i am still asking @kotaku, and game journalism, to please care about this.
your treatment of sexual assault survivors (the vulnerable people you said you "believe" and "stand by") almost killed people.
you have ignored it to no end.
even when i gave you actionable things to do- https://t.co/OwuWrk8MSH pic.twitter.com/sagufCh2Nr
— Nathalie Lawhead (@alienmelon) February 5, 2021
Gonna vomit. pic.twitter.com/oj7cCg1CBb
— No Escape from Shitposting (@noescapevg) February 5, 2021
This post is a reaction to the news of Stephen Totilo’s leaving Kotaku, and why everything about how Kotaku, Totilo, and game journalism, has treated this situation is beyond… words.
I write this because writing is all I can do to fight any of this, at this point.
Sometime last month Totilo reached out to me asking what they could do to ease the harm done. I answered with specific actionable things to do.
Following is the letter:
This letter offers plenty of context about the situation, so I will not be going over the summary again.
It is important to me, however, that you please read my open letter to game journalists because it offers insights into how I was treated by all these people.
The email is also shared in this post where I addressed D’Anastasio’s calling me a liar.
What I asked for is simple. I believe that further ignoring this is more of a power move than a simple oversight.
You offered to help. You reached out. You instilled hope, just to further ignore this.
Please do not say that he missed this email. I asked someone to follow up with him on my behalf.
Totilo ignored this.
I would also like to add that Totilo has been well aware of what I have been asking for, for much longer than my email to him last month.
Sometime last year someone in connection with Kotaku reached out to me and asked me what I would like them to do. I told them that I want the post to be deleted. This is a specific actionable request that they (and Totilo) have been aware of.
People have also been tweeting at Totilo. At this point it would be very wrong to tell me that he “might have missed it” or that I was not clear enough.
I kept track of all my tweets here. Go ahead and scroll though it to get a feel for the volume at which I have been asking.
I also understand that Tortilo has said that they “improved the process” for covering sexual assault stories.
I think it is unconscionable that you think “improving” a process, moving forward, is enough. If you truly cared about the survivors that your journalism has harmed, you would have addressed the harm you caused in the past.
We have to live with what you did. The scar that this creates on our lives is no different than the scar that the actual assault has created.
I wish you would understand that. You are clearly too self-involved to really care beyond using the trauma here to boost your own platform.
“If you’re an editor-in-chief or really any kind of Boss Guy, you always enjoy the privilege of dictating your intentions after the fact. You can choose any excuse for why this article fucks up Lawhead’s intro: Maybe it needed to be ‘really focused on the issue!’, or maybe it needed to be ‘unbiased from the PoV of our readers!’. Okay then, Boss Guy: What’s our justification for this Jeremy Soule sentence? Why is it I’ve been made to read all about the boring soundtracks mister rapist guy “helmed” in his career (allegedly)?”
Kotaku, Totilo, and D’Anastasio, have been aware of my year-long crying into the void, asking for accountability.
Anyone at Kotaku could have done something. Totilo certainly should have.
They chose to ignore this.
Ignoring this, and now him stepping down without ever addressing this, is well beyond dehumanizing.
It is an exercise of power. It is privileged. It is you all being able to extend very visceral harm to vulnerable people, and then moving on from that, even collecting awards for it.
In the Just Add Monsters Podcast that I was on, where I went over this situation, one of the hosts said that there are “checks and balances” in place for holding journalists accountable (such as editors… I paraphrase this, you can listen to the podcast here, please don’t misconstrue this as criticism of the host or the podcast. I am grateful of their support, but try to make an important point…).
This comment was in terms of not “going after” journalists because others in the profession (editors) can hold them accountable.
I bring this up because I absolutely do not believe (not anymore) that there are any “checks or balances”, or care for mitigating harm, when any of you (editors and journalists) cover abuse here.
This is not something I, or many other survivors here, have exactly experienced.
Maybe you believe that you are doing great. Maybe you think the system is OK. Maybe you will go on to blame the system if you hurt someone. After all, the system suits you. You can both use it to protect yourself and hide behind it, just as much as you use it to harm.
I think it is fundamentally immoral to hurt vulnerable people like this and then move on to blame the system. You are the system. You could have, at any point, chosen not to do the harmful thing, but you did it anyway.
You also could have, at any fucking point, chosen to make this right, but you chose to ignore it.
Who will protect us from you? Throughout all this you have demonstrated that you can do whatever you want, and you will protect each other for it.
A while ago D’Anastasio wrote a thread calling me a liar, and bemoaning how hard this has been for her… That she would just like to move on from this.
I addressed all that in this post. You should go read that please.
But I think the way you all closed ranks around her was particularly sadistic.
Here are some examples…
You are aware that a sexual assault survivors has been placed in danger because of this reporting.
You are aware that a sexual assault survivor has been tweeting DAILY, asking you for literally the bare minimum of fucks to be given, doing right by this, fixing the situation… any effort would be more than what I have been given…
You are aware of the harm this has caused to myself and others.
Instead you have done nothing. You have watched. Then you defend her.
In my writing, I gave proof. I showed screenshots. D’Anastasio has never issued proof outside of asking to take her word for it and getting her peers to say how “nice” of a person she is.
When I asked Totilo for copies of the recordings they refused to give them to me.
I am not the only one hurt by this. I would expect someone that loves journalism, that loves the truth, to care about that. You should be passionate about the effect your writing has had on your sources. You should care if someone says “hey publishing this was against my wishes and placed me in danger” or “hey you misquoted me”.
You obviously don’t. Throughout this, you have acted like you own our stories.
Another survivor that came forward around the same time that I did, shared how horrible it has been to have to follow up with journalists to get them to fix basic mistakes in their reporting of her sexual assault. She shared that the way reporting has been treated was often worst than the actual rape. I will not be linking to this out of respect to her.
The very same has been my experience, and the experience of others here.
I have heard too many of these stories, coming from the other side of your reporting.
How much it has harmed a survivor. How much added work it is to survive your idea of journalism.
You have the power to do better. To be responsible. What I have been asking for has not even been a massive ask. “Doing better” can be as simple as asking for permission to cover something (No. You have not. At least D’Anastasio and Kotaku largely haven’t).
“Doing better” is as simple as going back and fixing your mistakes.
None of this has been happening.
Instead you close ranks, and protect those responsible of very obviously abusing their platform and using their power to harm us.
“Getting Kotaku to remove the details of my assault has been soul crushing.”
“I quoted four sentences from her answer in my article. You can read them. My editor and I later discussed keeping the description vague enough to respect Nathalie’s wishes while also offering important clarification on her allegations. Those four sentences were given on the record with informed consent.”
In reply to her Twitlong, and her thread where she calls me a liar, I think it’s important to point out that bickering about on and off the record, and bickering about how perfect your journalism is, is pointless if it has caused harm.
I am telling the truth. I told the truth when I first came forward, and then about this.
Aeralie has had the same experience with her. I shared what D’Anastasio has done to others too. I have offered evidence.
D’Anastasio knew what she was doing when she chose to include these details without my consent. She knew what she was doing when she hounded other survivors, twisted words, pushed us into talking, and nearly caused suicide attempts with her behavior.
You cannot do this to people, so knowingly, and then blame the system.
The system serves you. The system protects you. The system has awarded you. You benefit from that system. You know what you are doing.
I have been asking for accountability, everyday, for a whole year. People on the inside have brought this to the attention of Totilo. This is not something any of you have been unaware of.
Instead I have been ignored, blocked, banned, argued with, seen too many conversations bringing my mental health into question, talking about how selfish I am, talking about how I should just move on…
You journalists, D’Anastasio included, complain about how you often get death threats and harassment. What do you think we have been getting?
I approached her asking for help. I told her that including the details of my sexual assault was bringing rape fetishists into my life. I asked her about amending the article.
