Reporting Harassment

People can be jerks. Sh*t can happen. PyLadies wants to provide a safe space for its members, so we’ve written this document to help those who experience harassment within the PyLadies community.

Note

You are not obligated to report harassment that you’ve faced, or witnessed! But we hope to provide mediums in which you feel comfortable doing so.

Who to Talk to

If you’ve faced harassment or witness an event attendee or someone within a PyLadies chatroom, we encourage you to report what you saw to an organizer, chat operator, or whomever is in charge of the space. For instance, if the incident was during a local PyLadies Meetup event, reach out to the organizer(s) of that specific event. If the incident was within the #pyladies IRC channel, please privately message the operator of the channel, currently @roguelynn (a.k.a. Lynn Root). You can also hop into the #pyladies-support channel for “live” discussion too.

If you can not find whomever is in charge with the PyLadies space, do not feel comfortable talking to them, or you wish to report a leader: please feel welcome to email us. The following PyLadies organizers are behind the Code of Coduct contact:

If you are not comfortable with one or more of the leaders above, please feel welcome to reach out to an individual above that you are comfortable with.

Harasser has relationship with venue/sponsor

If the harasser is an employee - or has an established relationship in some way - of the venue host or event sponsor, in addition to contacting a PyLadies leader above in some form, please feel empowered to reach out to the employer or whomever is responsible for the harasser.

Note

The following is adapted from the Geek Feminism Wiki (such a great resource!).

How to Report

We suggest that your report have two key things:

  1. a clear description of the harassment
  2. a statement of what it is you want the contact to do about the harassment

This makes it less likely that they will not understand, or pretend to not understand, that you want action taken. It also creates some evidence that they were asked to act, so that they cannot claim later that there was no specific thing they were supposed to do. Occasionally also someone is under specific instructions to not do anything about complaints without a specific call to action.

Other useful things to include:

  1. evidence, such as copies of harassing emails or letters, dates of phone calls or in-person actions

You may wish to store both copies/records of harassing contact and of complaints you made.

Sample Written Report

Dear <NAME>,

I wish to report that I was harassed by <NAME/EMAIL/HANDLE>, who <MANNER OF HARASSMENT>. [Optional: This harassment has had <EFFECT ON ME>.] Since you have <RELATIONSHIP WITH HARASSER>, I request that you take the following action:

<LIST OF ACTIONS>

[Optional: I request that you treat this complaint in confidence and not reveal identifying information about me to <HARASSER> or <SOME OTHER PEOPLE>.]

[Optional: I have already separately reported this harassment to <OTHER AUTHORITY> and they have taken <ACTION>.]

[Optional: a fuller account of their harassment/emails with full headers follows.]

<YOUR NAME>

Example Actions to Request

When reporting the incident, depending on your level of comfort and the level of severity, some example actions you may want to ask of us:

Meetup/In person organzied event

  • develop and enforce anti-harassment policy for your event
  • confirm whether or not <HARASSER>‘s behaviour violates existing anti-harassment policy
  • tell <HARASSER> to stop harassing people at this event
  • ask <HARASSER> to cease attempting to interact with me at this event/
  • record <HARASSER'S> behavior for monitoring
  • remove <HARASSER> from their position among the event organizers/staff/volunteers
  • ask <HARASSER> to leave the event
  • ban <HARASSER> from future events
  • assist me in referring <HARASSER>‘s actions to law enforcement

Online services (IRC, forums, etc)

PyLadies has an official IRC channel (#pyladies on Freenode), a Reddit subreddit (/r/pyladies), and a Google+ community. For those, you may contact the admin(s) or moderator(s) of such services, or reach out directly to us. There are many online groups that PyLadies organizers have for location-specific groups, in which contacting the admin(s)/moderator(s) or the contact email listed on our locations page may be best (you are still free to contact the main email as well!)

Example actions:

  • develop and enforce anti-harassment policy on your service
  • confirm whether or not <HARASSER>‘s behaviour violates existing anti-harassment policy
  • tell <HARASSER> to stop using this service to harass people
  • make <HARASSER> invisible to me, so that I cannot see their messages, whether public or private
  • monitor <HARASSER>‘s postings for threats
  • deregister/block <HARASSER> from using my part of this service, or give me instructions on how to do so (a particular forum or chat room, say)
  • deregister/block <HARASSER> from using this service
  • provide me/law enforcement with identifying information about <HARASSER>‘s account
  • assist me in referring <HARASSER>‘s actions to law enforcement

Other Avenues

PyLadies can only do so much, but there are other people and avenues to talk to where PyLadies may fall short. We also encourage our leaders to reach out to our contacts (e.g. an event host) to work towards making a better environment for our event space.

Employer

If the harrasser is an employee of a PyLadies venue host or sponsor, please feel comfortable in reaching out to their employer. You might consider reporting to the harasser’s employer if:

  • you are being harassed using company resources, such as from a work email address, fax machine or telephone number
  • the harasser claims that their actions were encouraged by their employer, such as being a marketing ploy or a customer outreach activity
  • you are being harassed by someone acting as a representative of their company, such as someone who is attending an event and wearing badges or distributing business cards with the company’s name on it or soliciting business for the company
  • you are being harassed privately by someone whose job requires them to maintain good public standing or who wields a great deal of authority in their job, such as an employee of a feminist organisation, a politician, a police officer, a doctor or a lawyer. For many professions you may be able to look up their professional ethics standard and find out if their behaviour outside of work is governed by their professional affiliation.

Possible actions to request:

  • tell me whether or not the actions of <HARASSER> were authorised or approved by your organisation
  • confirm whether or not <COMPANY> has policy that prohibits <HARASSER>‘s behavior
  • confirm for me that you will speak with <HARASSER> and make it clear to them that their behaviour is unacceptable and must stop immediately
  • immediately provide me with a new contact/account manager at <COMPANY>, as I cannot do business with <HARASSER> any longer
  • terminate my account with <COMPANY> effective immediately (obviously, this will depend on contracts you have in place)
  • do not allow <HARASSER> to represent <COMPANY> in this capacity again as <HARASSER> is harming your company’s image
  • re-consider <HARASSER>‘s employment with your company
  • assist me in referring <HARASSER>‘s actions to law enforcement

Professional Body

This might be, for example, a medical registration board, or the bar organisation for lawyers. You might consider this if your harasser is an individual who has a professional membership that governs their private behaviour. You may possibly also do this if your harasser is about to join such a profession (eg. they are a medical student).

Possible actions to request:

  • confirm whether or not <HARASSER>‘s behaviour violates your ethical code
  • confirm for me that you will sanction <HARASSER> according to your profession’s standards (you might make specific reference to their ethics code if you have read them)
  • open disciplinary proceedings against <HARASSER> to consider their deregistration from <PROFESSION>
  • do not allow <HARASSER> to register as a practising member of <PROFESSION>
  • assist me in referring <HARASSER>‘s actions to law enforcement

Educational Institution

Much as in the case of an employer, in some circumstances you might choose not to involve an educational institution in a student’s external activities. But again there are some circumstances where you might consider it:

  • you are being harassed using institutional resources, such as a institutional email address, fax machine or telephone number
  • the harasser claims that their actions were encouraged by their institution, such as claiming that the actions are part of a research study or project for assessment
  • you are being harassed by someone acting as a representative of their institution, such as someone attending or speaking at a conference in their role as a researcher

Possible actions to request:

  • tell me whether or not the actions of <HARASSER> were authorised or approved by your organisation
  • confirm whether or not <HARASSER> has ethics approval for this research [or assessment]
  • give me the contact details of the project’s chief investigator [or the course’s teacher] and <INSTITUTION>‘s ethics review board so that I can ask that <HARASSER>‘s project be reviewed
  • confirm whether or not <INSTITUTION> has policy that prohibits <HARASSER>‘s behaviour
  • confirm for me that you will speak with <HARASSER> and make it clear to them that their behaviour is unacceptable and must stop immediately
  • do not allow <HARASSER> to represent <INSTITUTION> in this capacity again as <HARASSER> is harming your institution’s image
  • re-consider <HARASSER>‘s enrolment with your institution
  • assist me in referring <HARASSER>‘s actions to law enforcement

Internet Service Provider

In the case where the harassment is occurring online service, you may be able to trace the harasser via email address or IP address to a particular ISP.

ISPs typically do not heavily police the actions of their users and may refuse to assist you unless law enforcement is also involved, but at the very least, you have a recorded complaint that may be useful if the person’s behaviour is systemic.

Possible actions to request

  • tell <HARASSER> to stop using this service to harass people
  • monitor <HARASSER>‘s Internet activity for threats
  • deregister/block <HARASSER> from using this service
  • provide me/law enforcement with identifying information about <HARASSER>‘s account
  • assist me in referring <HARASSER>‘s actions to law enforcement
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