When Your Co-founder is Accused of Sexual Assault …
Mr. Melick continued to pressure and coerce [X] into having sex with him despite her repeatedly telling him she was not interested …
CW: This post discusses sexual assault.
TL;DR In 2019 we ousted Josh Melick from Broadly over credible charges of sexual assault. We took quick and decisive action, but didn't follow up with transparency. Today I'm closing the circle.
An Unexpected Turn of Events
Josh Melick and I started Broadly in 2013. We worked together for over 5 years, building the business to where it is today. Things were going up and to the right. We kept it, relatively speaking, low drama.
Then, in 2019, a former employee charged Josh with sexual assault. The claims were very specific:
[X] was sexually assaulted by Broadly's CEO, Josh Melick … Mr. Melick continued to pressure and coerce [X] into having sex with him despite her repeatedly telling him she was not interested.
The lawyers didn't mince words when describing Josh:
Mr. Melick is a sexual predator who abused his power to sexually assault [X], and then acted deliberately to cover his tracks.
The More You Know
Josh admitted to an affair, but denied it was coercive. And in the same breath, proposed that the company pay the accuser, and wrap it up with an NDA.
The board of directors, including myself but excluding Josh, wanted to investigate before making any decisions. We hired an independent expert attorney that specializes in workplace investigations.
What came out of the investigation was damning. I can't share the details with you, but I can tell you how we acted on the information. The board voted unanimously to remove Josh.
We acted quickly, and we acted decisively. A week after the investigation ended, Josh was out, replaced by an interim CEO. However, for various reasons, legal and otherwise, we couldn't be transparent about what happened.
What I learned from the investigation was disturbing. Clear signs of predatory behavior: chasing, isolating, and intoxicating the victim. Choosing victims that are the least likely to report. Using the power of his position to keep them silent.
Josh told different stories to different people, but the stories I heard all had one common thread: he blamed the victim.
The gaslighting also extended to blaming me, the rest of the board, the lawyers, the tech media.
Josh apologized for throwing the business into a turmoil, but not for the pain he inflicted on others. That lack of empathy is what allows this behavior to continue.
Time To Speak Up
In moving forward, we cannot forget what has happened, and we cannot allow it to happen again. Silence is not an option. To quote Meet The Predators:
They don’t accidentally end up in a room with a woman too drunk or high to consent or resist; they plan on getting there and that’s where they end up.
They have an average of six victims, women that they know, and therefore likely some women you know.
To rape again and again, these men need silence.
To the people who were hurt, I can only imagine how difficult this must have been. If you'd like to help in a more tangible way, please join me in donating to Bay Area Women Against Rape.