It has been about a full year since the Kotaku article that exploited my sexual assault, and exploited the other victims of my rapist, has been removed.
A full year since I had to argue with journalists for my life, and trying to show them the extent of the harm this has caused.
I am told that what I achieved was “unprecedented” (I hate that word). That articles don’t get removed without lawyers, this, that, or the other fancy thing only rich or powerful people have.
Nevertheless, I don’t feel victorious. I feel burned out, abused, laughed at, and alienated.
I write this post as a way of claiming closure for myself.
It has long been on my mind to assemble a timeline of everything that happened, something featuring examples of the abuse levied toward me from journalists, depicting how they dogpiled on me and manipulated public opinion about what was happening.
If it’s all in one place, maybe it will be harder to lie about this.
That having been said, I will go over this (as detailed as possible) for what I hope to be one final time.
This story is about rape and how the game press stole my chance to be free.
On August 26th, 2019, I published a post titled “calling out my rapist” in which I named my rapist and went over some of the abuse I endured while working at two unnamed companies in Vancouver, Canada. My rapist was Jeremy Soule. The first company that I described was Smoking Gun Interactive, and the second was Interdimensional Games. I name them because I don’t think it even matters anymore.
I wrote this as my final attempt to be free from something that had been eating me for over ten years.
I tweeted the following, and ducked away from Twitter. I told friends to let me know if things get bad:
i wrote a post that you should read
calling out my r*pist & naming nameshttps://t.co/Cc3mHGfiBg
please read it
if you believe me please share it, please rt it, put it on full blast
i don't want any woman to ever get hurt by him again
[TW: sexual assault, game industry "legends"]
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) August 26, 2019
My story ended up causing what journalists at the time called a “metoo movement in games”. I do not exaggerate. It caused a wave of other’s sharing their bottled up pain. There were countless articles covering the other abuse stories that were levied toward other high profile people in the indie game space… all which came out around that time.
Many people said that my story encouraged them to come forward too.
A number of journalists reached out to me and asked for interviews. I did my best to answer all of them, despite the frame of mind that I was in. I was terrified. I couldn’t really eat or sleep.
One of these journalists was Cecilia D’Anastasio. I initially wrote about my experiences with her here:
The short summary of this is that she emailed me about an interview. I had the bad sense to agree to one.
She also contacted my sister, and wanted to talk to her.
She also talked to my mom, for a long time.
I agreed because she had a good reputation, worked for an outlet that (at the time) I had the bad sense to look up to, and (most of all) promised accountability.
Her assurance to me was that she wanted to “hold him accountable”. She told me she believed me and that there were other victims of his who she was talking to.
I gave the interview. The first phone call was fairly respectful. I talked about my experiences with him, tried not to cry, tried to keep it together, to be as coherent as possible…
She later called me again. She asked if I was alone. I went to a quiet space where I could talk alone… and she then told me that I wasn’t very detailed about my assault. My blog post didn’t mention any specifics about how the rape happened.
She said that the story was ready to publish, but she just needed me to go over how I was raped, for Kotaku’s lawyers, so that she could publish.
I was stupid enough to believe her.
I struggled to speak my recollection… I know all this to be true (no mater how much Kotaku, Totilo, or her have gaslit me and tried to convince me that I wasn’t remembering this right) because this was the very first time I ever talked to anyone about this. I never even shared this with my mom.
I shared these details over the second phone call. For Kotaku’s lawyers. So they could publish the article.
While I was struggling to recount this, at one point she lost her patience, scoffed, and yelled “Was it penetrative sex?”
I was quiet for a long time before answering “Yes.”
I can’t remember what she said after that.
I was shocked toward the end of the phone call and asked her if they were “planning on publishing this??”
She told me that she believed publishing the details of a sexual assault was unnecessary and exploitative. She made it sound like they would not.
I was out of it after that. My sister later told me that I was pale and she was worried that I wouldn’t make it.
The details of my sexual assault were published nonetheless.
There was more about that article, and how other sources where treated, that was outrageously cruel to those hurt by my rapist. I will go over that later since this post is chronological.
Things were a blur after that. The frenzy surrounding all this seemed intense. I remember Jason Shreier talking about them working on this story. I believe he was involved in exploiting this too…
You can find the above Tweets on the Way Back Machine.
I mention Jason Shreier because a few people had reached out to him for help, when I was fighting with Kotaku, and he blocked them.
I believe this is hypocritical of him… The patern has been that journalists will Tweet that they “support and believe” the people coming forward, but once it gets real, they suddenly don’t stand by any of the things they Tweet. This was consistent behavior of journalists involved.
After my experiences I do not think Jason Shreier, or any journalist like him, are sincere about what they supposedly stand for. I believe that abuse serves journalists just as much as abuse serves the initial abuser. They benefit from covering these stories. Our pain is money for them.
