TW: For all the things.
I’m writing this because it’s my birthday tomorrow and I REALLY need someone to talk to. My blog exists for that.
Many moths ago… because of the ongoing Global Pandemic this feels like an eternity ago, but that’s another tangent… Someone reached out to me for help about coming forward with their story (abuse, the type of story we all know is too normal in the game space by now).
This happens a lot and I try my absolute best to be as helpful as possible. I think it’s important to do that because I don’t want anyone alive to ever feel as alone as I felt.
It’s the most alienating and lonely thing I can think of.
It’s a cold dark hell in which you will lose friends, be a shame on those around you, and people you trusted generally reveal their awful true colors. It’s kind of a shock that you have to prepare for.
I gave this person as much advice as I could. I warned them about how it can be, and all those things… Ultimately I don’t think there is any “right” way of coming forward with something so horrible. Any angle you take, any amount of proof you show, any levelheadedness, or even outright anger, will just be used against you. This is the culture we are in.
Note also that it was a “thing” for a while for guys to pretend to be a sexual assault survivor and reach out to me. It’s very hard to fall for this because there’s a day vs night distinction in these stories… when it’s someone trying to make a mockery of it, or lying, as compared to someone’s harm that is deep and so real.
It’s hard not to recognize it when you see it. The pain is very real.
I’ve taken a stance on things like this often. A long time ago (pre-pandemic) I was invited to a GDC showcase. A bunch of people reached out to me warning me about the organizer. One of the people he abused shared that story with me. I acted on that, made a stink (to the extent that I could without causing harm to the person that reached out), and removed myself from the showcase.
These things are always hard tho. When you stand up for someone, in context of predators, you always get a little stigmatized too. It’s unavoidable. Bridges get burned. People hate you for saying something.
I think lately all this has been getting really hard for me because that cycle is so on repeat. There seems to be no concept of how wrong it is to torture and harm someone this way. At least to me that’s how it looks.
Sexual abuse itself is bad enough, but with it comes a triad of other abuse. Slandering the person harmed, ganging up on them, bullying them, ridiculing them, gaslighting… It doesn’t seem to end, and too many people seem to fall for it.
Some of it is so textbook that it’s morbidly fascinating to me how it still manages to work in interest of the abusers.
I’ll get into more detail in terms of talking about the culture, but I’ll point out some things that really stood out to me from this last stance I took against a rapist…
The person harmed wrote a really long essay talking about her abuse. It was detailed. Articulate. It showed receipts (in context) to support what she said. It was given care and time.
After she came forward her abusers, and his immediate friend circle, all closed ranks to smear her as crazy. They showed out of context “proof” as to her being unwell, and tried to frame her as abusive herself. Their “proof” was also inconsistent. What was happening was pretty obvious if you read everything.
In all, I think it’s really important to closely examine all sides of the story, and obviously leave room for doubt. That goes without saying. This is what I did. I carefully read her account, read the accusations against her, looked into the people making them, looked at their expanded friend circles, looked at their online history… I was not impressed. If anyone actually gave “both sides” benefit of the doubt, the majority of the time the alleged abuser’s behavior supports the survivor’s story.
I think it’s important to note too that one of the people in the abuser’s friend circle was also a publicly outed and proud abuser himself. He was (very well) known for distributing pro-rape posters on a college campus his partner went to, sending anonymous threatening emails to sexual assault survivors on that campus, and all this went on to such a degree that an official police investigation took place along with amounting to a solidarity march on part of the students. He was caught because he bragged to one of the students on campus and that student reported him. He buckled and admitted to everything when the police questioned him.
It was easy to find this story because he’s supposedly the “creator” of troll-face, and he took pride in that association when press interviewed him about it. To him it was “just a joke” to poke fun at how sensitive and weak survivors are (they are “too weak to fight back”).
This is public information. It’s not hard to find.
Similar rings true most of the others in the abuser’s friend circle.
Aside from that, their online behavior amounted to harassing me and other supporters of her.
I promised that I would stand up for her and I did that. I believe, when someone comes forward with something like this, it’s really important to have people in their corner that will publicly fight with the assholes so as to mitigate some of what ends up being a very emotionally exhausting and triggering battle for the person targeted.
The online behavior of the abuser’s circle itself backed up what she said in her account.
She even had help from friends that witnessed their abusive behavior back up her statements with more proof (in context).
Also worth noting is that the circle of abusers tried to rally support to attack her and her supporters from 4chan.
I make a point to bring this up because, to me, this is literally the lowest common denominator when it comes to who is believable and who’s behavior is clearly a red flag.
Out of this group of people many of them have made rape jokes, and rape itself, part of their public identity. It wasn’t hard to find.