She told me that they don’t amend articles once they get published, and offered to “give advice” on how to deal with the harassment. Advice is not something I need. You need to work to fixing what you broke, and that included amending the article without complaining about how I might not understand journalism.
I got largely brushed off when asking for help with this. Then you complain about your own harassment?
There’s something wrong with this picture when journalists get to complain about getting harassment, death threats (all the colorful stuff that minorities here get just by virtue of being who they are), and then you go on to bring the very same into the lives of those you write about… but you don’t really care about that do you? You write your story, publish it, then forget about it. You couldn’t care less about what it does to people, even when they reach out to you for help.
My year long begging you for help kind of proves that.
“What is important to observe here is how “out of touch” journalism has been when writing about this. Have any of you, that pushed the narrative of “a guy died because of this” or that called what I came forward with “sexual harassment”, actually read my post?
It felt like, after the tone shifted from supportive, to essentially blaming a person’s death on this, like you created your own echocamber that had less and less to do with the reality of what happened, and more to do with outdoing eachother.”
These articles still get written. The narrative that “I came forward, then this abuser killed himself” is carved into the story of “metoo” in games. This is something you all chose to popularize, and sensationalize, even though the abuser’s suicide had nothing to do with my own story. There are countless other narratives that you could have chosen, but you chose the one that further solidifies victim blaming.
This (“Nathalie caused a suicide when they came forward”) comes up often when writing about metoo. I don’t want to go through the effort of digging up screenshots and showing you, because, to be frank, I don’t think any of you even care. I don’t even think those of you that are responsible will read this.
I tweet that I feel like I’m slowly drowning. I tweet that “I can’t breathe”, and people will tell me that I am doing something like appropriating “black lives matter rhetoric” when talking about this. I say that I want to die. You tell me that I’m weaponizing my mental health. I talk about the harm it has caused. You tell me that I’m using my platform to harass journalists and go so far as to try to say I’m “gamergate”.
I say that I want accountability. You say that I’m not specific enough.
I go on to be specific, then you say that I was too slow in being specific, or that the editor might not have seen my email… I have heard nothing but excuses.
I think the reality of this situation is that I’m the person you all chose to sacrifice. You are ok with this killing someone. It’s “just the cost of business”, isn’t it?
Learn from it. Move on. Do better next time… but to hell with doing better for the people you already hurt. Why “go back” and fix things for them? You have the power, platform, privilege, and connections to ignore this. You can even call them a liar.
“There’s a special phrase in game journalism for when you fuck up the entire thing: You say ‘it was 100% legal + professional!’, then you go deposit your salary.”
When I came forward that August, it inspired many others to do the same. It caused a wave. You called it a “moment”. That in itself should illustrate the way you view the pain here. It’s a tiny “blip”, a trend to write about and then move on from. You don’t really see the humans here. That “moment” is a reality for many. I am still dealing with the consequences of your “moment”. Others are too.
– Quoted from the Kotaku article, which I am not linking to
Aeralie told me that she was not flirting with him. Aeralie’s condition for being part of that article was that D’Anastasio make a point to say that she was not flirting and share the text transcripts (so that people see that it was not flirting). D’Anastasio agreed to those conditions.
This did not happen. The article underlines that it was flirty.
I have gone over this so often. I’m sick of going over it. (You are free to read this post and this post)…
I say this because the way this article chose to frame us has had consequences on us. Other places picked up Kotaku’s article and also quoted that it was “flirting”. Again, Aeralie was not flirting.
The writing in this article is malicious to the rapist’s survivors.
He was not my mentor. He was my peer and friend. You painted it in a light that gave people the impression that I was there by choice. Maybe I wanted it.
We talked to Kotaku under the impression that all of our stories would be heard. That the power dynamic be given justice. That the reporter would go over how he used apps to cover his tracks, how he was pushy, and inserted himself into professional situations… there were many sources ready to do that.
We were treated deeply unprofessionally. The resulting article is an embarrassment, and it’s even more embarrassing that you people “stand by your reporting” on it.
