first time something like this has happened to me, at all. It’s not 
  the first time it’s happened to me at a tech conference. But it is the first time
  I’ve spoken out about it in this way,
This is a crime. You would report it if someone robbed your house, you would report it if someone bashed you in a dark alley. Incidents like these needs to be reported every time, so it's good she has told us about it; but then I guess as a member of the opposite sex I can't see how hard it is to report crimes like this from a woman's perspective.

  I’m tired of the sense that some idiot can ruin my day and never have to answer 
  for it. I’m tired of the fear. I’m tired of people who think I should wear 
  something different. I’m tired of people who think I should avoid having a beer
  in case my vigilance lapses for a moment. I’m tired of people who say that guys
  can’t read me right and I have to read them, and avoid giving the wrong 
It is unfortunate that in this society, as the above comment said, everyone needs to be a steward for their own safety. Some might need to stay vigilant more so than others, but even then, even if they are tired of it, they are still the only ones who truly understand how to keep themselves safe, there is no one else who can do as good a job.

Nonetheless from what I see there's nothing she could have done to have prevented it, besides being absent from the after party.

I wouldn't want to live in a world where every women wore long skirts, didn't drink beer, and weren't over-friendly to me just because these are all 'risk-factors' for increasing potential of inappropriate behavior.

I'm pretty sure most women wouldn't want to live in that world either.

I made it a point to entirely direct my comments towards those statements that I quoted, and not towards the specifics of her incident.

I didn't want to get into the much more fuzzy and subjective discussion of to what degree her actual actions did or didn't follow what I laid out.

It's your job to avoid being assaulted in a dark alley, when a woman (or any person) at an industry conference feels that it's her or his job to protect themselves from assault around the delegates, that's a big problem.

You're right. If there exists such a problem that women have to be vigilant in protecting themselves at industry conferences, that is indeed a big problem.

Her post said, "It’s not the first time something like this has happened to me, at all. It’s not the first time it’s happened to me at a tech conference."

Clearly, for women, tech conferences are far too closely resembling the dark alleys that I'm being metaphorically shot in, and that deserves some serious attention by those putting on the conferences.

If the conferences are that bad where this is becoming a pattern, then it is also important that participants pay sufficient care to their personal safety, while also doing everything possible to bring the issue to light. And bringing the issue to light is something she is doing with this blog post, for certain.

> that deserves some serious attention by those putting on the conferences.

It's not just up to those putting on the conference. It's up to all of us.

And it's not just about about incidents as "blatant" (although not to everyone, apparently) as this but also other cases:


If people don't make a stand, things don't change.

> It's your job to avoid being assaulted in a dark alley

Or maybe it's the job of the city in which you live to provide sufficient lighting and security for its citizens.

In this metaphor you, I and the tech community are the city.

Exactly. We as the technology community need to make sure it's not a "dark alley" for anyone, for everyone's sake.

> Which is why I found the comments in her blog/tweet that I replied to a little puzzling, and made this post to address them.

I'm going to phrase this in neutral terms, because I believe you thought you were making a useful point, and are genuinely confused at the reaction. Has anyone suggested you might have Asperger's?

Here's the thing: people will judge you based on what you appear to be thinking about.

Let's say your next-door neighbor is black, and then you hear he suffered a beating from some white supremacist skinheads. So you write a post on a forum saying "You know, some black people are so caught up in their own identity of victimhood, they invite others to take advantage of them."

That might be a valid point, and maybe you aren't even intending to make the connection between what you said and what just happened. But by the standard principle of conversational relevance, people will assume that's what you meant. And the people around you are going to be outraged, because if you were able to react like that, it indicates, at best, that you had no emotional reaction to your neighbor being beaten. People who aren't aroused to defend victims are considered creepy and untrustworthy. It suggests you are indifferent to the attackers, or that you even identify with them.

So, just as you tried to offer neutral advice on staying safe in a dangerous world, let me offer you neutral advice on not sounding like a horse's ass. When someone in your community is victimized, their emotional state, as well as the safety of others in their situation, is supposed to be uppermost in your mind. Statements that show otherwise are interpreted as supporting the attackers, or perhaps suggest that you think the victim wasn't really part of your community or worthy of defending. So, if you want to make tangential comments, at least acknowledge the situation first.