Yet still, in fighting with them I lost quite a bit of following myself.
Connections that I had unfollowed. It’s clear that I burned some bridges based on this.
This is the hard part for me to understand. I’m not sharing this for pity. Chances are that these bridges were going to get burned at some point. Standing up for people is something I can’t really justify not doing, especially if it’s out of fear for “burning bridges”…
To me, it is hard to understand why, even in a case so cut-and-dry, where the abusers are so public about being proud of hurting people… there is still doubt. There’s still that condemnation for having said something, having taken a stance, having supported a person that (when the topic of metoo is trending on major game journalism outlets) people say they would stand by.
Saying “believe survivors” happens in the same breath that the stigmatization for people that actually act on that happens.
It’s so on repeat. It’s truly disheartening.
Whenever something like this happens I take stock of the bridges burned (social stigmatization, people that distance themselves… all that), and it’s probably one of the most depressing things about this culture. The type of… silent hypocrisy.
Someone that I once considered a close friend privately roasted me in saying that I made her “pick sides” when I came forward about D’Anastasio’s abuse and had to fight with Kotaku. I often go back to that conversation.
I was part of a Discord that my friend set up, and when I logged in the first thing I saw was a conversation with her and others in which she was talking people out of helping me because (according to her) she already tried to help. It was a cold and indifferent tone shrouded in progressive language.
I told her that this was hurtful because she didn’t ever try to help me. I never talked to her about what I was going through. I stopped talking to her because anything I shared with her would end up in her gossip.
She reamed into me saying that I was “too much for my friends” and that me making this a 24/7 thing was annoying. She said a lot.
What bothers me about all this is that I was there for her, but somehow so many of the friendships in games are formed around social clout. How knowing a person makes someone look. How much you can get out of a person…
When you fall on your ass and need help, then it’s not a good look to be there for the person. Then that person is toxic. That person’s presence is “too triggering” to even have around. These are things actually said to me.
I can understand “too triggering”, but I can’t understand that being used as an excuse to completely shun someone, especially if they were there for you.
All this brings me to what’s been on my mind lately: “If not now, when will we be believed?”
The abusers in that other story were such obvious shitheads. They were the bottom of the barrel. The people we write articles about, condemning their behavior. Associated with gamergate, racist hate groups on Steam, and outgoing pro-rape… The person that came forward gave so much (in context) proof…
Even then, it wasn’t quite enough? Support was still “a bad look”? When will it not be? What DOES the perfect villain look like? (Yes, I understand that doesn’t exist, but sometimes a person gets pretty close to being irredeemably horrible.)
So much proof as to the sexual abuse and the emotional repercussions was shared, but even so…
In the space of Twitter, where callouts are said to constantly happen, and “cancel culture” is supposedly a problem, the most people seem to care about this sort of thing is on a cosmetic level.
It’s about looks. If the story (the actual proof, and account of abuse) is too long then the response is along the lines of tldr; and siding with the abuser because their “rebuttal” fits into a Tweet.
Throwback to when Cecilia D’Anastasio publicly called me a liar, and one of the people throwing his weight behind her told someone that supported me (when the supporter showed him the proof I put out there) “too long, already made up my mind”.
When people make these blanked statements of “believe survivors” “stand by victims” and all those catchphrases, I don’t think there’s an understanding that you actually have to engage with what is brought forth.
It’s complicated. You have to read.
I think I’m stuck in a loop of seeing this repeat itself. The more often you see it, the more it costs you your faith in people.
They constantly say “be objective”, but if you are and research the people the accusations are made against, and form your opinion on that too, then you’re told you’re not objective enough because JUST THE FACT that you sided with the victim is what’s “wrong” to them.
Our culture has this stigma to survivors that will forever hover over them. A stigma craftily created by decades of Hollywood movies, pop culture, songs… that created an image about the worst of someone that tries to escape their abuse. You have every excuse in the book from “gold digger” to “unhinged” to “crazy ex girlfriend” that will be used.
…But then again, how can this not be the culture when abusers themselves created these narratives? I think there’s enough metoo stories that came out of Hollywood to back up that statement.
Either way, the last person in the world that gets heard is the person that was hurt.
The very first IndieCade that I went to seemed so magical. People seemed so supportive. All this diversity of people and games based on all these experiences.
This was while it was still being held in that parking lot in Culver City.
During the ceremony one of the organizers told the crowd to “look at the person next to you”, extend your hand to them, and both of you make a heart together with your combined hands.
It was cute. It seemed so sweet. The values seemed to be about love.
I wonder where that space went. Was it a lie? Are we only like this when we put on that facade because being a loving community is popular?
