When Harassment Appears Harmless

ETA: After I posted this, Reddit removed JDA’s comments. Per the r/fantasy rules, “Acting in bad faith in this community can and likely will have consequences.

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A friend of mine was doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) over at Reddit. Among the comments and questions, someone posted the following:

“You’ve been integral in helping me grow my career to where I’ve made six figures on writing in less than 2 years in the biz. So thank you for the support! Look forward to joining you in SFWA. :)”

Seems innocuous, right? Even friendly and flattering, if a bit boastful and self-aggrandizing.

Here’s the thing. The author doing the AMA was SFWA president Cat Rambo. The individual leaving the comment was Jon Del Arroz. You may remember Del Arroz’s name from an earlier blog post documenting his history of trolling and harassing. One section of that post covered his attacks against Cat Rambo, including:

  • Accusing Rambo of defending pedophilia
  • Accusing Rambo, without evidence, of trying to “destroy” him
  • Generally trolling SFWA and Cat Rambo

Rambo repeatedly told Del Arroz to stop contacting her. It reached the point where she had to tell him any additional emails would be forwarded to her attorney.

Now take another look at that comment Del Arroz left on Rambo’s AMA.

There’s nothing friendly about repeatedly, deliberately violating someone’s boundaries. When someone has again and again told you to leave them the hell alone, and you keep following them around, popping up to leave comments or whatever? The words might be friendly, but the behavior is creepy/stalker/harassing.

It’s an attempted power move on the part of the creeper. “Ha ha, I don’t have to respect your boundaries, and there’s nothing you can do about it!” And if the victim complains, the harasser immediately blames them. “I was just trying to be friendly. Why does she have to be so hateful?”

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How many times do we see this kind of stalking, harassing behavior get downplayed because, from the outside, it seems harmless? “Oh, he was just coming up to your booth to say hi, that’s all. Why do you have to get all upset about it?”

Maybe because, again and again, there’s more to the story. There’s a history of harassing, threatening, and/or controlling behavior. But it’s easier to accuse the victim of overreacting than it is to recognize that a lot of this nastiness is deliberately intended to appear harmless. Not only does it let the harasser flaunt their power to violate the victim’s boundaries at will, it also sets the victim up to look crazy if they try to respond. (See also: gaslighting.)

How many times have we heard about a conflict and thought to ourselves, “I don’t get why the person is so upset. It doesn’t sound like this was a big deal.”

Just like a friendly comment on an AMA — in isolation — doesn’t seem like a big deal.

I’m not saying nobody ever overreacts to a slight. But people are awfully damn quick to downplay and dismiss complaints by refusing to consider larger patterns of behavior. And that dismissal is one of the reasons creeps and stalkers continue to get away with this kind of harassment.

20 Years of Diabetes

While I was in France, I hit my 20-year anniversary with type 1 diabetes.

In October 1998, I was a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University. I’d been really thirsty for a while, was having to pee all the time, and had turned into a Very Grumpy Jim. I also lost about 20 pounds, dropping to around 130ish.

My father is also type 1, so I was somewhat familiar with the disease, and had an idea what was happening to me. I went home and borrowed dad’s glucose meter, which said my blood sugar was too high to read. And that day — Halloween of 1998 — off to the hospital we went.

I’ve blogged about this from time to time over the years. I started out taking multiple shots a day and using a glucose meter that took 30 seconds to process my blood sample. A little while later, I switched over to an insulin pump. The meters got faster, smaller, and started using smaller blood samples.

I changed my diet in some respects — the biggest change was probably switching away from sugared pop — but I don’t have a rigid diet or meal schedule. Instead, I check my blood more often and fine-tune with my insulin as needed.

Earlier this year, I upgraded to a continuous glucose monitor, which gives me rough real-time data about my blood sugar. I still need to manually test my blood a few times a day to calibrate and double-check the CGM. My current meter is the size of a large USB thumb drive, and automatically sends my blood glucose reading to the pump. It also buzzes and beeps at me if my sugar starts to drop too low, which is both reassuring and obnoxious.

