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July 7 Update: Per Patrick Nielsen Hayden, an editor with Tor, James Frenkel is no longer with Tor Books.

ETA: Elise has said she’s comfortable with the following comment being shared. “My name is Sigrid Ellis. I was one of the co-hosts of the party Elise mentions. The person Elise reported for harassment is James Frenkel.” (Source)

I am beyond furious.

In 2010, in response to a series of specific incidents involving an editor in the community, I posted a list of resources for Reporting Sexual Harassment in SF/F. A number of people made reports about this individual.

I thought those reports had made a difference. I was wrong.

What follows is an account and essay from Elise Matthesen describing the process of reporting an incident that took place this year at Wiscon. While I’m not in a position to name names on my blog, I will say that the individual in question is the same one I was hearing about in 2010.

I ended up speaking to this person a while after I wrote that original blog post. He seemed genuinely contrite and regretful. I thought … I hoped … that he had learned, and that he would change his behavior.

I was wrong.

From what I’ve learned, nothing changed. Because the reports weren’t “formally documented,” this person was able to go on to harass other women.

Please read Elise’s essay. I’ve bolded one section about filing a formal report. If you’re aware of the situation and want to do so, I’ll be happy to do whatever I can to help hook you up with the appropriate contacts.

My thanks to Elise for her relentless work on this.


We’re geeks. We learn things and share, right? Well, this year at WisCon I learned firsthand how to report sexual harassment. In case you ever need or want to know, here’s what I learned and how it went.

Two editors I knew were throwing a book release party on Friday night at the convention. I was there, standing around with a drink talking about Babylon 5, the work of China Mieville, and Marxist theories of labor (like you do) when an editor from a different house joined the conversation briefly and decided to do the thing that I reported. A minute or two after he left, one of the hosts came over to check on me. I was lucky: my host was alert and aware. On hearing what had happened, he gave me the name of a mandated reporter at the company the harasser was representing at the convention.

The mandated reporter was respectful and professional. Even though I knew them, reporting this stuff is scary, especially about someone who’s been with a company for a long time, so I was really glad to be listened to. Since the incident happened during Memorial Day weekend, I was told Human Resources would follow up with me on Tuesday.

There was most of a convention between then and Tuesday, and I didn’t like the thought of more of this nonsense (there’s a polite word for it!) happening, so I went and found a convention Safety staffer. He asked me right away whether I was okay and whether I wanted someone with me while we talked or would rather speak privately. A friend was nearby, a previous Guest of Honor at the convention, and I asked her to stay for the conversation. The Safety person asked whether I’d like to make a formal report. I told him, “I’d just like to tell you what happened informally, I guess, while I figure out what I want to do.”

It may seem odd to hesitate to make a formal report to a convention when one has just called somebody’s employer and begun the process of formally reporting there, but that’s how it was. I think I was a little bit in shock. (I kept shaking my head and thinking, “Dude, seriously??”) So the Safety person closed his notebook and listened attentively. Partway through my account, I said, “Okay, open your notebook, because yeah, this should be official.” Thus began the formal report to the convention. We listed what had happened, when and where, the names of other people who were there when it happened, and so forth. The Safety person told me he would be taking the report up to the next level, checked again to see whether I was okay, and then went.

I had been nervous about doing it, even though the Safety person and the friend sitting with us were people I have known for years. Sitting there, I tried to imagine how nervous I would have been if I were twenty-some years old and at my first convention. What if I were just starting out and had been hoping to show a manuscript to that editor? Would I have thought this kind of behavior was business as usual? What if I were afraid that person would blacklist me if I didn’t make nice and go along with it? If I had been less experienced, less surrounded by people I could call on for strength and encouragement, would I have been able to report it at all?

Well, I actually know the answer to that one: I wouldn’t have. I know this because I did not report it when it happened to me in my twenties. I didn’t report it when it happened to me in my forties either. There are lots of reasons people might not report things, and I’m not going to tell someone they’re wrong for choosing not to report. What I intend to do by writing this is to give some kind of road map to someone who is considering reporting. We’re geeks, right? Learning something and sharing is what we do.

So I reported it to the convention. Somewhere in there they asked, “Shall we use your name?” I thought for a millisecond and said, “Oh, hell yes.”

This is an important thing. A formal report has a name attached. More about this later.

The Safety team kept checking in with me. The coordinators of the convention were promptly involved. Someone told me that since it was the first report, the editor would not be asked to leave the convention. I was surprised it was the first report, but hey, if it was and if that’s the process, follow the process. They told me they had instructed him to keep away from me for the rest of the convention. I thanked them.

