The internet has long been a tool of sexual predators, with stories of web-enabled sex crimes becoming so familiar to the public that they are easily ignored. But the rare instance of a victim of (alleged) sexual assault going online to name names and tell her story has quickly exploded into controversy. This past Friday, Noirin Shirley, a technical writer at Google, wrote on her personal blog about being sexually assaulted at the ApacheCon tech conference in Atlanta:
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 Shirley’s post, “he” is Florian Leibert, a software engineer at Twitter, and her decision to call him out by name has not been well received by many. Valleywag complains, “identifying the guy was not the best move, as it drags the issue into the morass of moral ambiguity surrounding public accusations of serious crimes.” A post on the topic by TechCrunch writer Alexis Tsotsis (formerly of the LA Weekly) was taken down by the site. And there are plenty of harsh words and heated exchanges to be found on the subject in the comments sections of both Shirely’s blog and tech blogs around the web.
Shirley, who also filed a police report about the assault, must have realized her blog post would be controversial, not to mention potentially libelous. So why did she do it? The reasons Shirley lists on her blog are ones most of us ladies can relate to:
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.