Sexual Harrassment

Like many industries, publishing is going through a massive reckoning over serial sexual assault and harrassment. Articles, forums, and comments sections are filling up with women who are finding the courage and support to step forward and call out the creepy, awful behavior they have experienced from other authors, editors, publishers, illustrators, convention organizers, and more. I have always believed that you should believe a woman who says she’s been harassed, so I believe these women, too.

And then I was accused of being a harasser.

And then the same woman recanted her accusation.

I do not know who this woman is, as she posted anonymously both times, but I want to take this opportunity to pubicly accept her apology, and to thank her for coming forward.

But here’s the thing: I believed her. Obviously I didn’t believe that I had assaulted someone and then forgotten about it, or anything ridiculous like that. But I was–and am–willing to believe that without intending to and without noticing I had done something to make a woman feel uncomfortable or unwelcome or unsafe. I always try to do my best, but what if I made an off-color joke, or an accidental insinuation? My position as a podcaster and instructor puts me in a lot of conversations with aspiring authors asking for help and advice–what if I implied, even without realizing it, that my help and advice was contingent on some kind of unsavory quid pro quo? This woman claimed to have quit writing because of me, and I never want to be the reason that someone leaves this industry or community. I could have raged against the injustice of this comment–and to be perfectly honest, a part of me did–but the more useful, more helpful response was to sit down and take a good hard look at myself and my actions. What have I been doing, and what can I do in the future, to make the conventions I attend and the spaces I inhabit safer for other people?

Recanted accusation or not, I found some stuff I need to work on. Not a long history of abusive behavior, but a tune-up on boundaries, and on thinking before I speak.

I want to urge everyone to take the same look. We live in a society where aggressive, uncomfortable behavior is so commonplace that it can often be invisible–at least to the perpetrators. The #MeToo movement is shining a light on the many ways in which people are mistreated, and I hope that the women and men with sincere issues continue to come forward, but their actions are not going to create the necessary changes on their own; the onus is on us–mostly men in positions of power–to do our part as well. We need to examine the ways we act in public spaces. We need to think about other people, and the impact we can have on them, before we speak and act. And we need to use our positions of authority and power to lift people up instead of keeping them down. I’m going to try to be better. Who’s with me?

I also want to address the #ImOut movement very quickly before I finish. There is a growing group of people declaring that #MeToo has gotten out of hand, and turned into a witch hunt, and that no one should be able to point an anonymous finger and end a person’s career. I have two things to say about that:
1) Somebody pointed an anonymous finger at me, and I’m fine. The careers that are being destroyed are doing so under an avalanche of specific details and corroborating witnesses–people are definitely eager to punish misconduct right now, but most of them are smart enough to see the difference between one anonymous comment and a massive group of staunch accusers. Most of the authors going down right now were considered “open secrets” in the kidlit community, with dozens if not hundreds of testimonies against them. The organizations who are rescinding memberships and speaking engagements, and the publishers who are rescinding contracts, are not doing it lightly, and they are not pulling out those big guns for unconfirmed and unsubstantiated claims.
2) On the other hand, this is a clear opportunity to acknowledge, again, my position of power. I’m an established author with a strong career and firm allies, and I can weather this storm better than others. Charlie Pulsipher, the other author falsely accused along with me, hasn’t yet had time to build the same foundation, and may well be suffering more than I am. With him, and with me, and with any creator you see being accused of harassment, I urge you to do the same thing that the publishing bigwigs are doing: believe the women, take them seriously, and look for corroborating opinions and evidence. If the accusation is real, you will find them. If it’s not, you’ll find that, too. A history of trying to do the right thing will speak just as loudly as a history of misconduct you thought was kept hidden.

And it goes without saying, but: don’t accuse people falsely. For crying out loud. It hurts innocent people, and it makes it harder for the true problems to be identified and dealt with, which, in turn, hurts more innocent people.

The changes in our society right now are painful, but they are important, and I believe that we will be stronger on the other side. Believe women. Be better. Do better. Try harder. A community full of safe and happy people of all genders is far more important than whatever long-standing habits you might need to change to make others feel welcome. We can do this, and our community–and the world–will be better for it.

18 Responses to “Sexual Harrassment”

  1. Emily M. says:

    Class act. Thank you.

  2. Painful but important. Yes. So much truth here. Thank you, Dan.

  3. anon says:

    But it’s not really verified that the same woman recanted. Since it was anonymous, anyone could pop in and say “I said that / I recant now” only SLJ can verify with IP address confirmation, which I don’t believe they have yet.

  4. Katie says:

    Thanks for this response. I really appreciate the support you’re giving to the women in this community.

  5. SR says:

    Wow. As a woman who has faced multiple situations of unwanted and damaging sexual harassment- I am stunned and thankful to have read your post.

    I haven’t read your books, but my respect for you as both a person and an author went up dramatically after reading this. Thank you for taking what has happened to women for far too long, so seriously and responsibly. It’s a rarity to see such an opinion coming from a man. Many would have stopped at the false accusation and subsequent self-righteous anger.

    I am sorry you were falsely accused. As you stated, that helps no one. But for you to take that as an opportunity to re-evaluate your behavior was enlightening and encouraging. It is heartening to know that the #metoo movement is making a positive impact.

    And thank you for taking the bold steps you did. You’ve earned my appreciation and support.


  6. Dan, Thank you for this post. I’m so sorry you had to deal with this. Thank you for such a thoughtful, measured post, at what must be a particularly trying time. Sending you my best wishes.

  7. Sherry Ann Miller says:


    Thank you for your remarks here. It does my heart good to know that there are conscientious men around who assess their pasts and strive to do better. I have always considered you a man of integrity and you have not disappointed me. May the Lord bless all that have been or will be falsely accused with His peace and His comfort. You are in my prayers, my friend.

