Jun 06 2012

Aren’t you making it up? – Why women don’t report harassment

There has been a lot of discussion about why women don’t report sexual harassment (Ophelia Benson, Greta Christina) and what they’re up against when they do, including hyper-skepticism over claims that are routine, mundane, and unsurprising.

I would like to present to you a comment I got today, which you can go find if you want, but I have no intention of linking to it or encouraging people to respond to it.  I want you to read it and keep in mind a few things:

  1. Unlike most cases of sexual harassment, I had several witnesses
  2. Many witnesses were willing to make public statements
  3. Although the report was incomplete, it was made as the harassment was ongoing, not afterwards
  4. It was not a complaint about a named person, no one is on the defensive
  5. It was not a complaint about a well-known speaker
  6. Many people in the community know and respect me, I am not unknown
  7. I have a public platform from which to speak

These things are not always true for a woman who is being or has been harassed and the following is a response I got with all of those things on my side.  Take away one or two or all of these and tell me what kind of response the average woman might expect to get.  And then tell me whether you’d find it worth it to make a report when you can expect this treatment from many other people.

Miss Miller, is there any actual evidence that the alleged harassment took place? Is there any actual evidence that “some other women” were harassed? Did you submit a written report of the alleged harassment to the conference organizers? Did the alleged “other women” submit written reports? Did any of you report the alleged harassment directly to “DJ”?

If the guy was so obnoxious for so long, why didn’t you ask someone for help? Why didn’t you ask for help right away if you were so repulsed by and uncomfortable with the guy’s alleged behavior? You say that someone from TAM’s staff eventually (but “so quickly”) intervened but you don’t say whether you asked for help or if someone just happened to come along and deal with the alleged situation.

You say that someone from TAM “made it stop” and that someone kicked the guy out but you don’t say exactly who it was who first intervened and how they knew you were being harassed. You say that you were told that “DJ himself” kicked the guy out but you don’t say who told you that.

You obviously think that TAM should consider what you did as a “report of harassment” but you don’t actually say what you did, exactly who intervened, whether you asked for help, who you talked to (either to ask for help or otherwise), and there are a lot of other missing, important details.

Another thing you said is that you were ultimately impressed with and proud of TAM’s staff for so quickly intervening. If they intervened so quickly, how could the guy have harassed you from room to room for so long?

You also make it sound as though “DJ” must have known about the alleged situation at the time but you don’t actually know that he did because you didn’t actually talk to him about it at the time, did you?

Exactly how would it make TAM “look bad” if you had gone “into explicit detail of exactly how gross the guy had been to” you? Who exactly would you have gone into explicit detail to about how gross the guy was to you that would have made TAM look bad? If you had gone into explicit detail with TAM’s staff, how would that make TAM look bad? If you didn’t go into explicit detail with someone on TAM’s staff at the time, then why did they intervene and kick the guy out? How would they know for sure what they were intervening with?

And another question: Do you expect the TAM staff or “DJ” to be psychic and to know what’s happening to you and/or other people at the conferences at all times, and to know what has allegedly happened to you or other people even though you and/or those other people don’t properly report it to the people in charge?

According to your own words TAM’s staff  took care of the alleged situation “so quickly” and effectively. That speaks well of TAM’s staff, which should demonstrate to you and all others that TAM’s staff deals with problems quickly and effectively as soon as they know about them. TAM’s staff can’t reasonably be expected to be psychic or to personally babysit every woman (or man) at their conferences. It’s unreasonable for you to blame TAM or “DJ” for something that you could have ended a lot faster if you had asked for help quickly and had properly reported it to the people in charge.

Is it wrong for ‘skeptics’ to be skeptical of non-evidential claims that don’t add up, and that weren’t properly reported to the people in charge of the conference?

Are you making up the whole thing?

