A Necessary Statement

One of the things that I absolutely believe in, and try very hard, however imperfectly, to put into practice, is the idea that as long as we are willing to truly listen to those around us, we always have opportunities to learn, and grow, and hopefully change ourselves for the better. I make mistakes all the time – mostly small ones, but occasionally some of them are world-class – but when I do, and I either see it myself or am called out on it, I do my level best to listen, and change, and rectify it, as much as I am able.

Right now, in Children’s Publishing, the field I love, there is a huge explosion happening of women coming forward to share their stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault, and it is EXACTLY what needs to be happening. That any woman in our industry has been afraid to come forward to share their story is a travesty, and I think that we can all do better at not only listening, but also believing them – and then supporting them by actively participating in the efforts needed to make change happen so that they can feel safe not just now, but in the future.

I have always been very proud to work alongside the many women I have met in publishing, and proud to call many of them my friends. I have always tried to be respectful of them as individuals, and of the work they do. And I have always tried to be an ally: one who listens, ALWAYS believes, and who steps in to implement change when something like this cresting awareness of sexual harassment is brought to the fore.

So, it was with absolute dismay, shock, and utter sorrow that as I was reading the extraordinarily long comments thread under a recent high-profile industry story on harassment, I found someone had added my own name to that list. Anonymously.

I absolutely respect those women who are able to step forward to offer accounts of the ordeals they have been through and name their accusers. I believe them. All of them. But I also believe the anonymous ones as well, to a large degree. I think it’s a reality that some women, maybe a LOT of them, may not be in a safe place where they can say things outright under their own names. I believe people should be heard. And I am more than willing to be one of those who listen, believe, apologize sincerely, and try to change to back up the apology.

I have made a lot of mistakes in my life – but I try to be as accountable as possible. And if the comment which named me had been truly anonymous, I might have already posted something in an effort to somehow make amends to that person who was too afraid to use their name in sharing their story. But I didn’t do that here, because I suddenly realized I knew who the commenter was. When she posted, she inadvertently left her profile pic on the comment. So I knew exactly who it was, and my heart absolutely sank, because this was someone who had at one time been a very trusted and dear friend. And now she had added my name to a thread regarding sexual harassment that was being shared with the entire world.

What was worse, was there were not even any actual accusations to address: she said my name should be added to the list of men to steer clear of; acknowledged that she was not herself a victim, but had “witnessed many falling prey to his ‘wholesome charms'” and that “He has used and abused many along his ‘path’ to curry favor and his ‘apprenticeships.’ Stay away from this person.” That’s it. No actual accusations, and no names. Just a vague warning on a thread about sexual predators.

I immediately sent a message to her, expressing my deep hurt over what she had written, and my bewilderment about why she wrote that at all. I received no response. I had seen the thread and the comment late Sunday night; sometime midmorning on Monday, the comment was deleted. But the damage had been done.

People all throughout the industry had been reading that thread – and taking note of the names. People started sending me screenshots, confused and hurt and wondering why my name was there. Most people who reached out questioned the validity of the comment. Some did not. And now the article has gone viral, and being shared EVERYWHERE. Lists of the names are being shared on twitter. Lists of books by the authors named are now appearing on Goodreads suggesting those books are to be avoided. And the more things are retweeted and shared far from the original source, the more likely it is that people assume the list was compiled accurately – and in my case, it was not, as my name is no longer attached to that article.

I’m not going to speculate on what her thinking or motives are, or why she chose to do what she did. But her own website has for years prominently featured covers of the books she helped me with, and as of this writing, they are still on display there – as is the same author photo that was attached to the comment that had been posted, then removed.

Right now, my career and my reputation are in jeopardy because of this single comment under that article, which was not even from someone who had been victimized or harassed. If someone had been named, I could have listened, apologized and tried to make amends if I had done something to hurt them, inadvertently or otherwise. But that isn’t what happened. Someone I knew well, whom many people know has at times had a contentious relationship with me, who still uses my books to promote her own work and website, chose to try to libel me anonymously, and it is simply not right.

When all is said and done, each of you will believe what you choose. I needed a statement of my own, vetted by mutual friends who could vouch for its accuracy, to counter the things that are continuing to be spread. I appreciate you taking the time to read it.


Comments

A Necessary Statement — 9 Comments

  1. You need to list her name. Not to foster abuse for her but to hold her accountable. If she is going to attempt to destroy your reputation and career with zero merit, she needs to not be allowed to remain anonymous and above the fray. Since this sounds like a targeted attempt to damage you due to contentious dealings in the past, it is even more critical for her to deal with the consequences of a false accusation. Being allowed to create such hurt and avoid any and all blow-back damages the credibility of all who are coming forward because, if she’s lying and she is, that casts doubt on the veracity of the rest. That cannot stand. List her name and force her to accept responsibility for her action, as she attempted to do for you.