I’ve been pretty fortunate so far. We haven’t seen any direct complications from the diabetes. I’ve had a few other conditions come up that tend to be more common in diabetics — a minor thyroid malfunction, Dupuytren’s disease (which will require hand surgery in the coming years), and a bout of Peyronie’s disease (which is more common among people with Dupuytren’s, but may not be directly linked to the diabetes…) Annoying as these have been, they were all manageable/treatable, one way or another.

I’m also lucky to have very good medical insurance, which has covered most of the cost of my supplies and medications. A lot of people aren’t so fortunate, having to pay hundreds of dollars for each vial of insulin. Some end up rationing their insulin, which can lead to hospitalization and/or death. The American Diabetes Association has more information on their Make Insulin Affordable website.

I’ve learned two big lessons about the disease over the past two decades. (So I’m averaging learning one lesson every ten years. I never claimed to be a quick learner.)

1. The worst thing you can do is ignore or neglect the disease. A lot of the side effects happen over the long term. If I blow off checking my blood sugar for a few days, or let my sugar get out of control for a bit, it’s not likely to kill me right away. I might not even notice any immediate problems…for a while. Unfortunately, by the time you do notice, you’re likely to be facing major medical complications.

A family friend got into trouble with out of control type 2 diabetes. She needed a kidney transplant, among other things. My father used to play racketball with a man who lost a foot to uncontrolled diabetes.

It’s a pain in the ass having to manage this thing every single day, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the alternative.

2. There’s no such thing as perfect control. Yesterday I had a sandwich, granola bar, and yogurt for lunch. My blood sugar jumped into the 200s and insisted on staying there for much of the early afternoon. Today I had the exact same lunch. I took the exact same amount of insulin. My blood sugar is currently 112.

Why the difference? Heck if I know. Maybe my activity level was different? Maybe I was more stressed? Maybe the diabetes fairy rolled a natural 20 and got a critical hit on my blood sugar yesterday.

There’s a lot I can and should do to fine-tune my control, but there are too many variables to control them all, and sometimes stuff happens that just makes no damn sense. So you do the best you can. Talk to the doctor for ideas on how to improve control. But also recognize you’re not going to achieve perfection.

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Having inherited this thing from my father, I’m worried about passing it along. Dad and I both became diabetic at age 24. Both of us were in grad school, too. Ergo, I’ll make sure my kids don’t go to grad school until they’re at least 25. Problem solved!

Or not. But given how far the technology has come just in the past 20 years, let alone the 44 since Dad was diagnosed, I’m hopeful that when and if one of my kids comes down with it, we’ll have gotten the disease mostly under control, if not cured outright.

And on the day we do cure this thing — assuming I’m still around — I plan to celebrate with the biggest hot fudge sundae.

World Fantasy Con Guest of Honor Policies

A little while back, author and editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia contacted the World Fantasy Convention about the lack of diversity in their Guest of Honor line-up. Their response said, in part:

“Convention committees select Special Guests and especially Guests of Honor in order to recognize and pay tribute to their body of work within the genre over a significant period of time, usually consisting of decades in the field. Currently we find ourselves in the position of having a limited number of non-white/male authors, artists, agents, and editors to call on to balance the slates. However much we all wish it were different, and however glad we are to see things changing, the fact remains that only recently have a significant number of diverse writers, artists, agents, and editors entered the field.” (Emphasis added)

There’s a lot to unpack in the full letter, but I wanted to focus on this particular idea, that guests of honor had to have decades of experience in the field. So I went through the list of WFC guests of honor and pulled together the year of the con and the year of the guest’s first published book. It’s not a perfect way to measure years in the field, but I think it works pretty well.

Disclaimers:

I’ve posted the spreadsheet for anyone to review. Feedback and corrections are welcome.

I tried to eliminate all but the author guests of honor. Also, some conventions had both guests of honor and “special guests.” In these cases, I did not include the special guests.

There are a handful where I’m not sure about the first novel. All total, I ended up with 93 author guests, from 1975 to 2018.

Data:

ETA: Data and spreadsheet have been updated with corrections.

With those disclaimers out of the way, let’s take a look at the data.

  • Average Number of Years in the Field: 24
  • Median Number of Years in the Field: 22
  • Least Years in the Field: 4 5
  • Most Years in the Field: 73
  • Number of WFC Guests of Honor with less than 10 years in the field: 7 5
  • Number of WFC Guests of Honor with 10-19 years in the field: 29 30
  • Number of WFC Guests of Honor with 20-29 years in the field: 34 35
  • Number of WFC Guests of Honor with 30+ years in the field: 23

Conclusions:

The WFC Board said, “Convention committees select Special Guests and especially Guests of Honor in order to recognize and pay tribute to their body of work within the genre over a significant period of time, usually consisting of decades in the field.” I’ve seen others, people not necessarily affiliated with the con, argue that WFC author guests of honor should have at least 30 years in the field.

The latter is obviously untrue. Only a quarter of all guests have been active SF/F professionals for three decades or more.

As for the Board’s statement, it’s true that most guests of honor have had between one and two decades of professional SF/F experience. Most, but not all. WFC has repeatedly shown a willingness to have newer authors as guests or honor as well.

So any argument that WFC has to choose guests with a longer history in the SF/F field is demonstrably untrue.

Other Comments:

1. That excuse also falls flat since we’ve had diverse authors in the field for more than just the past 10 years. Authors of color, for example, were not invented in 2008.

2. Even if that weren’t the case, if you have a screening policy that results in the exclusion of minorities? You change the damn policy.

3. Three authors have been WFC author guests of honor twice. While all three of these authors have impressive careers and are very much deserving of honor and respect, this is another sign we need to look a little more broadly for guests.

4. As for the Board’s statement that, “only recently have a significant number of diverse writers, artists, agents, and editors entered the field,” here are just a few authors off the top of my head who — surprise! — have been around for a while now…

  • Samuel R. Delaney (The Jewels of Aptor, 1962)
  • Octavia Butler (Patternmaster, 1976)
  • Haruki Murakami, (Hear the Wind Sing, 1979)
  • Steven Barnes (Dream Park, 1981)
  • Ted Chiang (First Nebula Award in 1991)
  • Michelle Sagara (Into the Dark Lands, 1991)
  • Tananarive Due (The Between, 1995)
  • Stephen Graham Jones (The Fast Red Road: A Plainsong, 2000)
  • David Anthony Durham (Gabriel’s Story, 2001)
  • L. A. Banks, (Minion, 2003)

There are a heck of a lot more — my list is mostly limited to American authors, but shouldn’t the World Fantasy Convention welcome fantasy author guests from, well, the whole world? The idea that diverse authors and other SF/F professionals are somehow a new, recent thing is just utterly absurd and asinine.

Do better, WFC.


Errors/Corrections

  • The WFC History site listed Mary Robinette Kowal as a 2014 Guest of Honor. She was actually the Toastmaster, and as such, should not have been included in the dataset.
  • The WFC History site omitted Tananarive Due, who was a Guest or Honor at the 2017 WFC.
  • Jeff VanderMeer’s first book has been corrected to Dradin, In Love, first published in 1996.

Obligatory Awards Post, Nebula Edition

I only had two original pieces out in 2018. (Which is making me feel all sorts of unproductive, but I have to remind myself I finished writing Terminal Uprising, wrote another complete novel in Project K, and started on Terminal Peace, so it’s not like I was slacking…)

Anyway, my two awards-eligible stories are:

Short Story: “Second to the Left, and Straight On”

This 5300-word story was first published in Robots vs. Fairies. It’s one of the fairy stories, about broken families and Tinkerbell as a very angry cult leader. SFWA members can find this one in the Forums.

Novelette: Imprinted

This is a Magic ex Libris story set after the events of Revisionary, and follows Jeneta as she works on her own special research project. To be honest, I don’t expect this one to get much attention, being a) the fifth part of a series, and b) self-published. But y’all are welcome to prove me wrong.

So, there you go. What stuff have you read in 2018 that you think deserves some potential awards attention?

Utopiales

I realized I’d never posted about my time at Les Utopiales earlier this month. It took me a few days to recover from the jet lag, and then I was diving into revisions on Project K, and everything else just kind of slipped away.

So anyway, I’m back, and it was delightful. This was my second event in France, and it was quite different from Les Imaginales last year. Whereas Les Imaginales felt like a cross between a book festival and a renaissance fair, Utopiales had more of a familiar industry event vibe, taking place in a convention center in Nantes.

Utopiales Convention Center

They put most of the authors up in a hotel that’s literally just past the left edge of that photo, which was convenient. The first day there, I discovered my role for the week would be to play the White Night to Robert Jackson Bennett‘s damsel in distress, helping him find his way to registration, providing pens for his signings, and so on. I may have also snuck a photo of him while he was deep in Serious Author Interview mode. Or maybe playing Pokemon Go on his phone, I’m not sure…

Robert Bennett and interpreter

It was great (and a little overwhelming at times) getting to see and meet everyone. I didn’t get as much time as I wanted with people. Except for John Scalzi. That guy was everywhere, man! We got to talk author finances and beard gossip and all the ways we were messing up French dining etiquette.

There were only a few panels at a time, which meant you had a much larger audience. I really appreciated the panel on diversity and harassment and inclusion with Sabrina Calvo and John Scalzi. My other two panels were with hard-core scientist types, which left me feeling a little out of my league, but made for fascinating conversations. I wasn’t sure why I’d been added to those two at first, then I took a closer look at my bio in the program.

My website bio mentions that I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Michigan State University. Apparently somewhere along the line, this got mistranslated, and the Utopiales program book said I was a Doctor of Psychology. Oops!

I also got to catch up with my French publisher, l’Atalante. They had a lovely sign up advertising my Magic ex Libris books. This was my second time meeting most of the l’Atalante folks, and they continue to be lovely people.

Magie ex Libris sign

Utopiales kept me pretty busy with several panels, a lot of signings, and some interviews. But I managed to sneak away to explore a little of Nantes, including the castle, cathedral, and mechanical elephant. I also got out for some delicious galettes and crepes. (Thanks, Stephanie!)

Just like last year, I was reminded that three years of French during high school in the early 90s is not enough to survive. This didn’t stop me from trying. I couldn’t understand most of what people were saying, but I could sometimes put together a sentence or two. I also learned to answer some common questions at book signings, like which book is the first in the series. I know I screwed up sometimes, but it was fun anyway.

Thanks so much for Utopiales for inviting me, and thank you to all the readers and fans who came up during my signings.

You can see the rest of my pictures on Facebook or Flickr, if you’re so inclined.

Sexual Assault: Facts and Research

Major content warning for discussion of rape and sexual assault.

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Earlier this week, my daughter got into a conversation with someone who seemed to believe a lot of the myths and misinformation about rape. That it was rare … that rapists are generally caught and jailed … that there’s no real research into the prevalence of rape and sexual assault.

So I’m putting this together as a reference for my daughter, and for anyone else interested in the research and facts about sexual assault. (The emphasis here is on U.S. statistics.)

Prevalence

We don’t know exactly how frequent rape is, in part because it’s one of the most underreported crimes. A U.S. Bureau of Justice study from 2002 found that only “36% of rapes, 34% of attempted rapes, and 26% of sexual assaults were reported to police.” A 2016 study from the Medical University of South Carolina National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center found that “Only 16 percent of all rapes were reported to law enforcement.

So take, for example, the 2017 FBI report that found:

  • There were an estimated 135,755 rapes (revised definition) reported to law enforcement in 2017.

That’s about 0.04% of the population. Based on what we know of underreporting, we recognize that the true number was significantly higher. But even using these numbers, remember this is for a single year. If we take an 80-year lifespan, you end up with 3.3% of the population. And that’s just the reported numbers.

In 2010, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. This was a nationwide survey of randomly-selected subjects. Results are based on 16,507 completed and 1,542 partially completed interviews.

Some of their results:

  • Nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States has been raped in her lifetime (18.3%).
  • Approximately 1 in 71 men in the United States (1.4%) reported having been raped in his lifetime, which translates to almost 1.6 million men.
  • Nearly 1 in 2 women (44.6%) and 1 in 5 men (22.2%) experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape at some point in their lives.

A 2000 U.S. Department of Justice study focused on The Sexual Victimization of College Women. From a national sample of 4,446 women, they concluded:

  • Nearly five percent (4.9%) of college women are victimized in any given calendar year.

