[CW: Assualt] My Experience of Abuse at IFI and VEX

I have chosen to come forward about my experience as an employee at Innovation First, and the impact it has had on me. I have decided to remain anonymous as it is the best way for me to maintain my own safety, while still being able to share my story. I want to express my gratitude to my former coworkers who have come forward as well and detailed their painful past with IFI and to acknowledge their strength and bravery.

I am aware that as an anonymous source, I may not strike you as credible, however this is a sacrifice I have to make. My goal is to hopefully keep another young girl from being forced to experience what I did, and to finally get this off of my chest, and start on a road to healing.

I worked at IFI for many years as a high school intern and later as a college intern. When I started I was freshly 16, excited, and also nervous. I looked up to IFI through my affiliation through FRC and was happy to be there. Early on I never had any problems, I did good work, I didn’t go to any parties, I stayed out of the way of those I was warned about, I thought I had it made. As many others have recounted, this facade is too good to be true.

The specific experience I want to recount was an assault against me when I was only 16 years old, in the hallways of IFI. I had stayed late to work on a project at my desk, I was there a few hours past closing, maybe 8pm. I was leaving, when in the hallway I pass an executive of IFI. We were the only ones in the hallway, maybe even the building, and he tosses me a ball, something he had done before. I took it as a fatherly gesture, something you might do to a child. I should mention that this person was associated with other organizations and I would see him outside of work often enough to have a repore.

He asked me what I was doing there so late and I explained as I caught the ball. To be funny, before I tossed the ball back I juked him out, to make it seem like I might throw it overhand out of his reach, and then instead tossed it gently, which took him by surprise. - I can only assume what made him choose his following actions, maybe a bruised ego, perhaps a bad day, I am not sure and will never be sure. But after he caught the ball he grabbed me by my shoulders and pinned me against the glass wall by my neck, securing me in place with his forearm and through gritted teeth said “Never do that again.” After releasing me, his anger receded into a plastic smile and he laughed as he walked away like nothing happened.

I did not grasp the damage, nor the implications of that act, not until I started experiencing panic attacks and flashbacks in my later teenage years. I never told anyone, I didn’t go to HR, I didn’t tell my manager, nor my parents. I thought at the time maybe it was normal, this was after all my first job, maybe that was how people in his position acted? I justified his behavior, I guess maybe it was a bit rude of me to tease him like that with the ball. I have questioned my own sanity, asking myself if I remembered correctly, because surely no one would behave that way. But now I am choosing to tell my story, which so closely mirrors the pain and torment that others have experienced in and outside the walls of IFI.

Although this employee no longer works at IFI, his actions speak to a systematic and permeating issue within IFI that allowed for this kind of behavior to take root and thrive. No one puts their hands on a young girl in that way without trust that their position of power grants them the privilege to do so.

Still to this day I experience panic attacks from triggers in media, or from someone grabbing me a quickly, I still flinch. Although I am moving towards healing, what was done can not be undone. I am choosing to tell my own story today for my own catharsis and to stand with my past coworkers who have inspired me with their own stories, assuring me that I am not alone. I encourage everyone to listen to what they have to say, and reflect on your own positions, and roles within this community, and ask what you can do so that no one in your life feels voiceless or unheard.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.


I am so sorry that you had to go through that. I’m proud of you coming forward with your story, and please know you’re not alone in this :two_hearts: