I initially posted this along with my CatalystCon Live tweets. However, on further reflection, I decided it warranted its own post.
In addition to my talk, there was also a panel at CatalystCon on addressing abuse in alternative relationships. Cunning Minx of Polyamory Weekly published her roundup of that conversation here. I was glad to see other people wading into these waters, and I do not want to be (and should not be) the only voice on this issue.
One of the issues that came up both in my talk and the panel, was that event organizers/community leaders are not always incentivized or responsive to discussions around abuse prevention. Unfortunately, I heard a couple of stories about community leaders who have perpetrated abuse multiple times without any word or consequence.
It can be very frustrating when top-down change does not appear to be on the table. That said, there are some things that can be done from the bottom up. For example, what if, before attending an event (or play party, local gathering, munch, national conference, etc.), prospective attendees made a point to message organizers and ask them about there abuse response policies? This may be a far more effective motivator than, say, someone like me coming in and telling an organizer that they really need to think about their policies. The more people proactively ask for clear, transparent policies, the more likely it is that organizers will feel compelled to publish and enforce said policies.
Here are possible questions that people can ask:
- What is your harassment policy?
- How do you respond to complaints about consent violations?
- If someone is accused of consent violation, what policies are in place by which to hold them accountable?
- Do any of the organizers (or con staff) have mediation training should complaints about consent violations arise?
- What supports do you offer those who report abuse or sexual misconduct at your event?
- Is anyone on staff a trained mental health professional/victim-offender mediator?
- If you offer mediation to attendees, to what extent is the process voluntary (if the process is not voluntary, especially for the accuser, that is potentially problematic)
While this is by no means a cure-all, it could be a way to promote a culture of transparency, accountability, and community empowerment.
I welcome any other thoughts and perspectives, especially from those in positions of power within their respective communities.