November 12, 2014
The Management Committee of the Center for Inquiry has released a statement concerning the medical condition of one of CFI’s employees. With her express permission, CFI leadership has acknowledged that Melody Hensley, executive director of CFI’s Washington, D.C. branch, has been diagnosed by her treating psychiatrist as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the abuse she has received through social media channels such as Twitter.
This acknowledgement is being made because of the criticism being directed at Ms. Hensley and CFI questioning Ms. Hensley’s claim to suffer from PTSD. Regrettably, much of this criticism is uninformed; moreover, some of this criticism has itself been abusive.
In their statement, the Management Committee clarifies several points. In addition to officially acknowledging the fact of Ms. Hensley’s diagnosed condition, the Committee explains that it is a mischaracterization to say that Twitter itself is the cause of her PTSD. It is the abuse she’s received from individuals using Twitter and other social media platforms that are the cause of the disorder.
The Committee also explains that cyber harassment is recognized by the scientific community as a legitimate cause of stress disorders, and that acknowledging this fact does not reflect upon or in any way minimize the seriousness of PTSD caused by other sources of stress, such as combat or other forms of physical violence.
Finally, the Committee calls upon Ms. Hensley’s critics to refrain from further abusive behavior. Those who disagree with Ms. Hensley’s opinions on various subjects are, of course, free to do so, but that disagreement should be expressed in a civil manner.
The full statement can be read at the blog of Ronald A. Lindsay, President and CEO of CFI.