DJ Fact Correction


I generally don’t take the time to fact correct every random person who misrepresents what I say, because it’s a herculean task, but I’m surprised to find, after all the positive back and forth between us, that DJ went and said this:

All we knew about was that someone was removed from the speaker reception because he wasn’t permitted to be there, and was apparently drunk. In her blog post and in further comments, Ashley says she didn’t feel like the harassment was worth reporting to JREF staff or hotel staff at the time, nor did she nor anyone else mention it in one of the TAM attendee surveys.

No, absolutely not true, and an abhorrent misrepresentation of what happened.

From the man who reported the incident:

…he was rude and talking to several ladies with inappropriate language. I told you [DJ] about him and you took immediate action and talked to the gentleman and you took him from the room.

At that time, DJ only knew what I told him and he acted immediately and did the right thing. There is a chance that DJ does not remember this because he only knew that the guy was rude, drunk and needed to leave. DJ did not stop to think about it – he just took action.

I had been told it was already reported, because it was reported and dealt with by DJ, I didn’t know a second report was necessary. Had DJ himself not been the one who handled the issue initially, if I had thought that he’d totally forget, if I thought he would think that being alerted to a man bothering women translated to just a guy who wasn’t invited, or if I knew that he had not gotten complete information, I would have immediately made an additional report.

Because the issue was very much worth reporting to the JREF staff — which is why it was, it just turned out that the report was incomplete.

To say that I did not think it was worth reporting is a lie and an egregious one at that.

Furthermore, I did not think that DJ would ever be going around saying that no harassment was ever documented at TAM. I didn’t think DJ would be saying that the low attendance problems at TAM were from women talking about sexism they experience. I didn’t think that DJ would ever be saying that the only problem that TAM needs to correct is that victims just don’t officially report enough.

I am extremely lucky that there were other witnesses, I hate to think what other women who’ve been harassed are thinking right now. What would people be saying about me right now if I hadn’t had half a dozen other people there? I mean, considering what they’re already saying.

I hate posting about this stuff. I absolutely despise it, because it’s hard to deal with the comments and it’s hard to relive all the harassment — and not just that one incident, but the lifetime of cultural shame and guilt and horror and anger that comes with every incident. I think what some people are missing is how much that can hurt and how difficult it is to expose yourself like that. Should women report it?  Absolutely, but it’s really difficult to do so because it is painful and when people act the way DJ is acting right now, it makes it even harder.

Comments

  1. Chingona says

    Thank you for putting paid to this lie. I’m very sorry you have to continuously defend yourself in this fashion. I’m happy that you’ve got such outspoken supporters because, as you say, so many women in this precise position are both powerless and voiceless. It is absolutely ridiculous that only through the testimony of other people (men, whose opinions are invested with disproportionate credibility) are your claims being taking seriously. Thank you, thank you, thank you for continuing to talk about this, for not being bullied into silence.

  2. stephaniezvan says

    I’m trying to come up with words, but there aren’t a lot of them. There is just plain, simple anger that D.J. is still trying to play minimizing PR games this far into the fallout over what he said. All the angrier because he volunteered his thoughts on women at TAM and is throwing blame at everyone but himself.

    Thank you for continuing to insist on accuracy in this.

  3. says

    Ashley, as I said as a comment the other day: I am so sorry to have learned about this reprehensible behavior of harassment or assault that you mention in your blog post. I sincerely wish we had known at the time that the guy who was removed from the speakers reception (he didn’t belong there, and he was apparently intoxicated) had also assaulted and sexually harassed you, and according to your posts on the matter, possibly two other women, including Jen McCreight, as well. Had we known (had you let us know) we would have called security and removed him from TAM, not just removed him from the speakers reception because he didn’t belong there.

    That you didn’t report the incident of sexual harassment at the time to JREF or hotel staff is regrettable, but as you point out in a previous post, you had your reasons. I also deeply regret that you didn’t let us know about this horrible incident on the attendee survey, as such information is helpful as we try to get better information on the prevalence of such offenses at these sorts of events, and work ever harder to combat them.

    I am mortified this happened to you, and we will take appropriate steps to make sure the offender can’t do it again at a future conference.

    When I posted this comment to you the other day (May 31, 2012 at 8:59 am), here was your response to me: “As I said, I was told that the incident had been reported and handled — and it had been, just not in full. Obviously, it was a miscommunication, and I’ve given my suggestions for the future. Thanks for your prompt replies.”

