Readercon: The Verdict

[This is an update to the events of this post.]

Harassment

Readercon has always had a zero-tolerance harassment policy.

Harassment of any kind – including physical assault, battery, deliberate intimidation, stalking, or unwelcome physical attentions – will not be tolerated at Readercon and will result in permanent suspension of membership.

As always, Readercon reserves the right to strip membership at its discretion.

In 2008, a friend of mine was harassed at Readercon by a man who stared at her fixedly, repeatedly, crowded her in narrow hallways, and followed her throughout the con space. I made a formal complaint to the con committee. An hour later, he was ejected from the con and banned for life.

This year, I was harassed repeatedly by a man. Despite several unmistakable shutdowns that I thought each time had ended the problem, the harassment continued through Sunday, at which point I wrote up a report and sent it to the convention as a formal complaint.

Earlier today I was contacted by a Readercon representative, who let me know that by decision of the Board, my harasser has been suspended from Readercon.

For two years.

I was not given the reasoning behind the decision; the board’s deliberations, I was told, were confidential.

I was assured the board had taken everything into account — my report, my eyewitnesses, others who had come forward with information they declined to detail. They asked me if I felt they had taken my complaint seriously. They hoped to see me at next year’s Readercon.

I was polite on the phone, pleasant to the caller (who had called me before, to keep me updated and ask for situational witnesses, and who had been professional and kind, and who told me they were taking things very seriously, and who had, in 2008, been unspeakably helpful).

Then I hung up and realized, from the pit in my stomach, that I really had felt they were taking my complaint seriously – right up until the verdict.

I am, to say the least, disappointed. I am surprised that the results of reporting my harassment have been more troubling, in some ways, than the harassment itself. (While being harassed, I never doubted my reactions, or the validity of my perceptions, or that the con’s response would be the same exemplary response from 2008. Now, I’m left wondering what magical formula I could have followed in order for Readercon to uphold its zero-tolerance policy; I have been told I’ll never know.)

Readercon really is a lovely convention. I told the caller I’d love to go back next year.

And I would. I’m just not sure I can.

I will be perfectly safe if I do, I’m fairly certain. I have friends at that convention, and (one of the best outcomes of this experience for me), I know that sometimes you only need to meet someone once for them to take a stand if something goes wrong.

But if I go back, I will go back knowing that some reports of harassment are more valid than others, and that if someone gets harassed there, they should be sure they are receiving the kind that falls under the con’s sexual harassment policy. (You will need to brush up; I was told they are rewriting it for next year, for undisclosed reasons.)

In 2008, my friend opted not to go public (which is an utterly valid decision — the first responsibility of someone who has been the target of harassment is to their own safety and peace of mind. She has, since, decided to identify herself, and talk more about the reasoning behind the various decisions with which a target of harassment can be faced). However, she gave me permission to go public and to name her harasser.

I received four comments from people who had also been targets of his harassing behavior that weekend, and other comments indicating he had been performing the same behavior at other conventions. My harasser this year was named elsewhere, and since then I have been made aware, via private correspondence, I am not the only person he has harassed.

The convention will not be making any public announcement or statement about the suspension.

Rene Walling will not be returning to Readercon for two years.

I am not sure when, or if, I will.

ETA: After this post, Readercon released an official statement which you can read here.

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