If this were not so, then what I went through would not have taken so long. It simply should not have happened. They would have cared to help. None of them did.
2019’s supposed “metoo moment in games”, a flag waved around by a lot of people, buried in a lot of insincere “i believe you’s” didn’t last very long in terms of sincerity.
Alec Holowka was outed during this time, the person that shared how he abused them said that I inspired them to come forward. That later association is important…
A few days after this Alec Holowka ended his life.
Sympathies shifted at that point, with many blaming “metoo” for having “killed someone”.
A number of people close to Alec Holowka spoke about this. I link to Scott Benson’s post here: https://www.reddit.com/r/NightInTheWoods/comments/cxqjp8/end_of_summer_backer_update/
I wrote a follow up here: http://www.nathalielawhead.com/candybox/my-follow-up-post
Sympathies in journalism shifted toward writing a lot of articles that linked Holowka’s death to him being outed. Many of them named me as the instigator.
Articles like this were in the plenty. I criticize the overall framing.
The Next Web even included it in its roundup of “worst of the year”… with writing like this being problematic enough… I don’t have the energy to unpack how hard this was sensationalized, and on what a broad scale that happened… I want to point out that The Next Web article originally said that I alleged “sexual harassment”. This was a type of phrasing (misreporting) that a lot of very big places ended up running with. I never said “sexual harassment”. I said rape.
The Next Web article eventually was amended to reflect that, after I said something on Twitter.
Hey journalists please stop doing this:
“Natalie Lawhead alleged they had been abused by video game composer”https://t.co/RvR4p1IBpn
I didn’t allege abuse. you can all stop downplaying what happened. at least have the decency to read my post to see what I am alleging.
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) December 22, 2019
This bad reporting even made its way into Wikipedia. Example of an older screenshot…
So this is the narrative that ended up being established.
“I came forward about “sexual harassment”, someone else did too, some abuser killed himself. Metoo is problematic.”
Again, I never said “harassment”. I said rape.
The absolute heartless, awful, gutting harassment all this instigated lasted months. Articles like this were being written for a long time. This alone didn’t seem like it would end.
This isn’t the worst of it. This was a cakewalk compared to how toxic all this ended up being.
I originally retweeted the Kotaku article, trusting that Cecilia D’Anastasio had kept her promise to do right by us.
I did not read it. It was too hard to engage with this.
Like all guilty people grasping to punish their victims, Jeremy Soule did threaten to sue me for libel (he had OJ Simpson’s lawyers send me this)…
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) September 6, 2019
Re: cease and desist
I stand by my statement of what happened to me. There is no way that I will EVER retract it. My allegations are true and if they are defamatory that is consequence to his actions and not mine.
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) September 5, 2019
Nothing came of this. He deleted all his social media, websites, or any other trace of him. He has not surfaced since. I don’t care to get into speculations as to why or what I heard through the grapevine… He’s a dishonest person being sued by other people for his dishonest business. He ran, for all I care.
I occasionally hear from other victims of his talking about how he preyed on them, pursued them, abused them, or hurt them. I am by no means the only one he has done something like this to.
While I was compiling information for the attorney helping me… I knew that one of the other women harmed by Jeremy Soule had evidence that he had pursued her underage sister. He also groomed this woman when she was young and pursued a relationship with her.
I was told that having proof of that would be a big legal breakthrough. This person cut all ties in communicating with us after speaking to Cecilia D’Anastasio. Cecilia told her that her story of abuse didn’t really count since “she was in a relationship with him”.
The way Cecilia treated other sources had a harmful effect on holding him accountable. The article also severely downplayed his behavior. I will get into that later.
Harassment toward me continued. Being threatened, or receiving horribly disgusting emails, became a regular part of life.
Later, after all this died down, I met with the other victim (and source) in person.
We talked about our experiences. She eventually opened up about how disappointed she was in the way Cecilia D’Anastasio wrote the article.
She shared with me how Cecilia promised accountability.
This person had information about his predatory behavior, how he used apps to cover his tracks… a lot of other information that Cecilia promised to act on but never did.
She also shared how the way she was portrayed in the article was inaccurate. The Kotaku article depicted her as “flirting” with Soule, but that was not true.
She told Cecilia that she would share the text transcripts with Kotaku only under the condition that Kotaku would publish them so people could see that she was not flirting with Soule (so people could see the actual conversation for themselves), and under the condition that Kotaku would make clear that she was not flirting.
Cecilia agreed to these conditions.
Upon getting the transcripts, the resulting article still framed it as flirting. None of our conditions were honored.
The framing was unnecessary.
I wrote about the full consequence that the reporting has had on all of us here:
The above was my first attempt in bringing this to light.
After meeting with this person, I worked up the courage to read the Kotaku article. I was shocked when I saw that Kotaku published the details of my assault.