    You are right that the incident was reported and handled, “just not in full,” in that a disruptive person who didn’t belong at the reception was brought to my attention by Phil Ferguson, and the disruptive guy was asked to leave. We had no way of knowing that he also assaulted, or sexually harassed you, and possibly others, unless you or someone else had told JREF staff or hotel staff, which neither you nor anyone else did. In your blog post above, you neglected to include the last three relevant sentences in your quote from Phil Ferguson (his comment on your post on May 31st 2012):

    “@Ashley, At that time, DJ only knew what I told him and he acted immediately and did the right thing. There is a chance that DJ does not remember this because he only knew that the guy was rude, drunk and needed to leave. DJ did not stop to think about it – he just took action. He did not have the details that you elaborated above. If you never gave him the details he would not have known that you were harassed. I was much closer to your side of the room and I did not know all of this information until today.”
    Ashley, you also blogged that “[you] didn’t want to go into explicit detail of exactly how gross the guy had been to [you], for fear of making TAM look bad.”

    And you commented on your blog that “[you were] told that the guy was kicked out for sexual harassment of [you] and Jen.”

    And you commented on your blog that that you were “told by someone who had spoken to DJ about it that the guy was kicked out for his inappropriate behavior towards the women there and it was handled. Clearly there was a miscommunication.”

    Indeed there was a very unfortunate miscommunication, and a lack of communication, because neither you nor Jen nor anyone else reported any incident of sexual harassment nor assault at that event. No one at the JREF was notified of the incident of sexual harassment and assault until a few days ago, in fact.

    I wish you had gone into detail about it at the event — I wish you had reported the incident of sexual harassment and assault to JREF staff or hotel staff — because we would have removed the offender from TAM, and/or called law enforcement, as opposed to just removing him from the reception. I am heartsick that some offender who did the things you report was allowed to stay at TAM because we didn’t know of his other actions until last week when you revealed them to us.

    No one should ever be subjected to what you experienced by this man at the speakers reception. I am so very and sincerely sorry you were subjected to it. But to say you reported the sexual harassment to JREF staff or hotel staff at the time is factually untrue, and accuses JREF of failing to do what we promise to do, which is to take reports of assault or sexual harassment seriously, and act on them quickly (calling security or law enforcement if possible, remove offenders from the event, etc.). Please do not continue saying that you did report the incident of sexual harassment or assault to JREF staff or hotel staff at the time, because you did not. This is important because all victims of sexual harassment and assault should report such incidents to organizers or security or law enforcement so that offenders can be removed, and atheist and skeptics events can become ever safer for everyone.

  4. ashleyfmiller says

    None of this explains the following statement: “she didn’t feel like the harassment was worth reporting to JREF staff.” That is unacceptable. Not just because it’s untrue, but because you are saying that I didn’t care and that I wasn’t upset enough about it at the time. It is cruel and it is dismissive.

    The comment about explicit detail was about why I didn’t write about it more extensively on the blog. As stated clearly in the post, I didn’t go into detail about it at TAM because I had no reason to believe it had not had been reported in full.

    My blog is incredibly clear in stating that the event was reported to you but not in full and that you did not realize that the disruptive behavior was sexual harassment. I have also been incredibly clear in stating that TAM and you both care deeply about safety and that TAM is a safe event for women and that you acted swiftly in this matter.

    It has been unequivocally stated in everything I have written that I was not the one who spoke with you, so I cannot “continue saying that [I] did report the incident” because I have never said it. These accusations, of my not thinking reporting was important or that I have claimed I did something I had not, are offensive.

  5. says

    Ashley, I feel like there is a complex set of misunderstandings here. Would you like to communicate about this some day soon in way that isn’t as blog comments on your blog? I find blog commenting about issues as important as an incident of sexual harassment seems prone to quick misreads, recrimination and defensiveness. I think this is understandable, considering the gravity of the issue.

    Unfortunately, some folks, including PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson, have misunderstood what you have written to mean that you reported to me being sexually harassed and that I ignored it, or simply forgot about it, or chose to not record it. Further posts by you seem to obfuscate matters, unintentionally I’m sure.

