I don’t really know how to start this. I’m exhausted.
I’m sharing again the email that I wrote to Kotaku’s former Editor in Chief because it summarizes this situation and spares me from going over all of this again…
In my last blog post I included a personal update in which I discussed the suicidal ideation that I’m dealing with as a result of all of this.
I went over all this… I’m here to go over it again, because the last time wasn’t enough, the time before that wasn’t enough, it’s just never enough…
I’m writing this because a notable game journalist, with a very large following, Tweeted a thread that indirectly discussed this (my demands). I thought it was a heartless take on this situation… or this type of situation in general. You have no idea how this is like. Try coming from empathy first.
I get the impression that this is reflective of conversations that are being had among game journalists. My impression is that the humanity of sexual assault survivors is now becoming a nuanced topic in this space.
I’m writing this to address these arguments. I do not view any of this as nuanced. I’ll open with the most important point…
I’m asking for the article to be deleted.
The argument that things are “too complicated”, that this is too big of an ask (literally at this point everything is “too big of an ask”, including apologizing), and that this is more nuanced than it appears… isn’t something I agree with.
I could be kept running around in circles forever, trying to address all these arguments and excuses. At the end of the day, this is not going away for the people hurt. These arguments just normalize that abuse, and place those harmed in a position where they now have to live with the reality that you created for them.
The “nuance” doesn’t serve anyone but you.
Journalists should not center themselves in this.
I think journalists are making this more nuanced than it needs to be. I think, someday, there will have to be an understanding that you don’t own the stories that you write. These are our lives that you put on display. These are very personal, deep, and real trauma that you parade before your readership.
What you write about people, and how you put them on display, has serious repercussions. That’s a responsibility that you have.
Starting with the constructive: In their thread, @alixplicitly broke down why writing about sexual assault in such an exploitative way is dangerous. If you will read anything, please read that first. It says it all…
I’ve tried often to write a post going into detail regarding how this has been like emotionally for me, better breaking down the harassment this caused, the fetishization, and what it did to my life… but I just can’t. All my other writing does that enough. To be honest, I don’t think people are reading this stuff if a notable journalist (that seemed aware and sympathetic of the situation) still writes a thread like the one that this post is a reaction to.
Following is the thread… I am sharing it here to argue the points because (like I said one of the last times), I feel like I’m fighting for my life. I don’t want the narrative to be controlled by people who think this is less than it is… who want this to “go away” and to stop being bothered by it.
The people hurt can’t do that. We can’t “make it go away”. We have to live with it. I’m not accepting that as my new normal.
Someone that read this left some kind of invalidating comment at me that I didn’t read. They deleted it, and said they deleted it after reading my side of the story.
I highlight that interaction because I find it fundamentally terrifying that, if it wasn’t for social media even giving me a fraction of a chance to stand up for myself, they all (journalists and those advocating for that status quo) would control the narrative to such a point where I absolutely do not have any future.
This would become my new normal. I just have to live with what it brought into my life, and did to my ability to “move on” from something really traumatizing.
My calls for justice would just get nitpicked to death, made “too nuanced”, too complicated, argued into circles, until the conclusion is to do nothing about it because it’s “no use”, “the system” is to blame, and so on… and you just have to live your life around that new traumatizing reality…
Basically all this is happening, but as long as I’m here, with any platform to argue back, I stand a chance.
The above seems horrifying to me. I don’t want to live that nightmare. The other day I joked that I live in a Franz Kafka novel, considering how this entire thing (beginning to not-yet-end) has been treated. It’s not fun.
I don’t want to live with a nightmare that others decided to normalize because their platforms were bigger, because they don’t want to stand up to their friends or co-workers, because they think they have too much to lose, because they don’t have the “institutional power” to do anything so they might as well make this “nuanced”… or… dynamics… at this point you can drive yourself crazy trying to keep up with the excuses.
I understand that “the process to remove articles is really complicated” because “legal reasons”, but comparing my situation to some petty alt-right moneygrubbing asshole is cruel.
A sexual assault survivor asking for their humanity back, so they can move on, is not the same thing.
If words have power, then the comparisons that you draw on do too.
This one being used is… bad. Reflective of an indifference (or inability) to fully grasp how traumatizing this is to someone that doesn’t even have enough of a platform, or pull, to properly fight the fallout of this.
I think it is equally as irresponsible to even publicly discuss this. To me, it is no different than my rape being put on display and men discussing the nuance of my sexual assault (that is what happened). It really isn’t different. It feels the same.
A horrible thing has happened to someone, and discussing it like it’s A Talking Point, without acknowledging the pain it has caused, is just cold (for very much lack of a better word).
