Update: October 16, 2018: Moira Donegan has secured legal representation from Robbie Kaplan, a co-founder of the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund. Kaplan tweeted that "It's an honor for us to represent someone with the courage, intelligence, and integrity of Moira Donegan." The GoFundMe for Donegan’s legal fees has surpassed $110,000.
This article was originally published on Oct 12, 2018.
In October 2017, a journalist named Moira Donegan created an excel spreadsheet called “Shitty Media Men.” By the time it was taken offline later that month, the document had morphed into a crowdsourced collection of allegations of sexual misconduct against approximately 70 men working in the media industry.
Among these men was writer Stephen Elliott. And, though he has denied the claims made against him — including an allegation of rape — Elliott has now filed a defamation suit against Donegan, and approximately 30 additional “Jane Does” who also contributed to the list.
Elliott’s complaint, which was filed last Wednesday in a New York district court, seeks $1.5 million in damages and includes a plan to subpoena Google metadata in order to uncover the identities of the anonymous women who contributed to the list. These whisper networks, which are fraught given their secretive and, therefore, not wholly verifiable accounts, is also a historically necessary way for women to protect one another from harassment and abuse.
“One long-standing partial remedy that women have developed is the whisper network, informal alliances that pass on open secrets and warn women away from serial assaulter. Many of these networks have been invaluable in protecting their members,” Donegan wrote earlier this year.
Still, the list Donegan created mushroomed into something beyond her control that has had long lasting implications. “None of this was what I thought was going to happen,” Donegan wrote in The Cut. “In the beginning, I only wanted to create a place for women to share their stories of harassment and assault without being needlessly discredited or judged.” Donegan has not yet commented on Elliott's lawsuit.
As of now, the story is still developing, but many allies on social media have already risen up in defense of Donegan since the announcement of the suit. One woman has even started a GoFundMe for Donegan’s legal fees which, at time of writing, has already raised over $50,000 in fewer than 17 hours.