About Grant. (CW: sexual assault, being drugged)
The following is an account of what happened to a woman who was drugged, and subsequently sexually assaulted by Grant 'GranDGranT' Harris. Her wish was that she remain anonymous. The following document has not been altered by me in any way, and is being published with the explicit consent of the victim.
Admitting that I was a victim of sexual assault is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done -- it involves a lot of setting your pride aside, recounting every interaction, figuring out if you are at fault, and trying to convince yourself that you didn’t deserve what happened. It took me years to come to terms with the fact that the incident I endured was not fucking okay. In any way. This story is from six years ago when I attended TI4, my first LAN.
I had been playing Dota for about a year and a half. I remember watching TI3 on my shitty Macbook in my childhood bedroom, losing my absolute mind during most of the games. I was yelling at my laptop, jumping around my room, throwing my arms in the air. Immediately after the tournament ended, I decided that I needed to go to the next International. All I wanted was to feel the energy inside the arena, to hear the crowd in person instead of over the caster’s mic, and to witness every second of professional Dota 2 I possibly could.
After TI3, I built my very first computer and started streaming Dota. A few months later, Grant came into my stream. I had an idea of who he was, but I never really cared about his role or his friends. He was funny, he seemed cool, and our friendly conversations never reached a point where I felt uncomfortable. I spent the months leading up to TI4 working my ass off, saving every penny, so that I could attend the tournament. I had plans to stay with a couple of other e-friends who were Seattle locals. I didn’t know a single other person attending the event outside of them and Grant, but I didn’t care. I was too excited about being in an arena full of people who loved the game just as much as I did.
During TI4, I met up with Grant a few times and he brought me to the players’ hotel to hang out in the lobby/bar area, and of course I was floored seeing all of these faces I had only ever seen online. Suddenly all of these people were real! Tangible! I was 21 years old and I was being introduced to professional players/casters/etc after playing the game for a fraction of the time they had played. It was fucking cool!!!!
One day, I met with Grant and a few of his friends at their hotel. We were shooting the shit, hanging out. Being “one of the boys” and not being sexualized felt great considering the staggering ratio of men:women in Dota at that point. We decided to pregame before going out for the night. Someone pulled out a fifth of blueberry vodka and we started taking shots. We each took a few, then made our way to a bar nearby around 6pm. It was a pretty cute little cocktail place with few people there, and I ordered a whiskey mule. I received my drink, and remember thinking it was really fuckin good. Then everything went blank.
When I woke up, it took me about 15-20 minutes to gather some sense of where I was. I looked to my right, and Grant’s friend was fully clothed sleeping under the covers. The clock next to him read somewhere after 1pm. I looked to my left. Grant was asleep, shirtless, and above the covers. I looked down at myself and thought I was going to be sick. I was also above the covers, my pants and underwear pulled down to my knees. My head was spinning, and I still felt drunk. I slid down the middle of the bed and tried standing up. I felt as though I couldn’t breathe. I finally stood up, pulled my underwear and pants up, and found the bathroom. I sat on the toilet and tried to control my breathing, closing my eyes and trying to remember anything from the night before. While peeing, it felt strange, a soreness that most girls can relate to. I felt my groin area, and moved my fingers lower. After a minute, I felt something inside of me. Pulling it out, I realized it was a tampon -- I had totally forgotten I was on my period. I let out a gasp of air, thinking, “okay, I have a tampon in, that means nothing could have happened. The string is pressed oddly far inside of me, but I have a tampon in, nothing could have happened. Right, yes, okay.” I started quietly crying on the toilet, gently reassuring myself that nothing could have happened over and over for the next few minutes.
I left the bathroom and was relieved that they were still asleep. My head was pounding, it was hard to see straight, and my heart rate was out of control. I had my phone, but it was dead. I scoured the room for the backpack I know I had with me at the cocktail bar to no avail. I felt my eyes tearing up again, frustrated by the fact that not only did I have no idea what the fuck happened, I didn’t know where my belongings were, and couldn’t leave without talking to Grant to find out. I don’t remember if I woke him or if he woke up of his own accord, but I told him my backpack was missing. He called the last bar we went to (the last bar???), and they weren’t open yet, if I remember correctly. So we left and stopped for food. We had Greek. The entire time I was just trying to play it cool, I didn’t know what happened, I couldn’t find a grasp on reality, but I had all my limbs. It felt like I was moving through a dream. I asked what happened the night before, and he found it funny that I had no memory of it. I found out then that not only had we gone to an NA Dota house (people were playing Super Smash Bros, and I asked Grant if I had also played [it is a game I am actively bad at] and he said “oh yeah you played a lot” [mortifying]), we had also gone to “3 or 4” bars afterward. I asked Grant if I had danced, and he said yes, the entire time. I asked what time we got back to the hotel - he said 4am. We went to the bar after, and they had my backpack. I swear I had never seen this place in my entire life. I had no memory of it whatsoever.