    • Hi – thank you for the kind words and support. I appreciate it very, very much. I chose not to name her in part to protect myself legally, but also because I thought that the kind of exposure her naming me in that comment fostered was unfair. We are having some discussions about how much damage has been done by my inclusion on the lists of names being circulated, and depending on how those go, this may escalate. And then, yes. Naming her will be inevitable. But as things stand, she has already been recognized by a number of people (in the same way I recognized her, from the profile pic) and some had already started sharing their own stories of encounters with her that point to her lack of credibility. It’s also a clear check on her credibility that at the same time she posted that libelous comment, my own books were prominently featured on her own website (which we screencapped with time and date); and I also learned that, after no contact from her in over a year, as recently as a couple of months ago she was lobbying a publisher of mine to let her do illustrations in an anthology I did the cover for – all completely counter to her warning to “stay away from this person.” So for now I’m letting this stand as it is.

  2. I am a writer also an admirer and I’m so angry to hear this. In my brief interactions with you at conventions you are so kind and I am so sorry this has happened to you. Without a doubt people need to take up their issues with you in person before announcing publically whatever the issue may be. This person should feel very embarrassed for making any mention of something that you did not have a chance to respond to. The fact that you were blindsided and did not have a chance to clear any misunderstanding makes me upset at the society we live in that thinks it’s ok to ruin someone’s career because you aren’t enough of an adult to confront them yourself over what could be a simple misunderstanding. As a fan, I stand with you and I hope this person will have a chance to talk with you and clear your name…if they do not it is simply slander and you may be able to seek legal recourse.

  3. Hugs. This whole mess is madness. I support TRUE and real victims, but I do not support lies, and I cannot, will not, EVER support a lynch mob who seeks to crucify innocent men (or women) all because of a lie someone once told. The loud people may scream and yell, but your supporters are still here, hoping to try and hold you all up, even as the list, sadly, grows. Sending you hugs!

  4. I have seen you at multiple cons. I have paneled with you at multiple cons. I have been in dealers rooms with you at multiple cons. I have spent time with you at multiple cons. I am also someone KEENLY aware of when men are using their power over women, for all the reasons many of us are keenly aware of this. You have never, in all the years I’ve known you, been anything other than supportive, protective, sweet, encouraging, and helpful to anyone and everyone I’ve seen you interact with, male or female or whatever gender the person feels is theirs. That someone would use the #metoo movement in this was was, sadly, inevitable, but it still makes me furious. Yes, #metoo — and you are one of the men I run to when the #metoo situation is too much or threatening or whatever. It infuriates me that people who don’t know you may now think you’re someone to avoid, when you’re just the opposite. All love and {HUGS} and I await finding out who this was so I can be sure that I avoid her at all possible costs (because I am not above channeling my MCs when meeting someone who has wronged someone I consider a dear friend). Courage, my Superman, courage.

  5. This brings me to tears of grief and rage. People post on social media like it’s some kind of game. Not only does the behavior of the “not actually a victim” wrongly and without warrant attack James’ reputation and livelihood, it invalidates and dilutes the statements of those who’ve truly endured this kind of abuse. Her vague accusation makes it more difficult for legitimate victims to seek justice. I’ve known victims, she’s made their situation that much worse and should be ashamed.

  6. I heard you keynote at a writer’s conference in Utah not too long ago and enjoyed it. I’ve been talking with my wife as the #metoo movement has gained steam, and both of us have agreed that at some point it’s bound to be derailed by liars using it to hurt other people for their own agenda. It’s just too easy to misuse.

    Are you, James Owen, telling the truth? Your argument is compelling. I’m inclined to believe you. I’m also inclined to believe the accusers because I don’t want this going on. I have a wife. I have daughters. They shouldn’t have to fear sexual harassment.

    In the case of your being named and then retracted, I suspect you really are telling the truth. And I feel for you. I feel for everyone who this is going to affect when they haven’t done anything wrong. Or when they’ve done something stupid they wish they hadn’t done, and now it’s going to affect them for the rest of their life.

    Heck, I’m a writer. It could very easily happen to me in the future, and I would hope people believe me when I tell the truth.

    I pray that you aren’t hurt too badly from this. I would be naive to think you won’t be hurt at all because I still find you on lists, but when I hear your name mentioned as a part of this, I’ll be sure to set them straight. Keep writing.

  7. You are an amazing person and I am very sorry to hear that you are being associated to these claims. Anyone who has ever talked to you for any amount of time will know that this is without basis and that you are an honorable person. I join with others who have said they hope this will not affect you at all. I wish you all the best and hope that you can put this behind you and continue to tell your amazing stories.

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