The people hurt here aren’t exactly up for discussion. Thinking that you have a right to dissect something so traumatizing is cruel. My humanity isn’t discourse. Maybe we’re not at a point where we can fully grasp that, but I don’t think it should take a suicide for people to start understanding this.
The fear of “what precedence will this set for journalists” if an article that exploited someone’s sexual assault gets deleted is just as cruel of a thing to argue as saying the initial article was “factually correct” (it was not, I went over that).
Similarly, I remember “but it undermines our credibility” being used as an excuse too.
Why are journalists centering themselves in this? As if the precedence being set for “what this means” regarding their responsibility over what they write should not exist. They can do whatever they want. They have both “the system” they can blame and equally hide behind to protect them.
What about the precedence that this sets for sexual assault survivors? Protecting vulnerable people should be a more important precedence than your right to get away with doing whatever you want with vulnerable people’s stories.
Can’t you understand how cold it is to argue your right to that?
Our truth didn’t matter when covering our situation, my right to have a future doesn’t factor into this discussion at all (not as much as the nuance), and we’re supposed to just roll over and take it?
I think it’s fundamentally cruel to get so shamelessly defensive and hide behind all this complicated theory, convoluted rhetoric, ranging from arguing what is or isn’t on and off the record, the nuances of “ethics”, and the complexities surrounding the repercussions for deleting things.
What about not letting someone in your space suffer? What about suffering that you caused by not even being “factually correct”? How about the suffering caused because of your inability to respect the safety of the people being written about?
I’m breaking myself trying to get you to understand that, but it really feels like it doesn’t matter as much as “what does it mean for journalists if they have to be responsible?”
I would like to point out (again) that the article in question was not true. It was not factually accurate. He was not my mentor. I never said mentor. He was my friend. Aeralie was not flirting with him. She asked that it be made clear that she was not flirting, but the article made sure to say “flirting” when that’s completely subjective and betrays the trust of the source that agreed to participate under the condition that you make clear she was not flirting. Let’s not begin with the fact that the details of my sexual assault had been published even though I shared that under the impression that “the lawyer needed it”. The distortion of truth changed the way the dynamic between survivor and rapist was portrayed in that article… in some very impactful ways.
I don’t understand why understanding that suddenly went 360, and you have to make a point to say “factually accurate”.
The concern that journalists in this conversation have for “the precedent” is indifferent to the people who were abused for the sake of these articles. I think you should reflect on that. The lives of the people harmed should matter more to you.
You don’t get to take someone’s humanity away from them, their right to their own story, jeopardize their ability to have justice or a future, and then argue why being held accountable for that sets a bad precedence for journalism.
I’m pointing out this very important thing too…
Much like Cecilia D’anastasio’s thread (in which she called me a liar) and never mentioned my name (I’m reduced to being “the source”) when talking about this, I feel similarly objectified with the distancing language here.
Is this normal for journalists? The distancing language is cold. It’s like taking something very personal, a very deep harm, and abstracting it so you don’t feel so guilty talking about it? You kind of can’t.
I have a name. The people that have to live with this have names. We are human. We have hopes, dreams, aspirations, and feel pain.
We are not something you get to reduce to theory. If you do that, without acknowledging the pain it has caused, you’re just contributing to a status quo that initially robbed us of our truth.
Throughout this discussion, and other discussions shared with me, there’s a fear from journalists about responsibility. That they should be “protected” from the repercussions of what they write about. That might be true if you’re covering politics, scandals between powerful people… but it’s not true when you’re exploiting vulnerable people who already risked everything just to speak up about a powerful person that abused them. You have a responsibility then to protect them.
You don’t own our stories. You don’t have a right to twist our words.
What stings in all this discussion is the fixation on “factually accurate” as if journalists don’t make mistakes, and don’t always have the best intentions when covering this stuff.
The truth mattered to me, more than it did to anyone. I wanted people to know the truth. I wanted factually accurate. That didn’t happen, but I already broke myself trying to get you to understand that.
By now a few people have offered to help, but I ended up being ghosted. Stephen Totilo reached out in that email. I answered, got hope from it that MAYBE something can be done to mitigate the harm, and nothing came of that… Another publication offered help, but backtracked on the offer, and nothing… Another publication also offered but I never heard back.
Before you feel guilty and get defensive: what are you doing to help? I feel like people are lashing out like they want this to “go away” so they don’t have to keep hearing about it… but that’s it. If you shut this conversation down, it’s not going to change for the people that were hurt.
I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention how unrealistic it is to say that I should “get a lawyer”. It’s basically the new “why didn’t you report?”