My rape was discourse. How and why it happened was discussed. Lorded over me… I didn’t want the how to be published because I know how people are. My agency over my own story should have been respected. That awful article was one of the first things that showed up when people Googled me. It wouldn’t just go away if I waited long enough.
These journalists (D’Anastasio, Shreier, Totilo…) were people who pretend to be conscientious about abuse. If they truly stand by what they keep advertising, they should have cared to address the way we were treated.
They didn’t. Having a basic amount of humanity extended to us was an uphill battle.
I wrote Cecilia asking her why she published it. I told her some of the consequence this was having on me…
I felt brushed off. I did not trust the intentions of another “phonecall” with her.
Journalists play “hot potato” with accountability. It’s never their fault. It’s always the fault of the editor, the editor blames the parent company or “the process”, it’s always something else… There’s always another excuse. They don’t care about you, as long as they can exploit your pain.
Once they get what they want, they blow you off.
That’s the sad truth behind the way they “believe survivors”.
It felt like being raped all over again.
After that, I published my original post “What it’s like sharing your #metoo with Kotaku (a cautionary tale)” in which I go over how I was treated.
During this time, someone had put me in touch with Stephen Totilo. I didn’t think he would answer, so I made my experience public.
I engaged in a week long back and forth with Stephen Totilo in which he tried to frame this as an “on the record, off the record” argument. Kotaku’s stance was that I didn’t remember which phone call this happened on, and that the details of my assault were fair use.
I never said “record” or even indicated that this mattered here. I said that I shared this under the guise that they needed it for legal reasons, they assured me they would not publish it, and it was published anyway.
He argued about this being fair, and by the book.
Totilo also made a Tweet in which he, publicly, pretended to be much nicer about it… although he maintained their position that this was “by the book”.
Again: The manipulative aspect here being that they spun this into being an “on or off the record” argument. That was never what I said. I said they did not have consent to publish the details of my rape, and I wanted it to be removed.
They worked very hard in covering their own asses…
Cecilia’s public response to this was as follows:
When Totilo gave me the hotline number, this was around the time that I tweeted about how much this was hurting me (“This is really hard”)…
This is really hard. I don’t know if I can keep this up.
I’ll think about how I can move forward if this gets brushed off, or completely ignored. 8/8
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) January 20, 2020
I make mention of this because much later journalists used this as evidence that I “threaten suicide” to make them do what I want.
Following is some of the discourse surrounding this, and reactions to D’Anastasio’s Twitlonger…
Eventually the details were removed. They eventually also made another amendment to the article.
The way they treated this, privately and publicly, was manipulative.
The painful reality of having shared my story with Kotaku drug on for months. I wrote my open letter “An open letter to game journalists: #metoo, fighting with surviving abusive reporting, and the fallout of not caring” hoping to bring awareness to how this was like. It got a few likes from journalists. Most of it I feel was superficial… I’m sorry if you were sincere. You can keep reading till the end to find out why I feel this way.
I think journalists believe to be “above” the game industry. Beyond accountability or responsibility to the people here. They use fancy progressive language to disguise their abuse.
The months drug on. Being harassed over that article continued to be a reality. I don’t really care to go into why, or speculate how, or share the gory details of what I was getting. I got into the habit of deleting threats made to me, or any of the worst, so I wouldn’t fixate on it too much. Maybe that was bad. Maybe if I shared more throughout all this then journalists would have believed how bad this was.
I adjusted my life around this.
I eventually started asking Kotaku for accountability. That they care to do SOMETHING to make this right to the people hurt. Since they were so gracefully ignoring this situation, I made it a habit of asking everyday.
I logged my two years of daily tweets here, there are hundreds:
Maybe if you look through it all, together in one place, how this was like might become real to you. Maybe this post will make a difference too. I wrote every one of those thinking “maybe if I just share this one more horrible thing, show just one more of this proof, just one more of these screenshots… THEN people will believe me.”
It never really happened that way.
The above are from a former friend who, when I told her to please not gossip about me, responded with this. She also wrote something for Waypoint.
It became clear to me that I was alone in this. To most people here, the “professional” connections of belonging to a clique is more important than anything else. The right to “discourse” people’s suffering is greater than the person being talked about. For all the talk of “empathy” in games, game discourse has very little of it. This comes from the most progressive voices in games, who are able to sugarcoat abuse with progressive sounding terminology to make it sound like it was OK.
Throughout all this, people would share with me their experiences of being drug through the mud by Kotaku. These were not gamergaters. These were the type of people game journalists usually say they support.
One person shared how “Shreier had done the same” to them. It was a slow painful burn to keep hearing this stuff. I wish I could have done something.
One of the most notable was from another former source of D’Anastasio’s. This was for another article that was fairly popular, or touted as “quality journalism”… The person pointed out how the article took liberties with the framing of the situation that was inaccurate, exploitative, and harmful to the sources. The person showed proof, screenshots of conversations with D’Anastasio.