    No incident of sexual harassment or assault was reported at the speakers reception last year — the sexual harassment wasn’t reported to JREF until last week. That fact bears being made more clear. I was informed by a man at the speakers reception that another fellow seemed inebriated at the reception, and I quickly had him removed from the reception. He didn’t belong there. But you did not report that he had also sexually harassed you, neither to me nor to the man who reported him to me (Phil ferguson, who has commented on some of your posts on this issue, and who is unaffiliated with the JREF, incidentally), nor to hotel staff, nor to any other JREF staff, nor to anyone else who reported it to JREF/hotel staff, etc. I had no idea the fellow I removed from the event for being drunk and not belonging there also assaulted and sexually harassed someone.

    As I say, these issues are sensitive matters and typically handled in private. This is not because they should be swept under the rug, but because they tend to be seen as private matters that are fraught with emotion, understandably.

    Correcting the record that the JREF never received a report of sexual harassment at or after the speakers reception — until last week — is by no means intended to be cruel. Instead, the facts should be clear so folks don’t assume incorrectly that a report of sexual harassment at the event was either ignored, or not recorded. Indeed, this central misunderstanding seems to be one of the two main points of Rebecca Watsons recent post about her deciding, unfortunately, not to attend TAM this year, and a central point of PZ Myer’s recent blog post on the topic. Both of them are factually mistaken because both of them misunderstood things you wrote, even though you later attempted to clarify yourself.

    We have privately discussed other matters about actions JREF will take regarding this specific incident.

    I feel absolutely horrible about what you reported to me last week the sexual harassment that you and possibly Jen experienced at the speakers reception last year. No one should ever be treated like that, especially not at events that are trying to be ever safer for women. I wish we had known at the time so the offender could have been removed from TAM. But because no report of the sexual harassment was made — because no one informed anyone at the JREF or the hotel about the sexual harassment — we weren’t able to combat the problem. I am so sorry you had to go through that then, and I am so sorry the incident has been misconstrued or misunderstood by some bloggers in recent rounds of blog dustups that don’t concern you.

  6. ashleyfmiller says

    If you have a problem with what PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson are saying, may I suggest you take it up with them rather than and without insulting me?

    If you would like to point me to where my posts are confusing, I will happily take a second look at them. But there is a difference between something being confusing and people reading what they want it to say — people on both sides seem fully capable of doing that.

  7. says

    Agreed. You aren’t responsible for any blog posts other than your own, and I didn’t mean to imply that you were. No insult intended. I appreciate that you have tried to clarify things and I hope the misunderstandings etc. won’t persist too much longer.

    Again, I am so sorry to have heard from you last week about what you went through last year. I feel horrible about it, and wish the sexual harassment was reported at the time so we could have worked to combat it immediately. No one should have to experience that, and I’m sorry.

  8. Audra says

    Ashley, you have been very clear and concise in relating your experience about the incident. You were not confusing. I got the difference between – I thought the problem had been reported and resolved – and “didn’t feel like the harassment was worth reporting to JREF staff”. I am not even the President of JREF but I heard you and so did many others like me. DJ owes you an apology (and not a defense) for his misrepresentation of what you said. He needs to apologize for what he did instead of his “sorry for what happened to you”. You have done nothing wrong. He is coming off as defensive and patronizing. His “heartsickness” over what happened to you doesn’t prevent him for continually reminding you that the guy remained at the conference and it’s YOUR fault for not reporting “good enough”. Once again, it’s not that you thought it was reported nor that his team didn’t follow up to get specifics on a trouble maker. My jaw continues to drop.

  9. Chingona says

    This unwavering and repetitive corporatespeak Grothe is employing here and elsewhere is eerie and inappropriate, and reads like a recording, not a serious engagement. Instead of expressing more than a dozen times a “wish” that a victim of sexual harassment behaved in a way studies show few victims do, perhaps he might wish, in the future, that JREF dreams up a comprehensive method for organizing and investigating reports of bad behavior at their events: say, by listening to Pteryxx at FtB. The onus is on JREF, and not the victims and witnesses of abuse, to take statements, gather further evidence, and ensure that their reports are complete. Repeat: that is your job, and not the responsibility of Ashley Miller and people like her. Stop telling her, in wishy-washy terms, what she should have done, and own up to your mistakes.

  10. Cara says

    Indeed there was a very unfortunate miscommunication, and a lack of communication, because neither you nor Jen nor anyone else reported any incident of sexual harassment nor assault at that event. No one at the JREF was notified of the incident of sexual harassment and assault until a few days ago,

    Okay, DJ, let’s try this.

    You were THERE.

