While working at a startup together in 2017, our colleague Chelsey Rhodes reported harassment by one of the co-founders, Zaid Hassan. She came to us as this was happening and asked for our help and support. In the months since, she has asked for help again and again. We failed to listen to, honor, believe and support her. We deeply regret those failures.
We are writing this now because Chelsey deserves a public apology; because we want to take accountability for our own failures; and to invite others who have been involved to take accountability for harm caused by their choices.
We failed you. As colleagues, friends, and investors in the company, we were not there for you. We believed Zaid as he lied to us, and joined him in discrediting and attacking you. We silenced you instead of listening, questioned you instead of believing you, and wrote you off instead of showing up and offering a community of support. We are appalled at the organizational response in which we participated, which included telling concerned clients and employees that you were not credible or trustworthy, and claiming that an investigation had been conducted when in fact no investigation has ever taken place. Whatever our role or relationship, we know we could have done more.
You deserved better; you did not deserve to be dehumanized, harassed and bullied. We stood by as the most senior person in the organization–who had control over your pay and tenure, and influence on how you were seen in the organization and larger community–abused his power and defamed you. That we were lied to is true. That we thought we were doing our best is true. And this doesn’t make the impact or the harm of our actions–nor our accountability for our choices–any less. We cut off communication, justified and rationalized what was happening, and accepted and reinforced a narrative about you as ‘unwell’, ‘crazy’, and ‘troubled’. You fought against this at great cost to yourself and your family- emotionally and financially.
We understand that our actions and words have had serious consequences on you, your wellbeing, your reputation and ultimately the loss of your job. We failed to understand what you were going through. Unwilling to face what you were saying, we tried to protect ourselves, Zaid, and the organization, instead of insisting on a third party investigation and persisting to find a way to honor your requests for a restorative justice or alternative process. We deeply regret that we took this course of action and apologize for the impact it had on you.
Our first priority is to support you in any way we can as you work to heal from this experience.
Beyond that, our hope and intention is to be a catalyst for integrity and accountability, and to use this experience to prevent harms like this from repeating.
We commit to being here for you and with you.
We invite anyone who feels they can and want to sign onto this apology to do so below in the comments or contact us and we will add your name.