I had a hell of a time last night – in good and bad ways.
The good came first. The ApacheCon lightning talks were, as usual, hilarious. The talented Paul Fremantle brought out his tinwhistle and I danced an only-slightly off-time hornpipe. Bertrand revealed the secrets of the members@ mailing list with a speaking chorus. A crazy person with a graphing calculator and a psychedelic three-ring binder gatecrashed and spoke about no-one’s sure what. Ross, Paul and I did an “Ask Me!” talk. Leo, Rich, Shane filled their five minutes in traditional and hilarious and moving fashions. Jean-Frederic had us saying Hello World in more languages than I could count. We laughed as we counted hesitations, repetitions and deviations. It was great.
The party moved up to my room. We had beer, and beer pong, and altogether too many people crammed in. It was more egalitarian than I remember last year’s being – lots of new people, lots of people who weren’t part of the old Apache guard. A charming Southern gentleman with the most awesome belt I’ve ever seen (Carl, where did you get that!?), an excited Berliner who picked me up and whirled me around and somehow managed to avoid having me kick anyone in the head. I lay across the bed, sat on laps, generally tried to squish in to any available space and get time to talk to all the fabulous people thronging the place.
At some point, it was too late and too loud to reasonably continue. Everyone cleared out (Nick, you are a *god*, for spending the extra five minutes to clear the carnage, so that I could wake up in a room that showed no signs of what had happened the night before!), and we headed to the Irish pub next door that has become our local.
Some food, a few more beers. Squeezing everyone up so I could sit next to someone I wanted to talk to. Laughing at the events of the week, and the night.
And then I went to the loo, and as I was about to go in, Florian Leibert, who had been speaking in the Hadoop track, called me over, and asked if he could talk to me.
I’m on the board of Apache. I’m responsible for our conferences. I work on community development and mentoring. If you’re at an Apache event and you want help, information, encouragement, answers, I will always do my best to provide. So this wasn’t an unusual request, and it wasn’t one I expected to end the way it did.
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.
I broke away, headed back to the group, and hid behind some of the bigger, burlier infra guys, while Bill sorted out all the people who’d left stuff in my room, so that I could reasonably escape. We headed back, people got their stuff, Bill stayed around, and I slept.
When Bill woke up, I pretended to still be asleep, because I couldn’t deal with speaking to anyone. I sent a mail to our planning committee to say that I’d been assaulted. Charel came to talk to me, and then I e-mailed Nick, who came up and helped me sort things out so I could get to the keynote and feel safe. Florian didn’t turn up today, and it’s probably for the best.
I had a few drinks. I was wearing a skirt of such a length that I had cycling shorts on under it to make me feel more comfortable getting up on stage and dancing. I had been flirting with a couple of other boys at the party.
It’s not the first time something like this has happened to me, at all. It’s not the first time it’s happened to me at a tech conference. But it is the first time I’ve spoken out about it in this way, 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.
But I don’t give the wrong impression, and it’s simply not true that guys can’t read me right. I don’t want to be assaulted, and the vast majority of guys read that just fine. It is not my job to avoid getting assaulted. It is everyone else’s job to avoid assaulting me. Dozens of guys succeeded at that job, across the week. In the pub, in the stairwell, on the MARTA, in my bedroom.
One guy failed, and it’s his fault.
ETA: My heartfelt thanks to the Atlanta police for their sensitivity and professionalism.