Photo credit: Quiramax
In the current discussion about sexual harassment in the Dota scene, many points of views seem to come with some misunderstandings. To address some of the ongoing issues, I reached out to several people to collect some statements.
Trigger warnings: Sexual harassment, inappropriate behaviour
Some notes beforehand:
- This article is an opinion piece by me (NanaKrustofski), not by the entire product joinDOTA or its parent company Freaks 4U Gaming.
- This article is intended to address misunderstandings and explain the point of view of some affected people.
- This article is not intended to spread any hate, make accusations or target anyone. No witch hunt please.
- Sexual harassment affects every gender. Also, the abusers can have any gender. I fully support everyone on this matter.
- I know there are people who don't want to read about this topic anymore. I, too, wish I could write about Arteezy having a rampage with Troll Warlord or something. However, unlike others I cannot afford to simply not care about the issue and move on.
- I am fully aware that sexual harassment will not go away over night. But society has always been constantly shifting and changing, and a huge reason is open communication.
- Disclaimer: Comments on this piece are not visible, except for staff.
To give this article more depth, I reached out to discuss the situation with other people in the scene to include their points of view, experiences and opinions. I am beyond grateful that the following people agreed to help me and use their voices to amplify the stance against the grievances in our scene:
The article is split into three parts: sharing experiences and explaining our point of view, addressing some of the common misunderstandings and questions at the moment and lastly, a take on how we should all reflect our behaviour and how we can try to decrease toxicity in the community. It will be a long ride, but if you're interested, feel free to make a cup of tea and give it a read.
Every person feels differently: What crossed the line for you personally?
There are different degrees of harassment and crossing personal boundaries. Not every incident is a straight-up heavy abuse that needs to be taken to court, there are also minor cases which make the affected person uncomfortable. Everyone has their own personal space and feelings and it is important to respect those boundaries.
Another issue is that it's not single incidents, but that many people have to face these unpleasant situations regularly, which over time can change perception and sensibility. Accepting smaller cases of harassment or inappropriate behaviour is also the breeding ground to go a step further and trivialise more serious cases. Oftentimes, outsiders are not completely understanding on why a certain even minor incident was hurtful or bothersome. This is why we want to share some of our personal experiences of negative behaviour in the Dota scene. Note that these are only one example of a large catalogue per person.
And please, don't overwhelm the people who did speak out by asking them to explain everything to you. There is only so much emotional energy in the scene right now. It's especially limited for the people who have to also deal with the scum tweets, messages, and threats.— Kevin 'Purge' Godec (@PurgeGamers) June 24, 2020
Hoxie: On more than one occasion, I have been told (or it has been very heavily implied) that I should trade sex for access to an event or introductions to people. There have also been cases where those working for organisations (that I am a fan of or would want to work with) have taken advantage of their position to be incredibly creepy towards me. I’ll also note that when I took even a single step towards the esports scene I was warned. Many times, by different people, about different people.
Nana: At every Dota or gaming event, there are people I try to avoid. They aren't all dangerous predators who might abuse us any second, but people who made me or someone I know feel uncomfortable at some point. As an example of a comparably harmless person: A former team manager once got in contact with me through some loose friends. He quickly started to flirt with me, I told him I was not interested and had a boyfriend.
He kept on writing unpleasant messages and then sent me nudes – completely out of the blue. He hasn't work in the industry anymore for years and I blocked him anyways, but he still attends event. I told the story to another guy I played pubs with. His answer was to send me pictures of his crotch. Naturally, I cut ties with him as well and don't look forward to seeing any of these goblins at events.
The problem are not the two guys on my list of people I personally try to avoid, it's the fact that the list has a lot more names on it. I don't walk around traumatised, being scared of potential predators everywhere. But I still have to be cautious at all times and often feel uncomfortable. My girls and I make up codewords and signs to signal each other we want to get away from someone. This shouldn't be the case.
Reinessa: My first ever Dota 2 event was at TI4, and I was beyond excited to finally be at an event with so many people I admired and to have a chance to meet someone who loved cosplay and loved Dota. I waited in line, and when we went to take a picture, a caster said 'Wait, we have to do this pose' and slid down my leg. I didn't think too much of it, but I could see the huge crowd of people in front of us all taking their pictures and I was just leaning as far away as possible to make it as not awkward as possible.
I really don't hold any ill will for this, because it was a stupid 'for the memes' moment but I still see flashes of the players/VIP area looking down from the balcony above and the flashes of their camera as they laughed along and watched. It's that feeling of being watched while this happened that has always stayed with me. That feeling that cosplayers are objects and not artists. It always stuck with me. I have worse stories of harassment and fear, but I have confronted all of them and let them know that I did not approve and their names don't belong in this.
Why people don’t share their stories just because "they want attention"
Hoxie: I think a lot of people think we gain 'fame' or 'clout' or can even advance our career by discussing this topic or talking about our experiences.
To drag up painful and traumatic memories, to put yourself out there in this way, what do you think people stand to gain from that? Look at the responses to the recent allegations, the responses from people who think a small percentage of accusations being false is a perfectly good excuse to belittle victims, send death threats, threats of sexual violence. The first thing victims are accused of when they speak out is trying to ruin someone else’s life.
Ask yourself what women stand to gain by (often anonymously) coming forward with the harassment they've received. They're not getting fame, clout, money, justice. They're getting hate and bile, if anything.— Nigma (@NigmaNoname) June 25, 2020
The notion that they're doing this for sport is completely inane. https://t.co/xkrwjKMryL
Reinessa: The attention you get from speaking up CAN BE positive for the first couple days. The problem is that those who support it say 'cool, this happened, we support her, problem solved' while those who are angry or upset will remember and continue to attack. So in addition to reliving your trauma in telling it, you must also face the burden of proof (while the accused can be completely innocent without the same burden of proof), and you must face reliving your trauma for an immeasurable amount of time due to the feathers you rustled in speaking up. Speaking up is terrifying for so many reasons, and those can stun you into silence out of fear.
I spoke up, mildly. Barely. I was physically ill for days out of guilt for making those I spoke up against feel bad. I felt bad about criticising someone for their behaviour that made women uncomfortable. I felt bad for 'making someone a victim' by pointing out their behavior was not okay. I face continuous and regular accusations and harassment because of it. Nothing crazy, but it is there and present.
Nobody is getting canceled just because someone wrote a bad tweet about them.— LD (@LDeeep) June 26, 2020
There is a process even if you don't see it.
That process NEEDS to be confidential and safe for the protection of the survivors coming forward. https://t.co/K2rcUOkr9Z
Nana: Yes, there might be some individuals who are lying and trying to get some attention, even craving for negative feedback and drama. You don't have to immediately believe every single word a stranger on the internet says. It's reasonable if you personally want to hear other sides of the story, we all should do that. However, if you doubt something, it is not the most decent move to jump to conclusions that the person is a liar who only wants attention if you don't know anyone involved personally. And it's especially unfair to straight up insult them and spread hate.
Why? Because there are only very few cases of false rape accusations. When searching for numbers, you can find studies and reports on court cases which span from around 0.5% to around 6%, depending on the region and circumstances that were being investigated. Studies on accusations that were not taken to court show a similar tendency. The possibility that the person is telling the truth is usually quite high, as sexual harassment and abuse is way more common than most people are aware of. There might be cases of people lying, but you need to handle the general issue more careful than most people do.
Also, please always remember that you don't know a person throughout, just because you followed their self-presentation on the internet for a few years. Other people who work with the accused person know more about personalities off-camera, therefore their judgment can be more rational. Not believing victims is dangerous. Cancel culture is dangerous. Using your head and getting educated is reasonable.
What the fuck do you mean "I know ur a good person". You dont fucking know him at all, thats the whole point. you know an idea that is presented to you via the form of clips, stream persona and other things. this is one of many parts of the whole movement, ppl arent who you think— LS (@LSXYZ9) June 28, 2020
Not a Dota case, but the message applies to cases in general
Why saying "just mute them, grow thicker skin or leave the internet if you can’t handle it" is an incredibly questionable mindset
Moxxi: I've never understood the mentality of: 'This is bad. We should just leave it alone.' If something is bad, we should strive to change it. What people fail to realise is that if our community is so toxic and we don't even attempt to fix it, it will make new players leave. And if new players leave, then our game will begin to die. Dota is an incredible game that is constantly evolving and getting patch updates to keep it interesting. Dota deserves better. We deserve better.
Reinessa: Tolerating any kind of abuse - whether physical or emotional, is a reprehensible response. Giving up because it seems inevitable is not okay, and honestly - I don't have a high opinion of the intelligence on that reply. Just look at history in the last few hundred years. Women couldn't always vote - they didn't accept it because 'that's the way it is'.
Slavery was pervasive to the Southern US economy - 'some people are slaves, just deal with it and accept your life' isn't something that someone would say now, or shouldn't. Accepting a culture that objectifies and dehumanizes women, that constantly directs racist and sexist remarks, that thinks rape jokes and doxxing are funny and valid responses?
How can someone honestly think that is ok? There is nothing wrong with asking and expecting people to be better. And in any study I have seen that examines online toxicity, women receive equal to men across the board AND THEN receive a heapload more harassment because of their gender. So 'everyone deals with it, grow up' is ridiculous, because they deal with so, so, so much more simply because they 'dare to play video games'.
It is totally okay to mourn or grieve for someone you used to be friends with, or idolize, or feel many complex feelings about it such as shame, disbelief, anger, loss or more.— Kelly Ong ✊?✊? (@kellymilkies) June 26, 2020
Please DO NOT turn these feelings into victim blaming.
Nana: To keep it short, I won't change my profession and abandon my passion just because some gremlins don't know how to behave properly.
Hoxie: It's a silly argument often used to shift responsibility. Why should people have to 'handle' toxicity, hatred, harassment and abuse because of something they can't change? Why are people so willing to defend that? I think people are more disgusted with the accusations than the actual idea that these negative things/people exist in their community, and as a result are unwilling to face it and own their actions.
ALWAYS BOTHER. In every case of a person speaking out about injustice the scum come and verbally harass them. That person reads their mentions and feels attacked and alone. This is the same line of thought as "well you can't change their behavior, just mute them". https://t.co/2ZIg97OkfG— Kevin 'Purge' Godec (@PurgeGamers) June 25, 2020
Why aren't the affected people coming out with their stories earlier? Why do they wait for years and "jump on the accusation train online?”
Brax: There are a multitude of reasons for this and it's going to come down to their own personal experiences with the matter. Reliving trauma/confrontation/repercussions from community, jobs, and or peers are all obstacles to overcome.
Reinessa: The backlash is so immense, that unless you can see the possibility of support, it is hard to speak. I think the most motivating factor for speaking is to actually protect other people - so people wait to speak, because they don't seek justice for themselves, they want to move on from the pain. They only speak because they realize they can sacrifice their pain if it means sparing someone else the same experience.
Hoxxie: I think a lot of victims may feel they're alone in their experiences. That by coming out, they'll be met with hatred and belittlement, or just won't as they are the only one. The attitude towards abuse victims is already incredibly hostile. Often those who experience sexual assault feel shameful or guilty, like they are the ones at fault. It can take years for victims of abuse to even realise what happened to them. I know for me personally, reading about other experiences dragged up traumatic memories, but pushed me to talk about mine - I didn't feel like the only one anymore.
The story I won't share (and why)— Meruna (@Meruna_) June 24, 2020
Nana: Look at the reactions to any case and you should know the answer. In the words of Meruna 'You created this environment that made me unable to speak up years ago and that still frightens me. I'm not scared of person X. I'm scared of the community.'
You also don't know what actions affected people already took, even years ago. They might have went to the police or talked about the employer and they might have addressed the situation with the accused person before. It is also difficult to come to terms with the assault. If a complete stranger harasses you on the streets, it's easier to think: 'This is a bad person and what they did was wrong'. However if you know the person and you get along with them and all your friends like them, questions start to rise. Is this really a bad person? Was it my fault? Am I overreacting? Everyone likes them, I don't have the right to destroy thie relationship, right?
Moxxi: Fear. It never felt safe for us to come forward with these stories. Hearing other people come forward makes us less afraid, believing that people might actually listen instead of just dismissing us. Some of these stories are about legends within our scene who hold a lot of power. The fear of being told dismissed as a liar or worse, attacked by their supporters, is awful - especially if you're being forced to relive your trauma. I know a few women who STILL don't want to publicly share their stories - they're too afraid that their assailant's supporters will attack them, even if they possess proof.
And it's not just women, several men within the scene have come forward to share their stories that they've never told as well because they finally feel supported enough to share.
And just as important:— Nahaz (@NahazDota) June 24, 2020
If you want things to improve, you need to ACTIVELY think about the other person's ABILITY to say no.
Is it going to embarrass them, socially or professionally?
Could they fear consequences for doing so?
If you're unsure, ask differently- or not at all.
What we all can do to make everyone feel safer and more comfortable in the scene
Sheever: I just hope that once we move forward from this, we can apply everything we learned from it and make this community a better place. And that starts here, online and irl, with holding each other accountable for what we say and do. If you see bad behaviour in your pubs, on forums, in chats, in your friends group: call it out. Speak up, make sure people know that it is bad behaviour. Make people aware that they can be held accountable for what they say and do, even online. That is how it starts, that is how we can move forward and grow from this. It includes change in everyone.
Brax: The DotA scene is getting older and it's easy to see especially in the talent/players. We're all getting older and reaching places in life where we can truly appreciate the important things like creating a safe environment that encourages growth rather than putting people down.
With age our priorities shift to the things that are actually important and being able to look back and reflect upon ourselves and our community and turn it into something we can be proud of should be something we can all agree is for the better. Reflection starts from within and once we have a real understanding of it we can help each other.
I've been up for too long so I'm heading to bed after I hit tweet. If we want to get through this we've got to change. It took to long to get this out but I hope you can take something from it. <3 to the truth tellers out there.https://t.co/RB7SHajsZV— LyricalDota (@LyricalDota) June 25, 2020
Reinessa: Speak up. I don't want to guilt or force people into saying something for the sake of saying something - but if you are getting hired in any capacity, ask who else is being hired. Push for safer spaces, push for codes of conduct, push for more diversity at the table, push for accountability. And most importantly, do not forget. This cannot be a 'we had a woke movement for a week we fixed everything'.
We need a cultural shift. This is decades of work, non-stop. It's easy right now, everyone is fired up and remembers and knows. It won't be as easy in six months. It won't be as easy when it's a nasty comment in a pub instead of a rape allegation. It won't be as easy when a new streamer pops up and someone says 'eh another twitch thot'. But it is important to continually engage. It should not have to end in rape for people to care. People need to be vigilant and diligent about change at all levels so that women feel safe and are given the space and opportunity to exist.
Hoxie: Stop listening to respond. Start listening to understand. I think a little empathy goes a long way, especially when talking about those who drag up painful and probably traumatic memories when they talk about their experience. Try to understand how others feel. Amplify their voices. Even retweeting someone's story on Twitter is a great way to support those coming out. It helps to raise awareness, share their story or experience.
Moxxi: Make people accountable for their actions. The reason why this has gotten so huge is that there have been people able to continue to be an abuser because they've never faced any repercussions for their behaviour. I applaud all of the people in power right now that are actively trying to help us make the community a better place and who have been very outspoken in support. Knowing who our allies are makes this a lot easier and less terrifying to try to find someone who will listen and help us.
If there are people like me who want to help but don’t know how: start small.— Sheever (@SheeverGaming) June 24, 2020
If you see sexist/bad behavior in your community, games, in livestream chats-> call it out! Not speaking up empowers the pervs to perhaps next time go further than just a comment.
We can do better.
How we can all educate ourselves and reflect our own behaviour
Reinessa: Look up problematic behaviour. Question your innate reactions. When I see a lot of cleavage, I still instantly think 'sheesh why' and I have to smack myself to go 'NO, their body, their choices, wow I am proud of their confidence'. When I don't know someone well, I still struggle with knowing I shouldn't hug them without knowing if they are okay with it - I think because I am a woman, that people won't mind me being in their space. These are small unconscious reactions and we need to identify them. We need to move on past shame and guilt and put that energy into actions.
Moxxi: Reflection is the first step towards growth. I have had numerous people dm me in the last few days asking me if they'd ever done anything inappropriate to me and also asking how they can be better ally and support us. From there, they listened, asked questions, and genuinely wanted to be educated on the issue. It's hard to put yourself in the shoes of other people - so listening to others experiences and trying to understand them is a huge step in the right direction. Reinessa has made an incredible video about how to be a better ally - I would recommend watching it.
If there is anything else you want to address, explain, shed a light on: feel free to add anything you want
Reinessa: The outpouring pain people feel now? Channel it into supporting women. Recognise that if a woman has made it anywhere in esports, she has probably had to endure a massive host of problems that hide beneath the surface. Recognise that diverse voices are how we understand and empathise for each other. Support content long term, not just this week. Look for women (and POC) to be included in not just talent line-ups, but as writers, video editors, production people, hospitality, admins, everything. There are talented people there that are overlooked because 'they look different' and we all need to look a little harder to include more of those voices.