In context of my experiences (and others I watched now) it almost seems like an erosion of your boundaries to pretend to be a loving safe space, when the reality can be so dark.
I believe in that moment. I believe in that space that I experienced. I know that people are good, and that this is more real than how normalized abuse here seems.
When I talk about this I’m often told that “it’s this bad everywhere”… like somehow that’s a justification for not doing anything about it.
I don’t care how bad it’s everywhere else. I care that it happens here, and here is where something can be done about it.
During this last internet fight the narrative that I’m a “metoo vulture” and somehow have an invested interest in this resurfaced.
That friend kind of indirectly brought this (gist) up in the Discord conversation too.
I’d like to know tho how has standing up for sexual assault survivors, and getting into it with the rapist, ever been a good self-interest thing?
When does it pay off? How even? Can it even? What does that even mean?
There is no cultural, social, or clout benefit from this. Doing this burns bridges because the culture is structured to support abuse. Most of our winners are abusers because to win you have to abuse.
Currently I’m really emotionally worn out from that last wave. I know it’s really unhealthy to check who unfollowed you because of something like this, but I did.
It always sends me spiraling with questions, wondering… if this person is sympathetic with the rapist? Where they friends with the abuser? What line did I cross when I stood up to the rapist? Do they think it’s “too much” to publicly call the guy outed a “rapist” because (popular excuses like) “this didn’t go to court”? If that’s the case, what exactly does “believe victims” mean? Especially when this story had so much more proof than my story had?
Is supporting people that were harmed like this something that only happens when it’s trending in the games news? Even so, is it something that only happens for “big names”, where the accusers are easily sensationalized and juicy and big, and it’s big enough to be a far off concept far away in AAA land, and because of that distance we are safe from having to confront that in our own spaces?
Was it because the troll-face guy vandalizing safe spaces posters on that campus with pro-rape jokes and threats was “too long ago” and this time around when he made a pinned Tweet advocating against believing survivors he should be given benefit of the doubt? …You know, because there’s an expiration date for how long abuse is relevant, even if the abuser showed no remorse or ever apologized… so in this case him standing up for his abusive friend circle, the one defending the rapist, should be given benefit of the doubt?
If I gave it benefit of the doubt, read ALL the accounts, and then ALL the comments, and still sided with the survivor… why is that me still being “too partial” like “I’ve been through a lot” so I don’t really understand how to not be biassed?
Why is “this person has been through a lot” used so often to invalidate someone?
Do people listen to themselves when they say these things?
Why is all this so OK to do to someone??
I in no way regret defending this person, or the other people that I defended… as much as I try to make myself hate myself for standing up for someone. I really do. I kick myself for the lost opportunities, the bridges burned… but where they really opportunities or bridges if there’s this condition placed on them? That I have to be a heartless opportunistic human to be successful in indie games?
If this is the unspoken truth of this space, then what’s the point of being successful in it?
If this is the case, then I’m totally OK with maintaining my current trajectory of being a failure. Thank you.
Our Popular Culture has shifted enough that there’s stigmatization for being horrible. Concerns of “Cancel Culture” are a thing, although I’m hard pressed to see examples of someone getting canceled that didn’t actually benefit from being canceled. At least it’s enough of a reality that people can be scared and complain about it.
Either way, in all, it’s not enough. It’s lonely and hard. Maybe someday all that posturing of “believe survivors” will be reality.
Last week, the person that I defended got some amazing support. I don’t think that should be left unsaid.
I saw a couple other survivors chime in and try to educate one of the most outgoing harassers (the same guy that plagued that college).
One of them said,
“justice doesn’t exist. justice as we know it exists to protect the rich and powerful.”
I think so too.
There are so many stories, and it’s even accepted fact (if you educate yourself) that the legal system completely fails people that survive sexual assault.
Even if you out the person publicly (this so called “court of public opinion”), you have to go through this traumatizing battle, and even that is a failing of the space you are in. It leaves a lot of bruises, but I think things have culturally shifted enough to where these stories CAN even be heard.
It has shifted enough where the same people that built their identity on mocking rape, and would have reveled in slandering a survivor, had blowback for how they behaved.
I don’t really have a point to this. My birthday is tomorrow and I needed to vent. I’m afraid of talking to friends because I’m afraid of being “too much” for them (like said so often), so I have this blog where I can dig a hole for myself and be “too much” for everyone.
I have some closing questions tho…
What does “just right” even look like?
Who does the ideal of “being objective” in situations like this even serve?
it’s a fucked up feeling to be in an industry where fighting with a horrible person or horrible thing is considered worst (professionally detrimental) than actually *being* the horrible person.
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) October 18, 2021