Organizers, Did Richard Carrier Expose Unreported Sexual Assault at Your Event?

Prominent feminist atheist Bible scholar Dr. Richard Carrier PhD posted “How to Do Wrong Right,” a very helpful essay in which he bravely describes situations in which he was both the perpetrator and victim of violations of propriety at atheist conventions and other related events.  He wrote the essay for our benefit, helping the rest of us understand how we can negotiate the “flirting ladder” without committing sexual harassment or sexual assault.

As other feminists such as PZ Myers, Stephanie Svan and Greta Christina have pointed out, events held for the secular and skeptical communities have been rife with sexual assault and sexual harassment, in spite of the policies they have managed to put in place over and above the law, which already condemns sexual assault and many forms of sexual harassment.

Mr. or Ms. Event Organizer, Richard Carrier describes some serious situations that have happened at your functions that have gone unreported to local law enforcement agencies.  You’ll no doubt agree that attendees at events and conventions have the right to be safe at your productions.  Carrier has done the hard and brave work revealing these incidents:


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Was this sexual harasser punished?  Why didn’t the organization disclose the incident?


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Carrier himself suffered sexual assault.  The organizers were made aware.  The perpetrator was not reported to local law enforcement, nor was she purged from the event.  Perhaps worse, the onus was put on the victim to report instead of event administration resolving the situation.  Shameful.

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Surely you see the problem of putting the ball in the victim’s court.  Not only was he gaslit into apologizing to his sexual assaulter, but the convention organizers have an obligation to make attendees feel safe.  As Richard Carrier put it in 2012:

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The sexual assaulter clearly was not dealt with in an effective manner, as she revictimized Dr. Carrier later in the evening.


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Why hasn’t the community gotten wind of any police reports relating to these many incidents?  To my knowledge, conventions have not adopted a Clery Act-like model, making public record of the sexual assault that takes place during their events.  Why not?


Dr. Carrier is so prominent in the community and beyond in part because of his honesty.  He describes some of his own violations of convention/event policy:


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Many in the community have asserted that unofficial afterparties, Scotch and cigar parties and afterhours pub conversations in an elevator are nonetheless governed by event policy.  Does your harassment policy make the distinction clear if your organization believes there is one?


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Dr. Carrier reminds us that women are capable of engaging in long and exciting conversations, as this is something we all often forget.

Still, Dr. Carrier describes making unwanted sexual advances with, one assumes, a fellow event attendee.  Was this at your convention?  Did the victim feel secure enough to tell you she was violated?  If not, why not?  What can you do to change?


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Dr. Carrier made a sexual advance while seemingly aware that the event had a policy against making sexual advances. Thankfully, a bystander noticed that Dr. Carrier had made a pass and immediately ended that line of discussion upon realizing that kind of attention was unwanted.

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First, we must congratulate Dr. Carrier again for his bravery in revealing he had been censured by the event staff.  The incident raises more of those important questions.  We’re lucky a bystander informed on Dr. Carrier, but did the victim herself know that she had recourse?  Was the policy announced before each talk, or at least before and after the keynote address or equivalent?  The event was in a pub; did alcohol play a role in the situation?  In light of the fact that alcohol loosens a persons inhibitions…should organizations hold events in pubs?  Should they facilitate alcohol use at all?  Is it enough that only the event staff, the offender, the informant and victim knew about the transgression?

As Dr. Carrier made clear in 2012:

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Mr. or Ms. Event Organizer, you’re trying to draw a parity of women.  That requires a “no douchebags” policy.  If an attendee knowingly violates event policy, should he or she be invited back?  Doesn’t such a lapse compromise the safety of others in the future?  Don’t you want these meetings to be welcoming and fun?


Where Did All Of This Sexual Assault and Harassment Take Place?  (Why Don’t We Already Know?)

