Why I Will Not Return to Arisia

Ahem Ahem!, This Is Important, Thumbs Down

Content note: references to rape, trauma, sexism, gaslighting, harassment, intimidation, and stalking. Also note: an f-bomb or two.

TL;DR – I’ve been to Arisia before, and enjoyed it. In fact, it was my first U.S. con. I was looking forward going back after a break. However, due to failures in following and enforcing their own Code of Conduct, which had the practical effect of protecting a stalker, I will not return to Arisia in the future.

On October 25, 2018, Crystal Huff shared in a blog post her experiences with Arisia’s response to serious safety concerns, including persistent stalking both during the con and elsewhere. (And that’s at the mild end!)

Crystal has long been active in fandom; among others, she helped to bring the 2017 Worldcon to Helsinki, Finland. I was in touch with her during the Helsinki 2017 bid, for which I made and donated bear-themed textile items. I have heard her refer to her stalker, and although I had no further knowledge of it before reading her recent post, I believe her and am appalled at Arisia’s callous inaction.

The day following Crystal’s post, October 26, the Arisia Executive Board issued a statement on Fabecook. In it they acknowledge and apologize for their failures, and declare their intent to take “immediate and decisive action”.

Among the immediate actions the Arisia EB took was to ask the perpetrator to resign as President of Arisia, Inc., plus remove him as the head of operations and block him out of other staff positions for the 2019 con.

Arisia EB’s actions and declarations are definitely a step to the right direction.

Below are the main reasons why I nevertheless do not feel confident or safe enough to attend Arisia again.

 

  1. It is unacceptable to repeatedly minimize and dismiss reports of a safety concern. It is a violation of the Arisia’s Convention Problem Report Process (excerpted with my emphasis):

Your report will be taken seriously and treated confidentially.”

“Are you sure it was rape?” is minimizing, as are calling the reporter “overly emotional” and saying they are “making a big deal of it”. Telling someone to “prioritize the needs of the convention” over their safety is a blatant dismissal.

 

2. It is unacceptable to disclose the reporter’s name without their consent. It is a violation of Arisia’s reporting process (my emphasis):

“If other people are named in the complaint, they will be told that there is a complaint against them, but you will not be named. […]

Your report will be taken seriously and treated confidentially.”

 

3. Even if rape and stalking elsewhere had not happened, it is unacceptable to allow a staff member to stalk congoers or fellow staff at their own event. It is a direct violation of the Arisia Code of Conduct and Behavior Policies (my emphasis):

Arisia forbids abusive, insulting, harassing, and / or intimidating behavior which includes, but is not limited to, stalking, physical or verbal intimidation, discriminatory comments, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.”

 

4. Even if rape took place and stalking started outside the con, it is unacceptable to allow a staff member to continue their stalking at Arisia. It is a direct violation of the Arisia CoC (my emphasis):

The general principles of this Code of Conduct apply to the Arisia convention and also to all the activities of the convention committee, whether before or after the convention. […]

“Arisia expects its members to respect each other and behave in a generally civilized fashion. Members should respect common sense rules for public behavior, personal interaction, common courtesy, and respect for private property. If you wouldn’t do it in public, please don’t do it here. Additionally, all Staff are representatives of Arisia and therefore are held to a higher standard of behavior, even when off duty.”

 

5. It is unacceptable to draw out the handling of security concerns or incident reports over months, let alone years. It is a violation of the Arisia reporting process (my emphasis):

“If your problem requires post-convention follow-up, you will hear from Arisia by early February at the latest, if you gave us your contact info.”

As Arisia is held in mid-January, this translates to a follow-up period of a 2-3 weeks.

 

6. It is unacceptable to place staff members with abusive history into positions where they receive incident reports or influence safety processes. This should be common sense in 2018. Not to mention that it is a violation of the CoC (my emphasis):

The general principles of this Code of Conduct apply to the Arisia convention and also to all the activities of the convention committee, whether before or after the convention. […]

“Arisia expects its members to respect each other and behave in a generally civilized fashion. Members should respect common sense rules for public behavior, personal interaction, common courtesy, and respect for private property. If you wouldn’t do it in public, please don’t do it here. Additionally, all Staff are representatives of Arisia and therefore are held to a higher standard of behavior, even when off duty.”

 

7. Lastly, it is unacceptable to place the burden of staying away from the perpetrator solely on the reporter. It is demeaning and dismissive, and a violation of the Arisia reporting process (my emphasis):

“We will make a written report and ask you for the details needed to understand and resolve the problem or prevent further harm. […]

[step 7 of reporting process] “Find out if there is a specific action being requested or an action that would remedy any harm that has taken place.”

If the con staff or corporation’s EB do not take a reporter’s concerns seriously, it constitutes harm. If a con attendee or staff member cannot visit or work at the event without being stalked, it sure as fuck constitutes harm.

 

Final thoughts

It should also be noted that this is just one person’s reporting. (I have heard of others, but don’t have permission to talk about them.) Moreover, Crystal has been active at Arisia for years, even chaired the con.

If the con staff or the corporation’s EB do not consider the safety of one of their own a serious matter, why should I believe their claim to protect a random congoer’s safety?

According to Crystal, several members of Arisia’s EB have been belittling and minimizing her concerns for years. It is unacceptable behavior on their part: it makes them complicit in enabling stalking behavior at their con, and – I re-iterate yet again – it is a violation of the Arisia CoC and of their problem reporting process.

Their. Own. Code. Of. Conduct.

If the con staff or the corporation’s EB apparently are willing to throw their own fucking rules out as soon as a perpetrator is a man from their own ranks, why should I believe their claim to want “a safe and welcoming convention for all”?

 

I am upset and disgusted.

Unless we see comprehensive changes and a proven record that everyone is held accountable by the same set of rules, I will not return to the con. I don’t feel protected enough to.

And that, Arisia, is your loss.

Note: I made the conscious choice of calling the man in question the perpetrator in this post. Please respect that.

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