tw:assault, dubious consent, gaslighting
I’m putting the warnings right up top. Practice self-care. Next, this is not a story that happened to a friend of a friend. This happened to people I know. I was there. It was involved. I am not, nor will I name names because that is not the point of this.
Several years ago I was working an event and two of my staff got into a conflict. They were both on duty, it was in the event space and one of them had a duty radio on them. The male identified person(A) made a pass at the female identified (B) person. B demurred and said no. A was in such a position in the room that B could not get past them to end the moment. Eventually, B (who was younger and smaller but well over the age of consent) was able to get out of the room but the A followed them for a while before breaking off and going elsewhere.
That’s not the point of this. The point is instead this: 45 minutes later B ended up with friends and said ‘wow, that was really odd. It made me uncomfortable.’ And about an hour after that they got pulled aside by a senior staffer (male) who said ‘Seriously, are you okay?’
‘Yeah. I knew if it got any worse I had a radio and I could call for help.’
‘Okay, but I know you and you’re probably downplaying it a bit because that’s what we’ve (US culture) have trained women to do. Are you sure you’re okay?’
Apparently, there was a long pause and then B responded. ‘Yeah, I’m okay but I had back up. I don’t know if other people would have that.’
‘Do you want to get other people involved?’
Another pause to consider. ‘Yeah, yeah I do.’
This still isn’t the point of the story.
This is where I got directly involved because both of those people worked for me. I’d been unaware of the issue. I got briefed. I met with A with a third party present (male) to listen so there would be no chance of favoritism or (hopefully) conflict as well as the solid idea that there is always a witness and an observer to interactions like that. It was clear to me as well as the observer that A didn’t understand what they’d done wrong. That they hadn’t heard a clear no, didn’t get the dynamics of the situation at all and were frankly a bit baffled as to why they were being questioned. I eventually made the call to have A removed from the event.
Here’s the point of the story: I got questioned, multiple times, post-event about why I’d done it. There was a whole lot of ‘A wouldn’t do that’ and ‘B should have done X’. I ended up having either three or four multiple hour-long conversations with people about the incident that none of them had been present for. Because A wouldn’t do that.
Think about that for a minute. I am, in theory, a responsible enough adult human to make judgments about managing people. I had a third party present who was male who made an assessment about the behavior of A. And yet when the time came, it was easier to question me and my judgement and the behavior of B, that to entertain the idea of A not understanding their behavior was problematic.
Tomorrow? I tell the story of when I got assaulted at a science fiction convention.