Guest post by latsot on the Princess and pursuit »« Behold the false dichotomy

Today she received the following threat

Pamela Gay is being given a hard time again, a worse time than ever in fact.

She frames it as a mistake she made, a mistake in keeping quiet.

On Wednesday, I learned that there are at least two audio recordings of a meeting at a non-profit. In this meeting my mistake was discussed and now there is the chance that audio could go public.

And at this point, if it did, I’d support it because it would mean I could speak the truth frankly without fear of being sued for libel or slander by people with more resources than I have. It might mean that every few months, I wouldn’t have to deal with someone going, “there is this rumor” or getting out of the blue emails saying, “you know…”.

My mistake was not reporting that a drunken man in a prominent role tried to grab my breasts.

I’m writing this blog post to try and get out the truth, to get my story out before the internet gets ahold of this truth and of me, and before I am judged by the court of the blogosphere.

We know that happens. We’ve seen it happen.

This is what happened that night:

Dear friend X went to introduce me to famous person A in a bar at a science fiction convention. Famous Person A was quite intoxicated. Instead of shaking my hand, Famous Person A tried to grab my breasts. Another person I had just met, person B, intervened physically. My friend made excuses for the famous person. Person B became a new friend. There was at least one other witness. I moved on with my con.

There are many reasons I didn’t report it.

She explains the reasons. They all make sense. On the other hand there is fallout, and she has regrets.

The thing is, in all the years since 2008, I’ve had a stream of women coming to me saying, “Me too,” and sometimes they say, “Me too, only it was worse and no one intervened.” I have lived with that guilt – lived with knowing that I did nothing but maybe if I had done something …

And that, too, is a near-universal thing. Then on the other hand there are threats and intimidation. No wonder women sometimes don’t report it.

The only way I thought I could survive was to chew off my dignity. In order to succeed, I thought I had to make no waves and miss no opportunity. I don’t know if I was right or wrong about what would have happened to my career. I know that I am now a woman with a secure enough position to say, “No, more.”

I don’t write this lightly. This is a post that has been maturing inside me for 5 years as I worked to secure my future.

I touched on what happened during my 2011 [typo for 2012 - OB] TAM talk, in which I said: “Here in the skeptics community, we, like every other segment of society, have our share of individuals who, given the right combination of alcohol and proximity will grab tits and ass. I’ve had both body parts randomly and unexpectedly grabbed at in public places by people who attend this conference – not at this conference, but by people at this conference. Just like in astronomy, it’s a combination of the inebriated guys going too far – guys I can handle –  and of men in power being asses.” [link] While there were people in that audience who had successfully touched me without invitation or my desire, because someone intervened in 2008, at least Famous Guy A had only grabbed at me. But he could have done more – I was lucky. And, for the women who have said, “It was more with me,” I have mourned and regretted I didn’t do more. It was in part for them that I gave that talk.

She has written about the punishment she got for that talk.

And then things get truly ugly.

I touched on it again in this blog post when in October, Famous Person A emailed me out of the blue. He wrote, “This is a private email for you only. … I hate to disturb your day, but you should know that there are rumors flying about today generated by a woman named Y accusing me of groping a woman (specifically touching her breast) in public at either 1 or 2, and the rumor is that it is you. Y is posting on [social media] that she was specifically told this by B, who of course did no such thing since it isn’t true. … Thank you for keeping this email private.”

He has shared around my response.

I have PTSD. It’s origins are complex and old. I had put it behind me completely for years and forgot about this demon. But, after my TAM talk in 2012, I went thru a very special form of hell that brought it back. I got help, and it’s under control, but… there are days, and this email created a week of those days. I responded that it happened (including with the description above), ending it with this, “I appreciate you reaching out to me, and understand that you may have been drunk enough to have no memory of this event. If this is the case, I would strongly urge you to consider seeking help.“ He wrote back to me two more times, asking why I had never confronted him, urging me to talk with him on the phone, talking about how this could devastate his family, urging me to remain silent. I wrote back saying I didn’t want to talk.

But he didn’t leave it there.

I’ve since learned that Famous Person A has told people I contacted him out of the blue, saying I wanted to make it clear nothing happened. In other cases, he either forwarded my message or an edited version. I’ve seen parts of my message parroted back at me by people I never sent it to. I kept the bastard’s secret for fear of my career, and now I don’t use his name for fear of his attorneys… but my name?  That is something people are trying to harm.

That’s not yet the worst. It gets worse, and then worse again.

On Wednesday, I got an email indicating that there are recordings of B discussing what happened in his non-profit work place. I was cc’d on a chain of emails that resulted in person B denying my experience. I responded with the same “this is what happened” as above. I’ve gotten pages and pages back. And, person B started cc’ing Famous Person A,a man who is known to be litigious. It was clear these emails wanted me to retract my very simple account of what happened in 2008. I eventually wrote to the board of the non-profit because they need to know. If the audio of the recordings go public they’re going to have one hell of a mess, and … I’ve served on the board of enough non-profits to know that if there is even a perceived possibility of inappropriate behavior by organization members, that member needs dealt with before it effects the membership or organizational mission.