    Kindest regards,

    Sherry Ann Miller

  8. Lee Ann SEtzer says:

    “A history of trying to do the right thing will speak just as loudly as a history of misconduct you thought was kept hidden.” This is a true and reassuring thought, and I’m glad it was the case for you.

  9. Eliza says:

    Dan, thank you for addressing this. I closely followed this scandal for several days, and I was more upset to see your name on the list than anyone else’s, including the two most prominently accused men, who I’d personally met at conferences. I’d seen you talk about #metoo on twitter and I thought, “If this guy really did something bad he’s the biggest hypocrite ever”. But now I know you’re not, and I know I can read your books and listen to your podcasts without feeling like I’m supporting a man who preys on women. Thank you. Your fanbase needed to hear this.

  10. That you so much Dan. I’m struggling with this right now. We can all do better. #metoo can be a real game changer. There is work to be done and, as you say, so eloquently, it’s no use us men railing against the unfairness of it all. Things have been unfair to women for far too long.

  11. Thank you for being such a class act sir. This is such a heartwarming sentiment in our presently charged atmosphere that it deserves to be shared many times over. I’m glad to see someone being introspective and sharing that idea openly and with such humility.

  12. JVAshley says:


    I have enjoyed reading your books and listening to you on Writing Excuses Podcast.

    I too have had issues with harassment throughout my career (outside of publishing). I also have many strong male friendships and value them. My husband and I have discussed the possibility of false accusations undermining this important movement that emboldens victims to come forward. Your post here is so well thought out and rings true to the concerns he and I have. I truly appreciate your candor and I respect that you, knowing you had not intentionally harmed another, still took stock in your words and deeds and choose to be more careful.

    If we all, male and female take stock of our words and actions and intentionally choose to speak and behave with more awareness and kindness, we would change the face of humanity.

    Thank you.

  13. Martha says:

    Thank you. Our society as a whole has lost sight of what we’re meant to be . . . a civilized, inclusive, supportive group of people who should be working to lift each other up, not tear each other down. I KNOW that I have been inappropriate in the work place, assuming that my friends and coworkers knew that I was joking. Perhaps they did not. Again, thank you.

  14. Thanks for this post, Dan. It expresses the way I feel about these issues with more skill than I could bring to bear myself.

    I assume you’re asking a rhetorical question when you write, “I’m going to try to be better. Who’s with me?” Even so, I’ll say: I am.

  15. Paula Stokes says:

    Well said. Thank you for such a thoughtful response, and for the reminder that we should all do some reflection about the things we write and say and how they might affect others differently than we intend.

  16. Smith says:

    I’m the lone dissenter here, but parts of this blog don’t sit right with me. This part is the worst:
    “There is a growing group of people declaring that #MeToo has gotten out of hand, and turned into a witch hunt, and that no one should be able to point an anonymous finger and end a person’s career. I have two things to say about that:
    1) Somebody pointed an anonymous finger at me, and I’m fine. ”

    Sure one anecdote is the rule. Guess what? I too was exonerated, but only after a full investigation lasting over a month. Quick background: In my case, the accuser assumed a whole set of nefarious motives for what was actually an attempt to help her. She was facing a lot of stress since she was failing in her job. She claimed she was treated differently because she was a woman – the claim was not sexual misconduct but sexist discrimination. Nonetheless, I lost a lot of sleep thinking about whether a low-ranking HR person would do their job properly. I support a family.

    Sure, “I’m fine” but I was close enough to realize how easily I could have not been “fine.” Moreover, this has happened to three coworkers in the past year and in all cases the accusation was false (in one case comically so). One of the accusations was simply an attempt to drive a competitor out for a senior position. All were exonerated, but one left the company out of disgust for the process. Sure my anecdotes aren’t the rule, but my support for #MeToo has dropped in the past month. The movement may more often be right than wrong, but I don’t buy into the idea that we may have to ruin a few innocent lives for the greater good.

    I agree that we should all do our best in our behavior. I also believe that all accusers have a right to be heard with a sincere ear. However, “Listen and Believe” is not right and also absolutely dangerous.

  17. admin says:

    There is a small subset of commenters whose response boils down to “If you have this much empathy for another person, you’re not much of a man.” Dear people: you are part of the problem, and your comments were deleted.

  18. David says:

    I’ve listened to every Writing Excuses from the beginning. Read some of your books. Listened to many panels you’ve been on in conferences.

    I’ve been watching this movement with interest ever since Harvey Weinstein was first accused and based on the evidence I can’t help but think he really was guilty, especially because of the lack of anonymity and the candid nature of the names involved.

    Although I totally agree that all this sexual harassment has to stop, and I’m very sympathetic towards this movement both as a human and as a husband and as a father, I can’t help but be worried at where this could go.

    You mentioned that you weathered it just fine. But that was only because it was recanted. And it’s only been a week. If a group of people really wanted to take you down, they could. No real evidence required.

    I’m a computer programmer by trade, and frankly, because of the anonymity of the posts, a bot network could take anyone down. It wouldn’t even have to be a real person. It just has to be multiple IP addresses. Or multiple Gmail addresses. In a profession like that of an author, of which I also am, even just perception can be hugely damaging, perhaps even fatally damaging to a career.

    Like I say, I like the idea that all these guilty people are finally being held accountable, but I worry that the lack of transparency opens the doors for people conspiring to bring other, non-guilty people down. This could go way farther than trying to leave a bunch of one-star Amazon reviews on a rival’s book, which everyone knows already does happen. This could go to leaving a bunch of fake accusations in the comments of a web page and ruin a rival’s career.

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