Missing Stairs, Redemption Arcs, Personal Relationships: What the Hell Are We Doing

Megan Frank posted why she quit Sasquan right before the convention.

It was because Lou Antonelli called in fake threats to the Spokane police, and Sasquan let him come to the convention anyway.

It’s more complicated than that. I strongly urge you to read all of the pdf Megan provided before commenting.

Natalie Luhrs has an excellent survey of the situation here.

A number of people on Twitter have said that the goal of a convention harassment policy is to protect convention attendees. It is NOT to provide a space for the accused harasser to repent, apologize, or redeem themselves.

Harassment policies are to protect people from being harassed.

I agree with this. I want the missing stairs rooted out, I want my friends and acquaintances to be free of threat in our social venues. I have decades in fandom of helping cover for missing stairs by just passing the information along, word of mouth, like we always do — and then being unintentionally complicit when the next person is harassed.

I hate this. I want convention harassment policies that remove serial harassers from my goddamn conventions.

Yet I also want a space for redemption.

I want a path for apology, learning, restitution, and redemption to exist SOMEWHERE in out community. I want this because I have erred in the past. Because people I know and trust have erred in the past. Because I have been wrongfully accused of harassment in the course of interpersonal drama. Because people I know and trust have been wrongfully accused of harassment in the course of interpersonal drama.

The problem as I see it is this:

We all use our judgment in assessing harassment situations.

The saving grace as I see it is this:

We all use our judgment in assessing harassment situations.

ANY system established by ANY convention or organization is vulnerable to malicious actors. You cannot make a perfect system in which all harassers are thrown out of public life and no false accusations are upheld.

I strongly, strongly urge all of you pondering these situations to contemplate — how well does your convention root out serial harassers? How easy is it for those who feel unsafe to come forward? What is the standard of evidence? Does the word of a friend count more than the word of a stranger? Do you have a method for people to recuse themselves when they inevitably know one or more of the actors? How does someone who is wrongly accused go about clearing their name? What is the length of banishment? How does community service factor in, while still protecting victims? Where is the space for honest regret and apology? How many times can a person regret and apologize and do it again before they run out of chances? How many false accusations can a person raise before they are deemed a problem?

Whose judgment will you rely on? Who does your process defend? Who has to do the most work, the accuser or the accused?

When you make a convention harassment policy, think of all of these things. Protect the victims of harassment. Protect most of the attendees most of the time from most things most people deem harmful. And think about your own mistakes. Ponder the people you know, your relationships, your judgment.

When it comes time to level your harassment policy in the field, it won’t be against some nameless, faceless pawn in an SF/F culture war. It will be people you know, people you thought you knew, people you thought you respected. It will be people you owe something to, people who have done you favors. It will be people who hurt you a long time ago, people you swore to never speak to again. Your convention must be able to deal with all of these situations. It must deal fairly with ALL PARTIES.

I believe Megan’s accounting of events. I find Robbie Bourget’s prioritization of Antonelli’s rehabilitation over the convention’s safety to be reprehensible. I also am profoundly fucking grateful that I was not the person making those decisions. What if it were one of my friends who had fucked up? Could I ban a friend, or even an acquaintance, of twenty years from CONvergence based on a stupid, asinine decision they apologized for?

I have no idea, y’all.

I really have no idea.

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