I stand with Yifan
I believe Yifan’s story, because it’s consistent with my experience of Jon Pretty as a manipulative, abusive, and dishonest person. I stand by her decision to come forward, and I want to share my account of his interactions with me to corroborate her story and establish that this is a pattern of harmful behavior on his part.
Similar to Yifan’s experience, Jon Pretty and I met at a Scala conference, in my case in late 2013. I was a young woman new to tech. He was extremely friendly and courteous with me. He went out of his way to help me make travel plans, book tickets and accommodation, and get visas. He made me believe he was an influential community figure, and with time I grew to admire his altruistic public persona.
I was going through personal difficulties around that time. He made himself available when I needed advice, and gradually gained my trust. As an immigrant woman living in a foreign country, knowing that I could rely on his support was critical to my well-being. I felt reassured by him, and changed multiple aspects of my life to accomodate us becoming closer.
What followed was an on-and-off long-distance relationship in late 2015-2017. He visited me on his terms when it was convenient for his nomadic lifestyle. I quickly grew to feel isolated and objectified by him. As a non-native English speaker, I often felt manipulated, but I found it hard to articulate why. He wanted to constantly monitor my activities. He habitually criticized my lifestyle choices and diminished my self-esteem.
Early on, he shared accounts of his past romantic experiences, including his interactions with women in the community. When he recounted these experiences, he often dismissed his past partners as abusive or attributed difficulties in their relationships to their sexuality. I would later learn he spoke about both Yifan and myself this way to other members of the Scala community.
I cut ties with Pretty in 2017; he went on harassing me, just as he would later harass Yifan. He misrepresented the nature of our breakup to professional peers in the Scala community. In one version of this story, I wanted to have more sex than he could offer. He attempted to sabotage relationships with people close to me. He spread factually incorrect information about my current relationship and my partner. These stories were intended to discredit and harm me, and bore little relation to the truth.
Pretty continued to contact me for two more years, ignoring the clear boundaries I established. He messaged me on social media, wrote emails, and interacted with my online content despite me repeatedly telling him to never contact me again, and in many cases blocking him. All of his messages were extremely emotionally triggering, and made me feel concerned for my safety. I believe that if I had been a part of the Scala community, he would have made my professional life very difficult.
This encounter had a lasting effect on my life and my career. I took a professional sabbatical to take care of my mental health, and was less involved in community activities.
Learning about what happened to Yifan made me realize how bad my own experiences with him had been. For years I blamed myself for what happened. I felt humiliated and grossed out, and second-guessed my feelings. For a long time I had no other choice but to make peace with it. Because I didn’t work in the same community as him, I had the privilege of him holding no power over my future, and I chose not to engage.
Learning that this was a pattern, not an isolated incident and a traumatic personal experience, changed everything. Because of similarities in our stories as well as the stories Jon Pretty told us himself, we have reasons to believe that other people in the community have had experiences with him that are similar to ours.
Jon Pretty is a central and generally respected figure in the Scala community. Many people who admire his altruistic public persona might feel protective of him. Some people may believe that because he is friendly, he’d never hurt anyone. Abusers are rarely awful to everyone they encounter; this would make it harder for them to access new victims. My experience with Jon Pretty is that he is a manipulative and dishonest person who repeatedly took advantage of his position of authority to abuse my trust when I was a vulnerable newcomer to the industry. And I know now that I am not alone.
By sharing our stories, we’re hoping to shine a light on a pattern of harmful behavior and help protect other women new to communities. It is now up to members of this community to prevent history from repeating itself.