This was me almost exactly one year ago, right before that life ended. I was celebrating my birthday with friends out at a bar. I’d stuck the cigarette up my nose and been hiding behind Bill, waiting for him to turn and look, for almost a minute before this photo was taken, the smoke stinging my eyes. Everyone at the table was watching, waiting for him to turn and notice and make fun of me the way big groups of friends do when they’re hanging out and being asinine together.

You know what came next. Well, you probably know bits and pieces. There’s still a lot I can’t say for a variety of reasons, least of all trying to have some semblance of privacy left. Lord knows the very well documented campaign to try to erase what has been happening to me for a year succeeded amongst too many people, framing what happened as a debate with sides, being used as a launchpad for people’s careers, flat out trying to wash me out of history, or painting me as a villain created by the UN to destroy video games (lol). I could write millions of more words about everything that went down, from the ways it’s been emblematic of the systems of online abuse to the ridiculous anecdotes about the absurdity of the internet colliding with offline life resulting in things like Disturbed’s lead singer ruining my breakfast. But that’s for later times.

One thing I said a year ago after one of many attacks on me from a vulture trying to profit off my suffering while painting me as worse than Satan was that if anyone had any doubts about me to watch what I’ve done in the months since. I’m a firm believer in there being no such things as heroes or villains, only shit that happens and what people do about it. The biggest thing I’ve probably learned in the last year has been self-restraint. There were many, *many* times that without it, I would have become consumed by the hell that was spinning around me, said “fuck it” and given up trying to keep my head down, work hard, and keep the promise I made a year ago – to “ continue trying to break down barriers and disrupt the culture that enabled the abuse I’ve endured from the last two weeks from ever happening to anyone ever again”.

I’d like to think I’ve kept that promise. Not only have I pumped out two sites to help anyone who wanted to make a game get started – games are for everyone and sortingh.at – I co-founded Crash Override along with Alex Lifschitz and our network of survivors of egregious online abuse. If you’re unfamiliar with us, we’re essentially an online abuse crisis helpline that works directly with people who are under attack, with a secondary goal of advocacy to reduce the amount of people that need to seek our help in the first place. We’ve been doing it for about 7 months now, and I’m proud of what we’ve gotten done. Our primary day to day functions involve taking the cases of people who contact us at our intake email at crashoverridenetwork@gmail.com, and we handle new cases daily, offering assistance with security, reporting, monitoring, emotional support, and working with our safety partners at a number of major platforms including Twitter and support networks like the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative to make the internet a safer place. We’ve also created a number of guides on our resource center for those who don’t feel comfortable contacting us or have minor concerns, and have had them externally verified by additional experts to ensure that the information we give is valuable, correct, and up-to-date. I’ve spoken about these issues to the United States congress, and continue to work with Representative Katherine Clark to further the conversation on a national level. And we do all of this for free. We’re going to continue to grow and adapt to serve the people who come to us for help, and hopefully reduce the number of people who find themselves needing to. Our end goal is to no longer need to exist, and every step we take is toward that hope. We’re going to continue growing the network, advocating for that hope, and assisting people in need of help quietly in the background in the meantime.

As for me? I get asked the same question a lot – “are things getting better for you”? I can never give a straightforward answer. I’m at least living somewhere again, and I’ve been really careful about staying hidden in a lot of ways. An article came out just two days ago listing what city I live in now, and I’m still anxious about it, but I’m desperately trying to get to whatever the new normal is. What I said back in January was that August Never Ends, that in a lot of ways I’ll always be dogged by this harassment, by a review I never even got, and by the sheer trauma of living like this for the rest of my life. I mean, this was what I woke up to this morning:

And that’s less than all the examples from one day, on one social network. I’ve been on the front page of Kotaku In Action multiple times this week with a spike in harassment every time, including a post about how I somehow admitted to sleeping with games journalists and faking harassment on twitter on a social profile I had back in 2005 that I haven’t even had access to in years, and would have required me to have clarivoyantly seen the advent of Twitter a year before it’s creation and my future career as a game developer 5 years later. A cursory check on the wayback machine shows those lines were ~*mysteriously*~ added a few weeks into GamerGate, but the mobs still didn’t let things like “doing literally the bare minimum of checking on something” stop them from front-paging it, adding a huge “verified” sticker to it, spreading nude photos of me around, and bludgeoning me with GOTCHAS all over the channels I try to live and do work in online. My partner still gets harassed. My father still gets harassed. People who share the same name as me still get harassed.

So it’s held true. August never ends. Even GamerGate is ongoing, harassing and targeting old and new punchingbags every day, and they’re one abusive community amongst many online. 

But August doesn’t have to be the end, either.

I’m proud of the work we do, even when it’s soul-crushing or frustrating. While the conversation around these issues has moved leaps and bounds because of how big and horrible everything got, there’s still miles to go. Years ago, if this had happened, I fully believe I’d still be struggling to get anyone to believe it even happened at all. Instead I get on a plane and laugh as I see that the in-flight safety video is meme-themed, after a long fight of trying to convince some folks above my pay grade that Internet culture is really just culture, and matters, and the harassment and abuse that happens on it matters. Years ago no one would be reporting on this, but instead now I just have to fight that it’s not just white women that are targeted, but almost everyone can be, and that every layer of marginalization brings with it a degree of severity, and hang my head as most of these articles cut that from what goes to print. There’s still frustration, there’s still a long way to go. But I’m hopeful, and I want to keep working.

I’ll say it again – there’s only what happens and what you do about it. Often you have little say in what happens to you. Sometimes you can minimize risk or make good choices that create opportunities, but at the end of the day life doesn’t really give half a shit about your plans and we were all born into circumstances we didn’t choose. We have an unfortunate tendency of defining people like me as what happens to them – too often I’m seen or discussed as “the gamergate girl”. While it’s crucial to remember history to stop it from repeating, it’s overly reductive to boil a whole human being down to it. I could’ve gone off the deep end, started lashing out, only cared about myself, fallen down into my own well of torment and failed to notice my heel on other people’s throats, fought fire with fire and abuse with abuse – but thanks to other people who had been around me and pulled me out of it, and because of the shoulders of the giants I stand on, I am able to keep going and keep fighting for the rights of others to exist online without living with abuse. I’m lucky I’m able to – many people don’t have the support it takes to do that. Nobody should have to – asking people to think tactically while they’re under constant attack is like throwing someone into a pit of vipers and demanding they learn calculus. But those choices, that support and love that lets me keep trying to pay it forward tenfold to other people who need it – that’s what defines me. My friends and loved ones that support me matter a million times more than twitter eggs calling me whore, and helping one person with Crash Override overshadows the death threats and risks to my safety. That’s what I’m going to keep doing – because this problem is way bigger than me or any of the numerous other people who have been touched by this particular internet catastrophe, because I can take the hate and abuse and keep fighting, and because it’s still a really long climb to go. This work is beyond exhausting, and I wish I could go back to my old life – but at least it gives meaning to all of the shit the last year put me through. At least I kept the promise I made a year ago. 

I’m not the GamerGate girl. I’m the Crash Override girl. We’re from the internet, and we’re here to help.