I’d really like to know: What are we to you?
When did we stop being human to you?
Why does our safety matter so little?
Why does our truth mean nothing?
Is it really OK that this kills someone?
Nobody follows up with us after you’ve taken advantage of us. You don’t hear how survivors have to weather the storm that you create for us.
It’s not enough that we have to deal with the fallout in our own lives, and professional lives, from just the fact of coming forward about who our rapist is… you make things worst by preying on us too.
If your reporting were justified, ethical, and “good”, you wouldn’t hear how we have to go and fix your messes. Contact people and get articles amended. Issue public corrections in hopes that people will hear.
After D’Anastasio’s thread about “my allegations about her”, someone else tweeted their experience at me. I looked into it. What struck me about this again, is that the person also had to issue public comments correcting the framing of the article, or elaborating on their situation because her writing on it wasn’t fair to them.
Why the fuck is this so normal?
I understand that now would be the time that you hide behind “but we have to be unbiased”. I have absolutely not seen “unbiased” in any of this.
What is “unbiased” about drumming up the accomplishments of my rapist, and invalidating mine?
What is “unbiased” about misquoting me, and saying “flirting” when neither of these reflect the truth?
I use examples from my own story, but there are countless others from the experiences of survivors here.
I would love to see “unbiased” from you people.
At least we would stand a chance of getting the truth spoken, because the abusers that you have covered, especially when you basically defended my rapist with your wording, are fairly horrible people. They make themselves look bad.
The rapists and predators here do not need your help in cleaning up their public image when you write about them.
I’m at a lack of words at this point.
I have waited, hoping that someone would say something.
That the article would just fucking go away because it’s such a sloppy, dishonest, poorly written thing to have put out there to begin with. Even that’s “asking for too much”.
I think, this entire situation, from beginning to end, has demonstrated how little our lives mean to you.
We are nothing to you. You couldn’t care less.
What we are to you is a juicy fucking story. Something to milk. A notch to put under your belt. Something juicy that gets you those clicks and that acclaim. Something you can forward to prospective employers for the next job, to show how “good” your exploitation is.
I wrote about what D’Anastasio did to others in this post. What I think is particularly vicious about that is that she tweeted out exactly that story, when making a “solidarity” tweet during another metoo wave in games.
This is a story that nearly killed someone. This is one where it’s hard to call this “ethical” if you talk to the victims… but here we are. Using it as an example of “good journalism” even though it nearly killed a survivor.
That’s what game journalism is tho, isn’t it?
Just like our abuser, you get to do whatever you want and get away with it. You get protected for it.
If you don’t like how this sounds, please prove me wrong by pulling your head out of your ass and doing something.
You are no different than the abusers that you cover.
You had an opportunity to make this better for a very long time. You could have, at any point, worked to fix the harm that you have caused.
You very clearly demonstrated that you do not care to do that.
Actions speak louder than words. There have been no actions.
So here is another one of these posts… There are many. I’ve gutted myself in every way that I possibly can to try to get you people to care about this.
I hear stories like how someone that stood up for me on the Waypoint discord got booted for it. The invalidating language you use when you “poke holes” into my behavior. How I should have asked differently, been more specific, how I’m obviously “in pain” so maybe I don’t know better… I am so fucking sick you your excuses.
You can and should do better.
“Doing better” means fucking action.
I am asking for the following…
I want BOTH of those fucking articles to be deleted. I want the one deleted that I and Aeralie were exploited over. I want the other one deleted that caused the suicide attempt, because if your reporting almost killed a vulnerable person it should not fucking exist in the world. It should not be another public scar for the survivor to have to live with.
I would go so far as to ask for an apology, a public recognition of the harm, but hey… I get that this is asking for too much from a group of “professionals” that can’t even refrain from calling my rapist “a legend”.
(Yes, I know I said that when I called him out, but I was being sarcastic. I didn’t think you would be free PR for him.)