Dr. Carrier made it clear that “many” of his “friends and girlfriends have been sexually assaulted at conferences in just the last three years”.  Why have so few of these cases been reported to the local authorities?  Luminaries such as PZ Myers, Ophelia Benson, Jen McCreight and Dr. Carrier himself have been extremely vigilant in informing the community about accusations about some men in the community, but it seems that many sexual assaulters have not only gone free, but the community has not been warned about their activities.

Mr. or Ms. Event Organizer, you have an obligation to keep attendees safe from sexual assault.  Many people have been sexually assaulted at atheist/skeptics events in the past three years.  Whether or not your event or organization is on this list, what is your responsibility to report threats to public safety that may have occurred?  If you don’t take a stance and don’t report, why not?

Pennsylvania State Atheist/Humanist Conference

National Day of Reason event sponsored by the Treasure Valley Coalition of Reason

Stockton Area Atheists and Freethinkers

Atheist Community of San Jose

Mythinformation Conference (sponsored by Mythicist Milwaukee)

Freethinkers of PSU

Unitarian Universalist Church of Vancouver

PDX Skeptics in the Pub

Humanists of Greater Portland

FTBConscience

Antelope Valley College Freethinkers

Humanist Community of Central Ohio

Hispanic American Freethinkers

Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago

Freedom From Religion Foundation – Chicago Chapter

DePaul Alliance for Freethought

Backyard Skeptics (Orange County)

San Diego Coalition for Reason

Ventura Atheists

CFI Regina

CFI Okanagan

CFI Calgary

Zeteticon

Atheist Community of Austin

Secular Students Alliance

UC Davis Agnostic and Atheist Association

MythUnderstood Alliance

Atheists United of San Luis Obispo

CFI Ottawa

San Francisco Atheists

Mid Valley Humanist, Atheist, and Freethinker Colloquium

Stanislaus Humanists

Stockton Area Atheists and Freethinkers

Purdue Society of Non-Theists

Sacramento Freethought Day

SF Atheist Film Festival

Skepticon

CFI Washington DC

Imagine No Religion

American Atheists

National Atheist Party

Triangle Freethought Society

UAH Non-Theists

British Humanism Association


Now What?  What Are Your Obligations?

Mr. or Ms. Event Organizer, in light of the fact that there is so much sexual assault in the atheist community that has gone unreported and unprosecuted, what can you do?

Here are my modest suggestions that you’ll implement if you care.

Establish a Clery Act-Style Reporting System on Your Web Site

Every visitor who finds their way to your site should be able to tell very quickly and very easily how many incidents have occurred that violated your sexual protection policies.  We need to know the number of incidents, the severity of the incidents and some sort of easy-to-follow trail as the accusation made its way through the criminal justice system.

These reports should be displayed prominently on the front page of your organization’s site; why should people need to dig around to find such information?

Coordinate with Local Law Enforcement to Investigate all Claims of Sexual Assault

I must disagree slightly with Dr. Carrier; allegations should not be handled in-house by organizations that have a vested interest in perpetuating the silence we’ve been hearing for at least the past three years.

Local law enforcement agencies must be notified of all allegations of sexual assault as quickly as possible so these professionals can decide whether criminal charges should be pursued.  Mr. or Ms. Event Organizer, you do a fantastic job of arranging for speakers, locations and everything else necessary to put together fulfilling atheist events.  You are not equipped to bring perpetrators of sexual assault to justice.

Perpetrators of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Should Not Be Allowed to Commit Further Offenses

What’s the point of having these wonderful and powerful policies if we don’t enforce them?  As Jezebel reports, men who commit serious violations tend to do it again.  We need women to feel safe, not to look around, wondering if the men around them have committed violations of the sexual harassment policy in the past.  Apologies and promises not to re-offend do not eliminate the victim’s pain, nor do they do the community any favors.  Do we really want to perpetuate the perception that atheists and skeptics are tolerant of sexual assault?

We need to end the silence.  Look at how effective the mainstream media has been in illuminating the campus rape epidemic.  Many single accusations have been bandied about the community, but it’s clear from Dr. Carrier’s statements that the majority of sexual assault goes unreported and worse: unpunished.


Section the Last and Most Important

Mr. or Ms. Event Organizer, you don’t have to do anything about this problem in excess of your legal obligation to provide a safe environment.  But if you ignore the rampant sexual assault that Dr. Carrier has exposed, you need to take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself what you’ve done to end it.

I hope you like what you see.

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3 thoughts on “Organizers, Did Richard Carrier Expose Unreported Sexual Assault at Your Event?”

  1. I know from my past dealings with Carrier that he is a frequent liar and has very little integrity. I personally have never attended an atheist conference, so I have no way to verify if his claims of numerous sexual assaults at conferences are true. Despite that, Carrier is a frequent speaker at these conferences, and his claims are very serious, and cannot be ignored.

    Not only has he made the explicit claim that many of his friends and girlfriends have been sexually assaulted at conferences within the last 3 years, but he also seems to discourage the victims of sexual assaults from reporting these crimes to law enforcement. His blog post also seems to suggest that most cases of sexual assault would be best handled “in-house”. Most reasonable people would correctly call the actions that Richard Carrier suggests a cover-up.

    There are several questions that should be answered by Carrier regarding the shocking claims buried in his rambling blog post:
    1). If many of his friends have been sexually assaulted at conferences over the last three years, why hasn’t he said anything until now? Why hasn’t he tried to warn any women about this?
    2). Why does he think that actual instances of sexual assault should be handled “in house” by conference staff instead of by law enforcement?
    3). Why does he feel that conference sexual harassment policies are effective when many of his friends and girlfriends are still being sexually assaulted at conferences?
    4). Why does Richard Carrier continue to speak at these conferences that haven’t adequately addressed this sexual assault epidemic?

    If what Carrier says is true, this is a scandal, It is very troubling that no major atheist conference organizers have commented on Carrier;s claims.

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  2. It’s funny how Dr. Carrier expects his mansplained version of events to be taken seriously. His depictions of his own transgressions are (shockingly) ultra-vanilla and could easily be far worse than he describes. Who really cares about his perspective? I think we can all agree that what’s important is how victim (or survivor?) in these situations actually felt. But sadly these women’s voices are silenced under the din of some self-identified transgressor attempting to lecture people on proper behavior.

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  3. It’s late but my employment contract doesn’t have a SJW critique clause

    “Ophelia Benson’s blog post” post that started it all off
    I used the quotation marks because it’s arguable whose post it should really count as. If you go by just word count alone, Ditum’s 466 words beat Benson’s 134 hands down. But forget about length, this isn’t a porno. It’s about content, right? So what about Benson’s wit and analysis? Well that’s as vacant as Richard Carrier’s side of the marriage was during the hours of 2-5am. Benson’s blog is basically sloppy ‘cut n’ paste’ collage of Ditum’s piece. Strangely, it’s actually kind of atypical for an internet disagreement because it’s usually the short, ignorant comment that incites the lengthy paragraph reply…not the other way around. And holy shit talk about gracelessness. Ditum’s whole piece is about her transition INTO Benson’s world view but apparently that’s not good enough to avoid Benson’s criticisms. Her contributions to Ditum’s post read like a heckler’s transcript.

    The content (or lack of content) of Ophelia’s post is only a minor point though. Her house, her rules right? We’ll come back to that.

    “Carrier has arrived”
    No Richard, I do not want to smell your sturgeon-scented fingers but thank you for offering.

    Man, he really, really doesn’t want you to forget that he gets pussy….like boat loads. I’ll get to Carrier’s argument later but I have to point out that his references to his own virility are really fucking awkward.
    As a skeptical individual, I will freely admit that I have no idea how much sex Richard has. Hell, maybe he’s understating his exploits. Maybe. But every time he drops a self-aggrandizing humble brag like “many of my girlfriends”, “I’m the lover they go to for”, “such women are, in my experience, pretty common”, or a little e-chuckle about other sexually inexperience men etc., it does make me wonder how engineered it all is. It comes across as a repackaged version of the stereotypical sex-bragging seen in Jersey Shore, albeit an awkward and disfigured one. Awkward like how Richard makes it known that he can shake off a jizz shot to the face the same way an MMA fighter who doesn’t want to look like a wus might shake off a sparring partner’s accidental knee to the groin—“it’s totally fine”. But is accidental jizz to the face ever really “totally fine”. I mean really…? Not even a “what the fuck dude?” or “was that second rope really necessary?” or “just get me a damn towel?”. It sounds like clumsy boasting to me but I won’t pretend to comprehend the rules of engagement at Richard’s apparently free-fire zone orgies. Personally, I believe Richard can have as much sloppy sex with as many girlfriends as he wants. If it makes Richard happy then great, but his comments…man, they are definitely cringe-worthy. I think part of what makes them off-putting is that he’s posing as an expert on a sexual orientation he’s only recently started to explore—that would be of course the taboo, niche-fetish orientation of trying to have lots of sex with lots of women with no strings attached (unless attached to their necks apparently…?).

    Anyway, what followed in the comment section was dueling banjo awesome. Richard got dogpiled by Benson supporters who didn’t appreciate his triggering comments. It’s fascinating to see how they interact. Richard seemed legitimately surprised that the Tourette’s outburst about his semen fetish may not have been dinner time conversation, while Benson, unable to be direct, sort of let him know in passive aggressive disapproval that he had crossed a line.

    Hypocrisy…
    At the end of the day, the whether he was inappropriate or not are irrelevant to me. What bothers me is the hypocrisy. The gavel he used to condemn others’ sexual indiscretions smells oddly of cheap lube and fecal matter. Richard Carrier, the ‘us vs them’ ideologue, the sacred witch hunter of inappropriate conduct at conferences, the chief inquisitor of unsubstantiated rape claims now wants to be extended the modest courtesy of an open dialogue? He wants to speak freely about sex? He doesn’t want to be reflexively judged? Didn’t he criticize you for using the “sexist” phrase “getting pussy” in that polyamory post on Yeti’s blog? Now he praises “dickplay”… I mean who is that dick attached to, Richard? Does that person have feelings? A name? What hypocrisy is this?
    To be fair, I actually agree with Richard’s views regarding rough sex. If a woman wants it and a guy is comfortable giving it then I don’t see any reason to fuss over it. It’s their lives. I’m really not in any position to wag my finger at where they put their fingers. Her house her rules, right? Right Benson? But this point of view kind of shits on Benson’s thesis and it’s easy to see why the word “creep” and “gross” began to resonate throughout the echo chamber of her comments section. You want to agree to disagree now? Sorry Richard, we don’t dialogue with pervs and creeps.

    Bonus treat…
    I want you take a deep breath and imagine this beautiful image…
    A weary Ted Haggard walks into a motel room and slumps onto the cheap fabric sofa. He’s tired from a physically exhausting day of sermons and worship and now lazily unbuttons his shirt in preparation for a relaxing Sunday blowjob. His stubbly masseur is in the bathroom primping up and doing pushups on the floor to get a pump going. Before the “massage” starts, and while the masseur is still out of sight, Ted clandestinely prepares the exact amount of cash owed for the meth and “services” to be rendered. His flock donated a lot of money that day and he doesn’t want to flash the wad of bills around carelessly. I mean he hardly knows this guy. After setting the payment on the wobbly glass table and stashing the rest of the cash in his pants (now located the floor), he stands naked and starts doing his ritualistic series of shoulder rolls. He says quick prayer and calls for the masseur. It’s game time.
    You have a boner yet?

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