More Corroboration of Shermer Groping Incident

[Late note: This post now makes it clear that Grothe’s intervention was successful in stopping the grope from being completed, taking this incident from assault and battery to just assault. See the comments for my thoughts on why the language used likely led to an assumption otherwise. –SZ]

Someone else stepped forward to say that they’ve been aware of the incident with Shermer groping a female TAM speaker (though not at TAM) for a couple of years. It isn’t anyone you’d expect it to be.

Screen cap of Facebook comment. Text provided in the post.

Barbara A. Drescher: Okay, people. Something occurred to me this morning that is a likely reason Carrie restricted her FB account. I’m sure that someone pointed out to her how easy it is to show that what she’s doing is driving by a personal vendetta and not concern for women or victims.

It IS easy. Just think about the incident she’s leaning on (the groping — hey, we could call this “gropegate”, but DON’T), who witnessed it, when it happened, and who organized the next TAM. HINT: it wasn’t D.J. But if D.J. is a misogynist, then so is anyone else who invited Shermer after witnessing the incident. In fact, according to everything said by that camp, so is anyone who invited Shermer after HEARING about the incident.

(FTR, the alleged victim described the incident to me herself a couple of years ago; it’s not the big secret that Carrie is making it out to be. It just hasn’t shown up in a blog post with names attached.)

The comment thread is here. It is a long trip down a deep rabbit hole, particularly toward the end. What stands out to me, as jaded as I’ve gotten on this topic, is that the people commenting there think this is helping…something…somehow.

So that’s two people who have heard a witness describe the sexual assault in question and one person who says the person who was alleged to have been sexually assaulted agrees that it happened. Both the witness and the person to whom the victim spoke are what I would qualify as hostile in this case.

What more evidence do you think people will require?

More Corroboration of Shermer Groping Incident
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19 thoughts on “More Corroboration of Shermer Groping Incident

  1. 1

    So, Ms Drescher confirms in the parenthetical aside that she knew about the incident, and yet continues with her assertion that Carrie Poppy is bringing it up out of some personal vendetta?

    That’s pretty seriously screwed up on some fundamental level.

  2. 3

    Ha, it isn’t real proof until DJ, Shermer, and the woman involved all sign a document stating exactly what happened. And it needs to be signed and witnessed by Jesus and Richard Dawkins Himself. In triplicate.

  3. 4

    I suspect we’d need to know more about the incident than is publicly available to follow her argument. She seems to think that pointing out something about the organizer could prove this isn’t a personal vendetta against Shermer and the fact she doesn’t shows it is. Perhaps there would be a way this would make sense if I knew who she was talking about, this might make sense in some way, but I don’t see how.

    My immediate reaction would be that giving any more information would risk revealing the victim’s identity, which the victim doesn’t want to happen. For outsiders like us folk, I can see how that might cause doubts, but since she already knows who the victim is, I don’t see why it would matter to her.

  4. 5

    I tried reading more of that cesspool of a thread, and my brain started to hurt. Ms Drescher has confirmed that DJ Grothe did witness the groping in question, and that Carrie Poppy is not lying or making things up…and yet she and others continue to argue that Ms. Poppy is not only speaking about this as part of a “vendetta” against Grothe, but that she and others who voice concerns about this sort of thing (like our hostess, Stephanie Zvan) are “morally bankrupt” for some reason, because…umm…because why?

  5. 6

    Ace @4 and Flewellyn @5,

    I think the argument is in this part:

    who witnessed it, when it happened, and who organized the next TAM. HINT: it wasn’t D.J. But if D.J. is a misogynist, then so is anyone else who invited Shermer after witnessing the incident.

    In other words, “you’re attacking D.J. when you should be attacking person X, who is the person who invited Shermer to the next TAM after this incident.”

    Not sure if person X is supposed to be Phil Plait or Randi (meaning that the incident preceded Grothe’s tenure), or if it’s supposed to be a JREF staffer responsible for TAM. Without knowing any of the background here, I suspect the former, because surely even Grothe’s defenders aren’t seriously going to claim that he had no control over who his subordinates invited to TAM.