When we got to the arena, I thanked Grant for helping me find my belongings and met up with my other friends. I don’t remember why or how but I ended up back at the players’ hotel with Grant and his friend later that night. The only reason I remember this is because I remember actively trying to avoid 1-on-1 conversation with Grant, and telling his friend (the one in the bed under the covers) how uncomfortable I was about the situation. That if something had happened, I really hadn’t intended for it and that I couldn’t remember anything. He was kind and took the time to listen to me. I remember him being very comforting, but he never confirmed that nothing had happened.
The next day, it was the grand finals. I was back at my Seattle friend’s house, and I couldn’t even stomach the idea of going to the arena and potentially running into Grant. I watched the series from my friend’s couch. Grant had texted me at least once before or during the finals, but also sent me a text after. He was at the afterparty, hanging with two NA personalities that were asking where I was. He invited me, but I said I didn’t feel well. I was too scared to go to the afterparty of my very first International because I couldn’t bear the thought of being around him.
After I returned home, I didn’t tell anyone about what had happened. I could barely figure it out myself. I thought, oh, maybe it was because I hadn’t been eating as much during the trip (social anxiety), it must have been the fact I was drinking on a near-empty stomach. I tried to come up with every reason as to why this might have happened, without ever entertaining the idea of the worst-case scenario, that someone was trying to take advantage of me. Grant contacted me via steam or text a few times over the following weeks, where I would give him very short answers. Several times, he asked “do you want to know what happened that night ;) ,” (always including a wink emoticon) and my response each time was along the lines of “if something happened, I didn’t intend for it. I would feel more comfortable not knowing if something had happened.” He would drop the subject and I wouldn’t hear from him for another few days or so.
I stayed completely silent about what had happened until I was driving home from work one night, when my phone started buzzing like crazy. I glanced at it, I had steam messages from a few friends. I opened the messages and they all basically said the same thing: “hey, Grant is super fucked up on stream right now and just said that you were a bad lay.” My heart entered my throat, my hands started shaking and I started sobbing while gripping my steering wheel trying to just make it home. The tampon had been my life raft, it was the one thing within that experience that made me hold onto the idea that nothing had happened, and now it was gone. I got home, and confided in those friends what had happened. I had never used any serious terms - I never used the words “drugged”, “sexual assault”, or “rape.” Not once did those words even cross my mind, I couldn’t fathom using them. Those are extremely serious words, and I wasn’t going to use them to “defend” myself in this case. After solely recounting my experience to them, every single one responded the same way -- “you know this isn’t okay right? This is super fucked up, are you okay?” I refused to admit that I was a victim, I just said “yeah, maybe you’re right.” One of the peers I told was a moderator for an NA Dota personality who is close with Grant. He asked if I was comfortable with him telling said personality. It took me a bit, but I gave him the go-ahead, so long as he told the story exactly as I did. I didn’t want the way people perceived it to change the way I had recounted it. He told the personality, who in turn told Grant to delete the VOD. Looking back, I believe he thought that this would maybe spare me some grief, but right now it mostly feels like an effort to protect his friend.
I spent months afterward grieving the experience. Overanalyzing it, trying desperately to come up with viable excuses for what happened, not wanting to blame anyone else. I blamed myself entirely.
Grant continued to contact me, but it got to a point where I stopped responding entirely. I couldn’t bring myself to talk like friends, to just pretend like nothing happened (although I still refused to accept that something might have happened).
I wasn’t sure if I was going to attend TI5. Every time I thought about it, my stomach would sink. After some thought, and speaking to some friends, I decided I shouldn’t let this person make me feel scared to be somewhere I wanted to be. I’d already missed out on the afterparty because of him, I wasn’t going to miss out on the one vacation I had saved up for because of him too.