    Now, if you were a person who’d just been upset/made uneasy by an assault of some kind, and the person *in charge* WAS THERE, and HANDLED IT, would you then feel the need to REPORT an incident that was handled by the person in charge?

    If you were a person who was just trying to enjoy a conference, would you not half-expect that the person IN CHARGE, WHO HANDLED THE INCIDENT, would come back to you if there were more *steps* that needed to be taken?

    If you were not the person *in charge* at the time, but merely the person who *handled it*, that does not wipe your memory clean, does it?

    If you were unaware, for whatever reason, that you were handling an assault/harassment and not just some drunken ass, that still does not mean that THE VICTIM IS TO BLAME FOR NOT DOING MORE.

    Again. Upset person. Or not even upset, just annoyed, maybe. If it were you, and you saw the cause of your irritation hustled out of the venue, would you not sort of assume that the incident was over UNLESS someone *in charge* suggested you file a follow-up report?

    Please. Could you please, if you really want to fix this, STOP insisting that the fault is with the person being harassed, just because you’re embarrassed about it.

  11. Cara says

    This unwavering and repetitive corporatespeak Grothe is employing here and elsewhere is eerie and inappropriate, and reads like a recording, not a serious engagement. Instead of expressing more than a dozen times a “wish” that a victim of sexual harassment behaved in a way studies show few victims do, perhaps he might wish, in the future, that JREF dreams up a comprehensive method for organizing and investigating reports of bad behavior at their events: say, by listening to Pteryxx at FtB.

    Hm. Is it possible that it’s a required corporate ass-covering maneuver?

    Because it sounds like there’s a person in there trying to get out, until the “I wish it had been reported” passive voice paragraphs.

  12. says

    Agreed, Ashley, but until last week, neither I nor any other JREF staffer knew the removal of a fellow from the reception who didn’t belong there and who appeared drunk was in any way connected to you, nor that he assaulted or harassed you (and possibly others according to your blog posts). I completely understand why you thought you didn’t need to report the incident (as you blogged, you didn’t want to make the JREF look bad, and you had thought someone else reported it to JREF or hotel staff, etc.).

    You are not to be blamed for the incorrect assumptions. But for the record, I don’t care how the JREF looks when it comes to someone deciding not to report assault or sexual harassment on its account. Frankly, I’d rather TAM not continue rather than people decide not to report assault or sexual harassment for the sake of its reputation.

    What took seconds to accomplish (Phil Ferguson brought to my attention some fellow who appeared drunk, and was being a nuisance and I discovered he didn’t belong at the party and I asked him to leave) apparently seemed to you like quick action on a complaint of assault and sexual harassment. As Phil notes in a comment, he didn’t know the details either, just that some fellow seemed drunk and disruptive, and so he brought that to my attention.

    I am sorry you had to deal with that at our reception. I hope that if anyone is assaulted or harassed at TAM that they will decide to report it to JREF staff or hotel staff so we can combat such abuse going forward.

  13. says

    I handle sexual harassment complaints at my company. When someone feels they’ve been sexually or in any other way harassed, then company policy is for them to write a statement giving who, what, when and how. Perhaps JREF and TAM might consider doing something similar. I’d be happy to send a copy of our statement form to JREF for them to develop their own form.

  14. says

    It seems to me that your policy clearly needs a requirement that organisers note any and all instances of anti-social behaviour, and that if anti-social behaviour is reported (as it was here), that it is followed up. It is YOUR job to check that your guests are safe and well.

    Honestly Mr Grothe, you look like a pedantic, legalistic ass when you try and write this off as a ‘failure of Ashley to report’ rather than TAM’s failure to record. The only reason that you can claim that TAM couldn’t report the incident is because TAM failed to find out what had happened. Telling women “We’ll throw guys out if you say they are ‘being a nuisance’ but don’t expect us to interpret that to mean he is harassing you. Make sure you say that magic word now” is not reassuring or welcoming.

    It also should be a big neon sign to you as to why you are not getting the reports you are asking for. If you are going to be a pedant about the particular language used, and going to ignore women who say things like ‘he was annoying me’, ‘he was a nuisance’, ‘he was a real sleeze’, or ‘he’s certainly earned that reputation’ then I imagine you will continue to find little problem of harassment at your conferences. And you will also continue to find women staying away.

