Since when is sexual assault a debatable topic?

I don't really want to write this blog post, and I'll be honest, I don't really know where I'm going with it, but I have to write it. If your a developer, or if you just follow my feed, you've probably heard about the sexual assault of Justine, a graphics designer and Rubyist, by her boss in a public bar at the CodeMash conference.

If you haven't read the full story, it can be found here. It's a difficult read, but it's one of those things that you have to do. This isn't something that can or should be ignored. I'm not going to summarize it here because a) I don't trust myself to properly summarize the story with the sensitivity, accuracy, and nuance necessary and b) I just don't think I can read the story again in order to get the details right. Just go read it. Now.

The assault that happened at CodeMash was awful. If that had been the end of it, it would have been an unfortunate, but isolated, event. What is truly horrible about this is that it isn't the end of it. Not even close. Extremely far from it. It's merely a symptom.

Justine's boss was fired, which is something I guess, but it was the most light-hearted firing I've ever heard of. I've seen people get fired before for much less severe infractions, and they weren't treated nearly as well as this guy. It sounds like he was fired in name only...as if the company new that they had to fire him or face a lawsuit but didn't want to. He didn't have to report he was fired and the company explicitly allowed to say that he left of his own choosing. The company was complicit in his attempted cover-up. That's fucked up!

What's even worse though, is that's just the tip of the iceberg. I have an immense amount of respect for Justine for having the courage to go public with the story. It takes guts to talk about horrible things that have happened to you, but it takes a kind of courage that I honestly don't think I have to talk about these things knowing that it will be reciprocated with so much vile hatred spewed from the mouths of so many fucking animals.

Looking at CodeMash twitter feed is...disheartening...to say the least. They are addressing the topic, but only as a form of disaster control. This is the most direct response they've had to the issue:

There wasn't a single tweet saying they regretted what happened, that they try to make a welcoming conference for people of all genders, racial backgrounds, sexual orientations, etc, or even that they condem sexual assault! They claim it's an "awful situation for all"...yeah, well, it's a much much much more awful situation for the person who was fucking sexually assaulted! Statements like the one they made suggests a certain equivocation between what Justine went through and...what?...I don't even know. Who else involved...I don't even...their statement doesn't make sense. "...for all" is bullshit. It's an awful situation for Justine, end of story!

Sadly, Twitter has had the more sane responses (at least on my feed). The comments section...well...just thinking that I share the same DNA as people who say things like the following is very depressing

You justine are no victim. You are a predator. And your prey is the men you work with.

This isn't just one isolated instance. This is a systemic problem that people are trying to paper over by focusing on the minutiae of what happened. This is not a one time event. It. Happens. All. The. Fucking. Time. This is sadly just the latest in a long string of stories about the misogyny of the programming, gaming, and skeptical communities.

Miranda "Super_Yan" Pakozdi faced extremely crude sexual remarks and a cameraman focusing on her breasts and butt during an official Street Fighter X Tekken tournament. This prompted one of the most prominent members of the community, who of course is a white cis-gendered straight male, to respond by saying "sexual harassment is part of [the] culture." I can't even begin to fathom how a fellow human being can say this! Sexual harrasment is not only OK, but integral to who we are? Seriously!?!

Or how Anita Sarkesian has become something of a social pariah in the gaming circles for daring to make a series of videos discussing how sexists portrayals of women in gaming is a bad thing.

Or what about when Rebecca Watson was creeped out by highly inappropriate actions of a fellow conference goer? She responded with the response of "Guys, don't do that." I seriously don't get how this is has played out:

  1. Boy creeps out girl
  2. Girl gives suggestion on how boys can avoid creeping out girls in the future
  3. ?
  4. Rape and death continuously sent to girl to this day, 2 years later

These are not isolated events. They are symptoms of systemic problems. A quick look at the statistics from the Rape, Absuse, and Incest National Network shows how much of a problem this is:

  • 44% of victims are under age 18
    • 80% are under age 30


  • Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted
  • There is an average of 207,754 victims (age 12 or older) of sexual assault each year
  • 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police
  • 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail
  • Approximately 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim
  • 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance

The issue of misogyny and exclusion are a plague on all three communities, communities that I care deeply about. Communities that I am a part of. Communities that I want to be proud of, but can't because of shit like this. Communities that sadly take enormous amounts of effort on my part not to despise sometimes. Fuck.

Bryan Hughes

I'm a web framework dev at Rdio and love JavaScript! I'm also an amateur photographer, avid gamer, film enthusiast, wine lover, and very lucky husband!

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