Community Boundaries Keep Out Predators
Last weekend, I had the absolute pleasure of presenting at the Steampunk World’s Fair both as an author and a speaker. I reconnected with many old colleagues and fans, and I daresay made some new ones as well. It was brilliant to be back out there again. I was able to do this because of their anti-harassment policy, and because they take sexual assault seriously (not just pay lip service to it). Their anti-harassment policy and responsibility to the community kept predators out, making the event safer for the rest of us.
Now, I’m not saying that the 2014 Steampunk World’s Fair (SPWF) was completely devoid of predators, but I know for a fact that several known aggressors were either banned or chose not to attend/participate because of the conventions strict anti-harassment policy.
Some self-selected out because they felt uncomfortable about the new policy, and that’s great news for the rest of us. It was a safer event because of the SAFER track.
As one of the central speakers on the SAFER track, I can tell you first hand numerous people approached me to thank me for the SAFER track and the work of The Order of the White Feather. Several. Survivors and supporters of survivors spoke up on how they felt safer. I felt safer, too.
A particular Steampunk Musician has been banned from the event because of his actions after this event in 2011 and his subsequent failure to take responsibility, apologize, and make amends. The Steampunk World’s Fair message is clear: unrepentant offenders aren’t welcome here.
Something else wonderful happened as well. I had it on good authority from a high-ranking staff member of JME, the organization that puts on the Steampunk World’s Fair and Wicked Faire, among others, that most of those who complained the loudest during the Facebook Maelstrom regarding the anti-harassment policy chose not to come.
Good for the rest of us.
One other person in particular who I’ve never met (nor do I care to) stayed away, too. This person is only known to me because the person he chose to rape confided in me about a year ago about what he chose to do. Apparently, this anti-harassment policy scared him. He’s now concerned some of his more questionable-consent encounters might come back to bite him on the ass. Good. He’s also been openly aggressive and wrathful in the presence of several witnesses across geekdom, and I was extremely glad he chose not to attend. I felt safer without him there.
Although I advocate bystander response and giving the benefit of the doubt to the victim rather than the accused, the SPWF created a safer community just by having a clear, firm anti-harassment policy. Those screaming about the loss of liberty apparently were upset that they wouldn’t be able to get away with drunken assault and harassment. They were crying because they couldn’t cross people’s boundaries without being called out for it, so they stayed away.
For the rest of us who attended, our civil liberties and ability to safely express ourselves in cosplay remained intact because those of us who aren’t predators or jerks know that such a policy is meant to keep people safe, and we applaud those efforts.
I’m not saying the 2014 SPWF was harassment-free, or even assault-free, but I do know that instances were greatly reduced at the very least. I didn’t hear of any incident, personally, but I haven’t gotten an official report from the security team either.
I also know that because of the SAFER track and the SPWF’s clear anti-harassment policy, those targeted for such behavior knew they’d be safe to report and they knew they would be believed, and that’s not nothing. It’s considerably more than the rest of our society offers.
Kudos to JME and the Steampunk World’s Fair. As a survivor who had the bulk of her community stolen, since my celebrity assailant is repeatedly heralded as Guest of Honor (even by those who know what he did and what he’s capable of), I’m beyond grateful that SPWF gave me a sliver of my community back. After all these years, I felt the sunshine on my face once again. Countless emerging authors benefitted from my experience in the publishing and marketing trenches, readers were delighted in my tales of how I merge history and fantasy, and, perhaps most importantly, fellow survivors of sexual and domestic violence felt safe, validated, and heard.
Just think, if a strong harassment policy can have such an effect, bystander response and questioning the accused instead of the victim will have an even larger effect. We can stop sexual violence in our communities by taking this *small* steps. By making our communities unsafe for the predators, by clearly standing our ground that they are not welcome, nor will such behavior be tolerated, we can stop rape.
That’s a huge success.