TAM9 Harassment New Information

First off: Anyone who has had an incident at TAM, however small, should write it down and send it to DJ (djgrothe@randi.org) ASAP.

DJ’s explanation of the event:

Hi Ashley, I was wracking my brains trying to place the incident you are blogging about. So we looked up in our database of last year’s attendees anyone fitting the description and location of the man you mention in your blog post, and I believe we now know who it was: someone who was being asked to leave the private speakers reception (he wasn’t a speaker, nor invited to the reception, and appeared drunk).

DJ goes on to say he was confused because I thought I’d meant the guy had been kicked out of TAM not just from the reception.  DJ e-mailed me the guy’s Facebook profile and I confirmed that it was the correct guy and DJ asked for a full report, which I have sent him.  I assume that with an official written report, at this point DJ will have to stop saying that there’s never been a report.  I suppose it will now be that there’s only ever been one report.

Phil Ferguson, of Skeptic Money, is the person who brought the guy to DJ’s attention:

This was at the speaker reception. There was one person that was not supposed to be in the room (i do not know if he was even at TAM) he was rude and talking to several ladies with inappropriate language. I told you about him and you took immediate action and talked to the gentleman and you took him from the room.

The guy was a TAM attendee, he was wearing his badge and was in TAM’s database.

I want to reiterate that my complaint is not about how DJ handled this, he handled it swiftly and efficiently and everyone in the room was impressed.  He also made the effort to find out who it was and get a report after I wrote my blog post.  He is absolutely to be commended, he is doing a great job of handling these things when they arise.

The problem is that he’s going around saying that women are making unfounded complaints because there has never been a report of bad behavior at TAM and women like me, who complain about bad behavior on blogs, are why other women aren’t going to TAM and that’s my fault.

TAM felt it was important enough to kick the guy out of the reception, but did not think it was important enough to get detailed accounts or write down what happened, even though several people congratulated DJ for doing the right thing.

Since there are a number of incidents, detailed after this, where JREF staff helped someone who complained about behavior but DJ has no knowledge of any reports of behavior, I recommend that when they help someone who complains verbally they make a note of it and make sure they understand what happened, so that DJ has a more accurate record of what his staff has actually done and what incidents have been acted upon. I think many people, myself included, made the assumption that telling someone on the staff what was going and them acting on it means that you’ve reported the incident, but apparently if you did not write it down, it doesn’t count.

From PZ:

someone had blown through the nearly empty hallways while a session was ongoing to make lewd remarks to someone sitting at the tables; it was reported, I heard, and I joined in with another fellow to look for the “gentleman”…he’d escaped, so it didn’t happen? There was also an incident on twitter in which a prospective attendee threatened to grope Rebecca Watson on an elevator at TAM; I thought his registration was revoked

From Kitty Mervine:

I had an issue at the Del Mar [pre-DJ], was handled very well by two members of the JREF staff and South Point. I’m not kidding, my hair was set on fire. So well resolved except he showed up at South Point at the Del Mar. I talked to the South Point security and they assured me ONE WORD from me and he would be OUT. (and they had no clue WHO I was, but this guy is in their “data base” as a bad one). They were even “do you want us to remove him now? Do you feel uncomfortable?” The man was NOT attending TAM, he was simply at the Del Mar with his wife and talking quietly, so I said “no”. But later a security person from South Point (she informed me she was a veteran) came over to check with me again. I was “no I’m fine”. I would say South Point security has as their first goal the comfort of all their guests. A person can just be making you feel uncomfortable, and South Point will react quickly. I admire them so much.

And what follows are several other people’s memory of the speaker event that I talked about in my previous post.

I was a little surprised, since the day before (or within a couple of days before) I tagged him in a comment where I referenced how well he handled that situation, and why I took that as a good sign for how well the JREF was handling policing TAM. … Well, it wasn’t just you. Jenn had the exact same experience as you with the same guy at the same time. And I’m relatively sure it was made clear that it was as much of an issue as it was because the guy was going from woman to woman.

This guy was being very
persistent in his attentions to you, and then to Jamila Bey. Possibly to
other women as well, although I didn’t witness that. I didn’t see him
grope anybody, but I did see him follow you around persistently and  be
very invasive of your physical space. I remember that he was drunk off his
ass. I didn’t personally witness DJ escort him out of the room, but I
heard second-hand that that’s what happened.

I remember the guy. He was definitely violating our personal space and hopping from woman to woman

I clapped DJ on the back and the other guy who helped kick creeper dude out. I can’t wildly speculate as to how insignificant was this event or how widespread were events similar such that none can be recalled, but it was memorable to me. And this wasn’t three women looking for something to bitch about- this guy was egregious enough to be obviously a nuisance (at LEAST) to the entire roomful containing both genders.

As I recall, DJ was approached because a drunk man was repeatedly bothering women, and it was my impression at the time that DJ either personally asked him to leave the reception, or saw to it that someone else escorted him out. I agree that he was ejected just from the reception and not from the entire TAM conference. I don’t recall the exact words that were used, so it’s possible that what DJ took away from the conversation was merely that someone was drunk and disruptive, but I know that it was clear to all of us that he was harassing women specifically, and we all believed that that was the reason this action was taken. As Jarrett said, we all were impressed at the time that the incident was taken seriously and we thought it was handled well.

To reiterate the specifics, I remember that he reached a certain level of extreme that had Ashley and Jen (I believe it was only the two of them standing together at that moment) that finally another gentleman (whose name I don’t recall) decided to go get DJ and explain the situation to him, as, in a way that’s not remotely surprising given everything we normally hear in these situations, Ashley and Jen were not comfortable stirring up MORE trouble on their own.

That said, I wasn’t privy to the conversation that this gentleman had with DJ, so it is purely ASSUMPTION on my part that he described the situation accurately. It’s possible he merely stated that the guy was drunk and obnoxious. I do recall overhearing DJ ask more than one person if they knew whose guest he was, implying he was trying to track the person’s validation for being at the reception, and shortly thereafter I noticed the man in question had been successfully removed.

So among a reasonable number of people it was known that this person was drunk, obnoxious, talking three inches from the faces of any women he could get near, and saying suggestive things to them. What I can’t say for certain is how well this was communicated back to DJ in the process of informing him that this man was harassing the women at the reception.

About ashleyfmiller

I write, give occasional speeches, and am currently getting my PhD in Mass Communications from South Carolina. Before going back to school, I worked in Los Angeles in reality tv, web series, and film.

Posted on May 31, 2012, in atheism, skeptic and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. Kitty’s incident was Pre-DJ. It was at TAM7

  2. Thanks for the clarifying post, Ashley, and I am so sorry to have learned about this reprehensible behavior. I sincerely wish we had known that the guy who was removed from the speakers reception (he didn’t belong there, and he was apparently intoxicated) had also assault and sexually harassed you, and according to your posts on the matter, possibly two other women, as well. Had we known (had you let us know) we would have called security and removed him from TAM, not just removed him from the speakers reception because he didn’t belong there.

    That you didn’t report the incident at the time to JREF or hotel staff is regrettable, but as you point out in a previous post, you had your reasons. I also deeply regret that you didn’t let us know about this horrible incident on the attendee survey distributed to attendees, as such information is helpful as we try to get better information on the prevalence of such offenses at these sorts of events, and work to combat them.

    I am mortified this happened to you, and we will take appropriate steps to make sure the offender can’t do it again at a future conference.

    • ashleyfmiller

      As I said, I was told that the incident had been reported and handled — and it had been, just not in full. Obviously, it was a miscommunication, and I’ve given my suggestions for the future. Thanks for your prompt replies.

    • cyranothe2nd

      Yeah…because the onus is on HER and not the EVENT ORGANIZERS to find out what happened and make sure the proper paperwork is filled out. Again, and some more, DJ–this is part of the problem that female skeptics are talking about. Again and again, we’re the ones blamed when you screw up (and make no mistake, if you had to eject someone, the onus was on ~you~ to find out what happened), told to stop talking about it, etc. I don’t even know how “Hey, this guy is drunk and bothering people” don’t auto-connect to “harassment” in your brain. Privilege, I’m guessing.

      • Yes, the onus is on her to report things she is experiencing. It is incredibly unfair of you to blame the organizer for not being able to read minds and not understanding that someone has a specific complaint without that specific complaint being made to the organizers.

        I’ve been bothered by drunk people before, and I was not harassed. Why would “bothered” automatically mean “harassed”? That doesn’t even make sense!

  3. You claimed in your other article:
    “In fact, I was impressed with TAM so much for ultimately intervening that I didn’t want to go into explicit detail of exactly how gross the guy had been to me, for fear of making TAM look bad.”

    So, if you didn’t tell anyone from TAM the specifics (that there was inappropriate touching, and persistent asking for sex after you said no), then how on earth was anyone supposed to know that the drunk uninvited guy was ALSO a sexual harasser?

    I think the entire miscommunication was that you didn’t tell them what happened.

    • ashleyfmiller

      That was why I didn’t go into detail *on my blog*. I was told that the guy was kicked out for sexual harassment of me and Jen.

      • Well, this whole thing is TAM being blamed for ignoring what happened to you, and unless you are saying that a TAM member specifically told you that the reason for the kick out was sexual harassment, then how was TAM to know? On your blog, you DO go into detail of what his sexual abuse consisted of (inappropriate touching, and persistent asking for sex after you said no, both VALID complaints).

        Those are serious things, one is sexual assault, and the other is sexual harassment. Please, if it happens again ever (and I hope it doesn’t), TELL the event organizers the specific crimes the person did. They can’t read your mind that he was worse than just what they themselves saw (drunk and uninvited to that reception), and more importantly, they can’t protect other women from this guy if you don’t tell them how bad his behaviour really is.

        Since they weren’t told about the sexual abuse, he was probably just tossed back into the main part of the TAM conference instead of out the door on his ass, where, who knows, maybe he kept doing those things to other women.

      • ashleyfmiller

        I am not blaming TAM, I have repeatedly said they did well. I’m saying that DJ shouldn’t be saying “women bloggers should shut up about harassment because it has never happened.”

        I was told by someone who had spoken to DJ about it that the guy was kicked out for his inappropriate behavior towards the women there and it was handled. Clearly there was a miscommunication.

      • You are being extremely unfair:

        “I assume that with an official written report, at this point DJ will have to stop saying that there’s never been a report.”

        The way you are phrasing this gives it an accusatory tone, as if he consciously decided to lie about there being no report.

        But there was no report.

        It was evidently a simple misunderstanding.

        And yet you keep phrasing it as if he was doing it on purpose.

        That’s shameful.

  4. Ashley, kudos for writing this post in such an open-minded and understanding fashion. It’s very human for people to dig in when they disagree with someone, but I have seen both you and DJ rise about this and care a lot more about finding the truth than anything else.

  5. Scented Nectar, you are a piece of work. Ashley did nothing but praise DJ, and you’re whining about how SHE handled being harassed wrong? What is your deal?

    • Thank you for my morning laugh. These articles were written to praise DJ, uh huh. :D

    • I disagreed that she did nothing but praise DJ. Example:

      “I assume that with an official written report, at this point DJ will have to stop saying that there’s never been a report.”

      This is not praise. This is an accusation. The tone of this sentence implies that he was hiding something and that he has been exposed. So she’s accusing him of being dishonest.

  6. She said he handled the situation quickly and effectively. She also said the situation happened. Those things are not mutually exclusive. She was then flabbergasted when he said the situation DIDN’T happen. Because HE WAS THE ONE WHO HANDLED IT.

    What is your problem, exactly?

    • I think the problem is that the guy was thrown out for being obnoxious in general, and not necessarily as a direct result of her filing a complaint?

  7. (Sorry, something went wrong so I’m trying this again.)

    You are being extremely unfair:

    “I assume that with an official written report, at this point DJ will have to stop saying that there’s never been a report.”

    The way you are phrasing this gives it an accusatory tone, as if he consciously decided to lie about there being no report.

    But there was no report.

    It was evidently a simple misunderstanding.

    And yet you keep phrasing it as if he was doing it on purpose.

    That’s shameful.

  8. macgruberknows

    Hey, look at all the evidence for the existence of this creep. Lot’s of other people remember him. Now look at the evidence for elevator guy. He was hanging around i n the bar for quite awhile – into the wee ours of the morning – but noone remembers him but Rebecca Watson and her self-serving agenda ridden memory. As a skeptic, the existence of the guy mentioned in this thread is pretty believable on the evidence given. Based on the self-serving narcicist Rebecca Watson’s self-serving ‘story’ of EG, I call bullshit and raise you twenty.

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