On its own, it might just seem like a bad apple not worthy of notice, but I’ve gotten dozens of other comments here, on other blogs, on Facebook, and in e-mails that reflect the same sentiment.  And I knew I would get them.  Every woman knows she will get them.  Every time she speaks up.  Every time.  And sometimes it’s just exhausting.  It hurts a little, having to relive it and be called names and a liar, but ultimately it just makes you tired, completely bone-weary, and a little heartbroken.


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  1. 1
    Jason Thibeault (@lousycanuck)

    And you’re not the only one. Gee, I wonder why name-and-shame doesn’t work when the person who’s being shamed is the person who was already a victim once!

  2. 2
    Crommunist (@Crommunist)

    This is fucking heartbreaking. I knew about the phenomenon, as it is remarkably similar to the reason why hate crimes are systematically underreported by people who are disproportionately the targets thereof. Still… reading the contempt dripping off the words is pretty stark.

  3. 3
    Greg Laden

    Grrrrr … going out now to activate politically for the evening. Looking forward to devouring this later. I’m with you, Ashley.

  4. 4
    Ophelia Benson

    Yeah. No, it doesn’t seem not worthy of notice – it seems like brazen shameless bullying. I am sooooooooooooooooooooo fucking tired of shameless bullies.

  5. 5
    Bug Girl

    THIS. Over and over and over. The story of my life in ag science. Sigh.
    Thank you for standing up to the bullies.

  6. 6
    Mark Patrick White

    Please tell those assholes (and their ilk) to shove it up their fucking asses.

  7. 7
    William Brinkman

    Was this guy doing cut and paste followed by fill in the blank? “You are bad because (report.) Why wasn’t this (Reported, reported properly, reported to a real man)?”

  8. 8

    I am so so sorry to hear this. You have my full support, and the support of many others besides.

  9. 9
    Rebecca Watson

    This is, frankly, fucking infuriating. I knew that the treatment I’ve been getting for the past year wasn’t unique, but it’s still shitty to see it replay over and over again.

  10. 10
    Ashley F. Miller

    I think there are a lot of people who operate under the hope/delusion that the backlash you get is because people hate Rebecca Watson and not because people are sexist jerks whether your name is Rebecca Watson or not.

  11. 11
    Yisheng Qingwa


    I read this about 2 hours after I had to drop a class because not one, but TWO men who have stalked, threatened and stole from me work in the building my classroom’s located in. I tried to ask to be allowed to park in a back lot and come in a back door… one staff member said that I could- then I called back to day to confirm it and they told me they “couldn’t help me”. So, my stalkers get to work and live free of fear, and I have to sacrifice my academic advancement because I am afraid of having any contact with them.

    So yeah: RRRAAAAAGHHHRRR!!!!!

  12. 12
    Joshua Zucker

    In addition to all the already-mentioned reasons that this comment is infuriating, they even misrepresent why you raised the point in the first place.

    “It’s unreasonable for you to blame TAM or “DJ” ” … when it’s not what you were doing at all. You were blaming DJ for asserting that these events never happened, not for the way he or TAM handled things in the moment.

    On the one hand, these kinds of comments are horrible for exactly the reasons you state and then some, but on the other hand, we’ve also seen how large the number of positive, supportive people can be, and I hope you take at least some comfort from that part of the response to balance the pain of some of the others.

  13. 13

    There’s nothing at all rational about that whole mess. It’s basically a massive amount of often contradictory gotcha question.

    It’s actually pure tribalism, in my mind. The idea that tribalism might take people who are normally not misogynistic and make them so isn’t so much different from the effects of religion, although I do maintain that gender is not the only privilege vector here, and that by and large the “sour spot” is actually telling socially aggressive people that they’re wrong.

  14. 14
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    There’s a very teensy-weensy consolation in how it becomes so totally 100% obvious that it’s not actually about you personally. It’s still depressing as all hell, of course.

  15. 15

    And of course you’re not allowed to get angry, because it was worded so *politely*, with no cursing, and he was Just Asking Questions…

  16. 16

    First the Holocaust, then 9-11, now this. Why are people always making everything up? Nothing has ever actually happened, it’s just a bunch of people claiming shit went down without any proof. I’m not even sure I just typed that.