The last lawyer I needed charged $500 an hour. I am *checks past articles game journalists wrote when they covered my rape* a “small self-proclaimed game developer”. Thanks to some of you being as invalidating as possible for that too, but since you called me that you probably also realize I’m not laughing my way to the bank.
Reflected in the complete lack of empathy, the indifference to how traumatic this all is, most of you making all these arguments come off as incredibly privileged. You will never know how this is like. You will never be held accountable if you do the same to a vulnerable source. You will shrug, make it an ethical discussion, blame the book (or hide behind it), but lost under all the distancing language and theory, you seem incapable of understanding how viscerally abusive this all is. Doing this to a sexual assault survivor (someone that has already been traumatized), expecting them to fight ALL OF IT alone, (ranging from going to the police, seeking justice, talking to journalists, then fighting with journalists…)… Can you please stop? All this is not normal. It’s inhuman. People are not mentally built for that level of stress.
A sexual assault survivor should not have to argue with you, and educate you, on how they deserve to have a future after talking to you.
Journalists have a responsibility to protect vulnerable people. The way you write about this can impact someone’s ability to have a life afterward. It should not cost us a suicide in this space for you to finally acknowledge that.
– – – –
I opened a new blog category called “surviving video game journalism” in which I’m now documenting everything, because I guess arguing that our pain is valid is the new reality for me.
Please delete the article.
– – – –
Update 04/2/2021: The very same week after this, Kotaku published an erroneous article about Halo Infinite being delayed, based on a fake Twitter account that tweeted about the game’s delay. They pulled the article within the day. I feel as sick as I am angry.
This happened right after the journalist wrote the above thread basically arguing against pulling articles. They put my situation on blast in this really invalidating way. I was harassed for it too by their following. I tweeted in my defense, wrote this in my defense, and they ended up blocking me… Thanks for basically dropping a bomb on what’s going to be a two year long fight for me, centering yourself in this, reducing it to “Twitter drama”, and then blocking. (links are shared here for the sake of documenting the nightmare)
For what it’s worth: a survivor has absolutely no right to use their experiences as a survivor to invalidate the fight of another. This coming August I will have been fighting with this for two years. That is a long time to be asking for journalists to care about the harm they have caused. It is also a very long time to have been arguing why my humanity matters and why this very abusive article that sensationalized my rape, and extended the same abuse to the other sources, should come down.
You have no right to take a shit on that by reducing it to nuanced discourse, getting upset when people call you out on it, and then block anyone that doesn’t agree. This was fucked up.
This week has been gutting. I’ve heard nothing but excuses from (too many) journalists as to why this article does not get removed, why it shouldn’t even get removed… why an apology will not happen… or why what Totilo said counts as enough of an apology (honestly I don’t think most of you “discoursing” this read my posts breaking all this down constantly)… but hey! They manage to extend more humanity to a video game.
– – – –
Update 04/19/2021: I’m not sure who needs to hear this because it’s an entirely different outlet, but I think it’s relevant to everything in this post. Vice had deleted TWO articles, within the same week. Links to my tweets on that here and here (for the sake of documenting the nightmare).
I’m adding this update to prove that I’m NOT crazy, and that articles DO get amended and deleted.
At this point I’m hoarding examples to prove that I’m sound of mind. The irony of Vice being the one that does this, so close to Kotaku doing it too, all so close to the above thread (written by a Vice journalist and also ex-Kotaku journalist) which caused a wave of discourse about this situation on how articles don’t really get deleted (for of all sorts of complicated reasons)… is a bit much.
This feels like gaslighting (and please underscore FEEL, so this doesn’t become “another Nathalie Lawhead accusation” from these people). Totilo and D’Anastasio both made a big deal about journalists NOT amending articles. I had to fight with them for almost a week to get the details of my assault removed, then a lot of other humiliating things came out of that (me indirectly being called a liar is a good one to highlight)… then this discourse about the “precedent” and how articles don’t get deleted (by someone formerly sympathetic and aware of this situation too)… It really makes you feel like you’re crazy. It’s fucking inhumane. It’s been impossible to function. Some days I just can’t anymore. They talk about this the same way that rape apologists keep questioning if I got raped. You have to fight on so many levels… It’s a bit much having to argue your humanity with people that built their platforms on social justice issues. It’s all the more humiliating. I keep getting blocked by journalists who want this to go away, or from their fanbases.
I hate how you can drop this bomb on my situation, cause a bunch of harassment for myself too, then block me. The only reason I stood up for myself was because it was causing shit to come my way. It really added to how traumatizing all this is.
Case in point: articles DO get amended AND deleted all the time. I’m not crazy. It’s doable. It’s not hard or nuanced.
