Monday, June 23, 2014

Why and What

Hey there, gang. I miss you all already and probably will miss you more as time goes on, but such is life and the odd twists and turns it takes. I'm not writing this to namecall, accuse, or add any more fuel to a fire that's already giving off an acrid, oily, black smoke. But after reading Brian's eerily polished response that made me feel like it had been culled from the template of the official Yale Response to Sexual Harassment Allegations Letter (because at this point the place is pretty well-versed on the topic, it seems), a pair of questions kept popping up in my mind, enough to make last night's sleep not a sleep at all - Why and What?

Let's go with Why first. Those of you who know Laura are aware that large groups are almost always incredibly difficult for her to process. I say 'almost' because of Otherworld, and the particular type of magic you all helped create. It was one of the few well-populated places on the planet where she not only felt comfortable, but warm, safe, and loved as well. What you all were able to do was amazing. Which brings me back to the question: Why?

Why, as Brian has alleged, would Laura throw away one of her most favorite places and groups of people on something that wasn't true? It was a difficult decision whether to be outraged or just to laugh at the suggestion of 'past trauma' being the motivator (we chose the latter). Slut-shaming is so 2013, so I guess that's something new? Nut-Shaming?  Laura has gotten all of the benefits of being a whistleblower - of which there are none - and lost a place, a group of friends, and an organization that she loved with all her heart. That harkens back to our question of Why, since she had no other motivation - because she felt she had to, because of how much love she has for Otherworld and the people who are part of it. She didn't feel it was currently a safe place and took steps to see that it would move in that direction.

Let's shift to What and try to move things along instead of me writing like I'm being paid per word. What was Laura hoping to get out of posting her story, sans the name of the accused? Exactly what has happened - awareness. In April 2013, after six months of soul-searching, Laura steeled herself and met with Kristi to tell her what had happened. Imagine having to have that conversation with a friend you loved - 'Hey, I love OW but your husband has made me so uncomfortable that I'd rather quit than ever see him again.' Would you have that conversation if you weren't sure of what had happened? Would anyone? And how would you feel, twelve months later, when it appeared nothing was being done about it? We began to hear rumors, that a request for an investigation and the suggestion of a recusal was refused. That it 'just needed to go away.' That an email had originally gone out to a chosen few but that for the most part, the staff wasn't aware of what had happened. I feel I need to type that again - most of the staff, which might be you right now reading this, was not deemed 'need to know' about an allegation of sexual harassment within the organization. That's not okay.

So, Laura wrote her blog entry.

This - discussion, awareness, and hopefully a policy put in place where others, should something this awful ever happen again, will feel both safe reporting the transgression and confident it won't get swept under the rug no matter the position of the alleged offender - this is all that could be hoped for at this point. I didn't see what happened, but I know what shape Laura was in a few minutes afterward. For the first forty-five minutes of our ride home our usual chattering about the event had been replaced by her silence and obviously distressed state. Whens he finally told me what had happened it was probably a good thing we were so far away, or else I might have done Stupid Things. I'm glad it didn't go that way. At this point, though, that's not the issue. There's no legal moves planned or calls to the media - hell, Laura didn't even name him in her post - yet it seems most people knew whom she was talking about anyway. We've come to discover that Laura is not the only person Brian has said inappropriate things to in the past. Those who have confided asked for anonymity for varying reasons, all of which I will respect and honor. I suppose it's possible Brian isn't even aware that he says and does things he shouldn't -perhaps a sexual harassment awareness class Might help with that. I understand that it's something most people don't want to believe, and if the charge had been leveled by someone else I might be looking at it with a different perspective myself. Or maybe if someone else had been accused it wouldn't have been shunted into the corner. I'm not interested in forcing people to make choices. All I want is for them to be aware and for the possibility of Otherworld taking steps to ensure something like this never happens again.

It flat out kills me to no longer be part of Otherworld, although I noted with wry humor that I was still on the list of invitees. This resolution doesn't seem safe, fair, or cool to me, but Otherworld is bigger than the Yonas and will continue on without us. I will always treasure the memories I had in my time there, and the wonderful people I've met. Maybe we'll still be friends. Maybe you'll find it too awkward to want to hang with me, or bear resentment that my wife (yes, Laura and I have long reconciled. We tried to be quiet about our situation while apart so as not to make others uncomfortable) would accuse someone like Brian. I hope not. We're ready to move on, hopeful that Laura's willingness to share a difficult experience will make OW a safer place. Hopefully OW will be able to do the right thing and thrive as well. In any case, I will miss you all.


EDIT: It has just come to my attention that the email Brian sent out didn't go to everyone on staff. Once again, people are being cut out of the loop on a sexual harassment issue. I'm stunned and dismayed.

comments welcome. I do not delete, so feel free to speak your mind and know it'll stay up. Or just write TL;DR

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