I wrote another email to the Keycon chairsPosted: April 19, 2011
The story behind this is that someone called succubus_esq has been trying to get something done about the large amount of sexual harassment and sexual assault that has happened at Keycon, a Winnipeg scifi and fantasy convention.
The first email I sent them is here. I haven’t posted their reply, but it’s pretty much summarized in the paragraph of my reply-to-their-reply, which I’m pasting below.
Thank you for your email. However, this email, while extremely polite, did not address any of my concerns. Your sole response to my questions about your policy on sexual harassment at Keycon was to offer to send me a copy of your program, which will be back from the printers in May. Since you have sent this document to the printers you clearly have an electronic copy of it, so could you please email me a copy now? Any file type will be fine.
I have two major concerns about your as-yet-unseen policy. The first is its invisibility. You say that there will be mention of your anti-harassment policy in a printed program which will be handed out to conference attendees. However in this day and age most people expect to get their information from the Internet. I find it very hard to understand why there is no mention of an anti-harassment policy on your website, not even so much as a simple statement that sexual harassment at Keycon will not be tolerated.
My second concern is a suspicion that your anti-harassment “policy” will consist mainly of telling people who have been harassed or assaulted to go to the police. As you are probably already aware people who have suffered sexual assault sometimes do not wish to talk to the police for a whole variety of reasons. In the case of more minor sexual assaults (such as groping) everyone knows that these cases are not investigated or prosecuted, so talking to the police can seem pointless. Furthermore, unfortunately police officers sometimes treat the victim with an attitude of blame, suspicion, and disrespect, and a traumatized person may not feel capable of dealing with this. Sometimes a traumatized person does not feel capable of talking about what happened to them at all. Furthermore in the case of more serious sexual assault such as rape the victim may know the perpetrator and be unwilling to go to the police because she does not want this person to go to prison. In any case any victim of harassment or assault should be offered support and treated with respect whether or not she chooses to go to the police. Some action should be taken with regard to the perpetrator or accused perpetrator whether or not the victim chooses to go to the police (even if the action taken is simply that a pair of volunteers go up to the perpetrator and tell them that harassment is unacceptable).
It has become clear that at past Keycons there has been a dangerous culture of impunity, in which some individuals expected to be able to carry out consequence-free sexual harassment and sexual assault. Adding a clear notice to your website and to other publicity materials that sexual harassment will not be tolerated at Keycon would send a message to these people that harassment is not acceptable behaviour. Having a policy where people who are pointed out as having carried out harassment are challenged, told that such behaviour is unacceptable, and if appropriate banned from the event, would reduce the overall amount of harassment taking place and make the event safer for all attendees.
Being silent about this won’t stop the problem. Doing nothing won’t stop the problem. Treating victims with distrust, and telling victims that no action can be taken unless they go to the police, won’t stop the problem, in fact being silent and distrusting victims creates the perfect set of conditions for assault and harassment to flourish.
Please take real action on this.
P.S. These problems are in no way specific to Keycon. Just Google “scifi convention harassment” or “fantasy convention harassment” or “comic convention harassment”, and you’ll find pages of links to other cons that are grappling with similar issues of sexual harassment and assault.