The survivor used as a source was hounded so bad by D’Anastasio that she tried to take her life as a result of what D’Anastasio made her re-live. She wanted to stay out of this, but D’Anastasio didn’t respect that.
I detailed that here…
Even knowing that there is more like this, I don’t blame anyone for not speaking up. Game journalists will bury you. They own the platforms. They have a larger following, and they back each other up.
Much later (after all this hell), Sweet Anita, also described her experience with Kotaku and D’Anastasio…
here's what i'm referring to, entirely NOT related to her treatment of sexual assault survivors: https://t.co/Fkpqdpjdpj
i am enraged that who Cecilia D’Anastasio is, how she treated people, was public knowledge and still i was treated like i'm an isolated incident or just crazy
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) April 23, 2022
What is described in that interview lines up with D’Anastasio’s behavior of twisting the truth to “make” a story. D’Anastasio even outright lied about her.
It also lines up with the type of journalism that Kotaku should be called out for: click bait exploitation of vulnerable people.
Sweet Anita has Tourette’s. D’Anastasio framed it in such a way as to question if she’s “maybe just faking it”.
This is an aside to all this, but I feel like it provides further proof that I’m not unhinged or crazy…
My daily Tweets must have reached someone because eventually I was told by the other source of the Soule article that Totilo had contacted her… to talk more about the story.
This was during another “metoo moment” in games. We both thought that they wanted to drag us through the public again, so I told her to please not give them more.
She blew him off.
She had told both him and D’Anastasio that she was not happy with how they exploited us. Both Totilo and D’Anastasio were made aware that none of the sources thought the story reflected what we went through fairly or impartially. It wasn’t just me saying that.
They were defending clickbait.
Eventually my daily tweets gained enough traction.
Cecilia responded by making the following thread…
She called me a liar and got all her influential friends at Wired, in game journalism, or big figures here, to retweet that.
A lot of people threw their weight behind it… like Briana Wu. Jason Scott blocked me.
Plenty of others “both sides” it. Most of these were notable people.
Following are some tweets that were logged. A lot of the tweets defending her were deleted…
A few larger accounts tweeted “I believe Nathalie”. A lot of developers did too. Austin Walker was one of the people.
I believe Nathalie Lawhead, and I do so with first-hand knowledge of how the processes & mechanisms of journalism intersect with stories like hers. If the protocols meant to protect publications instead do harm to sources, it's our duty to protect sources and fix the protocols.
— austin walker (@austin_walker) January 5, 2021
Some initially shared D’Anastasio’s thread in support but then walked back.
The people who fully supported her deleted most of their support by now. I think this is cowardly. Using the excuse of being afraid of “harassment” has nothing to do with it.
Throughout all this, whenever someone did something horrible, they would DARVO their way out of responsibility by making it out to seem like I was rallying up a militant mob of harassers akin to gamergate. I will go over that later…
I wrote a response to D’Anastasio’s thread and the resulting support of her here… continuint to advocate for myself…
Eventually “I believe Nathalie” died out. Things went back to normal with me putting out my daily Tweets begging Kotaku to do something.
All this added to the harassment I was experiencing insofar that people in games finally joined in. Actual accounts, with big names, dunking on me or were getting into my mentions. My sister said that she could put a journalist’s tweet (one justifying exploiting me) right besides a Kiwifarms comment ridiculing my rape, and it would be identical.
I agree with her. What people stand for lost all meaning here.
Time painfully passed. I was begging. I was crying. I was putting out a few tweets a day. Sometimes that is all I would Tweet. I just wanted mercy.
I endured every excuse possible. Any justification you could make as to why this was ok, why it was “justifiable actually”, or why they were ignoring this, or… just about anything. I have heard it. I can’t even begin to express how gutting this was. It was inhuman.
It hurt all the more because these were people I used to look up to. I used to actually think that journalists here cared about survivors, or workers, or “the issues”. I don’t think so anymore. As a generalization, I think our pain is their food source. It is how these sites pay the bills. They couldn’t care less.
“Abusing you was by the book.”
Totilo eventually reached out to me. It seemed like finally there was hope. Maybe Kotaku finally cared. Maybe something would get done to address this properly, without gaslighting, or victim blaming, or covering their asses or…
I emailed back explaining this…
I made effort to include other instances where D’Anastasio hurt survivors of SA for the sake of a story. I hoped that maybe they would get some closure too. Nothing got done about these.
I waited over a month for a response, when I heard that Totilo left Kotaku… There was never a response.
Addressing this, any chance at accountability, was successfully avoided by all parties involved.
He left Kotaku, giving them the excuse that “none of the people responsible work here anymore.”
Journalism plays “hot potato” with responsibility. They set the terms in which something is worth addressing or ignoring.
