There's really no subtle or perfectly appropriate way to broach this topic, so I feel diving headfirst might be the best approach. Today I'd like to take a moment to talk about the subject of sexual harassment in the video game industry. To start with, we really need to remember the context. 2017 was the year that sexual harassment in general took a fierce hold on the spotlight of our lives. It seemed like everywhere you turned, there was someone else being accused of doing something awful. Least of which was the entire Harvey Weinstein scandal which re-popularized the “Me Too” social media movement. There was also the fact that Time named their “Person of the Year” as “The Silence Breakers.” These were of course the people who spoke out about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault. The social climate was very much focused on when the next person was going to come forward, not if.
Countless companies across every single industry were now dealing with a massive influx of sexual harassment cases. Some, like Microsoft, made it clear that they would be more transparent about these cases now and into the future. Others, like NeoGAF, did their best to move quickly past the drama in order to move on with their lives. No matter how these companies handled things, it was clear that the future of the video game industry was moving towards a firmer no tolerance policy than before. As far as I'm aware, most every company has these policies in place to begin with, but clearly the system was flawed. No matter your feelings on specific cases, I think we can all agree that true sexual harassment should not be happening to anyone in any workplace.
I've walked the line while explaining our topic of discussion for the day, but now it's time to get into some more potentially feather-ruffling opinions. That's what we're all here for right? To discuss our personal opinions on the matter at hand. I've already stated that I don't think it's fair for anyone to have to put up with sexual harassment in the workplace. While it can (and does) happen, it's up to the company at large to make things right. There are two further points to my opinion on workplace sexual harassment that I would like to elaborate on however.
First is the thinking that we should always believe the victim. This is inherently tied into my second point, so I'll have to share that as well before we get into more detail. That point is a seemingly “guilty until proven innocent” approach. Both of these things combine to make sexual harassment cases even more complicated and awful than they already are.
As far as believing the victim is concerned, yes, I do believe that within your power, either as an individual or a company, you should take every claim seriously. Sexual harassment can continue in a workplace if those involved do not take the alleged victim seriously. However, and this is a big one, I think the mindset of guilty until proven innocent when considering the potential perpetrator needs to stop. It is important that those who have legitimately victimized have a way to be heard and have justice served. But it is also important that those who are accused have the ability to be properly defended and still retain their name in cases that are false.
Unfortunately, when someone is accused of something awful, it taints their name whether the original accusation was true or not. Say someone had told my boss at my first retail job that I was a thief. Say my boss had taken that person at their word and fired me. Every job after that may call my previous boss, who would then have told them I was a thief. The truth would not come out, because my original boss had simply taken my co-worker at their word. Had they taken the time to investigate, they could have found no proof of theft and maybe even kept a closer eye on me to see if I slipped up in the future. While this would have still destroyed the trust I had built up, at least I wouldn't have lost my job.
The same is true of sexual harassment cases. Companies need to stop taking the approach that the accused person is automatically at fault. Someone could say I love the color purple, but unless they actually took the time to find out, they wouldn't realize that I actually love red. It's an oversimplification to be sure, but if you assume someone is a sexual harasser without finding proof first, you're committing the same sin on a much greater level. The phrase is “innocent until proven guilty,” and that is the way that the American justice system has operated for quite some time. This needs to be remembered in every case.
While we need to make sure that justice is served for those that have been sexually harassed. We need to also make sure that same justice is served for those that didn't harass anyone. If a case turns out to be false, that needs to be as widely reported and documented as the case that was true. If we perpetuate a system where liars can continue to lie with no consequences, we complicate things for ourselves in the future. Rather than drag someone's name through the mud needlessly, we need to be unbiased of our investigation into the situation. Many might call this harsh and uncaring. It's not that I don't believe the victims should be taken care of, it's simply that I believe in a system where truth should reign supreme.
It's easy when you think of it in simple terms. Take everything else out of the equation but truth. If someone accused you of something that you didn't do and it ruined your life, you would feel awful about it every single day. If someone accused you of something you didn't do, and the truth was found and revealed, thus freeing you to go back to a normal life, wouldn't things be better that way? If sexual harassment as actually taken place, then the perpetrator should absolutely be punished. But if it turns out that a lie was told, then the perpetrator is actually the accuser. Justice needs to be served in that case as well.
I feel I've ranted on quite long enough. Thank you to those that stuck with me this far. I'll close with a reminder that this has all simply been my opinion. I know that there are a vast many who disagree with me, and probably another vast many that agree with me completely. There's even those who fall somewhere in between. I'd like to hear from all of you in the comments if you have the time, so I'll see you then.