Also, lawyers are expensive and so is doing anything legally. That’s not a valid solution to throw at someone saving every penny to invest in their dream.
– – – –
Update Wed, March 5, 2021:
Further documenting this incident…
After what was a pretty vicious attack from the original thread (above), the resulting take from journalists was this.
This was posted after I posted about how much that thread hurt me. It was also generously shared by journalists and their supporters who attacked me, so I don’t see how it was about anyone else.
I’m adding it here because it’s reflective of the larger outlook that journalist have had about any of this. I’m the enemy just for having been placed in a position where I have to stand up for myself, and they couldn’t care less about how much harm they direct to the vulnerable people here when discussing something that’s (despite all the distancing language they use) still about a rape.
Journalists were also retweeting the above take and blocking people who called the person out on how insidious that is. Any criticism of the original thread was shut down, and blocked out.
As of writing this update journalists have taken to mass blocking anyone who has ever retweeted or voiced support for me. In interest of documenting what is going on, here is the tweet to a thread I made about that. Worth mentioning too that the journalist that wrote the above derogatory take retweeted the same take after I made a point to talk about people getting blocked for defending me.
It’s reflective of a stance that most of them have been taking.
Some other supporters had spoken up for me, even after all that, and got blocked for it too. For example, this tweet.
These are the types of takes that people are getting blocked for. I think that speaks volumes to what game journalists actually think about those they have been harming. They paint themselves as the victims. Here is a really great sarcastic excerpt from another blog talking about all of this.
The original thread caused a lot of harassment to come my way. After I stood up for myself, and after this tweet saying how much that hurt me, this is what many of them chose to do.
Vague tweets are particularly manipulative in cases like this because they send harassment toward the person you are talking about, while allowing the journalist who is making those vague tweets to deny what it is about. It’s disgusting. I don’t care how much hate any of them send my way. I WILL keep standing up for myself.
– – – –
Update Saturday October 16, 2021:
I would like this to be my last update to this post.
Since the abusive article was removed, the narrative created by journalists like Gita Jackson and their circle remained. I still get harassed over this, so I created this thread to show some of the receipts and proof that it was them that dunked on my situation, publicly ridiculed this, and abusively subtweeted about it.
I never directly “harassed” any journalist here (except those specifically responsible for my abuse). I never directly tweeted at any of these people. Anytime I said something at them it was to respond to what was usually something abusive sent my way.
I believe that they intentionally fueled controversy about this so they could get me to stop by making a narrative that I was “unhinged” and that my supporters were out of control. I have a record of pretty much everything Tweeted in support of me and I see no proof to support that narrative (that journalists were getting relentlessly attacked and this was another “gamergate”).
Even if this was not the intention, this was the effect.
Record of all their tweets has been deleted since, even those from their friend circle that dogpiled on me and reported my account, which I think is dishonest at this point.
Following is the link to this thread:
if this bullshit is still the going narrative then i’m posting all the receipts because that’s absolutely not what happened.
you all subtweeted me, sent your following at me, and when some of *your own* following called you out on it you made a big deal about getting “harassed” pic.twitter.com/qQvF7f124W
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) August 15, 2021
for example, here is more, way after, and it kept happening, and whenever threads like this went up people like this would attack me and harass me over it.
this shit surrounded all this: https://t.co/dv761aEobr pic.twitter.com/xZ2OdT4yK2
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) September 18, 2021
i'm going to share this here because a lot of these sentiments have really gotten to me and i need to say something.
this sort of thing was victim blaming on a very massive scale… pic.twitter.com/yytJnlRCLg
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) September 18, 2021
i still don't get how i was supposed to behave. i was getting attacked by dangerous parts of the internet. threatened regularly. my mom had to vet my emails… then on this side (journalism & game devs) you all were nitpicking why it's ok not to help or how i was "doing it wrong" pic.twitter.com/mp3GXmCLgz
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) September 18, 2021
i'm adding this thread here because it proves that i'm not crazy or the only one that saw thishttps://t.co/nN7CHikxUV
here is the screenshot being referred to, and it came up THE SAME DAY that my sister posted the call to email the Editorial Director at G/O Media. pic.twitter.com/3X2TG0U4ep
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) September 21, 2021
i share that because that's the context coming from my side…
when i was blocked tweets like this went up and were generously retweeted by this journalist, their peers, and their following: pic.twitter.com/CICiGuyJ8T
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) September 21, 2021
I would like to put this behind me, and hope that this is enough of a record to show how abusive journalists in general have been (the Kotaku, Vice, and some of the Waypoint crowd). I feel like it’s OK to name names at this point because me trying to take the “high road” and be unspecific didn’t seem to make much of a difference anyway (as I did when I had to fight for myself).