They never cared to do the right thing. This situation is why I think it is absolutely sick that people still share Totilo as someone worth sharing when he talks about “game industry scandals” or “work conditions”. He’s shit.
Many of the journalists that initially said “I believe Nathalie” were congratulating Totilo. I have trouble framing exactly how fucked up this felt. It’s like this was a dirty open secret that they either sympathized with in passing, or outright joked about… but nothing was getting done.
I waited for about a week, hoping that maybe with the change in power that something would happen.
Nothing did, so I retweeted a handful of Tweets from other people who were calling out the people congratulating Totilo on leaving.
These Tweets were mild criticism as to why this is not helpful to my situation.
I tried to dig them up to post here, but cannot find them.
Some of them were directed at Austin Walker.
These criticisms came from the following of the journalists saying congratulations.
I mention this because it’s important later, when people accused me of “harassing” these journalists and sending my supposed “organized mob” on them.
I never Tweeted directly at any of them.
I hoped, when I retweeted those tweets, that it would draw attention to my situation and then maybe something would get done because of that awareness.
Things blew up a little. People joined in on pointing out how this was not helpful to my situation, and general disappointment was expressed.
Austin Walker privately apologized to me. I believe he also apologized publicly. I do not know. I was not paying attention.
I said “thank you”. I didn’t want to believe that he was sincere at the time because I was afraid that he would walk back, or say something awful later. To my knowledge he never did that. Also, to my knowledge, he never said anything awful or derogatory about this. I believe it is safe to view this as having been sincere.
At this point, a few people started comparing me to “gamergate” because journalists of color were being “harassed”.
I do not believe this was harassment. I believe much of the things said were true.
I contacted people who seemed out of line and asked them to be kind. I asked people not to harass. NONE of this was ever done for me by the journalists that later dogpiled on me, or made me out to be dangerous.
I tweeted that people should not harass journalists of color.
At this point I think it is fair to say that, later when another journalist REALLY attacked me, many of their following called me a “white woman” crying “white tears”… or something like that.
I think this is grossly out of line for this situation. I have now shared plenty of my cultural background… here and here . A little bit of educating yourself will show you that this is not exactly a fairly applied generalization. I also did not grow up in America. I am also not a woman. I identify as nonbinary fem. I do not like being called a woman. I will only politely tolerate it when I don’t want to make people feel bad for misgendering.
I think the above paragraph illustrates a change in sentiment that was happening. Journalists wanted this to go away so they started smearing this as a “white woman unhinged crying crocodile tears” issue. I really don’t fucking care to get into the persecution Olympics, where I share what my family went through, and if that’s “bad enough” or “marginalized enough” by American standards (which are not the only fucking standards that exist in the world, in case that needs saying too), and then I maybe get the special permission of being able to say how fucked up all this was.
This kept dragging on. The new interim editor in chief (Riley MacLeod) was maintaining Totilo’s tradition of ignoring this. A number of people reached out to me and told me that they contacted him too. He ignored this.
My family was also trying to get in touch with Kotaku. This was getting ignored.
People continued to publicly Tweet at Kotaku journalists (present and former). This either received a block, or just got ignored.
I say all this because people kept saying “well, maybe they just don’t know” or “well, maybe you just didn’t contact the right people”… they knew. Everyone knew. I was either not loud enough, or “too loud” therefore “too rude” and “too volatile”.
The following is the hardest episode from all this which almost killed me…
Before Gita Jackson’s subtweeting about my situation I shared, in a blog post, talking about the suicidal ideation I was dealing with. I was struggling hard. I can’t begin to describe what this was doing to me and my family. Whenever I talked about it, people would report my account. It seemed never ending.
A day after that…
Gita Jackson had already been subtweeting about this. Eventually they wrote the following thread…
I was in disbelief that anyone could be so callous, thinking that maybe this was not about me, until they retweeted things with my name in it.
At that point I started to get harassment from their following.
I wrote the following responses…
i’m sorry but it’s conversations like this…just ALL of them which are gutting…gross… it’s hard to find words… stop making this Discourse.
what was done to (MORE people than just me) was deeply harmful.
the person this was done to has to live with it. you all don’t… 1/5 https://t.co/hOXLBsSgdP
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) March 26, 2021
I do not believe that my response was harassment, but this is what they all ran with.
Following are some comments made about Gita’s thread…
Gita in turn took these tweets (valid criticism of this), and started framing the situation as “Gita being harassed”…
I believe this was manipulative. I think they should have the self-reflection to understand how this was heartless. They could of, at any point, discouraged people from coming at me. I said how this conversation was hurting me, but they continued to drum up discourse about it, kept tweeting things explicitly talking about me…
Videodante wrote the following…
Gita retweeted Videodante’s thread several times. Including after they drove me off Twitter.
