If a woman experiences abuse at an open source tech event, how should she respond?
Should she fight for her life? Should she make breakfast for her attacker? Or should she simply join a whisper network?
Each year FOSDEM has a Legal & Policy Issues dev-room. In 2019, the president of the OSI, Molly de Blanc, stood up in the Legal & Policy dev-room to give a talk about community guidelines. Molly's message to women: "you lean on the whisper network"
This idea is as insulting as it is dangerous. Why are sex crimes not on a par with other types of crime? If somebody steals your car, do you go to the police or do you call the whisper network?
We suggest that for any woman who experiences sex crimes at an open source event: your best course of action is to leave and seek assistance from a doctor. Even if you have not suffered any physical injuries the doctor is probably the person most qualified to support you. Doctors swear the hippocratic oath, it is a promise to do what is best for their patient.
Members of Molly's anti-harassment gulag, who have renamed themselves to Community Team, do not swear a hippocratic oath. They have no training or experience to assist a genuine victim of abuse.
All these people have conflicts of interest. For example, Molly herself was secretly sleeping with Chris Lamb when he was leader of Debian. Imagine a woman comes to Molly's team to make an abuse complaint about Lamb or one of his close friends. The victim subsequently finds out the person processing the complaint was Lamb's girlfriend. The victim would feel even more violated.
There are two things that can happen if a woman places her trust in Molly's kangaroo court:
- Molly and her gulag pretend to be your friend but their real friend is the alleged perpetrator. They try to get as much information as possible to discredit you and undermine any legal options. You will never receive funding or speaking invitations to future events but nobody tells you this.
- Molly and her gulag pretend to be your friend but they have some vendetta against the alleged perpetrator. Maybe you just had an awkward conversation with some man and you wanted to discuss it with another woman to clear your mind. But Molly's whisper network turns it into a rape story. Somebody leaks emails about you. Strange people show up and start asking you to say something about the person. Everybody forgets why you came to the conference: you simply become the story.
It should be clear that in either direction, you, the victim, have no real prospect of privacy or dignity when dealing with these people.
Can women trust other women?
Women trusting women simply because they are women is not a good choice.
There are numerous examples of women like Molly who have been sympathetic to or even in cahoots with male abusers.
- Allison Mack was a leader in the NXIVM sex cult
- Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted of finding girls for Jeffrey Epstein
- Linda Reynolds, Australia's defence minister, persuaded her intern not to report a rape. Government underlings spread rumors about the victim's boyfriend. This is how you run a country like a free software organization.
Molly de Blanc