It feels rather sardonic to say this now, openly, after two years spent
alternating between trying to inhibit my rage and convince myself that I hadn’t
been hurt, followed by seeking out other victims, in order to develop the
collective capacity to defend ourselves and to have the simple ability to speak
out in a manner which would be heard and not discarded.
I’m Forest. Here’s my story, as
submitted to the anonymous site jacobappelbaum.net:
Jake and I had been friends and coworkers for years. Looking back on
it, I’m not sure why. From the very first Tor developer meeting I had
attended, he repetitively propositioned my partner and I for sex. He
even went so far as to, on the very first meeting on the first
morning, in front of all the other developers — whom I had not yet met
— tell me that he was okay with my partner and I fucking in the same
bed as him while he watched, causing both of my partner and I to feel
completely humiliated that our private sex life was being discussed in
front of colleagues we had hoped to build a good start towards
friendly, professional relationships.
While travelling, the first time he came to the city I lived in, I
invited him to stay at my house. As politely as I could, I explained,
“You can have the floor, and I’ll take my bed, or the other way
around. If you’re comfortable with it, we can share my bed, as
friends. Meaning no physical contact.” We both slept in my bed.
That turned out (mostly) fine. (Except, of course, being propositioned
again, this time for a threesome with Jake and one of my roommates.)
In fact, Jake and I proceeded to share beds in a friendly manner over
the years, and nothing bad ever happened.
Once Jake had moved to Germany, I came to visit friends there for a
while, and one night I stayed at Jake’s place. Again, we shared a
bed, as friends. There weren’t even any discussion or attempts
beforehand to convince me to do anything sexual with him. It was
freezing cold, and I went to bed with several layers of street clothes on.
Sometime around 5 o’clock in the morning, I woke up very confused and
startled because my pants were unzipped and Jake’s arm was wrapped
around me, his hands in my underwear and he was rubbing my clit and
rimming the edges of my vagina. I tried to shove him off me and wake
him up. He’s physically much bigger than me, so the shoving didn’t
work as well as it should have, but nonetheless he rolled over, a bit
exageratedly, mumbling as if asleep.
In the morning, I confronted him about it. I was really confused. I
didn’t know if he was actually asleep, but if he was, how did my
clothes come undone? Assuming that if I was super confrontational
about it, he’d have some excuse like “Oh, but I thought it was okay
that time because you didn’t explicitly give me the we’re-just-friends
lecture before bed…” When confronting Jake about this, I said, “Dude,
what the fuck. You started fingering me last night.” It took a few
seconds for there to be a reaction on his face, and then he seemed
confused, saying “Oh… what? I don’t remember that.” I glared at him.
The really disconcerting thing for me was that, half an hour later, he
said, “I thought you were her.” Here, “her” was Jake’s fiancée. At
the time, she didn’t live in Germany, and they hadn’t seen each other
in weeks. Jake’s fiancée was also gorgeous and super curvy, and I am
basically a scrawny, little twig. “I’m not sure how you could confuse
us, even asleep.” I said. He continued muttering some excuses about
having wet dreams about her. He seemed to suddenly and extremely
vividly remember whatever dream. Nowhere did he say, “I didn’t put my
hands in your panties,” nor did he apologise.
Transformative Justice is not the “Death of Due Process”
First, some backstory is in order.
Seven or eight years ago, I was involved in an anarchist collective process for
a male person in an anarchist activist community who was accused of and
eventually admitted to raping two anarchist women. Since none of us would turn
him in to the police, we gave him a choice of either leaving or going through a
rehabilitation programme which we would create, in an attempt to transform him
into someone just as capable of contributing in all the productive ways he
already was but without harming other people and decreasing their abilities to
contribute and to do so safely. We warned him that, if he skipped town, I would
personally hunt him down to whatever city he ran to, contact the anarchist
organisers there, and attempt to give them (as non-biased as possible) an
account of the events. He didn’t run.
At first, he participated grudgingly, but later he broke down crying in front of
the two victims, apologising sincerely and begging them for forgiveness. As part
of the rehabilitation, one of the things we determined to be cause for his
behaviour was a very negative self-body image, i.e. he was quite overweight and
under the impression that women “only like dudes who are ripped”. Part of my
responsibilities in the rehab process was to go to the gym with him, to help him
have better body image, demonstrate that not all women are into “dudes who are
ripped”, and help him become more comfortable with the idea that women are
intelligent creatures as opposed to being merely some sexual object to be won
over. He eventually successfully convinced both us and the victims that he
would not abuse anyone else. To date this has been successful, and he’s had
healthy relationships with several partners, including a transperson.
When I first started seeking out other victims, about six months ago, I did not
want to formally report any of the stories I had heard from Jake’s victims to
the Tor Project or others, for two primary reasons. First, that my main
motivation in this was to ensure that these behaviours stopped, and it was not
clear to me that any traditional punitive “justice” measures would achieve such.