This is such a gross and insidious tweet. On its face it looks like a normal take, but this guy is actually furious that @alienmelon asked Kotaku to take down the article where they drastically misrepresented her assault. This is a shameful thing to subtweet pic.twitter.com/iX7dsPruT5
— Day (@DayOfLane) April 30, 2021
Friends and supporters of Gita chimed in with things like…
Some of these same accounts kept harassing me before all this. I believe they are all part of the same circle of assholes.
At one point, before this incident, Gita had been vaguely Tweeting how Kotaku hate was hurting them. Hannah came into my mentions attacking me, as a response.
Vaguetweeting is manipulative. You make it just vague enough so you can say “hey this wasn’t about you” but just specific enough to torture the person you are targeting.
I believe all this was tremendously manipulative of Gita Jackson. I wrote the following blog post as a response to the hate they normalized at this point…
i literally feel like i was singled out over this weekend, and got kicked around by the invalidation and the people this sent my way. i got harassed because of what you wrote too. this was really fucked up and so was that thread. pic.twitter.com/LgPMrOXfb7
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) March 29, 2021
why would you write something like that, just send this tirade of invalidating shit at someone's situation, and then block?
this really fucking hurt. it didn't help. it was very useless.
i got harassed too and it very much did no good. https://t.co/oKnBp6A1J4
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) March 29, 2021
This wasn’t the only time that Gita Jackson subtweeted about this. She did enough of this that it encouraged people to start anonymous accounts that existed just to discourage people from helping me. Most of this reached its worst point later, when she ridiculed us for trying to contact the editorial director.
It’s worth mentioning too that after Gita Jackson’s thread discussing the supposed nuance of articles being deleted… they wrote a story platforming wife beater abuser Chet Hanks. When people told them that he is an abuser, Gita told the people bringing this up that they don’t care (what they actually said was much more gross). This caused a massive fallout, further fueled by Gita blocking people that told her this was toxic… which drove Gita off Twitter. A record of that discorse is here, here, and here.
I had nothing to do with this, although some blamed me for this mob too. I did not orchestrate this.
After the above incident, Gita deleted her entire Twitter history. Most of the people who chimed in to dogpile on me also deleted their threads and Tweets. It’s as if you can twist up a narrative to target someone, popularize that, and then delete all record of what you just did so that sticks to the person you targeted. It’s fucking awful.
Asside from being accused of organizing a mob, which I never did because I’m not active on Discord or any chat service… (I’m a recluce. I lost all my friends remember?) I have also been critisized for deleting “harassing Tweets” toward game journalists, but I don’t delete Tweets (unlress maybe asked to).
I think all this is very manipulative.
I believe that the growing narrative at this point from journalists saying that I started a “hate movement” akin to Gamer Gate is tremendously manipulative. I think they got tired of hearing about it and decided to push this narrative.
Them calling me a “white woman crying white woman tears” was a way of them to justify their dogpiling.
This was nothing like Gamer Gate. Many of the people confronting Gita Jackson were Gita Jackson’s own damn following.
I did not organize anything.
Some time after this, when I returned to Twitter, game journalists were mass blocking people that supported me.
Anyone that voiced support for me was being blocked.
This was terrifying to me because it felt like this entire space of people decided it’s ok to let me die. All that discourse, and “awareness” that they raised to show how survivors or marginalized people get harassed… just stopped applying to me. I wasn’t even human anymore.
The following thread serves as a record…
it’s disgusting that journalist who get touted as progressive or liberal support the abuse of survivors in this space.
i’m pretty sure there’s a block list now because people who never engaged with some of these creeps are getting blocked. pic.twitter.com/grS9D3igHh
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) April 29, 2021
there are a few of them that are doing this (game journalists). people that never interacted with them are getting blocked and that’s unlikely to do without a block list. i’m 100% certain that they made a list of people that supported me and are mass blocking now. ? https://t.co/UYpwHN9Slf
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) April 29, 2021
Here I become sarcastic…
support Nathalie Lawhead and get on that block train ya'll *choo* *choo* https://t.co/a4EEyg4tvm
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) April 29, 2021
You can read the comments to all these threads.
There’s still a record of people saying “wow, I’m blocked too and never interacted with this person.”
The only commonality is that they supported me.
wow…..now im being blocked by other journalists for helping @alienmelon I feel sick…..I don't care if all of them block me. this is their way of trying to shut us up and I hate it…. pic.twitter.com/yAj6E5r9Ng
— ?Arielle Danan? (@HuggableHipster) April 29, 2021
I Tweeted about that. This was making me sick with fear. I thought that it would never end.
When I posted this thread, depicting some of the harassment levied against me. VideoDante retweeted this shit again. I know they all saw it. They don’t care.
So, aside from the fact that Gita Jackson shared Videodante’s thread in context of me, and their following shared it with “this is about Nathalie”, I think it is very safe to say that it was directed at me.