Starting on Tuesday, the HR department of his company got in touch with me. They too were respectful and took the incident very seriously. Again I described what, where and when, and who had been present for the incident and aftermath. They asked me if I was making a formal report and wanted my name used. Again I said, “Hell, yes.”

Both HR and Legal were in touch with me over the following weeks. HR called and emailed enough times that my husband started calling them “your good friends at HR.” They also followed through on checking with the other people, and did so with a promptness that was good to see.

Although their behavior was professional and respectful, I was stunned when I found out that mine was the first formal report filed there as well. From various discussions in person and online, I knew for certain that I was not the only one to have reported inappropriate behavior by this person to his employer. It turned out that the previous reports had been made confidentially and not through HR and Legal. Therefore my report was the first one, because it was the first one that had ever been formally recorded.

Corporations (and conventions with formal procedures) live and die by the written word. “Records, or it didn’t happen” is how it works, at least as far as doing anything official about it. So here I was, and here we all were, with a situation where this had definitely happened before, but which we had to treat as if it were the first time — because for formal purposes, it was.

I asked whether people who had originally made confidential reports could go ahead and file formal ones now. There was a bit of confusion around an erroneous answer by someone in another department, but then the person at Legal clearly said that “the past is past” is not an accurate summation of company policy, and that she (and all the other people listed in the company’s publicly-available code of conduct) would definitely accept formal reports regardless of whether the behavior took place last week or last year.

If you choose to report, I hope this writing is useful to you. If you’re new to the genre, please be assured that sexual harassment is NOT acceptable business-as-usual. I have had numerous editors tell me that reporting harassment will NOT get you blacklisted, that they WANT the bad apples reported and dealt with, and that this is very important to them, because this kind of thing is bad for everyone and is not okay. The thing is, though, that I’m fifty-two years old, familiar with the field and the world of conventions, moderately well known to many professionals in the field, and relatively well-liked. I’ve got a lot of social credit. And yet even I was nervous and a little in shock when faced with deciding whether or not to report what happened. Even I was thinking, “Oh, God, do I have to? What if this gets really ugly?”

But every time I got that scared feeling in my guts and the sensation of having a target between my shoulder blades, I thought, “How much worse would this be if I were inexperienced, if I were new to the field, if I were a lot younger?” A thousand times worse. So I took a deep breath and squared my shoulders and said, “Hell, yes, use my name.” And while it’s scary to write this now, and while various people are worried that parts of the Internet may fall on my head, I’m going to share the knowledge — because I’m a geek, and that’s what we do.

So if you need to report this stuff, the following things may make it easier to do so. Not easy, because I don’t think it’s gotten anywhere near easy, but they’ll probably help.

NOTES: As soon as you can, make notes on the following:

  • what happened
  • when it happened and where
  • who else was present (if anyone)
  • any other possibly useful information

And take notes as you go through the process of reporting: write down who you talk with in the organization to which you are reporting, and when.

ALLIES: Line up your support team. When you report an incident of sexual harassment to a convention, it is fine to take a friend with you. A friend can keep you company while you make a report to a company by phone or in email. Some allies can help by hanging out with you at convention programming or parties or events, ready to be a buffer in case of unfortunate events — or by just reminding you to eat, if you’re too stressed to remember. If you’re in shock, please try to tell your allies this, and ask for help if you can.

NAVIGATION: If there are procedures in place, what are they? Where do you start to make a report and how? (Finding out might be a job to outsource to allies.) Some companies have current codes of conduct posted on line with contact information for people to report harassment to. Jim Hines posted a list of contacts at various companies a while ago. Conventions should have a safety team listed in the program book. Know the difference between formal reports and informal reports. Ask what happens next with your report, and whether there will be a formal record of it, or whether it will result in a supervisor telling the person “Don’t do that,” but will be confidential and will not be counted formally.

REPORTING FORMALLY: This is a particularly important point. Serial harassers can get any number of little talking-to’s and still have a clear record, which means HR and Legal can’t make any disciplinary action stick when formal reports do finally get made. This is the sort of thing that can get companies really bad reputations, and the ongoing behavior hurts everybody in the field. It is particularly poisonous if the inappropriate behavior is consistently directed toward people over whom the harasser has some kind of real or perceived power: an aspiring writer may hesitate to report an editor, for instance, due to fear of economic harm or reprisal.

