Last week, we told you about a Google Form set up by the nonprofit Women in Comedy that asked women who had been harassed or creeped on, or endured generally skeevy behavior, within the comedy community to submit their stories anonymously. Since the form was published and shared, executive director Victoria Elena Nones has received hundreds of submissions from women around the world, which she’s collecting on Women in Comedy’s website. Some of the stories are downright horrifying:
He called me in the middle of the night. He told me he was going to kill himself if I didn’t sleep with him. He begged me to come to him and save his life. I barely knew him. He was just a classmate. He became more and more explicit with what he’d like me to do sexually. I felt so trapped. I didn’t want to have sex with him or listen to him about his fantasies but I didn’t want him to kill himself. Eventually I told him I could help him get help, but I wouldn’t have sex with him and I hung up. I told my teacher the next day and I transferred to a different class.
Others neatly explain why being the only woman in the room can be a nightmare:
During a set in improv class, a man playing a baby motorboated my breasts. Before he motorboated me, he screamed that he needed his milk. The only other female in the class was out sick, so the rest of the class [7 men] laughed their asses off while I was standing there humiliated. The teacher managed to call ‘Scene!’ in between stifled laughter.
And others describe men who were reported and even reprimanded but were allowed back on the scene:
At Indie team practice, he flashed his dick at my all female team … for a really long time … despite repeated protests. He’d say, ‘I didn’t get to see yours.’ About a year later, we reported it. Several others made reports on separate incidents. He suffered consequences. Now I hear he’s back in the game. No one seems to care anymore.
The project seems to have struck nerve — and not everyone is thrilled. In a since-deleted Facebook post, Improv Olympic (a well-known improv theater in Chicago now known as iO) co-founder Charna Halpern wrote in an apparent reaction to the campaign, “it is wrong to go on secret threads and complain about teachers and ruin reputations,” adding that she believed that people should keep harassment complaints “above board.” There are any number of reasons why that is not always the best option, but she has since checked in on Facebook to add the following update:
Today was an eventful day. I want to sum it all up by saying I want iO and iOWEST to be safe places for women. I want you all to feel safe but you need to help me. I can’t help if I don’t know. Ive heard your points of view and I hope you understood my position. That post really was just complaining about a specific instance. To the larger point of women feeling unsafe-I am listening. I will always listen. Please do not fear me. iO grew because people could always talk to me and we felt like family. We are a huge family now and our tenet is to take care of one another. I teach that-I believe that.
For more information about how to submit stories of harassment, and to read other anonymous submissions, head to WomenInComedy.org.