A former “friend” (whatever friend means anymore) reached out to me…
This was the thread that I sent her:
reiterating this again…
people are being blocked who never even interacted with some journalists here, just because they supported me. nobody has been mean, cruel, or said horrible out of line things.
i cannot take it anymore for the following reasons and please read…
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) April 30, 2021
So you either didn’t engage with this at all because it’s all “too triggering” but then you “read it all”? Which is it?
Andi McClure had been retweeting harassment and toxic threads targeted toward me for a while, especially Gita Jackson’s discourse.
This is a person that I would regularly talk to at game events and even gave her my bag because her purse broke.
I used to share her work constantly, and recommend her for things. I will never do that again.
I hope that one day this catches up to them all.
It is hard for me to believe that anyone could read a thread like what I sent here and just… Fucking keep at it.
I lost track of the amount of friends that told me “seeing you go through this is too triggering for me” and promptly distancing themselves from me.
Mass blocking continued. I continued to get harassed by this new group of people. I don’t care to publish more here. You can work your way down this very long thread for examples. If you dig into any of them, the majority say they are journalists.
At this point, whenever a journalist had to lock their account, or was getting harassed for whatever article they wrote, people assumed it was because of me.
I made it a point to keyword search my name to see if people were harassing journalists “on my behalf”. I searched for all sorts of combinations of my name, misspellings + kotaku… It was frustrating to see that NOTHING was happening, but journalists kept drumming up that they were getting harassed.
I still do this in case I have to defend myself. I’m tired of this.
I was struggling a lot with suicidal ideation. I was very close to ending my life a few times. I wanted it all to stop… I didn’t want to wake up to any of this anymore. It just kept dragging on, with me constantly thinking about why this is happening, why did they take away my story, my voice, my agency, my chance at peace, my chance at accountability…
My family was hurting too. It was hard for them to see someone they love fight with this.
My mom started vetting my emails and DM’s.
It’s meaningful to mention tho that the times that I was at my lowest I got a kind response from a complete stranger telling me they support me, that it does get better, that they’ve been there, that I matter to them… Just nice words too. It meant a lot. Such kindness helped me through some of the most awful moments.
I was sincerely getting sick of people using “Nathalie’s pain” in their discourse when invalidating me.
Eventually my mom started researching Kotaku. Contacting them was getting nowhere.
She learned everything she could about the parent company, G/O Media. She researched new people that were hired (through Linkedin), and tried to research any potential company drama. Anything really. She found out that Jim Rich had recently joined as editorial director. She researched him, and his career record, to see if he would be sympathetic. She believed that he would be. I thought she was crazy, but was willing to try anything.
She dug around to find the email formatting that G/O Media uses.
She emailed them until messages stopped bouncing back.
My sister put together this email campaign and we started emailing G/O Media. We asked people to join. I included Jim Rich in my daily Tweets…
My open letter to @GOMediaStudios @GOMediaInc @Kotaku & Jim Rich Editorial Director at G/O Media @therealjimrich & Lea Goldman Deputy Editorial Director @lea asking for the removal of the article that continues to harm my sister Nathalie Lawhead (pronouns: they/them, she/her) pic.twitter.com/uqJXBJ4mOE
— Tanja THE Awesome (@tanjatheawesome) May 18, 2021
Some other amazing supportive people also joined in at Tweeting at him and Kotaku daily. I think this helped.
On the same day that my sister started rallying support for this, Gita Jackson subtweeted about this again…
I don’t think anyone else in this space was “emailing the editorial director of a website advocating for the removal of an article…”, so I don’t see how this wasn’t about me.
I think it’s pretty clear where any of them stand at this point.
The comment I kept getting was “we are too marginalized to help” but none of the Waypoint mob were “too marginalized” to dogpile on me. They expended more resources to discourage help, than they did in actually helping.
I wrote Jim Rich too. It took about a week (maybe a little more) for things to resolve. I believe this was a result of contacting G/O Media.
Patricia Hernandez assumed position of Editor In Chief of Kotaku. On the same day, she emailed me saying that the article would be removed…
I don't have any more words… just THANK YOU to everyone who stood beside me during this, tweeted about it, and didn't give up either.
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) May 27, 2021
Many people chimed in to say “finally”… I think it’s worth noting that, the day this happened, the only people who complained about that article being removed were journalists. One of them even got into it with Rami. I don’t have a record of that conversation, but I’m sure you could still find it.
To be fair tho, there were quite a few journalists that expressed approval over the article being removed.
I thanked Jim Rich…
Because of this, I do not believe this is just because of Patricia Hernandez. I do not believe that Kotaku suddenly had a change of heart. It took them two years. Things only moved when we contacted the right people. Most journalists defended their circle.
I do not think it is fair for journalists to credit Patricia Hernandez with this. Many acted like “yes, we thought we should wait to see how this turns out and look!” Like somehow this victory ended up being their’s too.
This is invalidating the effort of many people who actually cared and wrote G/O… anyone that did something.