Maybe people who are innocently commenting on whatever popped into their head shouldn't have to make such gestures to solidarity, but the reality is that they have to anyway.

I'm more familiar with the horse's ass diagnosis than the Asperger's one.

You use a word that I find very interesting: "outrage". I find it interesting that you don't seem to conceive of a middle ground between "clinical lack of emotion/empathy" and "emotion completely overwhelming everything else".

You're right that my emotional response (yes, there is one) is tempered by the relative social distance between me and the victim. This is, of course, normal - otherwise, we wouldn't even blink over a somewhat-thwarted sexual assault attempt, as we would be far too focused on the daily atrocities of the world that routinely dwarf it in magnitude.

Your phrasing was that, "perhaps... you think the victim wasn't really part of your community or worthy of defending". This is, indeed, a person I have barely heard of before now. She is a good bit further removed from my social circle than the metaphorical next-door neighbor you sprinkled throughout your comment.

My strong emotional reactions are the property of the more inner concentric circles of my social graph. Perhaps yours reach more outwardly in the graph, and that's fine. I would caution you, however, about doling out psychological diagnoses simply on the grounds that one's emotional reactions do not strictly coincide with The Neilk Standard.

Neil, I'll phrase this in neutral terms, but have you considered that you might be neurotypical, prone to groupthink in defending irrational actions and cursed by the gift of little knowledge? I'm joking, but I do have trouble equating "neutral terms" with "horse's ass". I'd hate to see what your non-neutral terms look like!

Legion's post reads as very self-aware to me, and I think he (she?) sounds fairly aware of how society tends to react. His whole post is a response to this reaction. To me, he sounds to be looking for an audience that can rise above this. Thus you might be teaching your grandmother to suck eggs. Which might actually be a 'neutral term', since I've never understood it's origin. :)

I should have known people would focus on that one phrase.

If you must know, yes, I feel contempt for someone who acts like this, and I was unsuccessful in hiding that. I think the collective response of males and/or geeks to this story is pretty revolting. Over on Reddit, the crudest and most hostile comments are being upvoted. On HN, we avoid crudeness, but neither can we escape from the black hole of geek discussions, libertarianism and related fantasies of complete self-reliance. Way to go, internet.

I also understand that sometimes people who aren't neurotypical really do need things explained to them in extremely literal terms. In the past, I might have been as clueless, probably more clueless. So I tried to focus on being constructive, although I did fail.

I appreciate the focus on constructive --- that's why I'm here rather than on Reddit. Yes, there times when explaining things that seem like they should be obvious is exactly what is needed. Sometimes the obvious has already been taken into account, sometimes it hasn't.

My comment was intended as constructive as well: from afar, I can't tell if you are a step ahead of Legion or if he is a step ahead of you. And I won't even hazard a guess as to which step I'm at. I was aiming for feedback that you would find useful, either by confirming your diagnosis or helping to refute it. I feel no contempt toward either one of you.

I think the odd thing in this case is that the 'victim' is not properly playing her role. Rather than being damaged for life and seeking the help of the 'authorities', she seems to have assumed control of the situation herself. For me, this makes a response like Legion's socially acceptable, even if misguided. Cheers!

I think you're missing her point. I don't think she is saying she is not responsible for taking reasonable measures to protect her own safety. I think she is saying she doesn't need to blame herself for getting assaulted. Which is true.

In any situation it's not just about a perpetrator and a person who has been attacked, it's also about the community.

As a community, if we are aware of a danger to a member of our community then we have an obligation to work to remove that danger.

If that requires putting up a light in that dark alley, standing up for people at conferences or whatever then we have a responsibility to do so.

This whole conversation will have been for little if the next time you or I observe unacceptable behaviour we do nothing about it. It says something for the Apache community that the author felt that their were people she was able to make contact with about it. But we all need to move from the place where we are the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.

This post could only exist on HN. The particular point it's making is almost beside the point for me personally; for me, it's so amazing because anywhere else on the internet that I've been, Legion would get completely blown up for being a sexist racist capitalist communist anarchist fascist pigdog force.

So, yay for HN, and yay for not being reddit.

And, also, I agree with it.

I'm sorry but this just pisses me off. I hate to be reductionist but this amounts to "don't blame the victim, but really she should have been more careful."

