Karen Stollznow, paranormal investigator and former Skepchick writer, has written a post over on SciAm alleging that she suffered years of sexual harassment and even sexual assault at the hands of an unnamed colleague who has since been revealed to be Ben Radford. Radford is probably no stranger to readers of this site, as he wrote guest articles for us back in the days we were an e-zine and later he was the subject of a few posts after I discovered his astonishingly dishonest representations of studies that contradicted his hypotheses about the media’s impact on girls’ body image. Later, he battled a 4-year old and lost.
Rereading those two posts, it boggles my mind that people would continue to take a person like that seriously as editor of a magazine for skeptics (he’s deputy editor for Center for Inquiry’s Skeptical Inquirer). But then, this is the same world where Peter Popov is still making money from good Christian folks, so who knows.
This past week, Radford was one of the people who complained to the BBC because of a segment they did on the Block Bot, a handy tool that people can use to stop trolls from harassing them on Twitter. Apparently Radford is on Level 3, the least awful category of people who are defined as “annoying.” The BBC piece focused on Level 1, the people who are sending rape threats and slurs to women like me, but several people on all levels decided to complain, because how dare those bitches come up with a way to not listen to what they have to say?
(On a side note, Paul Mason, the BBC reporter who led the piece on the trolls, announced a few days later that he had taken a job at Channel 4, becoming the 4th Newsnight employee to do so since 2011. Radford and several other BlockBotted trolls hilariously decided that they did that using the power of their angry emails. Reminder: these are self-identified skeptics.)
Anyway, surprise surprise, we find that a person who loudly complains about women fighting back against harassers is allegedly harassing women himself, and not just on Twitter. Stollznow even alleges that his harassment crossed the line into actual assault:
Then, he saw me at conferences and took every opportunity to place me in a vulnerable position. This is where the psychological abuse turned physical and he sexually assaulted me on several occasions.
I’ve heard of several other “big name” skeptics who loudly argue online against any and all anti-harassment measures who are known for actually sexually harassing women in the meatspace. I’m hesitant to name them for legal reasons, because none have ever sexually harassed me personally and the women who told me about them haven’t gone on record. I’m very glad that Radford’s name was leaked, because it’s extraordinarily important that women know who to watch out for and for conference organizers to know who they’re putting on stage.
If you’ve been seriously harassed by a member of the skeptic/atheist community, I hope that you consider publicizing the name. Stollznow didn’t say Radford’s name (or the name of Center for Inquiry, the organization that she says failed to properly punish Radford), but she gave all the clues necessary for others to figure it out. I don’t blame people for not wanting to name names, as the backlash will inevitably be worse when that’s done, but I personally believe it’s worth it. The harasser will face social repercussions, other women will be better able to keep themselves safe, and perhaps most importantly, other women will feel comfortable speaking out about their experiences and being stronger for it. (EDIT: This tumblr, naming names of accused harassers, is now a thing.)
Best of luck to Dr. Stollznow as I’m sure she goes on to face the avalanche of slut-shaming and hyperskepticism that inevitably follows any woman making any claim that involves a man violating her boundaries.
Featured image of Karen Stollznow shot by our own Surly Amy.
UPDATE JUNE 2, 2015: Radford claims that the matter has now been settled with this joint statement.