Remember last month when feminist writer Germaine Greer suggested that women “name and shame” men who commit sexual assault online? Well, that has actually happened: A female Google employee has made waves across the internet for writing on her blog, NerdChic, that she was forcibly groped by a Twitter employee last week at a tech conference. She also noted that she reported the incident to the Atlanta police.It was just your average tech conference for Google technical writer Noirin Shirley: talks, beers, schmoozing. Then, on her way to the restroom, she claims she was called over by Florian Leibert, a Twitter engineer. She wrote:
“… [Leibert] asked if he could talk to me. … I’m on the board of Apache. I’m responsible for our conferences. I work on community development and mentoring. If you’re at an Apache event and you want help, information, encouragement, answers, I will always do my best to provide. So this wasn’t an unusual request, and it wasn’t one I expected to end the way it did.
He brought me in to the snug, and sat up on a stool. He grabbed me, pulled me in to him, and kissed me. I tried to push him off, and told him I wasn’t interested (I may have been less eloquent, but I don’t think I was less clear). He responded by jamming his hand into my underwear and fumbling.”
According to her blog, after the alleged assault happened, Noirin Shirley fell asleep in her room. When she woke up the next morning, she wrote, she “sent a mail to our planning committee to say that I’d been assaulted”; she attended the conference keynote — which the guy she accused of assaulting her skipped — and at some point reported the incident to the Atlanta police. At the end of her November 5 blog post describing the incident, Noirin wrote, “My heartfelt thanks to the Atlanta police for their sensitivity and professionalism.”
It seems like anytime there’s an accusation of sexual assault made public, all people can talk about is what the victim might have done to deserve it. Was she drinking? Flirting? Wearing a short skirt? Did she invite him to crawl in her kitchen window with a knife? Commenters on both NerdChic and Gawker, which picked up the story, are buzzing with “blame the victim” comments because she mentioned sitting on people’s laps earlier in the evening (like a slut!), or minimizing what allegedly happened to her. Writes Gawker commenter JakeYoungBlood:
“Sitting on laps? Did she ask to sit on each guy’s lap? Not an excuse to cop a feel later, but is a little hypocritical. Not to mention she was apparently quite inebriated, making her remembrance of events likely less than ironclad fact.”
Added commenter LOL@you on NerdChic:
“Get over it, some jerk groped you and now your whole life is ruined? You’re an attention whore who got the wrong sort of attention, that’s how it is sometimes. Calling this guy out is fine if you want but recognize that you’re clearly an idiot. There is “what’s right” and what is smart, as an adult you ought to know the difference by now you big baby.”
And then there are all the lovely people making comments, on both NerdChic and Gawker, about Noirin’s appearance. Because women who aren’t conventionally attractive never get sexually assaulted, duh!
I don’t think Noirin Shirley accusing Florian Leibert online was ethical. As much as I think people who commit any type of sexual assault are the scum of the earth, I’m no fan of vigilante justice. What’s more, in addition to being unethical, Noirin shot herself in the foot. She spoke with Atlanta police and reported her assault to the conference organizers, but people will take her less seriously now because she trashed someone’s reputation online when she could have been patient and at least tried to go through the proper channels.
But — but! — I can understand why a woman would be compelled to “name and shame” an assailant online — especially one, as Noirin claims, who has been forcibly groped against her will (or worse) before. For that reason, I don’t feel any ill will against Noirin. The statistics of how many criminals are punished for rape are dismal. Let’s review the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s reporting rates stats here:
(Of course, Florian Leibert allegedly sexually assaulted her, not raped her. I wonder how that would skew the reporting rates.)
I would also imagine she blogged about the alleged assault because she also wanted to warn other women about Leibert before her case eked its way through the court system. When I was in college there was a fellow student who stood up in the dining hall and announced to everyone that a man who had just walked in had sexually assaulted her friend. She got in trouble with the university for doing that, of course. But a lot of women, including myself, were kind of like, “Thanks for the warning. I’ll avoid that guy.”
Regardless of my thoughts about her publicly outing someone, the rest of Noirin Shirley’s post about the alleged assault I want to quote in full. She sounds straight-up fed-up with getting groped by men — as well she should be — and I love what she says here:
“I had a few drinks. I was wearing a skirt of such a length that I had cycling shorts on under it to make me feel more comfortable getting up on stage and dancing. I had been flirting with a couple of other boys at the party.
It’s not the first time something like this has happened to me, at all. It’s not the first time it’s happened to me at a tech conference. But it is the first time I’ve spoken out about it in this way, because I’m tired of the sense that some idiot can ruin my day and never have to answer for it. I’m tired of the fear. I’m tired of people who think I should wear something different. I’m tired of people who think I should avoid having a beer in case my vigilance lapses for a moment. I’m tired of people who say that guys can’t read me right and I have to read them, and avoid giving the wrong impression.
But I don’t give the wrong impression, and it’s simply not true that guys can’t read me right. I don’t want to be assaulted, and the vast majority of guys read that just fine. It is not my job to avoid getting assaulted. It is everyone else’s job to avoid assaulting me. Dozens of guys succeeded at that job, across the week. In the pub, in the stairwell, on the MARTA [Atlanta's transit service], in my bedroom.
One guy failed, and it’s his fault.”
What do you think about Noirin Shirley accusing Florian Leibert of sexual assault on her blog? Tell us in the comments below. But keep it civil or else editor-in-chief Amelia is going to get all up in your shizz.