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Jun 20 2013

A chilling tale of rape and social psychology

Georgia Weidman attended an Infosec conference in Poland and was sexually assaulted. It’s a very strange story, not because there’s any ambiguity — she was simply attacked by an acquaintance, and fought him off — but because she lets us in to all the tangled confusion going on in her head about this attack. It’s not just a physical event, dealt with and done, but a threat to her role in the community.

First, she builds up to the story with a lot of concern about “grey areas”. These “grey areas” are pretty damn sad in themselves, and I think it’s a symptom of her efforts to understand what happened to her that she’s discussing all this. The attempted rape wasn’t grey at all.

The third grey area for me is what constitutes rape. A lot of my fears in writing this post stem back to this post from Norin Shirley about being attacked at a conference. Reading the comments makes my stomach turn, knowing that the same thing is about to happen to me. “She’s a slut,” or “she’s making it up for attention,” sort of things. It makes me feel bad and like an anti-feminist to say this, but some guy putting his hands down my pants when I don’t want him to, while I certainly don’t condone it, sounds a bit more like life than rape. It’s just a sad fact. If you are female from time to time you will be touched without permission. Not too many years ago marital rape didn’t legally exist, and in the middle ages knights at arms were encouraged to practice chaste courtly love with the queen while gallivanting around the country forcing their lust on peasant girls. Sometimes it just sucks to be female you know. Then again sometimes it sucks to be male too. False rape accusations do happen. If I was a guy, I think I might be afraid of that. Luckily Norin Shirley was able to get away before her attack escalated, as was I.

I’ll skip over the actual account of her attack. It’s the usual sordid nastiness by an abusive guy, with the good news that smacking someone really hard in the temple with a coffee cup will terminate their arousal. But then there’s the aftermath. She calls the hotel staff, the conference organizers, works her way up to the Polish policy and the US embassy, and then…all the second guessing begins.

Conference staff was originally very supportive. But then they went to hear his side of the story and they suddenly wouldn’t even look at me. I realize it’s a complicated situation, but what I hit myself in the eye? I asked an organizer point blank if he believed me, and he said he didn’t know. I don’t know what the guy’s story is, but from the police and the conference’s refusal to act, I assume it’s pretty convincing. Hotel staff pulled the security tapes. Someone I thought was a friend of mine watched them with hotel staff. The general jist I got from the interaction was because I was on the tape letting him into my room, walking in the hallway with him, etc. I must be lying. Where in any of that did I consent to unprotected sex, being hit, etc?

The interesting stuff is the reactions. The people who say things like, “This isn’t what I think of course, but I bet a lot of people don’t believe you because you flirt on Twitter,” or “Everyone saw you kiss so and so at this party, so of course no one believes you didn’t want to have sex with that guy.” The implication is I think a bit disturbing. If I pursue a relationship with one guy, I have now consented to sex with any guy? I realize the typical argument is that a girl wearing a short skirt is asking to be attacked. But this seems to go a little further than that even. Because I from time to time express myself in a provocative manner, there was no attack at all. I have consented to any sexual thing any human being wants to do to me ever. Of course reasonable people should see that this is complete nonsense. “I watched the security footage. You let him in your room. How can I believe your story?” I never said I didn’t let him in. While in hindsight this was ultimately a bad move, the real irony is the author of the quote above invited me to hang out in his room alone at an event a couple months ago and have a few drinks. I accepted and we hung out and had a great time, alone. At no point did I feel threatened. The number of times I have hung out alone with another conference speaker are too many to count. I just want to be one of the guys you know. I want to be invited into your exclusive little groups of infosec rockstardom. I want to be good enough to be friends with you guys. I want to be invited to be on panels. I want to coauthor some research. Good luck having any of that ever happen for me if I have to hide in my room alone.

She was the victim, and what’s her concern? That she won’t be able to express herself sexually. That she will be locked out of the professional interactions needed to advance her career. We’ve seen that over and over, haven’t we? If a woman flirts at any time at all, it will be thrown in her face repeatedly if ever she tries to set boundaries. If she dares to protest casual sexism, she is going too far and must be silenced, or kicked out of the community.

That’s what I took out of Weidman’s story. The attempted rape was terrifying, but she was strong (but why does she have to be strong?) and handled that well. It’s the repercussions that bounce back and slam women over and over and over again afterwards that are really chilling. I’ve known people who were robbed, and no one afterwards questions their competence or the appropriateness of their activities at a conference; no one blames the victim. Why is rape different?

And she lost friends and reputation over something that was not her fault.

So do what you want to do infosec. Say that Georgia is a big whore and got what she deserved. Say that it wouldn’t happen to any other girl in infosec because no one else would be stupid enough to let a guy in her room. Say I’m making it up to further my feminist agenda and I’m secretly in league with Ada Initiative. Believe me, you aren’t going to say anything I haven’t heard already, and from people I thought were my friends. Do your worst. You can’t hurt me anymore than you already have. The people who were kind to me will forever have my thanks. Some of you really saved me that night. Some of you really saved me in the days after when I was alone in a foreign country and no one wanted anything to do with me. And some of you have hurt me. Some of you have failed to be there for me when I thought we were friends. Things like this have a way of clearing that up.

This is the last thing I have to say about all this. My duty is done. I don’t want to be the poster girl for infosec feminism. I want to be a researcher, and a trainer, and a speaker, and an icon. There’s a bad guy out there who has no remorse. I have reason to believe he was behaved badly towards women before at conferences and will do it again. The Polish legal system, while they have a report refused to take any action on the grounds that I had no proof, I had been drinking, etc. The US Consulate in Poland also has a record of it. But that’s it; it’s over and done with. I gave a talk the next day, I taught a class the next week. You aren’t going to get rid of me that easily, and I’m not going to stop expressing myself because someone can’t behave. If I want to show you my “I Love Joe McCray” sharpie tattoo on stage, I’m going to do it. If I want to say something silly on Twitter that could be construed as sexual I’m going to say it. The last thing I’m going to do is stop being myself because of this. Then he wins. And he didn’t win. People have offered to beat him up for me. I already did that. I’m not asking anybody to do anything for me, I’m asking you to do something for the next girl. This guy is dangerous. I was lucky. She might not be.