STAY SAFE: You get to choose what to do, because you’re the only one who knows your situation and what risks you will and won’t take. If not reporting is what you need to do, that’s what you get to do, and if anybody gives you trouble about making that choice to stay safe, you can sic me on them. Me, I’ve had a bunch of conversations with my husband, and I’ve had a bunch of conversations with other people, and I hate the fact that I’m scared that there might be legal wrangling (from the person I’d name, not the convention or his employer) if I name names. But after all those conversations, I’m not going to. Instead, I’m writing the most important part, about how to report this, and make it work, which is so much bigger than one person’s distasteful experience.

During the incident, the person I reported said, “Gosh, you’re lovely when you’re angry.” You know what? I’ve been getting prettier and prettier.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 44 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 28th, 2013 02:27 pm (UTC)
Having dealt with various corporate HR departments before, none of this shocks me. If you want things to stick, it has to be formal and not necessarily confidential. "Confidential" sounds good, but it doesn't lead very often to anything permanent.
Jun. 28th, 2013 02:51 pm (UTC)
You know what, though? A lot of writers are not in a position to be dealing with various corporate HR departments regularly. The information that if you want to be kept confidential, that includes the information being kept from HR/Legal is not always intuitive to people who are not steeped in corporate HR.
(no subject) - mtlawson - Jun. 28th, 2013 03:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - redbird - Jun. 28th, 2013 03:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mtlawson - Jun. 28th, 2013 03:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 28th, 2013 03:13 pm (UTC)
I had thought the publishing house in question had, after 2010, undertaken to discourage this person from going to cons?
Jun. 28th, 2013 03:17 pm (UTC)
I believe steps were taken. Clearly, they were not enough.
(no subject) - la_marquise_de_ - Jun. 28th, 2013 03:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pantryslut - Jun. 29th, 2013 05:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - la_marquise_de_ - Jun. 29th, 2013 08:50 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 28th, 2013 03:25 pm (UTC)
Good for you, Elise!

HR departments, in my limited experience, are often VERY responsive, but they really do run on formal reports, and to people already shocked and embarrassed, that can feel terribly weird and scary. I'm so glad you've had enough spoons to push through.
Jun. 28th, 2013 03:42 pm (UTC)
I stopped bothering to take time for SF cons because they have this clubby cliquish atmosphere, where people in the know chat namelessly and knowingly, and people not in the know are SOL. I appreciate hearing about the useful steps to take, and way to go Elise for taking them in one nameless incident. But, I gotta say I'm feeling confirmed here.

Bless Sigrid Ellis in your other blog.

I'll note that every discussion I've seen along these lines has "in-crowd" people saying "I had no idea"... So being vague doesn't necessarily even help friends.
Jun. 28th, 2013 03:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this useful post, Elise (and Jim for posting it)... And thank you for describing it in terms that are generalized and less likely to be triggering to the people who most need it, while still keeping the useful information. I noticed that.
Jun. 28th, 2013 04:17 pm (UTC)
This is so important. I don't know how many women have picked up the signal from the aether that they must grin and bear it or pay the price of blackballing, ruined rep, etc.

Knowing that there is a system in place, and creating a record is so very important. Getting that message out into the aether to replace the old "tough titties, chickie baby, and by the way, what did you do to invite it?" message is vital.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 28th, 2013 05:44 pm (UTC)
"I ended up speaking to this person a while after I wrote that original blog post. He seemed genuinely contrite and regretful. I thought … I hoped … that he had learned, and that he would change his behavior.

I was wrong."

I've had a couple of similar experiences, and it's deeply upsetting for me, and I imagine for a lot of people.

Serial harassers will lie, and will play on your emotions and sympathies.

And it angers the hell out of me because I've had my socially clumsy moments, and been grateful for being believed when I sincerely apologized, and these assholes make it so there's less cause to believe that someone like me *really did* mess up, and *really does* feel bad, and *really is* trying to learn to do better.

On the other hand, it does kind of help adjust one's perceptions a bit. Now I know just a *tiny bit* about what it's like to realize I can't trust someone about their harassment or repentance, no matter how they look or what words they use. It gives me just a taste of the topsy turvy world where someone can do that, and expect to get away with it, and the world can just swallow up the incident without anyone caring.