This study also highlighted another problem with collecting and reporting statistics about rape. Namely, that many people are unclear on the definition of rape. The study notes:

In each incident report, respondents were asked, “Do you consider this incident to be a rape?” For the 86 incidents categorized as a completed rape, 46.5 percent (n=40) of the women answered “yes,” 48.8 percent (n=42) answered “no,” and 4.7 percent (n=4) answered “don’t know.”

The 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study, prepared for the National institute of Justice, found that:

  • 26.1% of college senior women reported experiencing attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college.
  • 3.7% of college men reported being victims of completed sexual assault since entering college.

False Reports

Ever since I started working with rape survivors and talking about the research, people — mostly men — have been asking, “But what about all of the false reports?” It feels like that particular response has gotten more common in recent years, and it’s frustrating as hell.

To be clear, false reports of rape and sexual assault can and do happen. But the research shows such cases to be rare.

Let’s start with False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue to Successfully Investigate and Prosecute Non-Stranger Sexual Assault, published in 2009, which includes an extensive literature review that finds:

  • When more methodologically rigorous research has been conducted, estimates for the percentage of false reports begin to converge around 2-8%.

They conclude, “this realistic and evidence-based estimate of 2-8% thus suggests that the American public dramatically overestimates the percentage of sexual assault reports that are false.”

Going back a bit farther, a 1996 FBI report found that “Eight percent of forcible rape complaints in 1996 were ‘unfounded’.” But this includes complaints found to be “false or baseless,” and therein lies a problem. What qualifies as an unfounded report? Many reported rapes aren’t prosecuted because prosecutors don’t feel there’s sufficient evidence. “Baseless” and “false” aren’t the same thing.

In 2017, Sandra Newman gathered additional research on false accusations and found, among other things:

  • False rape accusations almost never have serious consequences.
  • In the most detailed study ever conducted of sexual assault reports to police, undertaken for the British Home Office in the early 2000s, out of 216 complaints that were classified as false, only 126 had even gotten to the stage where the accuser lodged a formal complaint. Only 39 complainants named a suspect. Only six cases led to an arrest, and only two led to charges being brought before they were ultimately deemed false.

Who Are All These Rapists?

There’s a common myth that rapists are creepy strangers lurking in bushes, and while this does happen, rapists are far more likely to be someone the victim knows.

Research finds some patterns among rapists. “These men begin early, studies find. They may associate with others who also commit sexual violence. They usually deny that they have raped women even as they admit to nonconsensual sex.”

Cross-campus studies of rape identify the following factors as contributors to sexual violence: sex-role socialization, rape myths, lack of sanctions for abuse, male peer group support, pornography, adversarial sexual beliefs, lack of empathy, and all-male membership groups such as fraternities and sports teams.”

Why Aren’t All the Rapists in Jail?

Another myth is that, since rape is a crime, shouldn’t rapists all end up in jail?

I 100% support jail time for rapists, but the reality is, our legal system does a poor job of prosecuting, convicting, and sentencing rapists.

There are a number of reasons for this. Take, for example, the nationwide problem of rape kits (evidence collected from a rape victim) being left to gather dust on shelves.

While things are starting to change here, and there’s more attention and push to process the backlog of rape kits, it’s obvious these cases weren’t a priority for many police departments.

Even when a victim reports a rape, the perpetrator is less likely to be arrested, prosecuted, and convicted when compared to other crimes.

If a rapist is convicted, they often receive a lenient sentence. One notorious example is that of convicted rapist Brock Turner, who was “convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault and sentenced to six months in county jail, three years probation and a requirement that he register as a sex offender.” Why only six months? In part, because the judge said a longer sentence “would have ‘a severe impact’ and ‘adverse collateral consequences’ on Turner.”

That’s far from the only example.

Given how often rapists receive these slap-on-the-wrist sentences, is it any wonder rape is so underreported? And that’s before you get into other reasons for not reporting, like one study that found 1 in 5 rape victims who didn’t report said it was because of a fear of reprisal. Or shame, denial, minimization, fear, or lack of information. Or victim-blaming. Or because when they do tell someone, they’re not believed.

Resources

Jim C. Hines