Aren’t you making it up? – Why women don’t report harassment

There has been a lot of discussion about why women don’t report sexual harassment (Ophelia Benson, Greta Christina) and what they’re up against when they do, including hyper-skepticism over claims that are routine, mundane, and unsurprising.

I would like to present to you a comment I got today, which you can go find if you want, but I have no intention of linking to it or encouraging people to respond to it.  I want you to read it and keep in mind a few things:

  1. Unlike most cases of sexual harassment, I had several witnesses
  2. Many witnesses were willing to make public statements
  3. Although the report was incomplete, it was made as the harassment was ongoing, not afterwards
  4. It was not a complaint about a named person, no one is on the defensive
  5. It was not a complaint about a well-known speaker
  6. Many people in the community know and respect me, I am not unknown
  7. I have a public platform from which to speak

These things are not always true for a woman who is being or has been harassed and the following is a response I got with all of those things on my side.  Take away one or two or all of these and tell me what kind of response the average woman might expect to get.  And then tell me whether you’d find it worth it to make a report when you can expect this treatment from many other people.

Miss Miller, is there any actual evidence that the alleged harassment took place? Is there any actual evidence that “some other women” were harassed? Did you submit a written report of the alleged harassment to the conference organizers? Did the alleged “other women” submit written reports? Did any of you report the alleged harassment directly to “DJ”?

If the guy was so obnoxious for so long, why didn’t you ask someone for help? Why didn’t you ask for help right away if you were so repulsed by and uncomfortable with the guy’s alleged behavior? You say that someone from TAM’s staff eventually (but “so quickly”) intervened but you don’t say whether you asked for help or if someone just happened to come along and deal with the alleged situation.

You say that someone from TAM “made it stop” and that someone kicked the guy out but you don’t say exactly who it was who first intervened and how they knew you were being harassed. You say that you were told that “DJ himself” kicked the guy out but you don’t say who told you that.

You obviously think that TAM should consider what you did as a “report of harassment” but you don’t actually say what you did, exactly who intervened, whether you asked for help, who you talked to (either to ask for help or otherwise), and there are a lot of other missing, important details.

Another thing you said is that you were ultimately impressed with and proud of TAM’s staff for so quickly intervening. If they intervened so quickly, how could the guy have harassed you from room to room for so long?

You also make it sound as though “DJ” must have known about the alleged situation at the time but you don’t actually know that he did because you didn’t actually talk to him about it at the time, did you?

Exactly how would it make TAM “look bad” if you had gone “into explicit detail of exactly how gross the guy had been to” you? Who exactly would you have gone into explicit detail to about how gross the guy was to you that would have made TAM look bad? If you had gone into explicit detail with TAM’s staff, how would that make TAM look bad? If you didn’t go into explicit detail with someone on TAM’s staff at the time, then why did they intervene and kick the guy out? How would they know for sure what they were intervening with?

And another question: Do you expect the TAM staff or “DJ” to be psychic and to know what’s happening to you and/or other people at the conferences at all times, and to know what has allegedly happened to you or other people even though you and/or those other people don’t properly report it to the people in charge?

According to your own words TAM’s staff  took care of the alleged situation “so quickly” and effectively. That speaks well of TAM’s staff, which should demonstrate to you and all others that TAM’s staff deals with problems quickly and effectively as soon as they know about them. TAM’s staff can’t reasonably be expected to be psychic or to personally babysit every woman (or man) at their conferences. It’s unreasonable for you to blame TAM or “DJ” for something that you could have ended a lot faster if you had asked for help quickly and had properly reported it to the people in charge.

Is it wrong for ‘skeptics’ to be skeptical of non-evidential claims that don’t add up, and that weren’t properly reported to the people in charge of the conference?

Are you making up the whole thing?

On its own, it might just seem like a bad apple not worthy of notice, but I’ve gotten dozens of other comments here, on other blogs, on Facebook, and in e-mails that reflect the same sentiment.  And I knew I would get them.  Every woman knows she will get them.  Every time she speaks up.  Every time.  And sometimes it’s just exhausting.  It hurts a little, having to relive it and be called names and a liar, but ultimately it just makes you tired, completely bone-weary, and a little heartbroken.

