On Knowledge to Make Cons Safer

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I’m painfully aware that the conversation about making cons safer for all attendees is bigger than me. Over the past few days, I have heard many, many stories from past and current attendees, peers, and panelists at conventions that they have had similar experiences or have dealt with harassers. I also feel this is not going to be resolved one con at a time, and I highly doubt that reactive efforts will address the systemic issues, either. I, personally, feel that unless there are avenues and options to proactively make safe spaces and educate con runners and attendees, this discussion will keep happening.

With this in mind, I thought about two solutions that might help; one big picture, one actionable item.

Asking more Questions

In my experience, harassers/abusers do not care about boundaries (either personal or professional), and they often leverage their personal relationships or manipulate what others think to avoid getting caught. There will always be abusers and harassers, but I do believe there are ways we can mitigate the threat. After we acknowledge that harassment does, in fact, happen, I feel additional questions need to be asked before we find solutions.

How can we…

  • …teach people not to harass?
  • …teach allies what to watch out for?
  • …foster healthy and safe communication about harassment?
  • …teach people how best to enforce harassment policies?
  • …address safety concerns that are not part of an official claim?
  • …share experiences between conventions so each con doesn’t live in a silo?
  • …implement better documentation policies so materials aren’t lost?
  • …help allies understand how to support victims?
  • …help victims have the confidence to come forward?
  • …guarantee that personal e-mails will not be posted publicly?
  • …help victims/allies mitigate the losses that come from making hard decisions?
  • …teach con goers how we take their safety seriously?
  • …teach con goers what to do next if something should happen?
  • …address what proper resolutions are and how they should be implemented?
  • …leverage our social communities better to review our convention attendance?
  • …help con runners decide how to implement training for their staff?
  • …help con runners understand how important it is to have the right people on staff to handle this?

I am 100% certain there are other questions I am missing, as I am speaking through the lens of my experiences. Regardless, I feel that the first step is to ask questions like these before they can be answered. Then, we need to have those hard discussions to take additional steps.

For your con, these questions may have already been addressed. If so, great! Then, I feel we need to take that a step further by sharing that knowledge.

Publishing Reference Materials

In terms of implementation methods to address the aforementioned questions, I was shocked to learn that there aren’t a lot of books on the subject of running conventions, convention safety, etc. There is a universe of well-established, knowledgeable convention runners who have volunteered for decades and know what it takes to run a safe, fun con. That knowledge is essential to preserve past lessons and help present and future volunteers learn from their mistakes.

To that end, I feel that our massive, lumbering community (e.g. games/comics/fiction) needs books that are relevant to our interests for attendees, con runners, panelists, and guests. There are many books related to event planning and community management through a business or charity context, but none (as far as I could tell) in our vertical.

Most of the information I found, thanks to ye Olde Google, was published online in articles, but the information that needs to be relayed cannot fit in “a” blog post. I, personally, feel it’s well past time that this knowledge gets collated and published. This, too, is not something I can do by myself; I don’t have the knowledge to write such books, unfortunately. To me, though, it seems like a way to help regain some assurances going forward that this crucial piece of knowledge is being archived and shared.

If you have existing reference material suggestions or further thoughts, please feel free to chime in here or kick off further discussion elsewhere. This post is very rough, and I’m certain I’m missing a lot. I want to move on, however, and looking ahead is one way for me to do that.

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6 Responses to On Knowledge to Make Cons Safer

Monica Valentinelli is an author, artist, and narrative designer who writes about magic, mystery, and mayhem. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.

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