    Even assuming the implied facts are right, I think the argument is still kind of a non sequitur. My understanding is that this latest discussion came up in the context of Carrie Poppy’s tweet about TAM not being safe for women. And if the JREF has continued to invite to TAM someone they knew or should have known was a harasser, then that’s a fair statement regardless of which specific people at that organization are to blame.

    Naturally some exasperation is being expressed at Grothe in light of this new revelations (well, new to some of us, I guess), because:
    1) Regardless of who was responsible for past decisions, Grothe is in charge of the organization now, and he needs a better reason to invite a harasser to TAM than “well, as an organization we’ve consistently turned a blind eye to him in the past, so why change now?”
    2) Grothe has loudly and publicly insisted that TAM is perfectly safe, there’s nothing to worry about, anyone saying otherwise is just a lying dramablogger out to destroy him/TAM/the JREF, etc.

  6. 7

    The JREF and many of their supporters have a siege mentality. They believe that they are under siege from the forces of “woo”/creationism/altmed/feminism and need to stick together. Many will support Shermer because he is one of them, and they need to stick together. So they’ll rationalize the accusations against him as unfair attacks or lies. Leaders like DJ will take advantage of this. Because many supporters believe that TAM is “their” community, they’ll unfortunately try to defend it, instead of making changes.

    They accuse FTB bloggers and supporters of living in a bubble. It’s actually the JREF that’s living in a bubble.

  7. 8

    So, Drescher’s point is that
    1) DJG actually witnessed the incident
    2) He wasn’t responsible for inviting Shermer to the next TAM (although he apparently also wasn’t troubled by it)
    3) Therefore…
    Am I correct in thinking that at some point in time between the incident and now DJG was indeed responsible for a TAM or any event where Shermer spoke?
    In that case, what actually is Dresher’s point?

  8. 14

    Aren’t the first sentence and first sentence of the penultimate paragraph in your original post inaccurate based on the fact that it was a prevented attempt? And isn’t Brian Thompson’s account at similarly in error? (Please don’t interpret this as an attempted apologetic, but as a call for factual accuracy–there is both a factual and legal difference between the accusations, though probably not a moral one.)

  9. 15

    It is worth a comment in the original post now that we have better information, yes, even though it only changes it from assault and battery to assault. I’ll add that.

    I suspect that the confusion is due to the couched language that all of this has been discussed in. “Intervening” in someone “lunging for” someone else’s breasts is very ambiguous language. This is the first time there’s been any real clarity on the outcome of those events. I would have expected everyone to be in shock and disbelieving until it was over.

  10. 16

    Thanks for the update. I took a look at Georgia statutes on sexual assault and sexual battery (, and it looks like the sexual assault statute is very narrow and requires not only physical contact (contrary to what you might expect from the assault/battery distinction), but a specific relationship between offender and victim. There doesn’t appear to be a crime of “sexual assault” simpliciter, but only “sexual assault by persons with supervisory or disciplinary authority” and “sexual assault by practitioner of psychotherapy against patient.”

  11. 17

    Are you suggesting we should only ever talk about these things in the precise legal jargon of the jurisdiction in which they happened? If not, I’m not sure why you’re bringing that up.

  12. 18

    Moreover, are you suggesting that a speaker should face no professional consequences for grossly inappropriate, unprofessional conduct unless said conduct was specifically illegal in the jurisdiction where it occurred? Or are you suggesting that said speaker is shrewd enough to know all the laws regarding sexual misconduct in each state where he speaks, and is careful to ensure that he only ever walks right up to the line without crossing it? The “intervening” would suggest otherwise, in that case.

  13. 19

    Stephanie: No, I’m just suggesting that if you’re going to refer to it in legal terms, as you have, that it be accurate.

    Tom: My answer to both questions is no, absolutely not. I am not saying, implying, or suggesting anything of the sort–those are quite contrary to my opinions.

    When inaccurate claims are made, they provide a means of true rebuttal (“*that* didn’t happen”) which is removed when the claims are accurate. A willingness to correct that account–as you’ve demonstrated–shows that you care about factual accuracy and can be trusted to fix or clarify mistakes or potentially misleading statements. I didn’t mean to belabor the point to this extent, and I won’t belabor it further.

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