Today I received the following threat from the person I thought was my friend, the person who intervened for me, person B. It was in the context of trying to get me to say nothing ever happened. He wrote, “I will also publicly speak about this as necessary, providing all documentation as necessary, including photos, emails, etc., and contact all relevant employers, as well.” He cc’d Famous Person A.

Let me put that more clearly: someone who once prevented something that has been characterized as a potential sexual assault (that is what grabbing breasts is) threatened me while cc’ing the famous person he once protected me from.

So that’s where that is.

Share this widely if you can. Pamela wants it shared. They have all the power.

Comments

  1. catof many faces says

    Fuck.

    Just…

    Arg.

    Seriously, guess person B is a piece of human waste too. I hope she can get through this ok.

    It must be so disheartening…

  2. kellym says

    Does anyone know if the recordings of DJ discussing the attempted sexual assault by Michael Shermer were at CFI or JREF. It has to be one or the other. But not enough clues for me to guess.

  3. Al Dente says

    Considering Person B (I will not embarrass DJ Grothe by mentioning any names) showed his contempt for Dr. Gay by blacklisting her as a speaker at his convention but continues to have Person A (a Shichael Mermer or some such name) as a permanent fixture at TAM that convention, the threat is not surprising.

  4. says

    Yuck. All this is pretty awful. It’s really depressing and upsetting how much women can be hit with just for complaining about bad behavior.
    It rather seems like it would be easier for everyone if someone like Famous Person A just made an apology and moved on. Though I suppose that might also make it less likely to be discussed and decried.

    Perhaps it’s a good lesson in gaslighting, though. I can even relate to it to some degree, in that my view of my father is pretty different than others not living with him would have. When you have one image of someone it’s rather hard to believe someone else having a very different experience.

  5. Blanche Quizno says

    I know that I am now a woman with a secure enough position to say, “No, more.”

    There is one very disturbing comma in there O_O

  6. caravelle says

    It rather seems like it would be easier for everyone if someone like Famous Person A just made an apology and moved on. Though I suppose that might also make it less likely to be discussed and decried.

    It would work if this wasn’t part of a pattern of behaviour from Famous Person A, but it is. If they apologized they wouldn’t be allowed to move on; it would embolden all the other people that person harassed (even possibly raped?) to come forward, now that wrongdoing was being acknowledged. They’d have to face the full consequences of their actions and it would certainly not be easier for everyone.
    It would be the right thing to do all the same.

  7. Blanche Quizno says

    I can’t believe Person B turned on her like that. This is so depressing.

  8. Corvus Whiteneck says

    Considering that their cons and orgs are self-selecting, self-reinforcing circle jerks, I’m not sure why they put so much effort into harassing people after the initial harassment incident(s). They’re all besties and are going to continue to promote, hire and invite each other, no matter how many people know they are sexual predators, gropers, gas-lighters, harassers, blackmailers, extortionists, misogynists, self-serving motivated reasoners, skeptical hypocrites, … I could go on, but you get the idea. The people they continue to bully, harass, and threaten would not have the ability to cause them *that* much trouble if it weren’t for the Streisand effect. That’s how most of us are hearing about these things.

  9. Bernard Bumner says

    I can’t believe Person B turned on her like that. This is so depressing.

    Circling the wagons to protect the organisation? Entirely in character.

    You only have to look at who still gets the invites to those events to know that the organisation comes first.

  10. says

    Well, now that legal threats have been made, and the obviousness of legal action is, well obvious, any destruction of recordings of discussions of such events, or writings of such events, or (you know), evidence of such events would be obstruction of justice, were there to be any legal actions filed.

    It should be noted that corporations do not have a constitutional right against self-incrimination.

  11. A fan of pamela says

    I’m a fan of Pamela’s. I will continue to be because if I had known her 20 years ago, I’d be astronoming right now.

    It sounds to me like she is upset about someone who did not touch her breasts. Breasts were not touched. Go read it again. Breasts were not touched. So, if there is a rumor flying around that a boob was touched, per Pamela’s own post, that rumor is false. And if it is a false rumor that could devastate his family…. why would people object to it not being spread, if the rumor of boob-fondling was actually false? Or am I missing something?

    Who issued a legal threat? Also, re: destruction of recordings. They might not be admissible if they run afoul of California’s 2-party consent wiretap laws.

    Who said Pamela was blacklisted from…anything? She doesn’t appear for a few years and that’s a blacklist? Christ, people have been complaining that the conferences feature the same speakers all the time. In fact, as far as I can tell, that’s the principle complaint! The permanent fixture sponsors that conference. Pamela doesn’t. One of them is less likely going to be at all meetings.