  17. 17

    We don’t report a lot of things.

    When I was 19 I was the victim of an attempted rape in my barracks by an intruder with a weapon. I yelled and screamed and I was lucky, he ran away. I did what you are supposed to, reported it. Because I could not give them a good description (honestly I never took my eyes off the knife) it went from an investigation , to “you must have imagined it or you are making it up for the attention”.

    The upshot being I will probably never trust a person in authority again and if I am the victim of a crime I will probably think twice before reporting it.

  18. 18

    I’m sorry you have to deal with this. People like to mock those who don’t report thinking themselves superior, thinking they’re so righteous. Pathetic weak willed fucks to the last. They don’t give a damn about the actual human being involved. It’s all about some stupid ideal with no bearing in reality.

    It took a lot to come forward and I applaud your courage and tenacity. Hope the fuck that wrote that eats shit.

  19. 19

    It all goes back to the Bible, which established that a woman making an accusation was the offender, not the victim. You would think a community of “skeptics” would be able to leave behind such primitve thinking.

  20. 20
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Yisheng Quingwa @10, talk to the registrar’s office — ask for the Assistant Registrar. Their job is to keep you in school and paying tuition. Ask about their policies and their committment to ensuring that students can attend without being threatened or harassed. Ask them what they can do about these criminals. If necessary, suggest that you’re going to ask the Minister of Education about their policies and practices. See if you can get some resolution in your favor.

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  1. 23
    Those Oversensitive, Lying Women | Almost Diamonds

    [...] doesn’t matter for us that there are witnesses, not even multiple, well-respected witnesses. We still won’t be believed. We’ll face questions over whether the incident happened at all. If that can’t be [...]

  2. 24
    On drama vs conflict regarding harassment policies | Lousy Canuck

    [...] harm innocent men — notwithstanding the underreporting problem, the fact that reports are often disbelieved even with multiple lines of corroborating evidence, and the fact that such policies exist in just about every other workplace — is trumped up. [...]

  3. 25
    “The Problem of Dogmatic Feminism” | Almost Diamonds

    [...] I’m talking about things like this: http://freethoughtblogs.com/ashleymiller/2012/06/06/arent-you-making-it-up-why-women-dont-report-har… I’m talking about things like this: [...]

  4. 26
    Holy. Fucking. Shit. | Greta Christina's Blog

    [...] Ashley F. Miller pointed out in her excellent piece, Aren’t you making it up? – Why women don’t report harassment: When a woman is harassed and speaks out about it… even when she does everything [...]

  5. 27
    Not Worth the Price of Admission | En Tequila Es Verdad

    [...] Ashley F. Miller: Aren’t you making it up? – Why women don’t report harassment. [...]

  6. 28
    Harassment policies campaign – timeline of major events | Lousy Canuck

    [...] F. Miller Aren’t you making it up? – Why women don’t report harassment: Ashley displays a very telling sort of troll where, despite multiple lines of corroborated [...]

  7. 29
    Pascal’s Reporter « Dubito Ergo Sum

    [...] several key realities. The first is that reporting carries with it a number of costs on its own. We’ve seen a microcosm of that just recently, with the recent harassment reports and the responses of trolls, [...]

  8. 30
    Addressing some things Thunderf00t definitely actually said « The Hypothetical Bus Stop

    [...] tell staff what to do if they get such a report. Also, there’s been a big history of women getting pilloried for coming forward. Many bloggers pushed for an official written policy and DJ caught a lot of heat for not committing [...]

  9. 31
    Anatomy of a Bully | Atheism, Music, and More…

    [...] Ashley Miller wrote a great blog about why victims of harassment are many times reluctant to report …. The victim being bullied is a huge part of that. [...]

  10. 32
    The Biggest and Best of 2012 » Ashley Miller

    [...] Why Women Don’t Report Harassment [...]

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