Update 3:31pm CT, Oct. 8: Leigh deleted her original tweet. She did not reply to a request for comment from the Daily Dot. The Justin Geri Twitter account has also been deleted.
Last week, British YouTuber Luna Leigh, known for making creative lifestyle vlogs, said she was sexually assaulted by fellow YouTuber Sam Saffold at VidCon US in June.
Leigh wrote in her Twitter statement that Saffold—previously, a good friend and popular on YouTube for his media criticism and short films—had invited her as his plus-one to the event, and on the last night of the conference, Leigh awoke at 4am to find Saffold groping her. This escalated, she wrote, into dry-humping and Saffold climaxing against her leg. When she later confronted him, Saffold claimed the incident had happened while he was asleep, according to her statement, and he shared with Leigh and a few other people that he was seeing a sleep specialist.
“Whilst I totally accept that he has a right to defend himself, I am 100% sure he was awake whilst sexually assaulting me,” Leigh wrote on Twitter. “The only part he denies is the last part about climaxing on me, however by the sounds he was making and the way his body moved, I would be very shocked if this was true.”
Leigh said she will be filing charges with the police and that there are others, including an “anonymous friend,” who have had similar experiences with Saffold in the past. Despite originally grappling with whether to share her story publically, Leigh decided in favor of doing so because she hoped she could prevent this from happening to anyone else.
Since Leigh first came forward on Aug. 8, two other women have said they too were assault by Saffold.
A day later, aspiring actor Cliona Malin released a statement via Twitter stating she was the anonymous friend mentioned in Leigh’s accounts. In her statement, Malin says her intention in coming forward was to “make the community further aware of Sam’s repeated pattern of predatory behaviour, despite him being called out on it and appearing to feeling remorse.” Malin said that in December Saffold inappropriately touched her while the pair were sleeping over after a mutual friend’s party.
“I was scared to tell my friends at first, as I didn’t want to ruin his friendships or reputation over what I thought was an isolated incident,” Malin wrote about Saffold. “I eventually told my friend Zannah, who then had a conversations [sic] with Sam about his behaviour. Hearing his excuses—that he was feeling cold at the time and that it was ok because he had a girlfriend—was truly upsetting. She managed to get through to him and he appeared to realise the harm in his actions, making me believe he had learned from his mistakes. Yet months earlier he had apologised to Maja [Anushka] in the same way, and months later Luna’s assault would take place.”
One day later, YouTuber Maja Anushka also released a statement accusing Saffold of assault, which has since been removed from her Twitter. In Malin’s statement, Anushka is referenced within a timeline as one of the first people to have experienced inappropriate, non-consensual behavior from Saffold.
In Leigh’s original statement, she asked the creator community to stand against Saffold moving forward. In the week since, the community has done just that, with creators and past Saffold collaborators sharing their love and support online, including comments from Hannah Witton, Sammy Paul, Lucy Moon, Dean Dobbs, and Dottie James.
Creator Taha Khan, who had often been associated with Saffold through mutual friends and similar YouTube trajectories, addressed the accusations on his own Twitter, condemning Saffold’s actions and sharing sexual assault resources to his 8,200 followers.
Yesterday, some pretty serious allegations came out about a British YouTuber.
This type of thing has happened before, it’s (unfortunately) likely to happen in the future. Previously, it was before I did YouTube. Now it isn’t.
— taha (@KhanStopMe) July 4, 2018
While each of these women’s statements have been met by a tidal wave of support and love from inside the creator community, it’s impossible to ignore the repeated, harassing comments from a Twitter user named Justin Geri, who says he is Saffold’s father.
Geri opened his Twitter account on Aug. 8, right after Leigh released her statement. He’s since posted numerous times in response to each of these women’s statements that they’re spreading lies and using social media for attention. He also taken jabs against any other creator, including Taha, who has spoken about these assault accusations.
While Geri’s Twitter rampage has garnered a lot of criticism from creators like Savannah Brown and Douglas Phillips, Saffold himself remained silent until Aug. 10, when he released a brief statement to Twitter that he was seeking counsel on how to proceed.
Saffold’s father told the Daily Dot that they will not comment further at this time outside of Saffold’s Twitter statement. Leigh and Malin have not returned the Daily Dot’s request for comment; Anushka declined to comment.
In her original post, Leigh wrote, “Obviously people can make their own choices with regards to this but, ideally I’d like for this abuser to be cut out of the YouTube community. At the moment, he’s very much got a reputation for being a nice guy, of being YouTube’s ‘sweetheart’ and I don’t think that he deserves another chance to manipulate the pedestal that he’s on. Especially because he has continued to put women in danger after being made aware of his previous actions.”
Before these accusations came to light, Saffold was highly praised for his quirky vlogs and short films. He first made a name for himself in 2015 when his video “Why is YouTube so white?” gained notice for his articulate argument about diversity; last year, he won the Lovie Creator for Change Award, which honors creators who exemplify online excellence within YouTube’s Creator for Change program.
I know what it feels like to have someone you trusted & admired be accused of abuse or sexual assault.
I get the impulse to begin your response by saying “I’m shocked, they were good and important to me.”
And I think it’s really important, publicly, to suppress that impulse.
— wikipedia brown says #CancelConway (@eveewing) August 7, 2018
The accusations against Saffold are not the first like them to shake YouTube. In 2014, Sam Pepper was exiled by the YouTube community after numerous women came forward accusing the “prankster” of sexual assault, rape, and harassment. This started the beginning of YouTube’s own proto-Me Too movement, as countless individuals began going public with stories of rape, assault, and abuse of power from creators such as Toby Turner, Alex Day, and Tom Milsom.
While YouTube never took down Pepper’s channel, his sexual harassment “pranks” were removed after being flagged. This month, Pepper released a video sharing that his entire channel “Sam” had been demonetized. While it’s written into YouTube’s community guidelines that the company reserves the rights to review and remove all videos flagged for harassment, cyberbullying, or hateful content, removal of an entire channel is hard to put into motion if the accused person’s behavior is not present or addressed in their videos.
In the wake of the allegations against Saffold, it’s easy to feel like nothing has changed since 2014. With sexual assault affecting at least one in six women and one in 33 men, it’s an international epidemic whose only adversary is education and empowerment. But, as the Saffold allegations have unfolded, what is also evident is that the much of the YouTube community is committed to supporting survivors and holding abusers accountable. Many continue to publicly share messages of support for Leigh, Malina, and Anushka. “Thank you for your bravery in coming forward and speaking out,” YouTuber Chloe Dungate replied to Leigh. “We believe you and we are here for you.”
This is horrible to hear and I'm so very sorry this happened to you. Well done for doing this. You have my support too.
— joshua edwards (@_JOSHEDWARDS_) August 9, 2018
I’m so sorry that this happened to you, and I hope you know how many people support and believe you.
— Lex Croucher (@lexcanroar) August 8, 2018
Creators are making it known to their audiences—as well as to other creators—that sexual harassment and assault will not be tolerated.
Correction: The Daily Dot spoke to Saffold initially via phone.
If you are a victim of sexual assault or want more information on sexual assault, contact the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).