It bothers me that even now, after all this, journalists try to reclaim the narrative that it’s all fine. Things worked out.
This was not fine.
A friend of mine said that Hernandez’s email seemed back handed. I have trouble reading any good intentions into anything from that space. I can’t speak to who Patricia Hernandez is or if she is any better. I don’t know what to say. I still want to believe that they are good people, but I don’t know how anymore.
There was no accountability, or closure. The narrative popularized by people like Gita Jackson and the Waypoint mob still stands as the accepted one. I believe them to be tremendously manipulative people. Their cruelty was unncessesary.
Throughout all this tho, there was some support from journalists. I don’t know how sincere. It is hard for me to imagine them to be kind or empathetic people after this. I’m sorry.
One very small indie outlet was working on a petition, to collect signatures for the article to be removed. The journalist that was helping said that she would send it to all her press contacts too. This indie outlet initially wanted to publish it officially, but then were afraid of legal repercussions (they consulted a lawyer) so they said that they would help less directly with it. They even paid the bills for the legal consulting. As far as I remember they even discussed paying for hosting for a new website domain that would serve just this purpose. They are an indie outlet and don’t have much money to begin with. Even for not having much money they still did this and they still make effort to pay their writers. It says a lot that they put forth effort to help this way… Also, I think it says a lot that there was concern for legal repercussions. Why? What the fuck of a dynamic is any of this?
At this point I am at a lack of words. I think game journalism is toxic. If not toxic, then it is fundamentally broken. As long as it cannot hold itself accountable for the harm it has caused it is worthless. The people who stick around long enough to make a name for themselves here are not good people. They are manipulative, good at twisting truth, and gaslighting. It is beyond me how any of them could write what they did and somehow not understand that this was about sexual assault. Every time that one of them attacked me, they would somehow manage to twist it around to make themselves out to be victims.
I feel dehumanized, alienated, lied about… Gita Jackson’s hard work ended up exiling me from my support network. D’Anastasio’s tweets about this didn’t even get as much traction as Jackson’s did. I am often overwhelmed by how cruel all this was.
This crowd has been awful manipulative people. I cannot use the word “manipulative” enough.
I write this post for closure. Maybe with everything all in one place… what they did to me will look wrong enough for them to actually correct that narrative. Maybe they will understand.
I have thought a lot about what an olive branch would look like. I have fantasized about people appologizing, explaining why whatever happened in a way that is not manipulative, those responsible publicly acknowledging that this was fucked up and handled horribly, and any of them just honestly understanding then acknowledging the harm that was caused… but how is that possible coming from people who are this entitled?
I still want accountability, but I don’t think it is possible from people who are completely incapable of self-reflection.
I publish this claiming my own closure.
Since this post went up Cecilia D’Anastasio continues to write about game industry abuse for Bloomberg and receives praise from former Kotaku peers.
For example, people like Patrick Klepeck will endorse her writing even though he knows what she has done. People have even reached out to him for help about this numerous times and it has gone ignored.
Jason Schreier receives the same support from the game journalism community. Literally no consequence to any of them.
What recently did it for me was that Gita Jackson tweeted something supportive of Schreier when he was being called out for sitting on allegations (knowing about abuse but doing nothing to help), I quote Gita Jackson:
“if i ever confided in someone and they told my story without permission it would be a betrayal of such magnitude i wouldn’t ever be able to recover”
All this as part of a new wave of game journalism discourse meant to clean up his reputation, cover for him, or for them to act like they are sensitive about exposing vulnerable people (they are not, please refer to what they did to me). They performed being good journalists that sources can trust.
This one is the one that really hurt because Gita Jackson was responsible for relentlessly hounding me with subtweets that turned a lot of people against me, while defending my story being abused and the article staying up.
I don’t know what else there is to say or add.
I think everyday about what I could do to bring awareness to what was done to me so that I can get back everything that these people took from me… So I can get back what Gita Jackson’s very pronounced public stances and subtweets took… what D’Anastasio took… Maybe if I would post more of the harassment and awful things people have said to me because of Gita Jackson’s tweeting, maybe if I would share the fan art made about my rape, maybe what I already put out there isn’t enough and I need to share more…
It’s like this is on loop. Just when you think you are safe and can heal, the same discourse, started by the same group of awful people, props up with them tooting their own horn about how righteous they are and how “they would never” be as evil as the current journalistic misstep. I am by far not the only sexual assault survivor, or abuse survivor, that they have harmed and then burried.
I could offer a number of examples from discourse that came and went since this post went up but I am tired. I’m tired of how they can so easily move on from the harm they caused, while pretending it never happened.
I truly hope that game journalism burns down. I hope it dissolves so that it has to start over without these people being “the voices” that the progressive part of the game industry listens to. I can only conclude, after everything that they put me through and their continued indifference, that they are intentionally this evil.