This is going to be quick and may feel scattered or incomplete. We have a book to write but wanted to share some immediate thoughts about Ken Leslie’s resignation from 1Matters.org and Veterans Matter. We also have some updates about what to expect next before we go quiet for a couple of months, in terms of blog updates. The long and short of it is that he resigned. After a letter to his Board, evidence and documentation, an initially dismissive stance, and a barrage of community outcry, he stepped down and has been replaced by a woman who has been his right hand for years. In the book, we will talk extensively about the media response to all of this, the community response to that reporting, and how that was a major part of the story itself.
We were told by someone who remains involved in Tent City that efforts to put harassment policies in place have been met with vaguely worded statements and lukewarm interest. Apparently, the new Director was told not to talk about why Ken isn’t there anymore and to “keep her head down.” We were encouraged and also suspicious of his right-hand woman replacing him. I had been saying I knew there was a person who could take over in his absence and it was probably a woman. I remember her from when I would have to go to his office. She struck me as loyal to him and part of the game.
When Cami and I originally sent our letter and affidavits to Ken’s Boards, we demanded a public announcement specifying why he was removed. This is why. We are not surprised there has been no announcement. Under-the-rug sweeping is still in effect, but because there was media coverage of his removal, it should be more difficult for him to get back in than in the past. I don’t doubt he’ll try.
However, there are still women coming forward to share their stories of how Ken Leslie sexually harassed them–and worse. To quote the poignant line from one of my favorite movies, Dead Again,: “This is all far from over.” We don’t know what our involvement will be from here on. We are also not taking on the role of watchdogs for 1Matters.org or Veterans Matter, but we are curious to see what, if any, changes they make. What other types of abuses remain to be uncovered?
We gather that major funding for Tent City may have been in danger, which is probably what made it impossible for him to not step down. Is it possible that he could have seen past his own narcissism enough to see how bad that would have been for the organization? The timing of Tent City and that pressure was most certainly part of our strategy. From our perspective, the desired outcome was met. He resigned. He is no longer in direct proximity to vulnerable populations. Women in his professional sphere are no longer in danger of an encounter that makes them feel humiliated or like they want to take a shower. That feels damn good.
Every time the Board of 1Matters.org or Ken came out with a statement, it was on a Saturday morning and on Facebook. Ken to his private page, or 1Matters.org making a statement to their followers. I think they thought Saturday mornings aren’t good for news because that’s when stories get buried on TV. People may not sit down to watch the news on a weekend the same way they might habitually catch it on weeknights. I don’t think they figured on social media working differently. So, when the Board issued their supporting statement of Ken continuing therapy and delving deep into self-reflection, there were at least fifty angry face emojis from women who had been following the story through the On Drowning Rats private group, mine, Heidi’s, or Cami’s pages. That first announcement pissed us off! But, I wasn’t the tiniest bit surprised. I knew there would be multiple rounds of this fight. When an opposing view was posted on the Girls Parts Publishing page that we were self-righteous, vicious, and destructive, the author was met with a large response from our supporters pointing out her victim-blaming and internalized misogyny. It was good times! This was all predictable and meant to be. We were being forced to go through the paces because this had never happened in Toledo before. Now, we have a disgraced former so-and-so to call our very own!
His second announcement, the resignation, made me want to puke. I didn’t trust it. I saw it as a way for him to play the long game to get back in the same way he always has.
It also felt like a major victory. Because it was! My body was releasing the toxins of wondering if he would ever step down or get fired. I felt like I had to steel myself to prepare for the onslaught of communication that would come in the wake of this development. The media finally caught up, and even when the stories were disappointing (*cough cough* The Toledo Blade *cough*), he still came off as a clueless self-aggrandizer. Our truth was still our truth.
A major part of that truth is that we could not have done this without the army of women (and a few men) who took up this cause and made the time to write emails, post publicly, alert the media, tell friends, and send us private messages of support. This was a community effort that Cami, Heidi, and I are still processing. We are incredibly grateful to anyone reading this blog and standing with us. We are encouraged to see other women coming forward. We hope this will be the local culture change so many of us have been waiting for. The continued interest and momentum led us to a series of curiosities.
How far do we take it? Are there lawsuits?
What about the Board(s)?
Is this still our fight or will others take over?
What do we do with the stories of the women who are continuing to come forward?
What does an investigation into the Board really mean?
What will the inquiry by the Ohio Attorney General yield?
If he’s a sexist, what about how he’s homophobic and racist, too? We’ve heard stories that he used the “N” word and the “F” word.
Cami and I will spend the rest of the year writing On Drowning Rats: The Book. This will be a collection of these blogs, a more in-depth exploration of our personal experiences throughout the process of taking down our sexual harasser, as well as a workbook and instruction manual for how any person can take down their own sexual harasser.
We will raise funds to print and market the book through Girl Parts Publishing & Productions. At this moment, we have a monthly Patreon deposit of $85 that will go toward these efforts. Thank you, Patreon supporters!
Expect Kickstarter Campaigns and a heavy marketing push to get this book into as many hands as possible. We also plan to submit the blog series and other written materials to feminist organizations for recognition and to further advance the work.
1. We are collecting stories from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) women and LGBTQ+ individuals regarding their own experiences with sexual harassment in the workplace or volunteer situations. The stories will be shared in an upcoming ‘On Drowning Rats’ blog that discusses the inequity of believability and credibility in the workplace. ALL STORIES USED WILL BE PAID $100 EACH, and we will accept up to five stories. Can be published as anonymous. *Stories must be received by 10/27.*
If you are a BIPOC woman and/or are LGBTQ+ and wish to share your story, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. If you have a story of being harassed by Ken Leslie specifically and would like to share it with us, please contact us at email@example.com.
3. Sign up to receive the On Drowning Rats blog series here: https://forms.gle/YLK419ag8qhw3p5v6.
4. In the name of valuing our work, time, emotional toil, and toll, we humbly request that, if you are in a position to do so, show your support in the form of Patreon contributions. We will: gather and offer resources and publish pieces to sell and distribute throughout the community; establish a system where we see results when we call out our harassers; and create a culture where women need not question our sense of self or existence in spaces we have every right to inhabit. Sign up here to support our mission: https://www.patreon.com/girlpartspp
5. If you’re not in a position to support us financially, you can play a role in advancing this work by forwarding this to a friend and sharing on social media. You can also request to join the private On Drowning Rats Facebook group and engage in additional discussion, share resources, and come up with solutions for accountability.
Thank you for reading!
Rachel E. Richardson is the CEO of Girl Parts Publishing & Productions.