I will do the following going forward (until I get accountability)…
I will continue to tweet, asking for accountability, because I have no other choice.
If you have the courtesy of reading all my writing, as well as that email to Tortilo, you will understand why. The way you people have handled this impacts my future. It also does to others you have hurt.
If Kotaku gets shut down, I will continue to ask game journalism at large for accountability.
I say this fully understanding that you all will continue to ignore this, but holding onto hope that maybe one of you will actually care.
I will not stop until this harm gets acknowledged. You owe us that. We gave you your Juicy Story after all.
“Sometime later, you excuse yourself once more. The night has dragged on, and there are still so many people here. Suddenly, you hear a scream. You turn around, and there is the partygoer you saw crying alone outside earlier. They are sitting on the floor in the middle of the party space, and they scream again. Nobody from the main group, in fact, nobody at all, comes to check on them, to see if they’re okay. They scream again. And a fourth time. By scream number five, you see their eyes searching the room. They lock eyes with yours, expectant. You panic. Should you help them? Nobody else seems particularly bothered. You really just got here, is it really your business? Then, they are looking elsewhere. You hear yourself exhaling. A new friend from the main group tells you not to worry about it. Drama.
The screaming, crying partier slowly picks themselves up and trudges back outside.
Someone in the circle says, this just happens from time to time. You get used to it.”
In the post “IN THE LAND OF ENDLESS GREED” by No Escape, the author paints an acurate picture of the situation common in the game industry.
Survivors here scream endlessly into the void for help. Trying to get people to understand that a person, institition, company, artist (any scale really), is abusive. That they have been hurt. That someone here is dangerous and is creating victims.
Nobody really hears. It’s boiled down to “discourse” and made fun of as “just the current talking point”.
When D’Anastasio wrote that godawful thread, and many voiced support for me, I saw a tweet from someone complaining about feeling pressured to “pick a side” and condemn the “awful person”. These types of “don’t make me get involved, ugh!” threads come up whenever someone is basically fighting for their life.
When I came forward about my sexual assault, and it started that wave of others coming forward, there was a popular thread at the time basically saying “I’m tired of hearing about all the bad men. Please reply with an experience with a nice man in games!”.
This is our common “insider club” reaction to these things. It’s an inconvenience to hear about it. We just want these fucking pathetic survivors to shut up so we can go back to feeling cool about reading Kotaku and playing that video game by that rapist.
Throughout my entire career, and throughout trying to help others fighting with predators, I have never once seen an abuser be held accountable to the extent that the survivor that spoke up gets “held accountable”.
Abusers get platformed after the fact. We treat the person that spoke up as some kind of inconvenience. We want to think they are a liar because we need the abuser. We ice out the survivor and they eventually disapear.
I talked about this dynamic so much. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of writing about this. I’m sick of wanting to die. I want to die because I see no other “out”. How else will I look at it? I have been yelling about this for an entire year, asking for the simplest actions, and… nothing. You would rather call me a liar and close ranks around the abuser. This dynamic happens again, and again, and again…
I would like you, whoever reads this, to understand the concepts of solidarity. This is what we need here.
When someone was hurt, it affects everyone. When you let an abuser function in a space to the extent that they have the power and platform to continue hurting people, you are helping them hurt people.
Our inability to act… no, our UNWILLINGNESS to act is hurting us all.
If this was an industry actually built on community, and if journalism actually ascribed to prinicples of ethics, a sexual assault survivor would not be left to crying into the void for a whole year. I would not have to educate you, and argue with you, about how harmful this reporting has been. I would not have to beg for something ANYTHING to be done. I would not be placed in a position where I have to argue about “fair use”, “on or off the record”, or that I did not have a “pleasant experience” with the abusive journalist.
Believing survivors, standing by survivors, isn’t a slogan that you use just to inflate your brand. It should mean something.
“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.”
It’s not enough anymore to say “we have to do better”.
When are you going to do it?
You can and should do better.
“Doing better” means fucking action.