For the last year I have been daily Tweeting at Kotaku, asking for accountability for how they treated me and other sexual assault survivors for their stories.
I’ve gone over this so often. I’m on repeat. I’ve written blog post after blog post carefully explaining the situation. Showing proof of what was done in the form of screenshots. Sharing the account of others abused by this same journalist. Explaining that this nearly killed people. The harm that it caused to those vulnerable people exploited… Over and over and over again. I don’t know how else to say this.
It placed us in danger, and that should matter to you.
For context, I’m posting these screenshots of an older thread going over this…
I patiently waited for a year, hoping that something in terms of accountability, apology, making this right to us… would happen.
Last week it finally did, but in a way that’s as self-serving as game journalism can be, when Cecilia D’Anastasio posted a thread calling me a liar, centering herself in the situation, and talked about how hard the inconvenience has been to her.
I will share this thread later in this post, and answer each point.
In terms of my situation, you can read more below, and I really suggest you do because I went through effort to prove everything, show everything, go over everything…
All these posts ultimately ask for accountability.
That things be made right to the people harmed.
I do not believe that this is hard.
I think it is harder to fight me on this because I’m willing to fight until there is nothing left of me.
To me, this was the straw that broke the camels back in a very long story of abuse.
It is on loop… A famous, influential, and powerful person does something, and the person harmed is expected to roll over again and again and again and again… until there is nothing left of them. Until they leave the industry or burn out. Until they just vanish.
I don’t want to vanish, and you need to take this serious for once.
I do not see any other option but to maintain this course of asking for accountability.
Without accountability there will never be healing.
Before I get into what happened this week, I would also like to highlight this post by Brendan Vance: Launder Launder Launder, Win Win Win
Quoting from it:
“I assure you, reader: I truly had no desire to author this pile of agony. I waited more than a year, drafting & deleting, hoping for qualified journo-type media people to step up for this ‘profession’ they say they have. I fucking waited respectfully for the supposed adults in this room to justify their own influence, & y’know what? Nobody did. Nobody with power tried to make anything happen for my colleague, & Jeremy Soule + Boss Guys are all uncontested right now (in my fucking city no less). So here I am, with my dark & damning words. D’Anastasio may have kissed one specific R. Kelly-ish ass in 2019 with help from a lot of her associates, but winnerdom in general did worse (informers + entertainers, influencers, game executives, industry organizations etc): Those folks managed to lick boot effusively for a year.
I’m sorry, but because I waited y’all earn the complimentary upgrade from “ass kissing” into “bootlicking”. My peers within game-making watched you bootlick all day for a year. My game-playing friends watched you bootlick all day for a year. My non-commercial game crit friends watched you bootlick all day for a year. We see what work you’re achieving on Boss Guy’s behalf, & of course it’s gonna be as legal + professional as you designate it to be. But when it comes to real notions of ‘being independent’ & ‘having credibility’, I gotta ask: Who do you think you’re fooling, besides each other?”
This piece is THE ONLY post that truly captured my entire situation for how he read everything I wrote, and took care to represent the entire thing right (ranging from the sexual assault, abusive work conditions, labor exploitation, and how the media took advantage of it).
There’s a lot you could quote from it. It’s relatable. It’s more than just my story. It’s the story of many people here, and at some point enough is enough.
Following is Cecilia’s thread…
WIRED and Kotaku staff threw their weight behind it. Some notable figures, celebrities, and influencers also shared it in support of her.
My response is the following…
I stand by my account of what happened to me.
I stand by what I said as truth.
I was taken advantage of by this person. It has placed me in danger.
Furthermore, the way she has responded to all this (ranging from me initially reaching out to her asking for her help in removing the details of my assault, which she was not willing to do because “journalists don’t change articles once they are up”), to the way she continues to treat this has been deeply harmful.
In this post I offer an anonymized account from other survivors that she has harmed. I am, by far, not the only person she has done this to.
She built her career on these stories, and then kicked us to the curb when she was done.