    And this bit: “Person B wrote, “I will also publicly speak about this as necessary, providing all documentation as necessary, including photos, emails, etc., and contact all relevant employers, as well.” So….you are mad at this person….for providing what evidence he has when requested? You are blasting them for…doing everything that they are supposed to do?

    But don’t let me interrupt your rage.

  12. says

    I can’t believe Person B turned on her like that. This is so depressing.

    If B is really DJ, then I can totally believe it. It wouldn’t be the first time he threw someone under the bus.

  13. A. Noyd says

    @A fan of pamela (#11)
    Was Shermer inspired by his global warming denialist roots to hire semi-literate goons to spread “doubt” in comment threads about Pamela Gay, or are you just pathetic enough to do it for free and of your own initiative?

  14. says

    It sounds to me like she is upset about someone who did not touch her breasts. Breasts were not touched. Go read it again. Breasts were not touched.

    Right, breasts were not touched because someone physically intervened. It’s almost like attempted sexual assault is a bad thing.

    Maybe you should “go read it again,” specifically this part:

    The thing is, in all the years since 2008, I’ve had a stream of women coming to me saying, “Me too,” and sometimes they say, “Me too, only it was worse and no one intervened.”

    So on one hand, it might be that it’s a false rumor to say that Person A committed sexual assault when in fact they only attempted sexual assault. But then, are all the other claims of similar conduct false? Are all the incidents that make the claim plausible false? Is the independently-corroborated pattern of inappropriate behavior of this sort all false? That requires an awful lot of assumption, for no apparent reason.

    Who said Pamela was blacklisted from…anything?

    IIRC, didn’t Gay say that herself at one point?

    She doesn’t appear for a few years and that’s a blacklist? Christ, people have been complaining that the conferences feature the same speakers all the time. In fact, as far as I can tell, that’s the principle complaint!

    Well, no, the principal complaint is that this organization and conference have done nothing to support victims of assault and harassment in the community, and have actively contributed to the hostile environment by gaslighting, supporting harassers, engaging in dishonest and unprofessional conduct, and blaming attendance and other problems on people talking about the issue.

    But when the same roster of speakers appears every year, with only a few faces different, and when that roster of speakers includes people who are harassers and excludes the people who speak out against that harassment, that contributes to the pattern established through other behaviors.

  15. says

    It sounds to me like she is upset about someone who did not touch her breasts. Breasts were not touched. Go read it again. Breasts were not touched. So, if there is a rumor flying around that a boob was touched, per Pamela’s own post, that rumor is false.

    I suppose if I walked up to you and took a swing at you, and only missed because someone saw me attempting to punch you, intervened, and knocked me off balance, you’d have zero problems with that, right? You wouldn’t be at all alarmed and wonder if I wasn’t a violent person whose company you’d prefer to avoid?

    Double standards for sexual assault vs. regular assault strike again.

  16. plutosdad says

    What “documentation, photos, emails” could he possibly present? Did someone record the event not happening? that is the only thing that could have anything to do with it. Any emails from Pam saying “it really didn’t happen” would mean nothing unless they came from Pam’s own mail provider to prove they came from her and were not edited.

    I guess in these situations it’s apparently best to not respond at all or talk about it, since anything you say or write will get twisted around and editing and then used against you.

  17. leni says

    Did someone record the event not happening?

    Lol plutosdad, that comment made my day.

    Hammers and nails :)

  18. says

    After reading through Stephanie’s post on this, yours, and a few others there are a few things I can’t help but laugh at in this situation. Not least of which is that it’s now wholly-irretrievable for Grothe and likely mostly-irretrievable for the JREF.

    There was a point, maybe two or three years ago, where Grother could’ve walked this whole thing back. A heartfelt mea culpa, some of that fancy schmancy shutting up and listening, and making changes at the JREF and TAM reflecting an understanding of the situation (namely rational creation and application of harassment policies and disinviting those who run afoul of them). There wasn’t even a need to weigh in on specific issues publicly or choose someone’s dugout to play from.

    At this point Grothe’s been keeled for pretty much anyone who represents a future of growth in organized skepticism and the ship will not be righted. He’s shown himself to be vindictive, petty, and untrustworthy and incapable of expanding the reach of the organization he helms.

    In large part people writing about this still haven’t called James Randi to task in any meaningful way. It’s his organization and has his name on it. He’s one of the two people meaningfully-employed by it (along with Grothe). The organization is small. It’s impossible for him to be unaware of these issues at this point. This is now his problem, too. Being a man in his 80s, it’s unlikely that this won’t taint the end of a meaningful career.

    Everyone screws up. Six years of this isn’t screwing up.

  19. says

    @Captaintripps
    I quite agree about Randi. Grothe is a lost cause and I was never particularly invested in him to begin with, but Randi disappoints me. His consistent silence on this matter is a real blemish on his record.

  20. alawyer says

    Under the law, touching is not required for a completed assault. Include a successful touching and then you have battery as well. Just ask your lawyer friend…. Thomas will probably advise you free of charge.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>