Geek Feminism Wiki

Missing stair is a term coined by blogger Cliff Pervocracy in 2012 to describe an abuser or harasser who is tolerated in a community, even though their misdeeds are well known. The analogy is that of a missing step is in a staircase, that everyone in the house avoids and generally tries to warn others about, but which no one actually assumes the responsibility for repairing. Often victim-blaming is used on anyone who is harmed by this individual, with the reasoning that "everyone knows about them," and the victim should have heeded the warnings (which they may or may not have actually received).

"Have you ever been in a house that had something just egregiously wrong with it? Something massively unsafe and uncomfortable and against code, but everyone in the house had been there a long time and was used to it?  "Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you, there's a missing step on the unlit staircase with no railings.  But it's okay because we all just remember to jump over it."

Some people are like that missing stair.

[...] People had gotten so used to working around this guy, to accommodating his "special requirements," that they didn't feel like there was an urgent problem in their community.  They did eventually expel him, but it was after months of it being widely shared knowledge that he was a rapist and had done other unethical sexual things as well.

I think there were some people in the community who were intentionally protecting him, but there were more who were de facto protecting him by treating him like a missing stair.  Like something you're so used to working around, you never stop to ask "what if we actually fixed this?"  Eventually you take it for granted that working around this guy is just a fact of life, and if he hurts someone, that's the fault of whoever didn't apply the workarounds correctly."