  15. says

    D.J., part of the problem here is that apparently neither you, nor any JREF staff, nor anyone else involved in removing this individual thought to ask why people were complaining about him. It sounds like you and everyone involved was content with believing that it was simply because he was drunk and uninvited, and this betrays a startling lack of curiosity for a group of scientific skeptics.

    This kind of investigation should be part of an anti-harassment policy. Any situation where a person is asked to leave should require more questioning and recording than obviously went on in this instance. There was a miscommunication, but that miscommunication would not have occurred if your anti-harassment policy were being properly enforced.

    Your inability to take any responsibility beyond “I’m really sorry, but it’s your fault you didn’t file a detailed report at the time” is making you look like a very poor leader.

  16. says

    Is it possible that DJ thinks a “statement” is equivalent to a “policy”? A policy has procedures that employees and volunteers should know and follow when incidents occur. A statement on a website/in a pamphlet is not a “policy.”

  17. Cara says

    I’m not Ashley. So don’t be annoyed with her if you don’t like what I say next:

    I am sorry you had to deal with that at our reception. I hope that if anyone is assaulted or harassed at TAM that they will decide to report it to JREF staff or hotel staff so we can combat such abuse going forward.

    DJ, forgive my confusion: Are you NOT JREF staff? I mean, I really don’t get what this denial is about.

    There seems to be some doubletalk and repetition going on, here. You keep saying things like, “I was sorry to find out LAST WEEK” when, again, you were there for the report. The report was someone telling you to throw the guy out. You threw the guy out.

    I mean, not to beat a dead horse, here, I’m sure you’re going to rectify this so it doesn’t happen again. But, seriously? Quit saying it wasn’t reported. It was reported. To the guy who told you to throw the bum out.

    If YOU want a more formal *report* process, then by all means create a policy where a cop shows up or you take a formal statement after you throw the next guy out. But it would really be great if you’d quit engaging in this odd Orwell-speak.

  18. says

    First, and most importantly, thanks Ashley for having the strength to speak up about this incident, the determination to keep talking about it in the face of a less-than-welcoming reception from some people, the amazing calm and rationality with which you’re able to discuss a very unpleasant experience, and the clarity to help us all understand what it feels like from your perspective. You’ve really gone out of your way to make others feel comfortable even when it seems like they’re not the least concerned about your feelings.

    OK, now the rest of this comment is directed at DJ.

    Thinking “if only victims would submit timely, clearly-written reports of every incident” turns out not to be very useful, DJ. You might want to spend a little time thinking about how many incidents go unreported for every one that gets reported at all, and then work on a system that works to support people who are the victims of sexual harassment and encourages them to report. Right now, from what you’ve been saying on this and other blogs, I’m thinking that if the report was coming anything more than exactly at the moment of the incident and with fewer than a half-dozen witnesses, your response would be to say there’s not enough proof and ignore the report. So, DJ, maybe it’s time to start with a different approach.

    After seeing what Ashley’s had to go through in the past few days here, it almost seems like you’re actively trying to discourage future victims from reporting instead of encouraging them. Maybe instead of telling her (and others) what you want them to do, you could try asking them what you could do to help? And if you want them to do more reporting, you could ask them what procedures you could put in place to make the reporting easier?

  19. Erista says

    DJ Grothe, I don’t know how else to say this, so I’ll just come out with it.

    I am a woman. I am a skeptic. And you are making TAM look incredibly unappealing. I have no desire to be treated the way Ashley is being treated now (both by you and by others who are not associated with TAM specifically) if I am sexually harassed or assaulted. If this is the response that a woman receives after being publicly subjected to behavior that is clearly abusive, what hope do women have if their abuse we private or less severe?

    This kind of response does not inspire confidence. Perhaps you can consider that when examining your low reservation rate for women.

  20. doubtthat says

    Why is this so hard?

    First, all DJ had to say was the following: “I did not realize we kicked that fellow out because he sexually harassed Ashley Miller. Now that I know that I will cease to claim there were no reported incidents of harassment.” Not difficult.

    Second, ultimately, who gives a shit? Rather than arguing over that event as though DJ successfully falsifying the story makes that problem go away, just adopt a new policy and procedure. This has been discussed across many, many blogs. There have been many, many good suggestions, and businesses and colleges have had policies and procedures in place for decades, just find one that works for TAM and steal it.

    Adopt a new policy, take it seriously, and move forward. Trying to pretend that the whole controversy is nothing more than whiny women ruining everyone’s fun is really, really not working. At all.

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