Second, I feared retaliation from Jake, as well as retaliation towards any of
the victims whose stories I would divulge. Multiple victims at the time
expressed that they didn’t want me to tell The Tor Project, later admitting they
feared retaliation to be extremely likely, as well as difficult to combat.
Instead, I had planned to gather people for a secret meeting in Valencia,
somewhere calm, neutral, and away from events, like on the beach, invite Jake,
and have everyone willing who has ever been sexually assaulted, humiliated,
harassed, or felt their boundaries disrespected, by him to take turns telling a
few sentences about what he did to them and how it made them feel. Then we
would tell Jake that, as his friends, we thought this needed to stop, and that
we’d either deliver a list of the stories to The Tor Project and other
organisations, or make all the stories public, if he refused to hold himself
accountable for his actions or his behaviour did not appear to improve. In
planning this secret meeting, I tried to determine what would cause Jake to
perpetually disrespect other people like this, and if there were any positive
things we could do to help him.
Somehow Jake got word of all this, and proceeded to go back and forth between
everyone I knew, starting, it seems, with one of my roommates and a reporter
acquaintance, to force information out of these people, including more names of
more people involved (to force more information out of). He seemed to have put
the whole story together from all the bits and pieces he was given. In between
my efforts to get work done and give a lecture, he imposed on me that my ten
minutes of coffee break time should be spent speaking with him, because it was
An Emergency. During that rather one-sided conversation, Jake described all the
time, effort, and ways he was using in order to completely ruin someone’s life
who had attempted to stand up to him, as well as previous ways he had managed to
get someone fired from their position and ostracised. He pointedly mentioned,
several times, the names of multiple people who he had destroyed in the past for
standing against him. In his current efforts to harass one of these people —
which through backchannels I was already aware of, he said, “I’ve literally been
spending 15 hours a day on this. […] I’ve been speaking with an investigative
journalist team to make sure they don’t believe [that person]. […] I heard there
was a plan to ‘Confront’ me in Valencia. If that happens, I probably will not
take it very well…”
This was chilling. Why was Jake saying those things, non sequitur and without
provocation? It was clear to me that they were thinly-veiled threats,
descriptions of what would soon happen to me. If I stood up to Jake, I could
expect him to try to get me fired from The Tor Project. To try to block my
acceptance into the doctorate research program he knew that I was, at that point
in time, applying to. To feed the media stories about what a horrible person I
am. To ostracise me from my social circles.
In all of this, I tried to do the right thing, to ensure that no more people
were harmed, to give Jake one more chance. I wanted the anarchist,
rehabilitation-focused solution, but Jake had only responded to that with
threats. Meanwhile, River and I
were introduced through a mutual friend. When Jake threatened me, I was, for a
moment, frightened. Then I flew into a fucking rage. Sorry, Jake, but
attempting to blackmail me into silence whilst I was defending others is really
not a good look for an “anarchist” “free-speech advocate”.
Having run out of ideas and being threatened out of alternative options, I
reported everything to the rest of The Tor Project. Well, almost everything.
Originally, I only reported others’ stories (with their permission). I left my
own story out, and I did not tell it until it was decided that Jake would no
longer be part of The Tor Project.
This isn’t about any one individual’s story. This is about addressing the
issues and finding means within our communities to ensure this doesn’t happen
again. This is about building communal structures so that it does not require,
as Jake has rather entertainingly called it, “calculated and targeted attacks”
from victims who otherwise felt alone and powerless to stand up and fight back.
Photo: Clara Zetkin and
Rosa Luxembourg, early
women’s rights activists, marching at a demonstration, arm in arm.
I have spoken personally with every person whose story was
published in the original set on the anonymous site.
I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that each of them is true. I added my
own story to the site in solidarity with the other victims, especially these who
remain anonymous, as someone with the social standing, and hence, enormous level
of privilege, required to be able to eventually go public. Many of the other
victims do not have this privilege. Whether due to marginalisation, fear of
retailiation, or being new to our communities,
many sexual assault victims require anonymity,
because — without anonymity — they would be silenced.
Jake never apologised to me, nor — to my knowledge — any of the other victims.
I don’t condone his actions. However, and no apologies for being crass, I can’t
seem to motivate myself to feel any pity towards him for any of the admittedly
horrible things which are now happening to him. He ruined lives. The number of
people we would have in a significantly more productive and less damaged state
were it not for his actions is substantial, and futher, those people in a less
damaged state would be overall substantially more beneficial than having a Jake
in a less damaged state. Additionally, we would likely have had more diverse
contributors to Tor, if we had dealt with Jake sooner, since, for years, many
people have been warned about Jake through a whisper network and disuaded from
There are some differences between how Jake is behaving to how the other
anarchist I mentioned above was behaving. The other anarchist was willing to
engage in the defined process, respectful of his victims’ needs, and eventually
sincerely apologetic for his actions.
I cannot condone his actions; however, I cannot condone violence and threats
against Jake. Full stop. That is not productive. If he is further harmed, we
never see the end of the wretched
People who behave as Jake does are sick,
Often, it is because
they were severely hurt
at some point. As the activist adage goes, “We need to be gentle with one
another, so that we can be dangerous together.” If we think Jake has any
capacity for change, then it is our responsibility to ensure that he is not
simply swept under a rug of academia where he will most certainly find a
deeply-ingrained institutional structure of rape apologists
ready to turn a blind eye and willing to help Jake “fail up” to another position
of power and credibility, where he will use that power to commit further acts of
abuse. I am thoroughly dismayed for what is
statistically likely to happen again,
causing harm to and trust issues for their students, and professional and
reputational issues for them.
Now. For all of you screaming “This is not what justice looks like! Why
don’t you just go to the police?!” let me just wax realpolitik and, like a
good little German, quote some Gesetz and cite some statistics.
The “due process” of a state court, in my case, will be detrimental to both Jake
and I, as well as numerous other people. The law is very clearly against both
of us in this case, with the overwhelmingly
that he would be
kicked out of Germany.
(Additionally, in Germany, multiple independent allegations can result in a
conviction given the absense of other evidence.)
The other outcome is one or more convictions. While convictions for rape and
sexual assault are statistically unlikely, given that
only about 7% of reported rapes result in a conviction
similar numbers for Germany,
we have an advantage. By German case law, multiple independent allegations are
very likely to result in conviction(s), even despite the absense of other
evidence, e.g. bruises, marks, semen, which would be required in a solitary
allegation. If brought to court, here are some of the applicable laws and their
corresponding minimum/maximum prison terms:
- One count of rape
(§177 of the Strafsgesetzbuch
paragraph 1), including
- Instructing a third party to rape the victim
(§177 of the Strafsgesetzbuch
paragraph 2, sentence 2), making it a “severe case”,
- Both counts were penetrative intercourse
(§177 of the Strafsgesetzbuch
paragraph 2, sentence 1), also making it a “severe case”,
- The victim was additionally in an unconscious state and uncapable
of verbal or physical resistance
(§179 of the Strafsgesetz,
including paragraph 5, as well as paragraph 5 sentence 2):
minimum: two years; maximum: ten years.
Totalling to four years minimum and thirty-five years maximum for those cases
alone, along with potential fines and reparations, and expulsion from the
(cf. §53 and §54 of the Aufenthaltsgesetz).
(For English speakers curious about the German laws I’m referencing, there are
official English translations.)
Not to mention that, if our goal is to prevent more people from being harmed by
Jake, prison is not an option. Overwhelmingly likely,
even in Germany,
Jake would be raped in prison. I do not wish these painful things I’ve gone
through on anyone, not even those who have caused me pain. Further,
most abusers have a history of having been abused at some point in their past,
and Jake going to prison certainly will not help him amend his behaviour.
Some people are asking what the victims want out of this.
Personally, I would be completely ecstatic if Jake decided to move to Alaska.
Forever. Jake is still threatening the other victims to try to keep them
quiet, and additional reports of extremely severe sexual assaults and rape are
pouring in to The Tor Project. Meanwhile, Jake is preparing some sort of public
“apology” statement. Alaska, or northern Siberia — it doesn’t matter. Until
his sociopathic behaviours are revised, there is no place for him in civil society.
As it is obviously rather untenable that Jake move to Alaska, I suggest the
following. Please note that these are my suggestions alone, and do not
necessarily at this point in time reflect those of all of the other victims.
We’re all still processing this.
We need to entirely remove abusers from our communities, until such a time as
they have sufficiently demonstrated to their victims that their abusive
behaviours will no longer continue. Jake should be removed from all places
where his victims, their loved ones, and friends might come into any form of
contact with him. Given the enormous amounts of pain myself and the other
victims have gone through, the draining emotional stress, and (please excuse
my rather dark humour) the development time wasted, I am not willing to
revisit this issue for at least four years. After that time has passed, it
may be possible to reassess whether there is any path forward for Jake.
We need to assess the cultural issues within our communities which require
that victims report anonymously, due to fears of retaliation, further
abuse, and not being taken seriously. Once identified, we need to devise
better reporting and support structures to help allay these fears.
We need to take victims’ stories seriously. It should not be required that
victims band together in collectives in order to be heard. Nor should it be
required that someone who stands up for others must have and share their
own story of victimisation to “prove” the credibility of the others, as was
my case. It should not be required that a dozen people are harmed before
any one of them is taken seriously.
We need to critique the institutions — sociocultural, academic, and
organisational — which made these events possible.
Those who must still have some form of contact with Jake, and by that I
primarily mean others within the academic and journalistic communities, need
to be given ways to raise safety and ethical concerns without fear of
retribution or retaliation. It is my understanding that several researchers
and students do not currently feel this way, and that this is having a severe
impact upon their abilities to be successful and productive.
Lastly, I would like to say that I’ve never been prouder to work for The Tor
Project, as their recent actions to stand against abuse have set nothing short
of an exemplary model for other organisations.