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Noirin Shirley ApacheCon incident

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TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contain information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.

In November 2010, Noirin Plunkett was sexually assaulted at ApacheCon (a technical conference held in Atlanta, Georgia, USA) and posted about it on her blog, under the title A hell of a time. She wrote a follow-up post, titled Conferences and dark alleyways, in July 2011 explaining why the incident had made her reluctant to attend conferences in the future.

What happened Edit

Noirin Shirley was a member of the Apache Foundation board and an organiser of the event. One evening at the conference she and a group of other people were partying (as is typical at such events) when Florian Liebert, an attendee, asked her to step aside into a dark corner so that he could ask her a question. He then put his hands under her skirt and pushed them into her underwear, against her protests.

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.

Noirin noted in her blog post that she had been drinking, flirting with other people, and was wearing a short skirt, then pointed out that none of this meant that she was "asking" to be sexually assaulted:

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.

She sought support from people she trusted at the conference, including other organisers, and reported her assault to the Atlanta police, who she thanked in an addendum to her her blog post after numerous commenters criticised her for not having made a police report.

Responses Edit

The comments on Noirin's blog, and on other blogs, were mixed between supportive and critical. Many commenters felt that Noirin was "asking for it" by drinking, flirting with others, or wearing a short skirt. Some people said that women should simply "expect that sort of thing" at tech conferences. The comments, overall, were a textbook example of Rape culture at work.

Since the incident had involved a Google employee (Shirley) and a Twitter employee (Leibert), the online tech press picked up the story and it was reported in TechCrunch, Gawker, and other blogs of that kind.

The incident and the responses to it prompted Valerie Aurora to leave her job at Red Hat and co-found The Ada Initiative with fellow long-time supporter of women in open source, Mary Gardiner.

See also Edit

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