Is her attempted rapist now wrestling with his conscience and wondering whether he’ll be able to interact appropriately with his professional peers now? I doubt it. That anguish is left to his victims. He apparently has no worries that his fellow security consultants might reject him for his behavior…and he’s a goddamned rapist.

70 comments

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  1. 1
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    He apparently has no worries that his fellow security consultants might reject him for his behavior…and he’s a goddamned rapist.

    Almost a textbook-worthy example of the rape culture in action. She’s an impressive woman. I hope, probably in vain, that she’s wrong about being treated like she asked for it…but then, I know the rape culture exists, so I also know it’s a fruitless optimism. :/

    Thanks for writing about it, PZ.

  2. 2
    ginmar

    And for all those people who sneered at Rebecca Watson…

  3. 3
    borax

    I’ve never heard the mugging/rape analogy that you used. But I’m gonna steal it the next time I hear any asshole use a woman’s dress as a rape excuse. Example; “What he hell was he doing wearing a Rolex. He should know that there are muggers out there. A suit? He was wearing a suit. He was asking for that shit. Flaunting his wealth. He deserved it.”

  4. 4
    Blondin

    …some guy putting his hands down my pants when I don’t want him to, while I certainly don’t condone it, sounds a bit more like life than rape. It’s just a sad fact. If you are female from time to time you will be touched without permission.

    And if you don’t agree that this is just the way things should be you must be some kind of stazi/mangina/feminazi who deserves to be singled out for abuse and harassment (maybe even raped).

  5. 5
    WithinThisMind

    For all the whining MRAs and their Allys do about ‘false accusations’, I’ve never once seen or heard of a single incident where the consequences to the accuser weren’t greater than the consequences to the accused, nor have I seen a single incident in which it was simply automatically assumed that the accuser was telling the truth and completely blameless.

  6. 6
    WithinThisMind

    Amendment to above – except when racism was a massive factor, but even then, it’s rare.

  7. 7
    Abdul Alhazred

    @2 — Isn’t this story very unlike what happened to Rebecca Watson?

    [In the events that occurred, yes, completely different. In the responses by assholes, exactly the same. Before you join in the usual chorus of denialists and clueless hyperskeptics, though, how about if you shut the fuck up?]

  8. 8
    irisvanderpluym

    PZ:

    I’ve known people who were robbed, and no one afterwards questions their competence or the appropriateness of their activities at a conference; no one blames the victim. Why is rape different?

    I blame the patriarchy. I know, I know: I almost always say that, and I sound like a broken fucking record. But in my defense, it does have the virtue of being almost always true.

    Georgia’s experience is not rare. What’s all too rare is her courage to (a) report it, (b) write about it openly, and (c) refuse to be held down by the unfathomably enormous weight of rape culture.

    Thanks for writing about this, PZ. Allies like you make a big difference by publicizing stories like Georgia’s and condemning her treatment — by everyone from the would-be rapist, the conference staff, to her so-called “friends”" — for what it is: deplorable and unacceptable.

  9. 9
    LykeX

    If you are female from time to time you will be touched without permission.

    Indeed, you even have self-proclaimed “relationship gurus” advocating this exact course of action as a seduction strategy.

    @7
    I think the point is that some people have claimed that Rebecca was being totally unreasonable in interpreting the offer for coffee as a come-on. It’s yet another catch22: If you accept the offer, you have essentially consented to whatever happens next, even if you explicitly object. If you refuse the offer, you’re a hysterical bitch, freaking out over an innocent offer of coffee.

  10. 10
    Ysidro

    I feel physically ill.

  11. 11
    irisvanderpluym

    Abdul Alhazred 7:

    @2 — Isn’t this story very unlike what happened to Rebecca Watson?

    No. No it isn’t.

    Rebecca Watson was creeped on. She dared to “complain” about it in the most innocuous way possible: “Guys, don’t do that.” For that, and that alone, she has been viciously harassed, abused and threatened for years. The petty, privileged twit Richard Dawkins now refuses to share a stage with her — cutting into her conference speaking fees and professional opportunities.

    At this link is a small sample of the vile shit directed at Rebecca Watson. It does not include links to the blogs entirely devoted to hating and demeaning her, to videos people have made to humiliate and rage at her, to pictures of her head pasted onto debasing pornography, or to the actual, credible rape and death threats she has reported to police.

    Of course, if Elevator D00d had stuck his hand down her pants, it would have been much worse: it would have been her fault for being stupid enough to get into an elevator alone with him. At 4am. After drinking in a bar. What was she thinking? She wanted it. She was asking for it.

    So it is very much like what happened to Rebecca Watson. It is a small difference in degree, not in kind.

  12. 12
    Abdul Alhazred

    @11

    The man in the Rebecca Watson incident immediately backed off upon being told no. Or so she says.

    That is not to defend all the insults directed at her afterward.

    You speak of “The Patriachy” as if it were an organization, rather than just a convenient label for all those people who don’t think right.

    [Bye. --pzm]

  13. 13
    peptron

    A mental exercise I like to do is this: I see sex as a basic biological need like eating, breathing, etc; and so go on and change the situation where I just switch sex with eating, or some other basic function that has a social aspect.

    For example, let’s suppose a girl wanted to have a meal with a guy, and then they went to her/his room for that. But then, the guy wanted more, and instead of just having a regular meal, decided to forcefully tie the girl to the table and used a funnel and a stick to force food down her throat.

    From what I understand, very few people would argue that since she wanted to have a meal with the guy, she de facto asked for being tied to a table for the funnel and stick treatment. And not a lot of people would consider a comment about being hungry an invitation to such.

    Then, why would it be different with sex?

  14. 14
    timgueguen

    Ouch, the Red Letters of Doom have appeared, and you have been found wanting.

  15. 15
    SallyStrange

    MRAs and their Allys

    Oh snap

  16. 16
    Ben P

    I’ve never heard the mugging/rape analogy that you used. But I’m gonna steal it the next time I hear any asshole use a woman’s dress as a rape excuse. Example; “What he hell was he doing wearing a Rolex. He should know that there are muggers out there. A suit? He was wearing a suit. He was asking for that shit. Flaunting his wealth. He deserved it.”

    Have you ever actually tried to report a mugging to the police? Or a simple property theft?

    If you’re mugged while doing something stupid and make a police report, you’ll usually get a disinterested but apologetic officer who will take down your information, tell you to cancel your credit cards right away, and make an empty promise that they’ll look for the guy, they swear.

    Then they’ll suggest the same things that governments and travel agencies routinely publish under headlines like Tips to avoid muggins Tips like “stay in well lighted areas,” “be aware of your surroundings,” “don’t ostentatiously display cash.” “Don’t dress conspicuously”

    Yet, if people suggest similar safety measures in the context of rape, people lose their shit. I think that distracts from the real point here.

    If you get mugged, police are going to be apologetic but often disinterested because unless there’s a readily identifiable suspect, there’s little chance of them catching anyone or recovering any of your property. They’re taking a report and that’s it.

    No one is going to suggest that maybe you just consensually decided to give your wallet to that man on the street and regretted it afterward.

  17. 17
    blorf

    @ Abdul Alhazred:
    The two demonstrate the catch 22 women are put in. Say no and explain to the community why and you are the villain. Say yes but don’t put out and you are the villain. The only way to “win” is to be a doormat.

  18. 18
    LykeX

    @Ben P

    How often does it happen that a person reports a mugging and the officer then says “We have a witness that saw you give money to a homeless guy a few days ago, so obviously you have a tendency to just hand money to people. I bet you just gave him the cash and then changed your mind later.”

  19. 19
    LykeX

    And I should really read more carefully. That way I might avoid repeating what people have already said :(

  20. 20
    Emil Karlsson

    I am no legal expert but if A has sex with B without B’s consent, then that should be considered rape, even if B talks to A, flirts with A or invites A into B’s room.

    Being nice to women doesn’t automatically earn you the right to use their bodies as a tool for your own sexual satisfaction.

  21. 21
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    Emil, I’d go farther, quite a bit: I don’t care if they’re already halfway through ‘the act’ (PIV), if either of them decides not to have sex anymore, then the sex part is OVER. If continued sexual behaviour happens, then it is now rape.

    Enthusiastic consent. “Yes, I sure do want to, with you, now!” is a good sign to look for. :)

  22. 22
    skeptifem

    I think they are trying to avoid dealing with the reality that ugly shit actually does happen all the time. It is hard for people who haven’t been through it to really understand.

  23. 23
    geeksmn

    I like the mugging analogy too. So along the same lines if anyone questions her right to self defense, I think I would respond like this. Clearly he entered her room voluntarily, and he had to know there were coffee mugs in all of the rooms. So obviously he must have wanted to be hit in the head with a coffee mug.

  24. 24
    barfy

    Unbelievable courage AND rationality, Georgia Weidman!
    I read accounts like this and am utterly stunned by the woman’s ability to reason when all I think I would want to do is SCREAM and throw things…and as sexist as it is to say this, I believe that my putative reaction would stem from the privilege of being a man and not having to confront the range of sexism – from the subtle to the egregious – that women face, not only in the act, but in its condemnation.
    Thank you, PZ, for continuing to push the dialogue with posts like this. For the foreseeable future, I just don’t think we can talk about it enough.
    And thank you, Georgia Weidman!

  25. 25
    Ben P

    I am no legal expert but if A has sex with B without B’s consent, then that should be considered rape, even if B talks to A, flirts with A or invites A into B’s room.

    Being nice to women doesn’t automatically earn you the right to use their bodies as a tool for your own sexual satisfaction.

    From sort of a legal expert, here’s the difficult part. (I’m an attorney for the state, but not directly a prosecutor).

    Assume he does get charged with rape. (and ignoring that the justice system might work a little different in Poland).

    Eventually a prosecutor is going to have to stand up in front of a jury of 9-12 people, who each have said at least once that they will be able to fairly and impartially judge the evidence presented, and part of a larger group from whom the prosecutor and defense have been able to exclude “bad candidates.” (The movies “runaway jury” and the devil’s advocate have descriptions of the voir dire process).

    That prosecutor will then have to stand in front of that picked jury and tell them, you’re going to hear the victim tell you what happened in this case. She did go back to her room with the defendant, but then he tried to force himself on her against her wishes, he hit her in the face, and then she fought him off.

    The defense attorney is going to say “everything that guy just said is bullshit.”

    You’ll hear evidence, but at the end of the day the triall will come down to Her saying “X happened inside that hotel room” and him saying “Y happened inside that hotel room” and incidental bits of evidence that corroborate either side’s story.”

    Then the judge will tell the jury “You should only convict the defendant if you believe “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the Defendant is guilty.

    Closing arguments –
    The prosecutor will say the evidence clearly establishes what happened, and you should believe the woman.

    The defense attorney will say this is textbook reasonable doubt, your only evidence of what happened is what she said, and he says something different, why would you believe one over the other? Particularly given that this other evidence shows she went back to his room with him.

    Then the jury goes inside the jury room. What happens inside the jury room is near sacrosanct, but in my state 9 jurors have to come out and sign onto a guilty verdict. (They pick 12 and 9 have to agree) In most states the jury has to be unanimous.

    If the jury can’t unanimously agree on either a conviction or an acquittal, you get a hung jury, and if it’s hung long enough, you get a mistrial, then you have to schedule another trial another year down the road with another jury.

    It quite common that out of a jury of 12 people there will be a few who will find reasonable doubt in a situation like I described above.

  26. 26
    SallyStrange

    Particularly given that this other evidence shows she went back to his room with him.

    Aaaand there’s the rub. In a non-sexist society, reasonable people would understand perfectly that this has no relationship to whether she consented to sex with him.

    This is a sexist society, so defense attorneys for accused rapists can use all kinds of unrelated activities – drinking, consensual kissing, attire, displaying sexual interest in OTHER men, etc. – as “evidence” that perhaps the woman really DID consent despite her insisting that she did not.

  27. 27
    Steve LaBonne

    Ben P., a case that presents practical difficulties in getting a conviction says nothing about the lawfulness of the act.

  28. 28
    Ben P

    This is a sexist society, so defense attorneys for accused rapists can use all kinds of unrelated activities – drinking, consensual kissing, attire, displaying sexual interest in OTHER men, etc. – as “evidence” that perhaps the woman really DID consent despite her insisting that she did not.

    The prosecution trying to exclude marginal evidence is an uphill battle, because relevance is broad and the defense can always be counted on to make the argument that the jury should just consider that for themselves.

    If I were the prosecutor, I would move to exclude information of her activities with other men based on it being irrelevant. That’s nothing more than irrelevant character evidence. (The fact that she did something on some other occasion is irrelevant to what hapened on this occasion). I’d be reasonably confident of winning that motion, but not a slam dunk.

    I doubt I’d be able to exclude her activities with the man in question on the night in question, because the defense attorney would say “Our defense is that the activities were consensual your honor, and facts demonstrating that, contrary to her testimony, there was a consensual relationship, are directly relevant to our defense.”

    Its an interesting theory to say that all acts up to the moment she says “no” are irrelevant, but I don’t feel like I could sell that to a judge. The obvious counter argument the defense attorney would make is that the jury is entitled to hear all the facts, and they should be able to decide the credibility of the victim for themselves rather than the judge keeping them from hearing how the situation came to happen.

  29. 29
    Ben P

    Ben P., a case that presents practical difficulties in getting a conviction says nothing about the lawfulness of the act.

    I respectfully disagree.

    There’s a term that’s banded about a lot and frequently misused. The term is “innocent until proven guilty.”

    You, as a member of the court of public opinion are perfectly free to do whatever you wish and to make whatever character judgements about the defendant you wish. It is your right to do so because “innocent until proven guilty does not apply to you.”

    As far as the state is concerned, a person did not commit an illegal act until a jury (or judge if allowed) has heard the evidence and found beyond a reasonable doubt that the evidence proves that the defendant committed an illegal act. This is precisely the situation innocent until proven guilty applies. Up until that point, it is only “alleged” that the person did something illegal.

    For good reason there is no legal status of “illegal but we can’t prove it.”

  30. 30
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    In other words, our best chance, BenP, is to make sure we educate people when they are young to understand what a culture of consent looks like, and when enough of them have grown up with it, they begin to act that way when they are juries and judges and defence attorneys.

    None of which affects whether or not this was lawful. It was not. The inadequacies of the legal system to reach something like an approach to justice is not a reason not to believe women who brave what we’ve seen happens when someone says something bad happened to her, over yet another guy giving the same lines and playing to the same old “women’s bodies are public property” line.

    In other words, rape culture.

    (content – I talk a bit about some aspects of some sexual assaults I’ve suffered below, not graphically, but with some details as needed)

    This, this kind of shit, is the reason I never have, nor never will, reported the sexual assaults I’ve taken or fought off. In two, I ended up damaging my attacker physically far more than they did me, because I’m large, strong, an ex-athlete, and trained in unarmed combat by the CF. They picked the wrong flower. Throw in being a trans woman, and I didn’t reckon my chances at coming out of the worst one not in prison were slim and none, and slim just bought a ticket to Hong Kong. And in those days, in this country, that would have meant imprisonment as a man, despite my transition. So no, I didn’t report those, and never will. I’m reasonably sure the worst one survived, because I did watch the papers pretty nervously for a few weeks to see if anyone was reported as having died of a serious beating. The last time I saw him, I’d have given him about 60/40 in favour.

    The others, I was a child, and the perps are both long dead, or extreme nonagenarians if they’re still around (unlikely, both working class men in their 50s at the time, more than 35 years ago).

    I’d seen enough of my friends on the “you’re a slut” train to know damn well what a bad idea it was to risk taking a ride by telling anyone I’d been attacked.

    Nothing BenP is saying is telling me that was a bad choice. We need a different way.

  31. 31
    Ben P

    For good reason there is no legal status of “illegal but we can’t prove it.”

    Wrote this and immediately thought of Gitmo. So not quite.

  32. 32
    David Marjanović

    You speak of “The Patriachy” as if it were an organization, rather than just a convenient label for all those people who don’t think right.

    It’s a convenient label for a mindset that is very widespread culturally.

    PZ, that’s an odd opportunity to ban the Mad Monk. He’s said worse than this complete failure of thinking things through.

  33. 33
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    I doubt I’d be able to exclude her activities with the man in question on the night in question, because the defense attorney would say “Our defense is that the activities were consensual your honor, and facts demonstrating that, contrary to her testimony, there was a consensual relationship, are directly relevant to our defense.”

    A defense attorney might say that, but you do agree that it is complete rape-culture bullshit, right? The facts in question may indicate a “consensual relationship”, but the existence of a consensual relationship is not what is in question. I have consensual relationships with many people, that does not mean any and all sex with such people is consensual.

  34. 34
    abadidea

    I’m in infosec – a woman in infosec, even – and I don’t really know Ms. Weidman personally but we’ve had twitter interactions a few times in the past. The man in question, Fernando Gont from Argentina, is using the “she’s crazy and I’ll sue anyone who takes her side” defense, without addressing the question of how they both sustained injuries that night.

    It seems to me that the (fairly small) core of infosec people have fallen into two camps: “we openly advise you avoid him” and “we are opposed to Trial By Twitter on principle.” The latter is a fair point, but Ms. Weidman does not have a history of insane delusions as Mr. Gont suggests so far as I or anyone I’ve checked with knows. Since Polish law enforcement seemed reluctant to get involved, I guess Trial By Twitter will have to do – as we ARE the industry peers of both of them. I don’t think his career is wholly ruined, but the Feminist Cabal will make sure that it is remembered he is accused of rape if we see him at social functions at our conferences.

  35. 35
    themojohand

    I bet there’s a contingent within the infosec community that dismisses this incident out of hand, because their community obviously doesn’t see this as much as the generally population, due to all the intelligent people they have. And even if this did happen (and there’s no proof except her word and her injuries and that other woman’s word and the word of those other dozen women) there’s no evidence that her attacker was even part of the infosec community, but probably some random troll. /exasperatedsarcasm

    Shitlords. Shitlords the lot of them.

  36. 36
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    PZ, that’s an odd opportunity to ban the Mad Monk. He’s said worse than this complete failure of thinking things through.

    One must keep the old hammering-hand limber. One mighty swing followed by too long a period of disuse and you could pull a muscle.

    ***

    I dislike the phrase “Trial by Twitter”. First, it has needlessly capitalized letters in it. Second, shaming by people on twitter in no way resembles a trial. Twitter, and the commenters on twitter, has no authority or power to punish. It just reminds me of the refrain we get from asshats that we have no right to believe a rape victim’s testimony because presumption of innocence…blah, blah, blah. That shit only matters in court.

  37. 37
    Ruth

    Ben P. – ‘As far as the state is concerned, a person did not commit an illegal act until a jury (or judge if allowed) has heard the evidence and found beyond a reasonable doubt that the evidence proves that the defendant committed an illegal act.’

    Bollocks. We’re not talking about ‘the state’, we’re talking about something called ‘reality’. Reality is about what actually happened, and whether it fits the definition of a particular illegal act. Just because we can’t prove it to the satisfaction of a jury doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

    Especially when that jury is biased, as it often is in rape cases, and other cases like white-on-black crime. How many open-and-shut cases of lynching ended up with the perpetrators being aquitted, not because they hadn’t actually murdered anyone, but because the (white) jury thought they should, literally, get away with murder? According to you, if a society is racist enough, lynching isn’t illegal, because no one will ever be convicted of it.

  38. 38
    SallyStrange

    Muggings, assault, and other similar crimes also have the difficulty that only two people were involved and only one can be right.

    Yet somehow this is only a major legal obstacle to conviction when it’s rape.

  39. 39
    carolw

    I’m so exasperated by reading stories like this, day in, day out, night in, night out. When are men going to just fucking get it? If they want a woman who is perpetually receptive to their advances and never says no, they should save up their little coins and buy a Real Doll. Problem fucking solved. Aarrugh. I’d scream in rage and frustration, but I’m at work, and people might wonder. Good on Ms. Weidman for having the guts to do what she had to. Brava, sister.

  40. 40
    PZ Myers

    PZ, that’s an odd opportunity to ban the Mad Monk. He’s said worse than this complete failure of thinking things through.

    Yes. He has a history of these kinds of microaggressions, and it was one too many. The stuff just stacks up, and after a long period of tolerance, I will smack people down.

  41. 41
    LykeX

    I wonder, has anybody done some actual research on this?
    You know, present people with written scenarios, describing the evidence for a crime and asking whether they think the accused is guilty. Then vary the scenarios to test people’s reactions. E.g. the exact same evidence and situation, but in one case it’s a mugging, the other a rape.

    Then you could also test what kinds of evidence people find more convincing and exactly how much more evidence is required to secure a conviction in a rape case than in a mugging. That would produce a relatively objective measure of how bad the rape culture is in that population.

    Anyone know if this has already been done?

  42. 42
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    Muggings, assault, and other similar crimes also have the difficulty that only two people were involved and only one can be right.

    Yet somehow this is only a major legal obstacle to conviction when it’s rape.

    But the alleged assailant and the victim had a prior consensual relationship that, on occasion, involved sparring with each other as amateur pugilists.

    So, he must have consented to being beaten up with a tire iron.

  43. 43
    LykeX

    First rule of banhammers: Whoever holds the banhammer makes the rules.

  44. 44
    Hairhead, whose head is entirely filled with Too Much Stuff

    That story made me physically ill. In the course of my lifetime as a man, I have tried to act well towards everyone, women included. But acting well means more when you really understand why you are doing so, rather than simply following THE RULES as handed down by authority (e.g. – religion)

    I had my revelation eighteen years ago.

    I was working with an organization serving, and staffed largely by persons in wheelchairs. I got a reputation around the office for being a really good masseur, and at coffee and lunch I would often work on co-workers’ arms, necks, and backs (try being in a wheelchair and see what that does to your body). One day there I was by myself in the lunchroom and our receptionist wheels in. She came up to me, we chatted for a moment, then she said, “You know, I just want to thank you for never putting your hands on me, even though you’ve massaged just above everyone else in the office.”

    I said, “I never touch anyone without their explicit consent.”

    And that’s when it hit me. This receptionist had been in a wheelchair since she was a child. How many times had her body being touched, handled, poked, and prodded without her permission? How many times must her physical integrity have been violated for her to thank me — for simply not violating hers? When she first spoke I had felt pride; then I began to feel queasy at the whole mindset? cultureset? the exchange had assumed..

    It was at that point that I really began to think of what women must go through in their daily lives, from straightforward assault, to aggressive, unwanted sexual groping, to the myriad of “accidental” brushes against their breasts, hips, and other areas that they have to put up with. And I began to look at my interactions with and assumptions about women differently.

    Rape culture is deeply imbedded within this society and it will take generations to root it out.

  45. 45
    Daniel Martin

    abadidea: Thank you. I was going to respond that the answer to PZ’s statement “ He apparently has no worries that his fellow security consultants might reject him for his behavior…and he’s a goddamned rapist” is “of course we(*) wouldn’t shun him – how could we know who he is?”

    But now we have a name and a country, and that changes things.

    (*) I’m more of a general-purpose developer than an infosec person, but I’ve been employed by an infosec startup for 6 months now, so am vaguely part of the periphery of that world…

  46. 46
    mythbri

    @BenP

    Courts are the arbiters of law, not of reality.

  47. 47
    Rey Fox

    Plus, Abdul appeared to be spouting the old “we just disagreeeee” whine, which should at least be grounds for a shin kick.

  48. 48
    Steve LaBonne

    Ben P., this is not a “disagreement”, it’s you not understanding the meaning of words. It is illegal, full stop, to continue a sexual act after your partner has withdrawn consent. That is an issue of general principle- this type of action is unlawful. That says nothing about the presumption of innocence in a particular case. That goes to proving, or not, that this type of unlawful act occurred in the particular instance. It does not affect the factt that such an act, if it did occur, is unlawful.

  49. 49
    cuervocuero

    This is why I’m baffled about the reticence of conferences to instill harassment/assault policies as part of their working standards.

    It’s not a pie in the sky fantasy that people get attacked at gatherings of strangers and near-strangers. The legal hosts of such gatherings, sooner or later, (especially in the US) are going to be called to legal and civil account in the wake of an attack.

    If the tut-tutters bewailing harassment policies and enforcement of safe spaces are inconvenienced (oh the inhumanity of being inconvenienced!) by some health and safety standards (and yes, mental health/stress is part of this), think just how much more inconvenienced the organizations behind a conference are going to be by lawsuits and charges. Even *if* found ‘innocent’ in the end, it will cost monies that will likely cripple an organization and possibly all its legally affiliated chapters.

    Having standards and enforcement in place would be a good start to have a pro-active legal defense in place, showing good faith and due diligence to investigators.

    And that practicality is *aside* from just having a *mote* of human compassion and empathy towards conference attendees, the hosting organization’s *guests*. One wonders, what must the house parties of the freeze peach no-rules bleaters be like?

  50. 50
    Amphiox

    Yes. He has a history of these kinds of microaggressions, and it was one too many. The stuff just stacks up, and after a long period of tolerance, I will smack people down.

    The straw the breaks the camel’s back can be just one straw. The drop that bursts the dam can be just one drop.

  51. 51
    Marcus Ranum

    Aaaand there’s the rub. In a non-sexist society, reasonable people would understand perfectly that this has no relationship to whether she consented to sex with him.

    SallyStrange, please continue pointing these things out. Your work here and elsewhere is important and effective.

    Direct hit. Thank you.

  52. 52
    Marcus Ranum

    This is why I’m baffled about the reticence of conferences to instill harassment/assault policies as part of their working standards.

    I work in infosec and I’ve been happy to observe that some of the conferences (such as LOPSA 2013l; thank you for inviting me as your keynote speaker!) have had publicly displayed harrassment policies. I think it’s a great thing.

    … And here’s why.

    I’d love to see a social sciences experiment regarding subjects’ responses to a sexual assault if they had been conditioned with some bible quotes, or a sexual harrassment policy, or some Barry White songs, etc.

  53. 53
    Marcus Ranum

    PS – I am frequently invited to speak at infosec conferences and from now on I will always respond that I will only attend conferences that have a harrassment policy (and include a link to Georgia’s post, if only because her assailant – for now – works in infosec)

  54. 54
    Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk

    Courts are the arbiters of law, not of reality.

    This. So much this that I’m braving blockquoting with my iPad, that’s how much I agree.

  55. 55
    hypatiasdaughter

    #44 Hairhead, whose head is entirely filled with Too Much Stuff
    Thank you for getting it.
    What seems to be lost is that touching ANYONE, in ANYWAY, without their consent is the legal definition of assault. Long before women got the vote, men decided that this was a basic legal principle (Mind you, back when it was set forth, an exemption was given to a man in regards to his wife and children – but not in regards to other women in society.)
    Sexual assault/harassment is a special kind of assault, but operates under the same principle.
    Even if we overlooked the sexual aspect, these asshats want to claim that their victims are exempt from a primary legal protection that covers everyone in society.

  56. 56
    brianl

    A useful discussion of why police have issues with rape cases:Why Don’t Cops Believe Rape Victims? Brain science helps explain the problem—and solve it.
    Getting training in the current science of how rape is recalled more widely disseminated would be a good first step. That and undercutting the “common wisdom” that’s just plain wrong (As Patrick Stewart heart wrenchingly recalled in the video making the rounds the other week, he remembered hearing first responders tell his mother that she must have done something to set off his father, who suffered from PTSD).

  57. 57
    Pteryxx

    LykeX @41:

    I wonder, has anybody done some actual research on this?
    You know, present people with written scenarios, describing the evidence for a crime and asking whether they think the accused is guilty. Then vary the scenarios to test people’s reactions. E.g. the exact same evidence and situation, but in one case it’s a mugging, the other a rape.

    Short answer, yes. There’s plenty of research actually on the narratives surrounding rape-specific victim-blaming. To start out, here’s a basic paper cited in the Wiki article on victim-blaming:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20587449 (Bieneck and Krahé 2011)

    Abstract

    Research in legal decision making has demonstrated the tendency to blame the victim and exonerate the perpetrator of sexual assault. This study examined the hypothesis of a special leniency bias in rape cases by comparing them to cases of robbery. N = 288 participants received descriptions of rape and robbery of a female victim by a male perpetrator and made ratings of victim and perpetrator blame. Case scenarios varied with respect to the prior relationship (strangers, acquaintances, ex-partners) and coercive strategy (force vs. exploiting victim intoxication). More blame was attributed to the victim and less blame was attributed to the perpetrator for rape than for robbery. Information about a prior relationship between victim and perpetrator increased ratings of victim blame and decreased perceptions of perpetrator blame in the rape cases, but not in the robbery cases. The findings support the notion of a special leniency bias in sexual assault cases.

    further, and in answer to Marcus Ranum @52:

    I’d love to see a social sciences experiment regarding subjects’ responses to a sexual assault if they had been conditioned with some bible quotes, or a sexual harrassment policy, or some Barry White songs, etc.

    http://jiv.sagepub.com/content/26/17/3407 (Fox and Cook, 2011)

    Abstract

    The current study examines the impact of a victimology course on students’ perceptions of the blameworthiness of crime victims and knowledge of victimization issues. Victim-blaming attitudes among college students enrolled in a victimology course were compared with students enrolled in other courses. Results from a pretest and posttest suggest that the victimology students were significantly less likely to blame victims and these students also gained significantly more knowledge over time compared with the students who did not enroll in the course. Results from the multivariate analysis indicate that less knowledge over time and a higher propensity to blame victims at the beginning of the semester predicted more victim-blaming attitudes on the posttest. Overall, the findings suggest that knowledge of victimology significantly affects students’ propensity to blame victims of crime.

    See also discussion of the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign on Greta’s blog and by Marcotte at Rawstory.

    And while we’re at it, here’s a paper from 1985 describing the direct cognitive bias with rape: given identical scenarios, readers were more likely to blame the victim’s actions solely because the last sentence indicated a rape happened.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0022103185900137 (Janoff-Bulman et al, 1985)

    Abstract

    Past research on cognitive biases has demonstrated the existence of a hindsight effect, whereby the receipt of outcome knowledge increases the perceived likelihood of the reported event. Three experiments were conducted that tested and supported the hindsight effect as a cause of victim blaming. Subjects read detailed accounts that were identical except for the concluding sentence, which provided outcome information. Half the subjects in each experiment were informed that the woman narrating the account was raped; the other half read a neutral outcome. Experiment 1 demonstrated that subjects were unable to ignore the influence of outcome knowledge, leading to an exaggerated perception of how likely the outcome appeared. In Experiment 2, the woman was blamed more by subjects who read the rape outcome than by those who read the neutral outcome, despite the presentation of identical behaviors and personality traits prior to outcome information. The increased blame attributed by rape outcome subjects was behavioral, and not characterological, in nature. Experiment 3 found a direct association between the hindsight effect and victim blaming and also demonstrated that an attempt to reduce the negative impact of the hindsight effect on victim blaming was ineffective due to the salience of the rape outcome. Explaining how a neutral outcome was possible given the same account did not reduce victim blaming by subjects who received a rape outcome. Rather, those who received a neutral outcome increased their victim blaming when asked to explain a rape outcome. The implications for victims are discussed.

    ————-

    Marcus Ranum, thanks especially for this:

    PS – I am frequently invited to speak at infosec conferences and from now on I will always respond that I will only attend conferences that have a harrassment policy (and include a link to Georgia’s post, if only because her assailant – for now – works in infosec)

    Take these research findings with you, you and everyone else in a position to debunk rape mythology.

  58. 58
    brucegee1962

    “He was wearing a suit. He was asking for that shit. Flaunting his wealth. He deserved it.”

    “Furthermore, I clearly saw him giving a buck to a panhandler. Thus he was asking to be mugged.”

  59. 59
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    LykeX

    I think the point is that some people have claimed that Rebecca was being totally unreasonable in interpreting the offer for coffee as a come-on

    And yet, when L asked me once what I was reading about, on one of the later threads about the backlash against Watson, I started explaining the original incident, and when I got to the part where he approached her in the elevator, L immediately assumed not just that it was a come on, but that the story was going to have an ending more like Weidman’s. D too.
    I wonder why that might be…
    Caitiecat

    Emil, I’d go farther, quite a bit: I don’t care if they’re already halfway through ‘the act’ (PIV), if either of them decides not to have sex anymore, then the sex part is OVER. If continued sexual behaviour happens, then it is now rape.

    I was stunned when I first realized how large a population appears to not understand this. It seems, and seemed, obvious to me that this is the case, really.

  60. 60
    Marcus Ranum

    Take these research findings with you, you and everyone else in a position to debunk rape mythology.

    Those are excellent! Thank you; I can think of several places where I’ll use them. That one study is great – clearly answers the “why do we need a policy?” question. “Because, it makes a difference.”

  61. 61
    Pteryxx

    Marcus: somewhere out there is research on the importance of supporting victims (i.e. *not* engaging in victim-blaming) in improving reporting and on their recovery from traumatic sexual assaults, but I’m not finding it in my hoard right now. For the moment, the most useful resources I know of:

    Predator Theory which summarizes the acquaintance-rape research and links to Lisak’s report,

    and the two PDFs I found on sexual harassment underreporting that Jason cites in his Hyperskepticism post.

  62. 62
    smhll

    How often does it happen that a person reports a mugging and the officer then says “We have a witness that saw you give money to a homeless guy a few days ago, so obviously you have a tendency to just hand money to people. I bet you just gave him the cash and then changed your mind later.”

    If you’ve ever given money to charity, you are no longer a charity virgin. Congratulations, you are a charity slut!

  63. 63
  64. 64
    roro80

    a person did not commit an illegal act until a jury (or judge if allowed) has heard the evidence and found beyond a reasonable doubt that the evidence proves that the defendant committed an illegal act.

    This doesn’t make any sense from a practical point of view. Sure, the person isn’t considered “guilty” until the jury says he’s guilty, but the event of being determined guilty is separate from the event of the illegal act. Under your parsing, a person could rob a bank, go on the stand and say “Nothing I did during the bank robbery was illegal”, and be perfectly immune from purjury because he hadn’t been convicted of the crime yet, therefore it wasn’t illegal at the time. It’s just a big circular loop unless the conviction comes down at the exact moment the crime is committed. The illegal act and the unlawfullness of said act have to be separate from the question of whether or not the defendant committed that act.

    In this case, the author of the piece could be outright lying about it, sure. The dude in question will unlikely be arrested, let alone convicted, so he is not “guilty” in the eyes of the state, but the act described was and is an unlawful act, an illegal thing to do. To get a bit second-grade about it: there were two people in that elevator, and one of them farted, and they both know who it was. The fart happened whether or not the rest of the world believes it came from the person who emitted it. The fact that it can’t be proven doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

  65. 65
    Pteryxx

    ischemgeek, good finds, though not the article I had in mind – just goes to show there’s LOTS of information out there if one bothers to look.

    This from page 14 of the third article (PDF link to literature review) is really disturbing in light of the OP: (emphasis mine)

    The harm of secondary victimization [such as victim-blaming lines of questioning - Pteryxx] is also evident on objective measures of PTSD symptomatology. In a series of studies on victim/police contact, Campbell and colleagues found that low legal action (i.e., case did not progress/was dropped) and high secondary victimization were associated with increased PTSD symptomatology (Campbell et al., 2001; Campbell & Raja, 2005). In tests of complex interactions, Campbell et al. (1999) identified that the victims of nonstranger rape whose cases were not prosecuted and who were subjected to high levels of secondary victimization had the highest PTSD of all—worse than those who chose not to report to the legal system at all.

  66. 66
    ischemgeek

    … so add more evidence to back up why people worry about disbelief by the court and backlash by the community.

  67. 67
    Pteryxx

    Following up on this bullshit:

    a person did not commit an illegal act until a jury (or judge if allowed) has heard the evidence and found beyond a reasonable doubt that the evidence proves that the defendant committed an illegal act.

    Thomas at Yes Means Yes discusses the refusal to believe rape happened even after a conviction.

    http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/when-does-allegedly-die/

    “Allegedly” isn’t an attempt at fairness, or a defense against defamation. Here, we see that even when all the facts are in and conclusively resolved, “allegedly” never dies.

    I conclude from this that what “allegely” really means is ”I’ll never believe it.” There are those who will never accept that the person they know or admire is a rapist, simply because they don’t want to. Because they can’t square what they know with what they wish. Because if it’s true they feel tarnished by association, so instead they reject. Because it’s easier to insinuate that some usually nameless, faceless women is a liar or irresponsible than to change their mind about the man.

    It’s easy to be against rape in the abstract. Everybody says they’re against rape. It’s hard to be against the rapist when the rapist is your friend. But if we can’t even be against the rapist when the rapist is just some guy on television that we don’t really know, then it’s going to be awfully hard to make any progress.

  68. 68
    Walton

    Ben P, et al: Bear in mind that there has been, in England at least, empirical research into the ways in which rape culture and the associated myths and preconceptions about rape affect the conduct of criminal trials. See the work of Jennifer Temkin. This study is based on interviews with a number of criminal barristers in 1993, and shows unambiguously that those involved in the criminal justice system at that time bought into myths and stereotypes about rape. This book by Temkin and Krahé from 2008 seems to be a more recent study of the same issue, although I don’t have a copy myself.

    I doubt I’d be able to exclude her activities with the man in question on the night in question, because the defense attorney would say “Our defense is that the activities were consensual your honor, and facts demonstrating that, contrary to her testimony, there was a consensual relationship, are directly relevant to our defense.”

    In England this is a complex area of law. Under s.41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act1999, the defence is no longer allowed to cross-examine the complainant about hir sexual history except with permission of the court, and such permission can only be given in certain narrowly-defined circumstances. (More information at the link.)

    There have also been other legal changes which were intended to make it easier to secure convictions for rape. The law on rape was changed by the Sexual Offences Act 2003, to narrow the scope of the defence of mistaken belief in consent: the prosecution now need only prove that the defendant did not reasonably believe the complainant was consenting. (Previously, it was a defence if the defendant honestly believed the complainant was consenting, no matter how unreasonable hir belief was. See DPP v Morgan. I don’t know how this compares to the law in most American jurisdictions.)

    It is perhaps working, in that the rate of convictions for rape has increased in England and Wales. Though it’s still the case that a vast proportion of rape cases never make it to trial, and of course many more are never reported.

  69. 69
    Walton

    (Sorry if the above is a derail.)

  70. 70
    Michael Dawson

    I read Georgia’s blog post and it seemed reasoned, rational and fairly straightforward and for balance I thought I’d try and get Fernando’s side of the story, because from Georgia’s account it would apparently be quite convincing, so I found his blog, far from cool calm and collected as Georgia’s post was, Fernando’s seemed ranty, and slightly unhinged, rather than use his blog as a way to tell his side of the story, he skipped this entirely and proceeded to call Georgia crazy, attention seeking, lying and possessing of a mental disorder.

    Now in all things truth related one of the things I use to judge is how sane the person speaking sounds to me and he didn’t sound very sane. Also given unlimited text and as many posts as he likes he completely failed to posit any defence of his actions at all, mostly he just ranted about people believing and repeating lies at the same time as not putting forward any ‘truths’ to counter those ‘lies’.

    In all romantic endeavours I find the phrase ‘are you sure you want to do this’ works very well, then if the tone of the ‘yes’ sounds keen, then all good, otherwise further questions may be required, because what sane person wants romance with someone he isn’t keen, the idea is repugnant to me.

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