Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Because it needs to be said (blogjustine.wordpress.com)
393 points by milesf on Oct 12, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 612 comments



My ex-girlfriend wrote a blog post similar to this one, accusing me of sexual assault. I volunteered to take a police polygraph test, hired a lawyer and initiated a libel suit. Fortunately, I didn’t need to go further because she suddenly changed my name & her story. But the experience was still stressful and scary. Many commenters vilified me because they assumed her information was true.

Prior to being falsely accused, I didn’t believe in false accusations. I couldn’t believe that anyone would tell a lie so insulting to victims. I still do believe that the vast majority of accusations are true, but I always reserve judgement because I know how it feels to be vilified in a blog post.

I applaud the author for sharing her experiences. This post is eloquent and courageous. Having said that, a blog post is not the right place to seek justice. In fact, the information here may interfere with a trial. I encourage her to delete this post and initiate a criminal trial in order to hold the perpetrator accountable.


> I applaud the author for sharing her experiences. This post is eloquent and courageous. Having said that, a blog post is not the right place to seek justice. In fact, the information here may interfere with a trial. I encourage her to delete this post and initiate a criminal trial in order to hold the perpetrator accountable.

It's pretty clear to me that the author is not interested in seeking justice and is more interested in letting people know what the heck happened to her. She's not obligated to press charges, no matter how much you think she should. It is absolutely not your call.

> I volunteered to take a police polygraph test, hired a lawyer and initiated a libel suit.

Unless the woman involved was lying about having two supportive eyewitnesses (and those guys are lying about BEING eyewitnesses on their blogs) this is woefully beside the point. I'm sorry for what happened to you but I wonder why you brought it up.


> It's pretty clear to me that the author is not interested in seeking justice and is more interested in letting people know what the heck happened to her.

For those playing along at home, Justine raised this issue almost two weeks ago, but the deluge of people saying "I need more details before I believe you" forced her to actually post this. She didn't even want to be this explicit about it, but the community made her.

She refers to this at the end of the post:

> I’m extremely upset I had to write this post. That it wasn’t simply enough to finally, after 10 months have the courage to say Joe O’Brien sexually assaulted me. But if this is what has to happen this is what happens.


Thanks. That's sad.


She has pressed charges via the internet. Many of the people on here have accepted judgement and this will stick with Joe for ever. Yes Joe made a very bad choice and was he being malicious by moving forward in his advance KNOWING Justine did not want any part of it. The looks to be a hard argument to honestly make. I am not convinced by her own account. Intent matters and I doubt Joe intended to sexually assault one of his own employees in front of his other employees in a bar. That is the real question here.


posting your personal account of someone's crimes against you in a blog is not a fair or reasonable way to deal with what is clearly a very serious matter. it sounds like what happened was awful and these types of incidents are common in many predominantly male professions, e.g. law, finance.

i was recently seriously harassed and more-or-less sexually assaulted by an acquaintance's wife at a wedding in a swimming pool. as a man, i doubt that any police department would take me seriously if i wanted to press charges. this does not mean that i am going to take to the internet and post my account of it. nobody wins by doing this.

this trend of women posting their account of a sexual assault online is alarming because of what hawkharris describes: it could be false and then is plastered all over the net, irrevocably damaging the reputation of the accused.


> this trend of women posting their account of a sexual assault online is alarming because of what hawkharris describes: it could be false and then is plastered all over the net, irrevocably damaging the reputation of the accused.

Here is something I find curious: you are one of many commenters here literally ignoring the fact that Justine has witnesses to what happened and bringing up the hypothetical, irrelevant possibility that such an accusation could be made falsely. What gives?


Both of the witnesses' testimonies seem to be subjective: "It was getting creepy, but Justine didn't move, or slap him. She was laughing..."[1]; "The executive's posture and actions aggressive; "no" was not a possibility."[2]

Their stories also don't corroborate: "Fast forward to (from what I remember), around 1am. "[1]; "It was slightly before midnight..."[2]

I think it is good that there are witnesses but it is not as simple as saying that because there are, Justine's version of events is correct. We don't know exactly what they saw and heard, how much of their versions are based on actual events or the aftermath or their relationships with the involved. That is why it is still important to maintain innocence of the accused until proven guilty.

"Here is something I find curious: you are one of many commenters here...bringing up the hypothetical, irrelevant possibility that such an accusation could be made falsely"

It certainly isn't irrelevant to the accused. His reputation and in fact his entire life is at stake. A few blog posts do not constitute proof.

[1] - http://blog.matt-darby.com/essays/i-am-the-other-developer

[2] - http://theotherzach.com/writes/2013/10/9/events


Testimony from a witness is always subjective, and this isn't a criminal trial.

Given the amount of alcohol consumed I expect that the more detailed an account one demanded of Justine or some of the others, the less accurate it would be. That doesn't lead to some kind of Rashomon outcome where we'll never know the nature of what happened. That 1am / midnight shit... really?


"Testimony from a witness is always subjective..."

I guess what i am trying to say is that they are drawing conclusions of what they saw, not just stating the facts of what they saw.

"...this isn't a criminal trial"

This is my point, we have no right to judge his guilt or innocence without a proper investigation and a trial based on this investigation.

"That 1am / midnight shit... really?"

I think it just shows that witnesses aren't necessarily a reliable form of evidence.

My point is that presumed innocence until proven otherwise is important. These kind of blog posts can help create awareness and allow us to discuss such situations but with regards to the actual event, we should refrain from judgment, as difficult as that is, because anything could have happened or not happened. Trial by social media is not okay.


> we have no right to judge his guilt or innocence

We have no real standing to judge, no need to judge, but I have the right to do whatever I want, thank you. :)

> because anything could have happened or not happened

This is a little silly if read literally. I think you can tease out a couple of things that very certainly happened by reading the three available accounts.

> Trial by social media is not okay.

So much could be said about that topic. It's fairly horrifying in some instances. On the other hand, if this was cathartic or necessary for this woman, good for her.


I'd say 0 blog posts doesn't constitute a very good defense. But it is interesting we will still give him this huge benefit of the doubt.


Some people live their lives online, others don't.

I won't comment on how much benefit of the doubt he deserves, but whether he defends himself on the internet or not should be totally irrelevant to that decision. 99.9% of us are by-standers who have no right to demand any justifications from any participants.


And here is one of those eyewitnesses accounts - http://blog.matt-darby.com/essays/i-am-the-other-developer


"Women who are assaulted should keep quiet about it because I can't tell if they're lying or not." Is that about right?

Instead of saying she shouldn't post because "it could be false," how about you recognize that she knows whether it's true or not? For God's sake, the fact that some people are liars does not mean that truth-tellers should keep their mouths shut.


I don't know about you but I'm a believer in innocent until proven guilty. In fact, I really don't care about the gender of the actors in this story at all. Every story has three sides, my side, your side and the facts. Right now, we have a blog post that describe a retroactive account of what happened to the author a long time ago and all the misfortunes of their life since then, attributed to that one incident long ago. This is hardly a balanced account. We don't have the side of the counter-party to this incident nor do we have eye witness accounts of what happened. So insofar as you, I and the rest of the Internet are concerned, none of us have any business passing judgement on the author, the counter-party or those present at the incident. As such I'd say, that the author shouldn't post this publicly, unless they are open to and comfortable with the idea that the counter-party and all others involved may now post additional details about what happened that evening in an effort to help us, the audience, ascertain the facts. That is hardly the path towards psychological healing.

I for one am pretty certain that there are elements of truthiness and untruthiness in the original posting. I'd expect similar elements of truthiness and untruthiness in a rebuttal by the counter-party as well. Both were drinking and both will be advocates of their recollection of what happened. Such is the nature of points of view and interpretation of past events


> the fact that some people are liars does not mean that truth-tellers should keep their mouths shut.

He's not saying that. He's lamenting the fact that in the mind of those like him that have been abused, the idea of posting stuff to a blog rather than going through official channels to get results is disturbing.

If anything, he's saying "truth-tellers" shouldn't have to resort to feelings as if blogs are their only realistic option. That if that does become the accepted venue, everyone suffers.


>how about you recognize that she knows whether it's true or not

In this case, yes, sounds very clear. But there are cases where it's not clear. The waters get so muddy that there are rapists that don't even know they've raped anyone. And lack of clarity only serves to compound the other problems.

Basically I'm trying to say that it's not as simple as truth vs. lies in many cases.


Posting the truth is never problematic. If what she wrote is indeed true then I cannot for the life of me see why writing that is in any way wrong.

If you want to say what she did is problematic then you have to argue that she is lying. Plain and simple. Do you do that?

It is obviously not an option to demand of victims to shut up about what happened to them. But that is in essence what you are demanding. Sure, if what she is telling is not the truth it’s quite obvious and kind of self-evident that she shouldn’t have posted it but if she is indeed a victim you would apparently tell her exactly the same. That seems quite insane to me.


> If you want to say what she did is problematic then you have to argue that she is lying. Plain and simple. Do you do that?

Can we stop having these black or white discussions?

After more then half a year, there is no such thing as the truth. Even if the whole thing was on tape we cannot piece together what was going on in their heads at the time.

It seems that every time some case of harassment hits the news people partaking in the discussion are either branded as blaming the victim or branded as destroying someone's life by defaming the accused. Can't we find some middle ground?

As dissatisfying as it may be, by the very nature of the topic there will never be the one truth to the story, but at least as many views as people were there during the event. We need to find a way to accept this ambiguity lest we will never stop shouting at each other.


So, you are saying she is supposed to shut up or what? Or what is the point you are trying to make? You want to muffle her voice? That’s your point, right?


Please calm down. Neither have I said that, nor do I believe it.

For unrelated reasons - namely that I don't believe naming and shaming is a working justice system and that it diverts from the underlying social issues - I would prefer to leave names out of such blog entries.

But the reason for my post is that I found the quoted passage to be one of the many oversimplifications that crop up again and again in these discussions.

[Edit: Rewording and fixing stupid grammar mistakes]


Naming and shaming? What the hell are you on about? You want victims of crime to shut up. That’s what this boils down to. Plain and simple. Very black and white.


I'm sorry, but do you actually read what I am writing?

"For unrelated reasons [...] I would prefer to leave names out of such blog entries"

First of all, I did not say anything about shutting up in that sentence. Second, even if you interpret "leaving out names" as "shutting up" I wrote "prefer" and not "must" or "have to".


> posting your personal account of someone's crimes against you in a blog is not a fair or reasonable way to deal with what is clearly a very serious matter.

Publishing the truth is always fair and appropriate.


    Publishing your recollection of an incident is always fair
    and appropriate.
FTFY.


If you think about what you just said for a few more seconds, you will agree that it's demonstrably false.


Unfortunately, private citizens cannot initiate criminal trials, and most police do not take reports of sexual assault very seriously, if indeed they do anything at all.


That's right. I didn't mean to imply that citizens can initiate it on their own, but the author should at least try to press charges. The definition of sexual assault / rape varies by state.

In any case, I don't think vigilante justice by blog post is an appropriate solution.


steveklabnik, When someone publishes your name in a blog post concerning sexual assault, scores of people harass you in comments, emails and sometimes phone calls.

They take it into their own hands to administer justice. You become concerned that employers, friends and family members will see the accusation if they search for your name.

So, if you're angry at someone, you can achieve a form of vigilante justice by publishing negative information about them and sharing it with many people - even if your account appears to be factual and not sensational.

You'll see people attempting to take justice into their own hands if you look at the comments below the author's post.


Those who have been long-time HN news commentators may remember that I myself was on the receiving end of a Hacker News and Reddit 'lynch mob' for a mistake I made. It was terrible for me. Yet, I also made someone else feel terrible. Mistakes get made. I have to deal with remembering that for the rest of my life. I think about it often.

Yet, equivocating "harass you in comments, emails, and sometimes phone calls" with being sexually assaulted is... yeah.

Note that Joe has specifically said that he's radio silence on this issue. No apologies, no rebuttal, no his side of the story.


> Yet, equivocating "harass you in comments, emails, and sometimes phone calls" with being sexually assaulted is... yeah.

Except if the person being harassed is female, in which case of course they're equivalent and you're a rape apologist if you disagree.


When someone publishes your name in a blog post concerning sexual assault, scores of people harass you in comments, emails and sometimes phone calls.

You mean like what happens to women when they talk about sexism in our industry? You mean like what people are doing to Justine right now?

Yes, that would be bad.


I think ideally the community as a whole should simply ignore stories like this until they are proven or disproved in a court of law. All they do is get the community in an uproar and don't actually solve anything except making the life of both people worse. Until that both people should be given the benefit of the doubt


Can you explain to me how posting a factual account of a situation is 'vigilante justice'?


The post accuses someone by name with some fairly emotive acts. Enough to have repurcussions on the other person's life. That seems like an attempt at amateur justice to me. In my country, the post would be grounds for libel if she can't prove it in court.


In mine, it would be grounds for libel most likely even if she can prove it in court, as far as I understand law. Or rather, the point is that she can't prove it fast enough for it not be libel (proof has to be produced within ten days, and in this case, proof would be a judgement against the guy).

And I have to say that seems perfectly reasonable to me, as public accusations outside the justice system are something I really disapprove of.


In the US if she's telling the truth, there is no case for libel.


Imagine if the United States adopted the legal structure around the reporting of accusations in Britain. Nancy Grace would be out of a job overnight, and perhaps we'd see more successful libel verdicts.

To explain: the media cannot report on an accusation until the accused is convicted, as I understand it, though I'm not British and not familiar with the very probable nuances that exist.


Factual, are we 100% certain? If you are going to attached these type of title to this person, we had better be damn certain. This is why we have a legal system and not mob rule based on emotions. If he is guilty then so be it but until we know for sure, we should hold judgement. Also she mentions at the beginning that she is just writing this to get it out there, sounds rushed.


Two witnesses corroborate her story, and Joe says he refuses to talk about it.


And yet frighteningly effective; here's an anecdote that includes a thought exercise to consider, and let me preface the thought exercise by making clear that I am not accusing anyone of lying in the situation linked here and intentionally have no opinion on it, for reasons that shall become clear. (In fact, I wish I hadn't read it.)

Let's introduce Bob (not his real name). Bob is a mid-level engineering manager. Single, handsome, mid-30s. Bob is a friend of mine from school and I've known him for 17 years. At work, he has a handful of direct reports, all developers. One of these reports is Ashley (not her real name). The entire time Ashley has reported to Bob, she never made any display of personal affectation, never so much as having a cigarette with Bob on a break.

Early this year, Ashley and Bob represented the company at a conference. Bob was having a drink at the hotel bar when Ashley materialized and asked to join him. Bob agreed, and they were alone in a dark corner of the bar for more than a couple hours. Bob tells me that the conversation was light, cheerful, and fun. At the end of the evening, Bob walked Ashley back to her room, said good night, and went back to his room. That's what Bob told me happened. I pressed him; "are you being truthful with me?" He indicated that he was, and I believe him because I've known him for the better part of my adult life. If he needed to maintain a lie publicly, he would have confided it to me. He has no reason to lie to me and I can safely say that he never has.

Ashley isn't the best employee and knew it. Bob was, in fact, preparing to hit Ashley with negative performance, which would have prevented transfer and a bunch of whole other terrible things. It just so happens that this conference was two weeks before her annual review, which is salient because Ashley attempted to blackmail Bob. She showed him a Tumblr draft that claimed that Bob had attempted to rape her when he walked her back to her hotel room, in enough detail to sell the story. The implication was clear: be good to me on my review or I publish this.

Bob confided this to me because he had no fucking idea of what to do. He had no proof either way, and as the alleged victim would be a report, things would look bad if he attempted to terminate her. And then, if he did, she'd potentially revise the draft to make it look like Bob fired her to cover up his alleged misdeeds. This happened in the last six months, and I am legally prohibited from knowing how it resolved. Bob cannot tell me, but he still has his job and a career, so the shoe hasn't dropped yet.

Clearly, Ashley is quite aware that when stories like this are published on Hacker News or other media, a sweeping majority of the audience will immediately interpret what is presented as hard fact. In this case, there are two witnesses, but in others there have not been. Bob's ordeal gave me a thought exercise and made me think of all the times I've been alone with people at conferences: if someone wrote this exact post and substituted all the details for me, instead, what recourse would I have as the accused? The answer is none. Even walking away with the lesson of "don't be alone with someone" doesn't really help, because by the time witnesses step forward to defend you and say a blog post is completely fabricated, it's already bounced off the moon and come back.

And yes, I realize sociopaths like Ashley are rare. But given how demonstrably effective blogging like this is, do you really think they will remain rare in the long-term?

The only solution to this is to be suspicious of everything you read that is one-sided. Be suspicious of my anecdote, even; I could be making it up, for all you know. The thought underlying it, that the Internet's talent for rushing to conclusions on one side of a story is extremely dangerous (Sunil Tripathi, anyone?), is the important part of the story that I want to convey. Imagine if this blog post appeared on the Internet with your name and a conference you've been to substituted in. As Twain said, how long would it take you to get your boots on? Would you ever recover from that kind of damage?

We can't foster this environment in our industry, and I'm saddened that it just continues to get worse. It's going to get worse because time after time after time, the Internet makes clear that understanding both sides of a story is a historical artifact, and events of the future will be determined by who blogs about them first. Scary shit. Imagine sharing a name with the accused, even! My mom just got denied an apartment because a woman of a different race shares her name and has a felony conviction. And that's a government system, not a social network.

A pile of folks have made clear, too, especially some well-known names in the industry that are already all over this thread, that if you express the opinion that I just did you are enabling rapists to completely gut our industry, blaming and/or silencing victims, and so forth. I made the mistake once of sharing this opinion in another high-visibility disclosure similar to this one, the thrust of which was "let's not blog about someone's guilt or innocence on any topic until they've been convicted of something regardless of gender or offense," and I was directly accused of being a rape apologist because of the context. The only reason I'm even sharing this opinion is because I'm on a throwaway, but my identity is fairly deducible if you follow my history. Another commenter was right: there is really no talking about this. It really chills me on the industry, to be entirely honest, and I've had exiting the industry on my mind since the PyCon incident involving dongles.


The fact that there are bad actors that game the system does not mean we should not publicize reports of bad behavior.

Rape is, at present, more of a problem to our society than false rape accusations.

Perhaps that will change in the future. I hope it does.


    Rape is, at present, more of a problem to our society than 
    false rape accusations.
Citation needed. Do the statistics this statement is based on also include prison rape numbers?


I really don't want to get pulled into an argument on this because I've said what I mean to say, but your second sentence is really bold.


There is a lot of conflicting research on this, but many reports show that false rape accusations are no more common than false accusations of any other kind of crime.

It's a very difficult topic to study.


There are many reports showing that false rape accusations to the police are no more common than false accusations of any other kind of crime. She didn't go to the police. There could be a vast number of accusations of rape like hers that are, in fact, totally made up and they wouldn't count as accusations for the purposes of those reports.

Which still wouldn't be worth worrying about, especially compared to all the actual rape that is happening, except there's a lot of pressure from certain groups to shun any man who's accused of rape regardless of the merits of the accusation. There's a very vocal school of thought that says if you employ or are friends with one of those men you're a rape apologist.

Though in this case it does sound very much like she was raped and can prove it.


The fact that you think that statement is bold says a lot about how far we are from solving it and helping people.


Rape creates victims. False accusations create victims. Before you say "not the same!" they both often end in suicide.

So, knowing that and knowing how difficult of a topic false accusations are to study and how little we know about the bad side of human beings, I would hope that anybody who is reasonable would read "rape is a bigger deal than false accusations of rape" and say whoa, nelly, partner, do you know something that the rest of us don't or are you acting on your gut feeling? Or are rape victims just the team you happen to root for in the "victims I need to give a shit about" World Series?

The fact that you don't think it's bold reinforces my entire point about concluding things too soon. And I'm intentionally discussing this on a deliberate action that demonstrates that false accusations are easier than ever, given the Internet's (a) reach, (b) accessibility, and (c) slow erosion of doubt in most folks, who make up their minds rather readily on the first thing they see.


It's a bigger deal because of frequency. There are orders of magnitude more rapes than rape accusations, even including legitimate ones.

Rape is endemic in our society.

If you are comparing them 1:1, we can have a discussion, but I am speaking in aggregate.


And yet I worry about both because I realize that all victims deserve my sympathy and attention, regardless of how they were made a victim or whether there is enough of them to justify me giving them a second thought. And I'm saying that the blogging response to the one you do care about might be having unintentional consequences for the other that you don't care about, and advising caution on an obviously explosive subject for the sake of both problems.

Look, it's your prerogative to dismiss victims of false accusation. It's even your prerogative to condescendingly dismiss me from the discussion as you are doing here. It's my prerogative to care about the things you don't, and by dismissing a problem due to frequency, you are no better than the people that dismiss rape in the industry. Can you really not see that?

I already made clear that I do not want to argue about this. I'm simply uninterested in your opinion on false accusation victimhood because based on how dismissive you are of it, you haven't been paying attention and you haven't had it hit close to home. I've been in a similar situation that resulted in my life being threatened at a conference. I know how victims of rape feel, having to sit on HN and keep reminding people that rape really is a problem and shouldn't be dismissed, because here I am debating false accusation victimhood with some random on HN.


In what you are arguing, you fail to realize that there is only one victim. And while that might be the accused, in this case where we have 3 accounts supporting the accuser... well... it's not wrong to side with either of them, but you can't really call out supporting her side as biased in any way.


You missed the part where I said I had no opinion on the specific incident that resulted in my comment. Go back and read that part; I read someone's entire comment before replying and hope for the same respect in return.

In particular, I lamented that I was aware of this incident at all and pivoted into my larger point.


I've floated this question in two other places, but I'll try again here.

> False accusations create victims.

This is almost certainly not a false accusation since Justine has multiple eyewitnesses, two of whom have confirmed her story on their blogs.

Why are you bringing up the problem of false accusations?

edit: I really am interested in your answer, more so now that you responded but failed to answer. Rereading the post I think you're referring to didn't really help.


I can count on one hand the number of times you need to click "parent" to read my original thesis that made this point. I didn't make the point until the latter half, and I appreciate that it is revealing the folks that pick what they want out of a comment.


    Imagine sharing a name with the accused, even! My mom just 
    got denied an apartment because a woman of a different 
    race shares her name and has a felony conviction. And 
    that's a government system, not a social network.
Strangely, I can completely relate because something like this happened tonight. This evening I checked my Twitter mentions and came across this tweet with a racist remark and a hyphen and my twitter handle at the end, so it appeared as if he was quoting me:

https://twitter.com/pianoman265/status/387725741573799936

I was like "WTF?" because I don't know the guy who tweeted it and while perusing his followers list I realized what happened. He has a friend who is also named Andrew J de Andrade, but uses a different handle, @ajayyd, which is totally odd because there are probably only a half dozen or so Andrew de Andrade's in the world.

https://twitter.com/ajayyyd


If some people lie about assault and cause needless pain, the solution is not "don't talk about assault." It's "don't tell lies."


...or "don't assault?" Also, my point is in no way exclusive to sexual assault. I'd make the same point if this were an accusation of anything.


The only way is to wear GoPro-alike all the time while interacting with other people or record everything on your cellphone (at least audio). Equivalent to Russian dash cams. Perhaps some use for the glass.

There are some really nasty people out there.


In most legal systems there is also a civil procedure against sexual (or any other) assault


I'm glad this is out there. It's a tragedy that it happened at all, but it would be an even bigger tragedy if nobody else knew the consequences. I think everyone experiences that moment sometimes where you think "is this okay? should I say something?" And after you waver for a second, your decision reinforces itself and you end up doing nothing at all. Maybe you can even convince yourself that it was all okay in the end. After all, the consequences are invisible. Well, not this time.

I found two other perspectives on the story:

http://theotherzach.com/writes/2013/10/9/events http://blog.matt-darby.com/essays/i-am-the-other-developer

I'm particularly heartened by Zach's account. The police can prosecute assaults, absolutely, but they can't stop them before they happen. The community can. By setting clearer expectations of behaviour, recognising potentially dangerous situations and taking steps to ameliorate the risk, and by being willing to step in before anything goes off the rails, the community can stop this from happening again.

And, thanks to Justine, maybe they will.


Let's keep some perspective. A second ship in one week carrying desperate, impoverished African migrants sunk of the coast of Italy yesterday. Many drowned. That is a tragedy.

This is just one of those bad things that happens in life that one has to move on from. While I agree in helping others, people need to help themselves. Everything you wrote about the community needs to be done by the individual, too. Also, one must not let their life go entirely off the rails in the face of an adverse event.


Let's keep some perspective. A second ship in one week carrying desperate, impoverished African migrants sunk of the coast of Italy yesterday. Many drowned. That is a tragedy.

You wrote this under a throwaway account, so I think you understand my point before I make it, but I'll say it anyway.

A situation like this doesn't call for debates or intellectual analysis. Winning debate points when the subject is sexual assault doesn't move the topic forward, it just makes you look insensitive and begs a flame war to begin.

I wrote a top-level comment stating this point already on this thread, but it's very important this is understood. It's not your place to judge what another human being's tragedy is. I'm not trying to white-knight you, it's just something that really needs to sink in. You cannot minimize another individual's experiences just because some distant collective suffers more according to a standard of utilitarian rigor.

If you want to help, don't debate the point. This subject is too close to heart for that to do anything but alienate people. Empathize and show support instead. Send Justine a kind email if you find that agreeable.

This is just one of those bad things that happens in life that one has to move on from. While I agree in helping others, people need to help themselves. Everything you wrote about the community needs to be done by the individual, too. Also, one must not let their life go entirely off the rails in the face of an adverse event.

I don't know your personal history, but looking back on the most painful experience in your life, would you say this in regards to yourself? No human exists as an island. What you are saying is tantamount to blaming someone for being inert when they're depressed, instead of treating it is something that is out of their control to begin with.


I wrote a longer response, but I can pare it down to this:

This is just one side to a situation that I have no first person knowledge of.

Even taking everything she wrote at face value, I think she has made decisions that will make her own recovery more difficult than necessary.

Bad things happen to everyone. Often much worse than this. It is the nature of life, and underscores just how little we all really control. What we do control is how we handle ourselves in the face this adversity.

Language is always important. It is crystallized thought, and bad language creates bad thinking.


> A situation like this doesn't call for debates or intellectual analysis.

I would wholeheartedly agree with you, except that with the way attention is focused on the web and on the news in general I feel like there is no other time this topic is debated except after such personal tragedy. So when is the time for intellectual analysis?


I agree, that is a tragedy. There are a lot of bad things in the world, although thankfully less each year because of the efforts of good people who want things to improve.

The Italian government has volunteered to hold a state funeral for those who died, and has asked its fellow EU members for support. In response, the European Commission allocated 30 million Euro towards helping refugees.

I hope we can also help those who unjustly suffer in our community, and find our own ways to make things better.


The vast majority of people are good, honourable though often less vocal on the internet.

We outnumber the bastards out there. We just need to learn to step up and stop evil when we see it. That's the leson I take from Zach's account.

If we can be just as quick in doing that as others are in posting judgemental comments on board then a lot of horrible experiences will be averted.

How horrible the effect evil has on people is what I learned from Justine's account. The stakes couldn't be higher.


"All that's needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."


We, as a community, are simply incapable of discussing this subject responsibly.[1] Similar stories have been posted before. Some people are outraged at the incident. Others are outraged that the author publicized the incident. Others question the author's account. Others are outraged at the outrage of the second group and/or the skepticism of the third group. Et cetera.

The ultimate result is this: Endless angry comments. Everyone feels rage. All parties mentioned by name (and some unlucky enough to have the same name) wake up to inboxes full of hate mail. Careers are harmed, sometimes permanently.

If you had never read this story, how would the world be different? You would feel slightly happier, and you would have likely spent your time doing something more pleasant. In other words: not different at all outside your own mind.

Unless, of course, you actually did something to help. Even a token gesture would be better than posting an angry comment. Send an email with some nice words in it. Heck, maybe even do something in the real world to help. And instead of jumping on the rage train and telling everyone how angry you are, tell everyone what you did to try to make things better.

1. To be fair, the same is true for almost all online communities.

Edit: It's been an hour since I wrote this comment. So far, nobody has followed my suggestion and said how they've helped this situation. I guess I'll be the first. I sent a short email to Justine. Hopefully her day is a little better because of it.


Not true. There have been issues at conferences that have been talked about on places like HN, and now many conferences are adopting anti-harassment policies, like at the Cascadia Ruby Conference http://cascadiaruby.com/policies

It's a mess, yes, but change does happen.

There are many people who are very skilled at talking about tough issues like this one who simply need to be given an opportunity to address the community. I for one hope the Ruby community steps up and changes, for the better, because of this one.


Lest we mention PyCon...


What about it?


At a recent PyCon a couple of attendees made a weak joke about forking a repository that came off as sexual humor (I don't know if it was intended that way or not). Someone was offended by it and tweeted a picture of them rather than approach the conference organizers. Things escalated from there.

As I recall it, by the end of everything, the jokesters had been asked to leave the conference and subsequently lost their jobs, and the community blowback after that resulted in the originally offended person also losing her job because the controversy would have made it basically impossible for her to act as a developer community liason.

There were no winners, but PyCon apparently does now make procedures for handling sexual harassment, etc. much more clear in conference materials.

edit: though clearly my recollection was flawed in some ways - among other things, only 2 lost jobs and I was incorrect about them being asked to leave the conference.


This is inaccurate. The individuals making comments were not ejected from the conference, they were informed that their words were having effects they might not be intending, they apologized, and returned to the conference.

I can in no way speak for anyone's employer, but it's worth noting that only one of the individuals lost their job.

I currently serve as the co-chair for the PyCon Program Committee, and as a director of the Python Software Foundation.


I think I'd already noted part of this (that there were 2 job losses not 3), but Adria Richards' job certainly counts as part of the fallout from the whole thing as well.

Thanks for what you do for Python.


Probably worth mentioning that Adria Richard's probably lost her job because she dragged(drug?) her employer into the fray on twitter.



I'm familiar with the incident (I current serve as the co-chair of the PyCon Program Committee, as well as a board member for the Python Software Foundation). I'm just curious if the OP was implying that anything would have been better without a CoC?


Things would have been better if everyone in the situation acted like adults. No matter how detailed and specific the Code of Conduct, Adria probably would have done what she did anyway.

Rather than worrying about the effects of shaming people publicly, conferences are basically putting up "no glass in pool area" and announcing their triumph at conquering this problem.


The world is full of evil.

Not talking about it allows it to continue unimpeded.

Most people are not angry at the person shining the light on evil, just a tiny and vocal minority.


I apologize to the world for this thread. There are clearly topics that an open forum, or at least this one, can't be trusted with, and this seems to be one of them.

We have some ideas for new moderation features that we hope will make comment threads more civil. I don't know if they would have helped in this case though.

The one thing that did work here is the flamewar detector. This story dropped off the frontpage extra fast, after which the only people seeing this discussion were people who sought it out.


I hope when you say you will make comment thread "more civil" you're not just talking about commenters calling each other names but are also considering the comments here in favor of sexual assault as unacceptable.


Nice, let's fix the problem by hiding it, good thinking out there.


I was one of those people. I apologise if I brought more heat than light.


You did an admirable job of responding to piles of comments that needed Consent 101.

(Civility isn't even the main problem here - so many of people's comments were superficially civil but callous and misinformed. HN needs empathy, compassion, willingness to listen. It's not impossible to shift culture - Metafilter has improved a lot, but doing that required human effort from its leaders and not just software.)


I am a happy member and longtime reader of MetaFilter but I wouldn't look to it as a positive example.

MetaFilter has several full-time moderators who, because they feel they need to be doing something, are stifling discussion and deleting a lot of threads. Many long-time, valuable members have left the site because of staff decisions.

Meanwhile, a group of noisy, low-value users are mostly allowed to bully others, mock people different than them and even write death threats from time to time.

MetaFilter prides itself on being a place that knows all about Consent™ etc. and maybe that is worth everything else, but it's not a place where people can get together and have a civil discussion.


I think a number of my comments were somewhat regrettable. I stand by most of them, but I could do better.


thank you pg.


Thank you.


The assault was evil enough, but the vilification of Justine in the comments by some makes my blood boil.

The best antidote to fight darkness is to bring it out into the light. Thank you, Justine, for your ongoing courage to speak out. I cannot say I understand what you're going through, but I'm sure there are (too many) others out there who do. Surround yourself with friends and supporters who will stand with you.

You are not alone.


The comments are... odd. I can understand leaving comments open as an illustration of the backlash that results from trying to talk about these matters, but at some point, banning particular people makes sense: the majority of the comments there are vile primarily because the majority of comments have been made by one apparently obsessed person making utterly ridiculous comments in a deranged tone.

I fear that the shock of those comments hides what I consider the more important, problematic vilification going on in the comments, which is the argument made by a few sane people that talking about this, rather than keeping it a private matter, is not appropriate, and that Justine should have stayed silent and only gone to the police. This is perhaps more harmful, as it comes from people who aren't obviously deranged or trolling.


Consider that the person who would be doing the banning is the victim, which means that she would have to read all of those shitty comments, continually, in order to determine who to ban.


I cringed when I saw that comments were enabled _at all_ on that post.


Justine explicitly said that she's leaving them on in order to show everyone what happens when someone reports a sexual assault.


Ah. I didn't see that mentioned in the post itself anywhere. Thanks for the info.



"Erin" sounds like "she" has an axe to grind with Justine.


Erin == Joe O'Brien ? (rien/erin...?)


Speculation like this isn't particularly productive. It's just as likely that someone else thought of the same association as you and chose the name to impersonate.


> It's just as likely that someone else thought of the same association as you and chose the name to impersonate.

And by doing this they achieve what? Tarnishing Joe's already-tarnished reputation? They could have also pretended to be Joe O'Brien directly. Is there a gain from trying to hint at a potential association?

Even if the name similarities are pure coincidence, it's not entirely unlikely that this commenter is in fact Joe O'Brien or someone close to him. Of course it's pure speculation, and perhaps you're right and it's not productive to make such speculation. I didn't have any ill intent.


There's absolutely no excuse for such behaviour - the man should be prosecuted. I wish Justine a lot of luck getting her life back on track.

It's worth mentioning (since the volume of comments doesn't make it obvious) that it appears to be a single commenter doing the vilifying.


> it appears to be a single commenter doing the vilifying.

It may appear to be that way, but many people have stated various things. If you haven't been following this on Twitter for the last few weeks, it can look different.

It is certainly not just one person.


Ah, fair enough - I only looked at the web page. That's incredibly disappointing :-(


Her boss should not have even attempted to have a fling with her - that exposes the company to liability, and he was rightly fired. It's pretty obvious that she didn't feel that this was enough punishment for his behavior, and has now publicly named him in an attempt to extract her idea of justice out of the situation. It would be interesting to see if he responds with any kind of legal action, as I imagine that he has a side to the story as well. From her own description of the incident, she was voluntarily allowing intimate conduct until she told him to stop, at which point he did. Assuming the blog post is the same story she would have given to police, this certainly wouldn't have made for a criminal case even if she had filed a report.

She certainly has a right to feel violated, and to publish an accurate description of what happened if she so chooses. I just have a feeling that the guy involved is going to take some form of legal action and that he may indeed have a case for libel - however unfair that may be in the eyes of herself or others. It's just a bad situation all around, which is why bosses should avoid such encounters with their employees at all costs.


Given her (and the two other) accounts, this absolutely was sexual battery. A drunk, intimidated, or otherwise incapacitated victim does not give an attacker free reign to do whatever they feel like doing. Drunkenness on the attacker's part is not a defense.

If you start touching someone like this, it is not their job to stop you. It is your job to be, beyond a shadow of a doubt, positive that the touch is welcomed. If you are a grabby drunk, don't get drunk.

This is common sense. It is also the law.

I cannot even fathom how he could possibly have a case for libel. We have three accounts, largely the same, as to the facts of the matter. Her account must be a lie (substantially, not in details) for libel to even be a possibility.

Nor can I understand the sentiment that his lost job is somehow recompense for the act. It is just a job, not jail time.

It is so terrible that this happened. To heap these sorts of reactions on top of it all is very deeply disappointing.


If this is indeed the law, its scary. I for one take some Time to realize that someone is not into it. In fact I always put in extra effort to put someone in the mood if they are feeling frigid. I thought this is normal male behavior - a little bit of persistence. I see this in movies all the time. Maybe we need to mark most of the american movies as R.


I strongly urge you to reconsider what you are doing! Not only are you putting yourself at risk of a rape claim, but you really could assault someone. What he says is true. It is the law - the onus is on the party who initiates the activity to gain clear consent.

If that involves specifically asking, then so be it.

I see you've been downvoted to oblivion, which I hope gives you some idea as to how dangerous what you are saying is and how dimly most people are viewing it.


Assuming the blog post is the same story she would have given to police, this certainly wouldn't have made for a criminal case even if she had filed a report.

He penetrated her. It sure as hell IS sexual assault!


How many times have you penetrated someone without explicitly asking for consent? Many, many times, I'm willing to bet (assuming that you're male).


I'll just leave this here

http://consentsus.org/groan-zone

which is an accessible little zine looking at consent as a complicated and beautiful process, considerably more complicated than just "no means no" /or/ "yes means yes". It is negotiated on on an unequal playing field within already existing power structures, relies on verbal and nonverbal communication, can shift over the course of an evening or a relationship, etc etc


Then you would be wrong. Never.


Then you have a rather broad definition of "explicitly asking for consent", or very strange relationships.


Either you are trolling me, or you are judging me (what a strange and pitiable man!), or you have no idea what you are talking about. Given you know nothing about me, I'd say a bit of each.


Nope, I was just trying to be witty and to make my point implicitly. I did not really mean it to be personal. My bad. So let's make this an explicit discussion, shall we?

What I was trying to say is that contrary to your original statement not every penetration is sexual assault, nor are (in general) sexual acts without explicit consent.

Why? Because in Western society, consent is more often than not implicit. People very rarely ask "do you want to have sex with me?" or "May I kiss you?". Instead, they rely on body language, suggestive statements or simply the knowledge that they're in a relationship of which sex is an expected part.

Now it is certainly possible that there are societies where this is different and any sexual act must be preceded by explicitly asking for consent. It is possible you live in such a society. That would be very strange to me - which is not a judgement.

However, it seems to me more likely that you live in the (mostly same) Western society I do and we're merely having different interpretations of how "explicit consent" can be given.


I understand, sorry I took it the wrong way. I understand what you are saying, and I don't necessarily disagree. It's possible I wasn't clear. When this Joe character penetrated her with his fingers, he did it surrounded by people at a bar. He was drunk. I think in this case it's clear he didn't have consent, at least one other account (by the gentleman who stopped it going further) said the situation looked out of control, and it didn't look like consent was given.

For the record, where I got a little upset with your comment was when you said I must have a strange relationship. As it turns out, I'm a very happily married man with two kids. I actually do ask my wife if she's in the mood. Different couples communicate differently I guess.


Even without the two witnesses corroborating, this is most certainly sexual assault.


I am fairly certain that the events that Monday in January ruined me for the rest of my life

Is this typical? I've read a fair amount of stories from rape victims, and yet here we are to understand this woman's life has come completely unhinged and ruined for good by something... I don't know, somewhat less dramatic than a rape. If I hadn't read the story of the event itself, I'd have honestly thought it was about a brutal, violent rape.

I realize I probably sound like a jerk, but as I've never had personal involvement with this sort of thing I have no first-hand experience, and after reading this story I suddenly find myself shocked & confused as I think of the other stories I have read in the past. All I can do is ask for input. Please treat this as an honest question.


Different brains respond very differently to various types of severe emotional trauma.

I was fairly surprised by this data when I first experienced it, too. It's incredibly fascinating how the human mind works.


Yes. The relevant concept, as much as I _hate_ to link to wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_trauma

As well as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_trauma_syndrome


To be clear, I understand & am familiar with those concepts. I'm just... I don't want to put it in terms of comparison, but that's all I've got- shocked & confused that an event that I would expect to be less traumatic than rape, is seeming to impact the victim in ways much more dramatic than any recounting from a rape victim I can remember.

Again, I hate to put it in terms of comparison. There's no competition here. I'm just trying to adjust my understanding to fit.


From the outside, it may not seem to be as bad as rape. But the crime, psychologically, is fundamentally the same: it's about having autonomy over your body. The only difference is degree.

> than any recounting from a rape victim I can remember.

I don't know you, but consider that you probably don't know a representative sample of rape and/or sexual assault victims, and therefore, your experiences may not reflect overall reality.

Furthermore, humans are incredibly different. To make an almost non-sequitur comparison, I don't particularly feel tattoos hurt a lot. I know some people who scream and cry after ten minutes. Everyone will react to some kind of trauma in a different fashion.


Different people are affected differently. I don't think this just applies to rape and sexual assault; aren't there supposedly some soldiers who get PTSD despite remaining on a secure base for the length of their service, whilst others watch their colleagues get blown up and have relatively few long-term issues?

(Also, by some reasonable definitions this is rape; I think the laws in some juristictions may even see it that way.)


Completely beside the larger point of assault, I am just frankly amazed at the seemingly unanimous defense (in the three blog writeups) of the level of drinking that happens in these atmospheres. It really does read as if people are saying, look, people should be able to get shitfaced drunk every night at a professional conference without having to worry. And... well gosh maybe that's true in theory, but... isn't that an earthshakingly huge "but"?

my god. So. much. alcohol.

I am not blaming the events on the alcohol, because I get that the root cause of events like these are far deeper. But it sure does seem like the alcohol serves as something of a counterfactual; if the alcohol hadn't been flowing as freely, none of this might have happened. What on earth is the deal with the culture of these conferences? I'm a programmer, and I have friends, and I go out, and I'm not a prude, but I swear, I haven't gotten buzzed for six months and I rarely have more than one drink in an outing. With this kind of picture painted, I feel like I'd be a complete alien at a Ruby conference, and it feels like a disincentive to get more involved with that community.


> What on earth is the deal with the culture of these conferences?

It's not just the conferences. I have visited startups that have beer on tap or in the fridge, and some companies even inject alcohol into the interview process[1].

Mixing work and alcohol is a bad idea. Period. There's just too much that can go wrong. Sadly, in some industries, and at some companies, and in much of society at large, alcohol consumption is so strongly encouraged and expected that many individuals who would like to opt out feel uneasy about whether they can do so without consequence.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6518763


Brogrammers are legion. It gets marginally better outside of the ruby/js/node scenes.


Please read "After the shot" again. If im not mistaken kissing forheads and rubbing is commen place with your male friends. You mention multiple coworkers. He hand grabs your butt and you dont immediatly pull away????? Why not take responsibility for your actions as well. Ive been to bars and seen drunken mistakes but to vilify the person like this and not take any resposibilty for your actions is pathetic and immature. Yes he crossed the line but maybe we should hear that from you too.


Exactly.

She had opportunity to stop things before it progressed to "down the front of the pants."

Do people not understand what's involved in putting a hand down a girl's front? It's actually not that easy to do... it can't be done "casually" in a public bar without both parties allowing it to happen.

Not to mention "forcibly kissing me with his tongue"... How is that even possible unless the other person opens their mouth and lets your tongue in?

If a girl doesn't want your tongue in her mouth at a public bar, guess what? Your tongue is not going in her mouth! That's how kissing works in case any readers here are rusty on the subject! :-)

Go ahead, downvote. But please don't kid yourself that this girl isn't playing the "victim of alcohol-fueled tech industry sleaze" game.


I wonder if part of it isn't the "landmine mode" that minorities have to be in to succeed in the workplace. As a woman you have to be hypervigilant about how you are perceived amongst your coworkers. There are very small runways of acceptable behavior between pushover and bitch, between slut and ice queen, etc. There is the pressure to fit in and "go with the flow" but then there you know that when shit hits the fan (as it did here) your every move will be scrutinized and every opportunity to blame you for your misfortune will be taken.

As a result, I think minorities in the work place have a constant running double, triple, quadruple-checking loop for their behavior. Everything they want to say need to be run by a bunch of checks to make sure it meets the "safe for a male-dominated workplace" test.

As a result you're much slower to react to thing. As a majority member it's much easier to just blurt out your first thought, or to act out your first reaction... since you're the norm, it's reasonable to assume that your first instinct will be acceptable to the group.

But as a minority, you learn to second-guess yourself. Therefore even as someone is forcibly kissing you, you are second guessing what your options really are.


One thing we can all do:

Start asking before you touch in situations where you know you don't have to.

I know it's awkward. But the reason people like Joe think they can put their hands down someone's pants is because we don't have a cultural practice of "ask first". They see you put your arms around that friend of yours who doesn't mind at all, and they think "Ah, cool... so you can just sense if she's cool with it and then go for it".

Of course you're not a scumbag, so you'd never put your hands down someone's pants without asking, but that's the thing... scumbags can't tell the difference. They don't see the difference between you rubbing your friend's back because she's having a bad day--your friend who is happy to have a little contact from you--they don't see the difference between that and them taking a body shot off of their employee without asking. In both cases they just see someone making their best guess at what someone else wants, without asking, and going for it. That's the cultural standard, that's your standard, so that's what they hold themselves to.

Basically, right now we try to draw the line between ask/don't ask as close to the ok/not ok line as we possibly can. But in a world where people make mistakes that means there are lots of "accidents". The only way to prevent those accidents is to move the ask/don't ask line further into "ok" territory.

Sexual assault might seem like an issue between individuals, but as long as we see it that way it will continue happening. If we're serious about changing it, it's something we have to collectively take responsibility for.

If hundreds of times a week these people see the rest of us asking our wives, asking our friends, asking everyone "do you want a backrub?" and "can I kiss you?" and "is this ok?" then their expectations change. They'll start to feel weird not asking. And maybe some of these assaults can turn into near-assaults.


The problem with "ask first" is that it is a self-defeating behaviour in current culture: Touching is an integral part of flirting and also common in interactions that don't involve sexual or romantic interest. And the current social norm is to start with light touching at a non-intimate place, and see if the other person reciprocates. Doing so is associated with confidence. "Can I touch the outside of your arm?" would be perceived as creepy for two reasons: It will be considered a sign of insecurity, and people often aren't explicitly aware of the implicit rules on touching, and would thus find the request strange.

Asking first already works well in some sexual subcultures as well as some professional settings: For example, in some armies, a superior will ask a soldier whether they may touch them before fixing something that's wrong about the way they are wearing their uniform. That's a very professional way of dealing with having to touch somebody who is reporting to you. The hard question is how one can engineer this cultural change in society in general. I would love to see that happening in my lifetime


"Ask first" works just fine when the question is "can I stick my hand down your pants?". It really isn't the social norm to do that without asking.


Agreed, and it's way beyond the social norm to do it at all in public and in front of other people(!) :-)

I can wrap my head around someone thinking a quick kiss in an informal setting without explicit permission could be brushed off, but sticking a hand down the pants of even one's significant other in a public context is way beyond any social norm I'm aware of except perhaps at an orgy.


What are you talking about? Among the subset of the population who participates in hands-down-pants, roughly zero percent of these interactions begin with one of them asking for permission first. It simply doesn't happen.


Well, lawnchair larry, I have asked, and have been asked, permission to do this very thing. It's really not that uncommon nor unwise to do so.


I assure you then, you're a rounding error. I'm surprised if you actually think most people do that.


I can assure you that my method means I do not rape people and your method means you might. And that's regardless of how many people employ my very reasonable and clear method of determining consent. Has the thought ever occurred to you that the fact that people believe ambiguous signals to be consent may actually CONTRIBUTE to the fact that 1 in 5 women experiences rape in their lifetime?


I think a much more workable solution would be to collectively attempt to abandon the shitty American brand of alcohol culture that seems to be a fairly common contributing factor in a lot of these stories about rape and assault.

Alcohol makes one stupid, not cool. I have no idea why it is held in such high esteem in the US tech industry.


I'm so with you. After reading this (and a lot of similar) account, I knew, that I would never(!) enter any conference like that, regardless, where it is held.

An drug-induced culture like that is just hurtful/unhealthy. Regardless of the drug they put into their bodies, I have an internal policy never to mix with druggies.

I am really shocked, that it seems so normal to drink that much booze. Hey, I really like a glas of wine here or there, a glas of good scotch once in a while. But I am not 15 (coming from Germany) anymore. I do not have to be dumb playing cool drinking booze.

So I really hope for the OP, as I really hope for the american tech-conference culture. For the first: I wish her the utmost and very best. For the second: Grow up!


> An drug-induced culture like that is just hurtful/unhealthy. Regardless of the drug they put into their bodies, I have an internal policy never to mix with druggies.

Caffeine culture suffers no such problems.


OK, I am with you on that one. ;-)

But I really feeld the withdrawl symptoms in the afternoon at work, if I do not at least drink two cups of coffee till 2pm.

That is why I try to reduce my caffein-intake gradually.


The part of that culture that is, IMHO, the worst is the idea that alcohol is to blame for our behaviour.

Pigs are going to be pigs. They don't get to say "but I was drunk" Real men don't have it in them to treat others they way pigs do - alcohol or no.

I just don't blame the substance. Blame the man who thinks of his immediate satisfaction without regard to the cost he inflicts on others.


> Pigs are going to be pigs. They don't get to say "but I was drunk" Real men don't have it in them to treat others they way pigs do - alcohol or no.

You'd be surprised.

Of course, "real men" who know they turn into pigs when drinking choose not to drink.


No, the problem with American alcohol culture is that they treat it as a "big bad monster", rather than a part of life.

Result: people not knowing their limits.

Public drinking is allowed in Germany, however, funny as it seems it's not a barbaric (ahem) hellhole. Nor you see a lot of people "losing it"

That's maturity.


> Public drinking is allowed in Germany, however, funny as it seems it's not a barbaric (ahem) hellhole. Nor you see a lot of people "losing it"

Oh yes you will.


"A lot of". Of course I've seen it ;)

Curiously enough, I've heard some stories about Oktoberfest. Needless to say it's way more popular with tourists than with locals. And the mess (including train stations, hostel vicinities, etc), well, doesn't need explaining.


My guess is that it's closely related to the collegiate alcohol culture, which is just as shitty and pretty much ubiquitous, and which many younger devs were a part of before graduating into industry.


What is different about non-American alcohol culture?


Start asking before you touch in situations where you know you don't have to.

I think this is based on incorrect understanding of the real cause of the problem. The problem was not the lack of knowledge about the fact that she was not consenting - it was clearly apparent to everybody else, she did not need to verbalize it. The problem was that he was not able to perceive her obvious signals or did not care about them or was not able to control himself. Therefore we need men who have empathy, respect for other people and self-control. Men like that do not need to ruin intimate moments asking weird questions. Men who are not like that ignore even clear no, verbal or nonverbal. That's the problem - the lack of empathy, respect, self-control. Not getting hammered might be important part of solving that. The rest is more complicated - how can society support personal growth and maturity?


All of the above is true.

But it also needs to be said, that a technical conference isn't the right place for heavy drinking or "body shots". It's just unprofessional.

I think what we need to change is not only attitudes towards sexual harassment, but also towards professional behavior at conferences. Which means drawing the line much earlier. Nobody should ever feel they need to do heavy drinking or "body shots" in order to be "accepted" into the community or "bond" better. That includes both sexes, I know men who do not like to drink, but do so in order to "bond" with the community.

Disclaimer: I am not explaining or justyfing anyone's behavior here. What was described in the original article was unacceptable by any means. So please don't go off with a knee-jerk reaction to this post, but think about what I really mean.


I wasn't there so I don't know, but were her signals only obvious at a distance of a few feet. From the description of the events they were physically close and from what I read she only implied only two non-verbal clues and one verbal clue:

(1) Expression on her face as she looked at two male bartenders waiting for them to help.

(2) Not reciprocating in the kiss

(3) Mentioning that Joe has a wife and children to which he replied “Don’t’ worry about it we have an agreement”.

The first one would have been completely missed by Joe because he was caressing her back and kissing her forehead. So that one doesn't count as obvious. The second is difficult to say whether it was obvious or not without being party to the kiss. Only Joe and Justine can fairly assess the obviousness of that non-verbal clue. Drunk people tend to kiss pretty poorly, even consenting adults, so I'd say that's a pretty shitty clue as well. Lastly, the third clue is ambiguous because it is not about what she wants or does not want but what he should or should not be doing. With that statement, she in a way put responsibility to continue or not in Joe's hands. If he does in fact have an open relationship with his wife where they can seek out other sexual partners, then to Joe its entirely possible that her sentence could have been misinterpreted as "I'd like to, but you have something good in your life and I don't want you to make a mistake". That sentence was not about her decision but about his.

That all being said, I was definitely inappropriate for Joe to do what he did because of their professional relationship, with him as her superior and her as his subordinate. For that reason, I definitely agree that its a firing-worthy HR violation. However, she is as responsible for unprofessional behavior. In what US country would the following ever be acceptable common workplace conduct:

    began to start rubbing my back and kissing my forehead (let 
    me say this is not uncommon behavior between me and men I 
    consider close friends. I have a close relationship with a 
    lot of my former EdgeCase coworkers)
Overall, it's black and white case of sexual misconduct from an HR perspective, but based on her recollection of the events, its pretty far from a convincing claim that she effectively communicated that she wasn't consenting to the only person in the story that matters, Joe. They were two drunk adults who made poor decisions. Both are responsible.


I think think that's a great solution, but I think it will work best in conjunction with what I'm proposing.

The trouble is that there will always be a wide range in people (it doesn't have to be men) in terms of empathy, respect, and self-control. Even if you succeed in totally changing the culture around empathy, there will still be individuals who are empathetically challenged, just based on physiology.

What I'm suggesting is that we need an "ask first" culture in order to create a buffer. I'm basically advocating a redundancy solution.


I hear what you are saying and it sound reasonable... but I just cannot imagine myself asking that question in that situation. Wine, candles, excitement of 'the first time with her' and tenderness... and suddenly I hear myself saying 'can I stick my hand into your panties?'

Talk about a mood-killer. Please try to imagine it. If your proposal gets traction I will probably never have sex again. It's a good thing I do not live in the US - I am afraid they will need signed contracts for that. I am sorry but I really think we are solving the wrong problem here - this is not going to save the victims but it might ruin something very precious. Am I being over-sensitive?


If you haven't, in a soft voice, in a comfortable place, in a responsible way ever asked someone if they would like help taking off their pants... you are missing out. It's not that hard. Really. There are lots of reasonable questions that also act as good communication that I really don't want to teach you. Hey! There's a good question to ask next time!


Apples and oranges. It's one thing to ask because you feel like it. It's another thing to have to ask because it's mandatory.


"because you feel like it" ... this is a terrible thing to conclude. Let's just all 'feel like' getting consent, alright?


"because you feel like it" ... this is a terrible thing to conclude. Let's just all 'feel like' getting consent, alright?

Please do not pretend that I am saying something terrible that I never said. It is obvious from what I said in this thread that I am all for 'getting consent' - I just do not think that problem of lack of respect for women can be solved by mandating verbal consent instead of non-verbal. I think your latest response is intellectually dishonest because it takes my "because you feel like it" quote out of context in such a way which implies that I would be OK with no consent at all... that is something I would never say.


Exactly how would you ask that questions? (I'm honestly asking, I grew up in a country where personal space are quite strongly respect - even hugging between close friends are almost nonexistent.)


http://www.consentissexy.org/ discusses this topic in depth, including how to explicitly ask.


Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: