An interview with Tchiya Amet

You accuse one skeptic of rape, and next thing you know you’re the guy who’ll accuse anyone of rape. I get mentioned in this article about Tchiya Amet, the woman who is saying Neil Tyson raped her. She sounds credible. I can believe something happened. She definitely experienced some trauma around that time that led to her dropping out of grad school. She definitely believes she was the victim of a non-consensual sexual assault by Tyson. But…

I expect a little bit of corroborating evidence. Unfortunately, there isn’t any. A friend who testifies to her distress at the time, signs of a pattern of abuse by Tyson to others, anything. There’s nothing. Apparently, a news organization (Buzzfeed, maybe?) tried to investigate, but hit a wall where there was a complete absence of any indications that he’d been a predatory dudebro back in the day. That was where I was stuck, too. I don’t have any investigatory ability, and all I had was this one person’s words.

She doesn’t help her case with her willingness to invent patterns where there are none. She confronted him at a talk; she interprets him talking about black holes in an astronomy talk before the Q&A as some sleazy reference to having sex with her, even before she asks a question. When she gets to the microphone, she’s wearing a feathered headdress and Indian warpaint, and she raises a foot-long ankh before saying,

Today is national sexual assault awareness day, during national sexual assault awareness month, and I’m here because when I was a grad student at UT Austin in 1984, you raped me. I’m here to speak for all the people you’ve raped, assaulted, molested, violated, denigrated…and all the pain and suffering you’ve inflicted on them, and their parents and families and their children, including myself.

The presentation does not inspire confidence. When she says, “all the people”, I’d like her to name names to an investigator, because if it’s true that he perpetrated all these crimes, there’d be more evidence than a lone woman in an Indian costume waving an Egyptian symbol to support her accusation.

David Gee thinks there should be an investigation. It seems he’s even hired a private investigator to look into it.

Reporters could be hesitant to talk about this because of their love for Tyson, or because of their distrust in spiritual individuals, but no matter what, it is completely unacceptable. I’m not saying you should believe Amet 100% and take her story at face value because I’m not doing that. All I’m asking for is a real investigation, so we can find out what really happened.

If you knew Tyson and/or Amet during this period, or you have information about similar allegations, please contact me at: You never know what information might help.

Well, yeah, it should be looked into. But the first thing that should be examined has got to be offered up by Amet herself. She says that there were multiple instances of rape, assault, molestation, etc., and is willing to say so publicly. So who, when, where? Provide some leads. If she can’t, it sounds like she’s willing to throw around wild and false accusations with nothing to back them up, which hurts her credibility further.

Even people with weird beliefs get raped, but even people with weird beliefs ought to be able to provide some tangible clues if we’re to act on their accusations.


  1. says

    For some context, black people are very underrepresented in physics, and black women even more so. By one count, there have only been 136 black women who have received PhDs in physics-related fields. (citation) In 1984, there had only been 10. Tchiya Amet had everything going against her as a grad student. Much love and respect for her.

  2. says

    BTW, one possible line of investigation is into the drug itself.

    I am reminded of the situation regarding the accusation against George Takei–which was eventually taken back when the accuser remembered further details. The accuser, Brunton, had passed out, and inferred that Takei slipped him a roofie. But the journalist talked to a toxicologist, who ruled that conclusion out based on Brunton’s description, instead attributing it to “postural hypotension, exacerbated by alcohol.” Talking to a toxicologist cast doubt on the story, but also gave Brunton some closure that he needed–after all, Brunton didn’t really know whether or not roofies were involved, he was just making inferences.

    Amet’s account is… different from Brunton’s, and might very well be consistent with a drug that was available in 1984. David Gee should consult a toxicologist and find out. It might also be helpful to ask if Amet remembers having a hangover the next day. Of course, Amet could be mistaken about the drug while still being correct in her accusation.

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    The Law of Large Numbers is going to apply here.

    The number of people who would make false accusations of rape or sexual abuse is small. But it is a big world and a few do exist.
    The number of people who would falsely corroborate such accusations – for whatever reasons – is also small; but there are 7 billion people on the planet, and someone just sent out a broadcast invitation to find them.

  4. alixmo says

    This woman is surely suffering – one way or the other. Possibly she did get raped and a horrible injustice happened to her. But we have to be aware that in some rare cases there are mental conditions that make people believe that they did get assaulted.

    I have a very close relative who believes that she did get raped. But I I know for sure that she did not. She is suffering from a mental disorder that she refuses to treat. She is doing sometimes better, sometimes worse. When she is doing okay, people would not recognize that something is wrong with her. She first showed obvious symptoms in the 1990s: she believed to be in love with the man she now calls a rapist (a medical doctor in the place where we lived, a married man) and thought that he requited her love and asked her to leave her husband for him. She stalked him at his office (where his wife worked as well) every day, for years, even after he sent the police to stop her.

    Most rape accusations are correct. This one very well could be correct, too! But sometimes the accusations are wrong. And a percentage of this wrong accusations result from a mental disorder. Which means that those women should not be blamed as “liars” but seen as suffering from a terrible delusion that makes them belief firmly in their accusation.

    In those cases, the trauma and pain does feel 100% real to the woman. (PZ mentions her talk about “black holes” as an allusion by Tyson to having sex with her – that did remind me of my relative saying similar rather weird things about the doctor she stalked. For instance about the “messages” he sent in songs, played on the radio…)

    Again, that poor woman is suffering, either way. And probably I should not have written a word about this case (not being a mental health professional, not knowing the woman nor Mr Tyson). I hope this is not getting interpreted as an attempt to smear a poor, innocent woman. Or as belittling her suffering.

    I just wanted to point out that there are many people out there who are in need because of mental health issues. And not everyone seeks treatment. Or is aware that they should…

  5. chris says

    “I’m here because when I was a grad student at UT Austin in 1984, you raped me.”

    According to Wikipedia, Tyson got his masters at UT in 1983, and he dropped getting his PhD there. Entering into a graduate program a Columbia years later. He may have been in Austin then, it is not clear.

    I know someone who got his masters (1981) and PhD (1986) at UT. He knew of Tyson there, he is a couple of years older… I should ask him the next time our college group gets together.