A few weeks before TI5, a friend I had confided in reached out to me because he knew another woman in Dota who had plans to stay with Grant (as friends), and he felt wary of the situation given what he knew. He asked me if he could share my story with her. I told him yes, under the same rules as I’d told those before: tell it exactly as I told it, don’t let your opinion of what transpired embellish my experience. He agreed.
She told my friend I was a liar, and then told Grant I was calling him a rapist. I had never uttered that word, and I hadn’t placed any blame on him. I was still grappling with the idea that something happened that should have been under my control. Grant reached out to me directly after, asking what was up. I told him I had never said that word but based on what happened and my responses afterward, couldn’t he tell that he had made me uncomfortable?? I asked him why he thought I had suddenly stopped speaking to him, and he said he didn’t know. He seemed panicked, saying that nothing had happened between us and begged for my forgiveness. He asked if I was going to TI5, I said yes, and he said something about seeing me there.
Just a few weeks later at TI5, I met up with a mutual friend who was also in NA Dota. We were headed to some box seats (or whatever the fuck they’re called), and before we entered the box he turned to me and said, “oh, by the way, Grant hates you. Don’t start any drama.” I gawked at him, considering I had told him what happened at TI4. I said something along the lines of, “Wait, what? HE hates ME?.” I was told yeah, Grant hates you, and once again to not start any drama. I brought up the fact that he had been apologizing profusely and literally begging for my forgiveness during the last month, but it fell on deaf ears. I was simply told not to start drama, and that was the end of it. I entered the box, and Grant pretended like I wasn’t there the entire time. I found out later he “threw a tantrum” because our mutual friend had brought me there, knowing that Grant “hated” me. This was the first of several tantrums he threw related to my presence over the course of the week. I never understood why my presence upset him that much.
I have been to TI 4-8. I decided to never let the fear of bumping into this person outweigh the experience of attending LANs for the game I loved being a part of. I would run into him at the after party almost every year, and we would greet each other, then return to our friends. I never thought of approaching him and talking about what happened. I was there to enjoy my time.
To this day, I don’t even have the faintest glimmer of what happened between the cocktail bar and waking up the next day. I’ve tried extremely hard to remember it, for any hope that what seemed to have happened didn’t happen, but there’s nothing. It’s blank. 10 hours of solid blankness. I’m still finding it difficult to accuse someone I trusted, who I thought was my friend at the time, of doing something to purposely hurt me.
It’s been 6 years of mulling this over, and I still don’t know if I would have ever felt comfortable sharing my story had the other women not spoken up. The 6 years of silence scare the shit out of me. How many others could have avoided similar experiences with him if I had simply talked about it? I was 1) too weak to admit what had happened to myself, 2) too scared of telling my Dota friends, and 3) too petrified of the consequences and ostracization I would receive from the Dota 2 community. I felt that if I shared the truth about him, that my entire life would have been a target for questioning, open for intrusive strangers to examine and retell as they wished. I think this speaks volumes of not only the Dota 2 community’s approach to women, but esports as a whole.
For me, this isn’t about condemnation or seeking revenge. If that were the case, I’m sure it would have been better to have mentioned this when his career was starting to take off. Honestly, I’m sitting here and the scariest prospect of me writing this is that it could have had no impact on his career whatsoever. This is about my healing process and accepting that some bullshit happened to me that I didn’t deserve. I had simply gone to hang out with my friend, someone I trusted at the time, and his friends. It has taken me fucking years to realize that it wasn’t my fault.
Since Grant’s name was first identified as an assailant, the last 24 hours have been absurdly difficult for me. I didn’t realize how much pain I was harboring until it was literally unavoidable - something I had to reckon with. Reading his “apology” caused me to start shaking uncontrollably for 30-45 minutes. I don’t know if I felt anger, devastation, or confusion. I just couldn’t stop shaking, couldn’t stop crying for hours, I haven’t slept and I haven’t gone to class. I’ve just been revisiting this very painful memory and the years I spent punishing myself for it.
How can we protect our community from these situations? I think it starts with accountability. If you have read Kyle’s guide to Flirting with Morons, you would have seen the following excerpt: “The people you choose to spend time with are a reflection of your character. Be mindful of what they’re doing.”
Please listen to each other and hold your friends, your peers, and especially your coworkers accountable. I beg that another young adult who is simply trying to enjoy their newfound love for a game doesn’t have to endure anything close to what I’ve been through, let alone feel the need to stay quiet for so long. And can we please stop hiring predators?