Aren’t you making it up? – Why women don’t report harassment

35 thoughts on “Aren’t you making it up? – Why women don’t report harassment

  1. 2

    This is fucking heartbreaking. I knew about the phenomenon, as it is remarkably similar to the reason why hate crimes are systematically underreported by people who are disproportionately the targets thereof. Still… reading the contempt dripping off the words is pretty stark.

  2. 9

    This is, frankly, fucking infuriating. I knew that the treatment I’ve been getting for the past year wasn’t unique, but it’s still shitty to see it replay over and over again.

    1. 9.1

      I think there are a lot of people who operate under the hope/delusion that the backlash you get is because people hate Rebecca Watson and not because people are sexist jerks whether your name is Rebecca Watson or not.

  3. 10


    I read this about 2 hours after I had to drop a class because not one, but TWO men who have stalked, threatened and stole from me work in the building my classroom’s located in. I tried to ask to be allowed to park in a back lot and come in a back door… one staff member said that I could- then I called back to day to confirm it and they told me they “couldn’t help me”. So, my stalkers get to work and live free of fear, and I have to sacrifice my academic advancement because I am afraid of having any contact with them.

    So yeah: RRRAAAAAGHHHRRR!!!!!

  4. 12

    In addition to all the already-mentioned reasons that this comment is infuriating, they even misrepresent why you raised the point in the first place.

    “It’s unreasonable for you to blame TAM or “DJ” ” … when it’s not what you were doing at all. You were blaming DJ for asserting that these events never happened, not for the way he or TAM handled things in the moment.

    On the one hand, these kinds of comments are horrible for exactly the reasons you state and then some, but on the other hand, we’ve also seen how large the number of positive, supportive people can be, and I hope you take at least some comfort from that part of the response to balance the pain of some of the others.

  5. 14

    There’s nothing at all rational about that whole mess. It’s basically a massive amount of often contradictory gotcha question.

    It’s actually pure tribalism, in my mind. The idea that tribalism might take people who are normally not misogynistic and make them so isn’t so much different from the effects of religion, although I do maintain that gender is not the only privilege vector here, and that by and large the “sour spot” is actually telling socially aggressive people that they’re wrong.

  6. 15

    And of course you’re not allowed to get angry, because it was worded so *politely*, with no cursing, and he was Just Asking Questions…

  7. 17

    First the Holocaust, then 9-11, now this. Why are people always making everything up? Nothing has ever actually happened, it’s just a bunch of people claiming shit went down without any proof. I’m not even sure I just typed that.

  8. 20

    We don’t report a lot of things.

    When I was 19 I was the victim of an attempted rape in my barracks by an intruder with a weapon. I yelled and screamed and I was lucky, he ran away. I did what you are supposed to, reported it. Because I could not give them a good description (honestly I never took my eyes off the knife) it went from an investigation , to “you must have imagined it or you are making it up for the attention”.

    The upshot being I will probably never trust a person in authority again and if I am the victim of a crime I will probably think twice before reporting it.

  9. 24

    I’m sorry you have to deal with this. People like to mock those who don’t report thinking themselves superior, thinking they’re so righteous. Pathetic weak willed fucks to the last. They don’t give a damn about the actual human being involved. It’s all about some stupid ideal with no bearing in reality.

    It took a lot to come forward and I applaud your courage and tenacity. Hope the fuck that wrote that eats shit.

  10. s

    It all goes back to the Bible, which established that a woman making an accusation was the offender, not the victim. You would think a community of “skeptics” would be able to leave behind such primitve thinking.

  11. 26

    Yisheng Quingwa @10, talk to the registrar’s office — ask for the Assistant Registrar. Their job is to keep you in school and paying tuition. Ask about their policies and their committment to ensuring that students can attend without being threatened or harassed. Ask them what they can do about these criminals. If necessary, suggest that you’re going to ask the Minister of Education about their policies and practices. See if you can get some resolution in your favor.

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