Jun. 28th, 2013 06:59 pm (UTC)
One of the peripheral [?] things I wonder about is: what is his wife's response/reaction to this? I know it's something I'll likely never learn, but I admire his wife and her work greatly. And what about their kids? HTF do you explain this to your kids? :(
Jun. 29th, 2013 12:27 am (UTC)
I've wondered about that too...
Jun. 28th, 2013 07:20 pm (UTC)
I hope this isn't too off topic, but a convention I am staff at, as far as I am aware, does not have any sort of formal reporting process, or even a process, beyond "tell OS/Security". Would I be able to share this story and her advice as a reason why the convention really, really needs to do something like this? It just really illustrates that having formal/official processes can only help things (and unfortunately, lots of people I know don't see a reason to make a process until they have to - and even then, they don't bother).

I just have no idea how to set up or promote the formation of an official convention process for reporting sexual harassment. Have you shared links on that previously that I may have missed? maybe others have advice they can share?

At the convention I'm thinking of, it'd be far more likely that the harassment would be from another con-goer and not a guest (attendee-guest ratio very different, and attendees are unlikely to interact with the guests so closely).
Jun. 29th, 2013 12:27 am (UTC)
I think bringing this story up would be an excellent way to illustrate the need for a more formal policy and process for harassment at the convention.

As for the links, someone emailed me this one. I haven't had a chance to check it out yet, but it sounds promising: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Conference_anti-harassment/Adoption#Speculative_fiction_conventions
(no subject) - redbird - Jun. 29th, 2013 12:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rosefox - Jun. 29th, 2013 07:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - selki - Jul. 1st, 2013 12:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - socchan - Jun. 30th, 2013 12:27 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 28th, 2013 07:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your candor, Elise, and for devoting precious time and energy to making the formal report. I'm sorry you had to deal with any of this.
Jun. 28th, 2013 07:38 pm (UTC)
I want to emphasize as Elisa and Jim have done the importance of formally filing a report. If action is to be taken, there has to be an official paper trail. Any time you deal with something that may have legal repercussions (as this would) you need to have an official report or nothing can happen. And (as mentioned already) have witnesses ready, keep track of date/time/location, and bring a friend with you to report if you can.
Jun. 28th, 2013 10:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Elise, for being willing to go on the record. Thank you on behalf of all the younger, newbier people who were too scared or felt they had too little social capital to do the same in a similar situation, and on behalf of everyone who's ever had that panicky feeling of "OMG is it possible he really just did that, or am I making sh!t up? And OMG what do I do now?"

Also, thank you on behalf of the very upset and confused 16-year-old I used to be, who didn't report a thing like this when it happened because she thought it must be her own fault, and now wishes she had because IT WASN'T.

I admire you for having the spoons to do this. You're doing a good and important thing.
Jun. 29th, 2013 12:25 am (UTC)
Step 1 is to take care of yourself. That's what the 16-year-old was doing. You can't blame her for that.
(no subject) - sylvia_rachel - Jun. 29th, 2013 01:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - johnpalmer - Jun. 29th, 2013 02:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - starcat_jewel - Jul. 3rd, 2013 07:09 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 28th, 2013 10:40 pm (UTC)
This is the first time I've seen the editor actually named.
All I can say is that I'm gravely disappointed.
But dammit, sexual harassment is inexcusable and intolerable. It's good that this essay is being widely disseminated.
Jun. 29th, 2013 12:24 am (UTC)
Yeah. I met Jim years ago. He was nice to me as a newbie (male) author. I liked the man.

I've been very, very unhappy about the things I've learned about him over the past 3+ years.
(no subject) - oneminutemonkey - Jun. 29th, 2013 12:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - inaurolillium - Jun. 29th, 2013 02:01 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oneminutemonkey - Jun. 29th, 2013 03:04 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - inaurolillium - Jun. 29th, 2013 07:09 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oneminutemonkey - Jun. 29th, 2013 11:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - inaurolillium - Jun. 29th, 2013 11:58 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oneminutemonkey - Jun. 30th, 2013 08:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 29th, 2013 01:28 pm (UTC)
First, I would like to thank Elise Matthesen. Greatly. A lot. Hugely.

"I ended up speaking to this person a while after I wrote that original blog post. He seemed genuinely contrite and regretful. I thought … I hoped … that he had learned, and that he would change his behavior.

I was wrong."

What DOES one guy say to another? I've always been curious.

I have WAY too much to say on this topic. I may have to write my own blog post about it. I'm raging and sad, and so damn tired of the whole damn thing.

You know what we should do? There should be a database where names get dropped in with a rating of 1-10 for severity. When a name reaches multiple offenses, or fewer serious ones, their name becomes public. I have met, and will continue to meet people who could be potentially harmful. I need to know how and when to protect myself.

This is ridiculous.
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