A frightening story
(Trigger warning for harassment, stalking, threats, and victim blaming.)
I’m a fresh computer-science grad. My major was web programming. The final semester, which happened just months ago, was rough.
One of my classes was reserved for people enrolled in one of two fields: web programming or computer programming. It was a course where the objective was to use all of our knowledge about writing, programming, the law, and ethics to create a real program or web site for a real client outside the school. This project was to be completed, as a team, by the entire class.
One of my classmates was an older man who knew nothing about web programming or web design and insisted that we were in a business class. How he got into the class in the first place, I have no idea.
He tried to mansplain dozens of things to me right off the bat, but the real trouble began when he insisted on stealing images from around the Internet to decorate our client’s web site. I told him we couldn’t do it.
Anyone who paid attention in the required freshman-level classes would have known that. Heck, tons of people who didn’t take any classes know that already because chances are they found out on the Internet. But he insisted that because I wasn’t a lawyer, I didn’t know anything about copyright law and I was not qualified to talk about it. He also said that if I was worried about the law I would have to drive to a faraway city to talk to a real lawyer and ask him to make sure we weren’t breaking any rules.
Then he told me to “stick to your programming and let the lawyers handle the law” – the equivalent of “get back in the kitchen”.
When I explained that I had taken my classes that addressed copyright law, and that the head of the department herself could confirm everything I told him, he brushed it off and said the she didn’t know what she was talking about either because she was “just a teacher”.
This is where it goes from mansplaining to something even worse, so I’ll understand if this one isn’t published.
After this he began harassing me. The verbal abuse, the on-campus stalking, the sexual harassment, and even some anti-LGBT harassment lasted for over a month. He continued challenging my knowledge of my own field, and every time he tried to assert that I knew absolutely nothing. Over and over again, he made his motive clear – that he considered telling him he couldn’t steal images a threat.
To cut a long and painful story short, it turned into a Kafkaesque nightmare with the Title IX coordinator telling me I was to blame, believing my harasser’s claims that I was the one harassing him, forcing me to attend mediation (in which my harasser threatened to stalk me off campus), and letting my harasser force terms on me to keep me completely silent and unheard in the class under threat of suspension.
I dropped the class to regain control, gained full credit elsewhere with help from the wonderful head of the department, and graduated on time as planned.
As for my harasser, by the time the semester ended he’d managed to drive away everyone but one sycophant. Together they ran the project into the ground and failed.
I later found out that my Title IX coordinator’s actions were illegal and that my harasser has a criminal record (violence, destruction of property, stalking, resisting arrest) and existing restraining orders against him. He had used his experience as an actual stalker and criminal to avoid disciplinary action when I made it clear I wasn’t going to take his abuse.
Abuse that was somehow “justified” because I corrected a man before I knew just how evil and creepy he was. And the Title IX coordinator fell for it. Wow.