He called her over to ask her a question, kissed her, she protested, and so he groped her. What the fuck should she have done differently?

Please see my response to shaddi.

Where you're making a mistake is taking my comments and applying them to her specific sequence of events. If you read what I wrote, you'll note that I was not doing this. I was responding to the comment towards the end of her blog post, which she recycled into her tweet.

Don't go over. It's not a good idea for a woman to go alone with a drunk guy. I thought that was common knowledge - am I wrong?

EDIT: if you disagree, please comment instead of downvoting. (If you think my comment harms the discussion, you can downvote of course.)

I had plenty of female friends in college who knew it was perfectly OK to go anywhere and chat with me about anything even when I was gasp drunk. Give me a break.

From the way it was described she didn't really 'go' anywhere with him except maybe a different section of the crowded bar. It's not like she got in a car with him, or went alone back to his hotel room.

Yes you're wrong.

EDIT - just to clarify my POV: It's a terrible thing he did. He probably desserves this.

ORIGINAL - probably misunderstood by the downvoters: But I surely hope he did grope her and he was indeed as abusive as she described him to be. Because if he didn't all this content we are creating will just serve to leave a very bad looking legacy of doubt around his character. I will therefore leave the thread hoping for him that he responds soon on http://flori.posterous.com/

Yeah, but that probably means the smart thing for a woman to do is assume all men are potential rapists. Maybe you're OK with that? Not me.

No, see what you're doing here is trying to blame the victim. It is _NEVER_ okay to do that.

Is that supposed to be some kind of ironic joke?

Not that I feel the victim is to blame in this case, but it is foolish to decide the victim must ALWAYS be utterly blameless. Japan was the victim of the detonation of the first atomic bomb. Were they utterly and completely blameless?

I'm speechless; Your comment is so inflammatory that I can't comprehend how you figured it was okay to post, let alone how you didn't get downvoted into oblivion.

It's essentially a clever twist on the old argument: "She showed some skin so she had it coming"

Seriously: shame on you.


Pro tip: know what you're talking about before conmenting? Hint: click parent, then read the whole comment I responded to.

Thank you.

Don't just downvote me nimwit. Put your name in your profile and tell me how I'm wrong.

I don't have the power to downvote, and so I have not downvoted you. But I would if I could, especially the comment I'm replying to, but also its parent.

In an ideal world, votes down mean "this comment contributes negatively to the conversation, and on an ideal HN I wouldn't have seen it". Actually, I can't find any specific HN guideline on how to vote, so YMMV, but I think that's the enlightened 2010 rule. So people who downvote you don't necessarily disagree.

No one thinks its okay to demand of other people "hey, if you can't articulate why you agree with einarvollset, don't upvote him". Why would you have this asymmetry of expectations?

With that in mind, the parent of my comment is clearly a bad comment, it explicitly violates the HN guidelines, which say "Resist complaining about being downmodded. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading" and also which specifically proscribe calling names. This complaining-about-downvotes comment is a poor one, and ought to be downvoted.

Its parent, that seems more subjective. My take on the matter follows. Your comment appears to _me_ to be reactionary in the most trivial way. It's full of ad hominem, and besides that it's clearly wrong. Legion goes to great lengths to observe that the BLAME lies with the perpetrator, and that his/her problem is with an unrelated claim, namely a claim that people are ought not be responsible for their own safety. You appear to be arguing against a straw man (making your comment less valuable), using rude language (making your comment less valuable), later in the day than other commenters who made more-articulate variations on your comment (making your comment less valuable). In short, it appears to me that your comment detracts from the conversation, and has no redeeming value, and as such should be lovingly downvoted. YMMV, that's why they're votes.

"It’s not the first time something like this has happened to me, at all. It’s not the first time it’s happened to me at a tech conference. But it is the first time I’ve spoken out about it in this way, because I’m tired of the sense that some idiot can ruin my day and never have to answer for it."

At this risk of everyone taking this the wrong way....

(1) If it's not the first time this has happened, it might be time to re-evaluate the pattern of behavior that led up to the unfortunate event.

(2) Never have to answer for it?!!? Um if you're sexually assaulted (multiple times?!?!) you should definitely be reporting that to the POLICE where the offender will, I'm pretty sure, have to answer for it. Right?

I totally understand that blogging about this must have been incredibly difficult for this person, and perhaps naming the accused in the post lightens the burden on her a bit... but this should definitely be a police issue, not a blog issue!

"If it's not the first time this has happened, it might be time to re-evaluate the pattern of behavior that led up to the unfortunate event."

Responses like this are exactly why women don't speak up when these things happen.

Devil's advocate:

What would you tell a man who walks home at night alone through a shady neighbourhood and got mugged with any frequency (to the point he expects he will be mugged again walking home through the same neighbourhood)?

Of course the muggers are 100% responsible for their actions. The man wasn't 'asking to get mugged', and has the right to walk down through that neighbourhood and expect a level of safety. But still, the appropriate suggestion is to recommend a safer behaviour.

Applying the analogy to a woman's sexual assault scenario, you would have to look at the various pieces, and how they translate to our model. Was she dressing or behaving promiscuously? Is she going out and partying late at night? Yes, it is her right to dress and behave how she likes, and she should be able to do so safely, but this isn't the world we live in. These actions are the equivalent of walking through the unsafe neighbourhood alone at night in our above model.

The goal for society shouldn't be to regulate the woman's behaviour until she avoids all potential dangers. No, it should be to regulate the behaviour of the assaulter - by holding him accountable, and punishing him as necessary. Still, until society changes, it would be prudent for the women to make safer decisions.

This is no way is meant to apply directly to the OP's situation. The man made a move - aggressively - she refused, and he assaulted her. I don't know how her behaviour could have changed this. (Allegedly. No need for any Internet justice here.)This is just meant to portray a counter-example. Responses like 'she was asking to be raped/assaulted' are unacceptable IMH. A woman could be walking down the street naked, and if she were raped it would be 100% the rapists fault. Sure it might not be wise for the woman, but the rapist must be held accountable.

Understood, and yes people do need moderate their own behavior in order to safeguard their own safety. We don't live in a perfect utopia.

It's just that every time a women is assaulted and the first response out of most of the people she tells (including the police! and others who are supposed to be there for her safety!) is "Well what did you do wrong?" it makes women want to not speak up at all.

Understandable, and this behaviour needs to be fixed. Then again, the duties, behaviours, and effectiveness of police forces remains a topic for another thread!

She was trying to go to the goddamn toilet in a pub! Exactly what did she do wrong here? The drunken twat asked her to come have a talk, she thought it was a professional thing, since they were at a conference, it's what you do. He tried the kiss, she pushed him off and said no. He shoved his fucking hand into her pussy. After she said no.

I am getting sick and tired of "it must be her fault".

I'm in no way trying to say it's her fault. But if there is some pattern to the situation perhaps it would be worthwhile to analyze in the hopes that it didn't happen again? It's unfair and unjust that in doing so she might uncover something she could change to help prevent some pervert from doing something atrocious... but if it did prevent it, wouldn't it be worth it?

It seems logical to me... but I guess in being logical I'm somehow being sexist or something (which is why my original comment is getting downvoted?)?

You can basically read it two ways. One way is that you're suggesting that she's at fault for being an assault victim (all other things aside about this story). Along the lines of "she deserved it", "she was asking for it", and similar victim blaming.

Another more logical way to read what you're saying is that she should think to see if she's doing anything wrong when she's telling these guys to go away or stop, like conflicting body language.

My only problem with that argument is that very few people purposefully do anything to get that kind of behavior out of someone else that they don't want it from. It's like ignoring the elephant in the room, which is the behavior of the person doing the assaulting.

I've never been sexually assaulted by anyone at any event (and I am female), but I've had plenty of guys hit on me and feel me up and such. If I don't know you as a close friend, "stop" means stop. Doesn't matter how naked or dressed or drunk or sober or sleepy I might be. It is NEVER my fault for being who I am and telling people to stop at the same time. People that can't understand anything like that need to reconsider what they're doing, because they're about to cross a very, very uncomfortable line. And thankfully, every person that has ever tried to do such a thing has stopped. Good thing, cause I'm the type that will eventually break fingers and call the cops no matter how drunk I am over something like that. That is never acceptable behavior. I don't do that to any person, ever. Nobody should ever be doing that to anyone else.

