Cheryl Yeoh, the Founding CEO of the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC), has accused the former-Head of 500 Startups Dave McClure of of sexual assault in a long, detailed, blog post.
“What started out to be an innocent night of just jamming and hanging out at my new apartment turned into a nightmare episode that has been haunting me for the past 3 years,” she wrote.
Yeoh then describes an incident that, “was way more than crossing the line of inappropriateness. It’s sexual assault.”
The post is important, but a warning, it is a difficult read.
Yeoh begins by explaining that McClure spent the evening ensuring her drink was always full. After the other visitors grabbed an Uber home, Cheryl says she was suddenly, and quickly, alone with Dave.
She asked him if he was also getting a ride home. He said no.
“Perplexed, I offered him to crash on the couch or the guest room and proceeded to show him the guest room. Then I went into my own bedroom but Dave followed me there, and that’s when he first propositioned to sleep with me. I said no,” she wrote.
Yeoh says it was at this point she demanded McClure leave and led him to the door.
“On the way out, he pushed himself onto me to the point where I was backed into a corner, made contact to kiss me, and said something along the lines of ‘Just one night, please just this one time.’ Then he told me how he really likes strong and smart women like me.”
At this point, Yeoh managed to get him out of the apartment where, “still in shock and in tears, I immediately called my boyfriend at the time and told him what had just happened”.
Suck it up and move forward
After the incident, for reasons Yeoh details in the post, she felt it was necessary to keep the incident to herself. She says she told nobody (except the boyfriend on the night-of) about the incident until the next year.
In 2015 (it is unclear when) she confided in three of her closest friends about the incident. Even if the date was in January, that would have been a full 8-months of keeping this secret bottled up.
“Even if I spoke up, I wasn’t sure at the time if my story would be taken seriously. In fact, I felt like I had to “play nice” and avoid any sort of awkward confrontation for fear of repercussions on the deal. It’s the worst position to be in when you feel helpless about something you know was outright wrong. The point is, that I shouldn’t have been put in that position in the first place,” she wrote.
Eventually, she says, McClure “got around” to apologising in a half-hearted message on Facebook.
Coming forward with details
Yeoh says she was motivated to come forward because the conversation had become “generalised” — diminished to inappropriate jokes or touching at work. She points to the New York Times article that publicly accused McClure of sexual harassment and writes,
“I’ve struggled long and hard over whether to come out with my own account of sexual harassment. After Sarah’s story in the NYT was published, I was quite sure I wouldn’t, because I thought I didn’t have to.”
She explained that when facts and details are not publicly disclosed, they are lumped together in the ‘general misbehaviour’ category which results in the seriousness of the incident becoming glossed over.
“We need to acknowledge the difference between inappropriate behavior and assault. What I experienced with Dave was the latter,” she wrote.
Traditional media or, as Sarah Kunst mentioned on Twitter, settlement agreements, legally prevent some of the women who come forward in the press from publicly disclosing the details. The result is it becomes easy to defend the actions as inappropriate jokes or office touching.
The following tweet was used by Yeoh to highlight the point.
Yeoh has no such restrictions and has used her platform to provide details, so anyone reading will have an extremely clear idea of what Yeoh says happened that night, and any glossing-over later would be a deliberate denial.
“[Dave’s apology] definitely didn’t address the severity of his sexual advances towards me and potentially others,” she wrote.
Yeoh is extremely clear to state, “I believe in 500 Startups and want to find constructive ways to deal with this.”
She gives her full support for the VC fund and points to its continuing support of the LGBTQ community. While it was Co-founded by McClure, Yeoh writes, “500 is made up of 100+ diverse individuals, and thousands of diverse founders.”
Yeoh even acknowledges that the reason the accusations surrounding McClure are so difficult to accept is because, “Dave has done a lot for many founders, and people (including me) are grateful for his support in many ways. What he’s done for the startup community is commendable.”
That being said, the post details a man abusing his power for sex and, as Yeoh wrote, “[he] put women in compromising, powerless positions.”
Dave McClure resigned from 500 Startups today.