It is also important to highlight that, the way WIRED staff (editors, writers), and Kotaku staff, all closed ranks around her, and supported a thread in which she called me a liar, will have consequences to me fighting my rapist if and when he surfaces.
This brings my legitimacy into question. It is something that I predicted in this post when I say:
“A sexual assault survivor is easy prey for a journalist. We are already in a very vulnerable position in terms of people not believing us, fighting the person we spoke out against, and the trashfire it turns your life into… It is far too easy for someone to come in and take advantage of that.
After all, we would be idiots if we spoke out about the abusive journalist RIGHT AFTER speaking out about rape. Who in their right mind would believe us now? Surely we must get off on outing people, right?
These (survivors) are people, that have been preyed on, who do not have big fancy platforms that will throw their support behind them. They are “small”, vulnerable, and don’t have the ability to speak up more. They do not have your “clout”.
This is not excusable behavior. Our safety should matter to you more than writing your ideal article. Our safety should matter more than discussions about on and off the record. Our safety should matter more than the clout you get from writing about this.”
You are thinking only about yourself when you center yourself in this, make it about your own hurt feelings, and ask your famous peers to support you.
You could just as easily have apologized for all the harm, and asked your famous peers to help fix things for those harmed.
You caused harm. It almost killed people. It was deeply brutal. It left very public scars that some of us still deal with. You do not get to complain that it is hard for you.
I have been asking for accountability for over a year. That you care about the people you hurt and make this right. That you apologize.
What you did with this, the way you handled it, further perpetuates this harm.
You cannot say that you “believe victims” only when it is convenient to you, your career, your stories, and then walk back on that when it no longer suits you.
None of the editors at WIRED that support this, or the people at Kotaku, get to say “believe victims” when you all only use that as a means to an end.
Our stories do not belong to you. You have no right to be this dishonest when you write about us, and then expect us to just be ok with the way you’ve exploited that.
There has not been an exhaustive accountability process. Cecilia reached out to Aeralie and Aeralie told her that she was not happy with how we were treated.
Stephen Totilo reached out too, and Aeralie did not talk to him. You did not talk to the people you hurt. How exactly did you investigate this?
It is not “unbiased” when you launch an investigation into yourself, and make the conclusion that you want to hear.
When I came forward with what Cecilia first did to me, other survivors of her reporting approached me. None of them were happy. It caused them harm too. I am not the only one.
This is exhausting, and if you read my writing you would know why I “thanked you”.
I trusted you. I didn’t read the post until I started to get harassed for it, Aeralie told me how she was treated, and heard what you said to another source… I read it after that. I was shocked to see what you did.
I was misquoted as calling him “something of a mentor” when I was very clear that he was a friend. There was no mentoring dynamic. I am not in music. He has no experience in the field that I was there for. The “mentor” dynamic, however, was that of other sources that you talked to. You should have attributed that quote to them, instead of inventing this narrative about me.
I went over that HERE, and HERE.
You do not get to use your own trauma as an excuse to harm others, or hide the harm that you caused.
For example, I will be vague but the following is an important dynamic that is far too common…
Last year an influential figure that is known for being a feminist, and advocating for women’s self defense, was outed as a predator on a social media site.
One woman spoke up representing her own experience, and the experience of some friends.
It took two days for the person that was outed to completely bury this by reaching out to all his friends, asking them to advocate for him.
A number of women advocated in support of him too.
Some of the women said that they themselves were survivors of sexual assault, and used that to invalidate the claims because the woman coming forward just “didn’t sound legit”, and he was an ally that treated them well, so it just can’t be true.
This is that same thing. Just because you’ve experienced it doesn’t mean that you get to extend harm to others.
Empathetic did not happen to any of us either. If you read my writing on this you see why. If you were sincere in doing better you would take that to heart and apologize. Not bring further ruin to the person harmed.
You successfully did that. This is “centering” yourself.
Getting your influential friends to share this is also that.
If you cared you would hold yourself accountable for the harm you have caused to others.
We were exploited. Our safety and boundaries were not respected. It placed us in danger. This should matter to any journalist covering metoo stories.
This thread was my response
I am telling the truth.
I have published what she did TO OTHERS. I have shared SCREENSHOTS of what she has done TO OTHERS. I am NOT THE ONLY ONE THIS WAS DONE TO.
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) January 4, 2021
Either way… other journalists, and peers, spoke in support of Cecilia. For example:
Ironically enough the later has this as a pinned Tweet.
This is my statement to those people:
The people harmed by Cecilia D’Anastasio do not care about how “nice”, “professional”, or “kind” she was to you. We do not care about how much “integrity” you think she has because we did not experience that side of her.
She was not “nice” when she placed us in danger. There was no “professionalism” in the way I, or others, were treated.
We have to live with the consequences. You don’t.
Perpetuating abuse is this exact sentiment: “The abuser was nice to me / never gave me a black eye / never raped me / never made me feel uncomfortable / so I do not see why you would say that about them.”
My abusive bosses said the very same thing about my rapist. This, this very thing that you are now participating in, is rape culture. You are protecting the person that exploited survivors, for your own gains. You are promoting the narrative that the only one dumb enough to say something about it is lying.
Both my rapist and Cecilia will benefit from this.
This is why survivors stay silent. I would expect someone with a feminist pro-survivor platform to understand that dynamic.
This Friday, Stephen Totilo reached out to me. I share this for the sake of transparency, and as an update to my situation:
Following is my response:
I am still waiting for a response.
These are the actionable things that I want done.
Like I said, this isn’t just about me. This harm was extended to other survivors as well. This is not OK and the way this continues to get treated is not OK.
I don’t expect much to come from it. These people are powerful. They control the press. They create narratives. I fully realize and have fully experienced the way they cover for eachother, or weave narratives that best suit them. I have little to no faith that anything good will come of this.
“The game we’re really playing is “Boss Guy vs. everyone”, and I know y’all knew this already. Every person here needs to start respecting a certain code. Never treat somebody the way Boss Guy wants you to treat them! That’s just obvious. If you’re sent to our community to do some dirty job, notify us about your asshole Boss Guy’s assholes motives (just like I do whenever I’m explaining to uni kids that the game industry isn’t made of fucking rainbows). Be responsible to the people around you, not to the Boss Guys above you.
This is solidarity 101, which no one in our story manages to exhibit at all. Kotaku screwed over a small gamemaker, & did so for the benefit of some rich asshole Boss Guys (& all the powerful faces in all the powerful positions called it nothing except 100% legal + professional).
Why? You’re hurting yourselves too. You’re hurting everyone.”
In my last post I say that I feel like I am fighting for my life. I still am. This feels like dying slowly.
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
When Cecilia posted her thread a lot of other people voiced support for me, such as Anita Sarkeesian, and Austin Walker.
As precious as that is, and as touched as I am, I also very much fear that support will continue to stay hollow. Our system in this industry isn’t built to help people. It’s built for gestures, and saying “we have to do better”, and then just moving on to the next time someone gets hurt…
When I came forward about my rape, and now after this, I’ve seen some of the same people that said they stand by victims (and retweeted my rape story), throw me under the bus. Solidarity, allyship, is a dance of convenience. It’s a badge worn by people to signal that they are cool, safe… so they can exploit the most vulnerable here.
I am staring into a black hole that I know will eat me because I’ve turned over every possible stone, asked too many that told me “if you need anything from me, let me know” for help, only to see more of the same: silence.
I am not willing to burn out, leave, or give up either because that would mean Cecilia D’Anastasio and Jeremy Soule, and all my abusive bosses, would win. It would prove them right. They would be able to fully control the narrative then.
Because of this, I would rather maintain the current trajectory of being a pain in the ass.
I’m not the one that needs to stop, that needs to see the “reality” of the situation, or hear the “take” that you have about all this. I get it.
We get raped. They protect the rapists. We speak up. They take advantage of our rape in the way our stories get told. In many ways it’s worst than the actual rape.
Then they continue to cover for eachother.
You kill us too slowly.
So I mean it when I say: I want accountability.