Lastly, please don't read this as any sort of commentary on the actual story in question. I was shocked to read the post originally, but I'm not passing judgment on anyone. Just a general statement.

Yeah, I get that you specifically aren't trying to say it's her fault.

It's just that overwhelmingly, when harassment occurs to women, the conversation turns to 'What could she have done differently to make it not happen to her?' and NOT 'What can we do to make it so men don't harass?'

If it didn't happen to so many women, so often, then maybe the conversation could go that way.

But as you say, let's analyze the pattern. What if the pattern is "Go to tech conferences and socialize in a normal and acceptable manner with other people who share my interests"?

What are you going to tell her? Don't go to tech conferences? Don't network with other people in your industry at a bar? Don't talk to a man while drunk? While sober but he is drunk? Don't talk to a man at all? Don't walk down the street at night in a skirt. Don't walk down the street at night at all. Don't leave your house.

I wouldn't tell her anything, quite frankly, other than to suggest that SHE analyze the situation and make her own determinations.

Going to extremes (don't leave the house) is obviously not a realistic or constructive option.

Again, nothing against you specifically. Consider it a generic 'you' and that absurdist reduction is absurd. But unfortunately, it's what a lot of people actually seem to believe, even if they don't state it in so many words.

The 'pattern' is that she is a woman. Stuff like this happens to women all the time, regardless of their behavior.

Its not the behavior of the women that is at fault, it is the man's.

I would think that the pattern is more than just being a woman... but I know what you are trying to say.

I'm not saying that her behavior is at fault (100% the man's fault), but I'm suggesting that PERHAPS there is something she could have done differently to avoid what happened, and if so, it would be worthwhile to determine what that possible thing is.

No, I mean that quite literally. The pattern is being a woman. I don't know a single woman that something like this hasn't happened to, and it is usually much worse than an unwelcomed kiss and grope.

The only way to avoid it is tell a woman to never be attractive. Never be friendly to men. Don't ever smile at them. And god forbid, don't flirt with them.

Don't get drunk and try to have fun. When us guys get wasted, the worst thing we have to worry about is one of our friends shaving our eyebrows, not some strange dude trying to fuck us.

being "unattractive" has never been any sort of protection against sexual assault :/

Yeah, it's not like a large number of guys got the wrong impression here, just the one. If the rest of us can be sensible and respectful why should the outlier force females to act a different way. It's the same as not taking trains because maybe 1 in every 1000 guys late at night cause trouble.

"If it's not the first time this has happened, it might be time to re-evaluate the pattern of behavior that led up to the unfortunate event."

Er seems like the only pattern of behavior (that she's described at least) is that she goes to tech conferences and she fully participates in the happenings there. Are you suggesting she stop?

Prodding question, but honestly, we're trying to get more women involved, right? Telling them (basically if not a bit hyperbolically) to quit-being-such-sluts-and-they-won't-get-raped is a bit counter-productive. A woman should be able to participate at tech events in the conference and the after-party just like a man without the fear she'll be groped by the attendees.

"Never have to answer for it?!!? Um if you're sexually assaulted (multiple times?!?!) you should definitely be reporting that to the POLICE where the offender will, I'm pretty sure, have to answer for it. Right?"

Without witnesses, it would be hard to prove that such an event did or did not happen. (Not saying I agree or disagree with her blogging it, but I can sympathize with her doing so in an otherwise powerless situation.)

What pattern of behavior could have led to this event? I mean that sincerely. I think sometimes women are led to be a little more careless than they should be (not that it's their fault, but it's far better to avoid being a victim than to have someone to blame for victimizing you) — but I don't see how there's anything for her to analyze here. She just walked up to a guy who said he wanted to talk and he shoved his hand down her pants. Like, what's the pattern she needs to analyze there? Talking to men?

> it might be time to re-evaluate the pattern of behavior that led up to the unfortunate event.

Standard cost-benefit analysis: how does the number/severity of ruined days compare to the number/awesomeness of fun days (presuming that without that "pattern of behavior" all days would be "meh")? Maybe the rational choice really is to try to change the world...

hmm that is a very interesting way to put it actually... I wonder what the result would be if the author performed such an analysis.

You're definitely right about trying to change the world.

It's not her, it's him.

That is all.

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