Pseudolus: Wait!
Hero: Yes?
Pseudolus: A brilliant idea!
Hero: Yes!
Pseudolus: That’s what we need, a brilliant idea.

-from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

This past week, I had the honor and privilege of writing an entry for Kink and Tango post.

You can read the article Here. I’m more than a little proud of it.

I also presented at Breaking Silence class. Every time I’ve taught this class, the participants have absolutely blown me away with their insights, compassion, and willingness to grapple with messy, hot button issues. Also, the focus of discussion is radically different from one class to the next. At Wicked Women, the discussion was more centered around survivor experience, and the difference between appropriate and potentially problematic disclosures of abuse on social media.

This time around, the conversation was a bit more macro, since there were a handful of event planners and community leaders in the audience. One of the major concepts I propose in my class is promoting elements of wrote about my issues with shunning as default in the wake of the Lena Dunham dustup.

One of the event organizers in attendance asked me how it would be possible to apply these sorts of principles when you run an event that attracts hundreds if not thousands of attendees. There are a number of large national kink events all over the world. It is up to the organizers to create and promote a safe space for their attendees, but the larger the event, the tougher it is to effectively police behavior. This problem is hardly unique to the world of kink. Comic book conventions, Atheist conventions, Dance Weekends, and college campuses, have all seen their share of sexual violence issues. Kink event organizers, of course, have the added pressure of encouraging safety in a sexualized space, where they essentially cannot control who will attend. I recognize both the importance and the enormity of that responsibility. From what the organizers attending my class said, I got the impression that it fell on them to take care of any reports of abuse or consent violation in addition to countless logistical issues and mini crises already on their plate. To me, this all but sets the organizers up for failure.

Last night, in the haze of con-drop, I had an idea of the so-crazy-it-just-might-work variety. There are a number of existing models for implementing restorative justice practices in a number of different settings. This publication, from the US Department of Justice of all places, is a pretty comprehensive guide for victim centered mediation. Can something like this be applied to conventions?

Most of the larger cons I’ve been to have medics and/or EMTs on staff to step in if there’s a medical emergency. What if there were trained mediators on staff as well? When a situation arises, these mediators would be responsible for initially handling allegations of breached consent both during and after the con. Depending on the severity of the alleged violation, they would assess and create a mediation process for those involved. At the end of the process, the mediators would make their recommendations to the event organizers about how best to proceed. If a person accused of consent violation refuses to participate in the mediation process, the mediator(s) would work with the event organizer to determine whether to ban that person from the event in question.

It would not be in any way compulsory for the victim to participate in this process. to quote from the DOJ guidelines:

No pressure should be placed on victims to participate, for participation must be strictly voluntary. Victims should be granted a choice in the location, timing, and structure of the session and a right to end their participation at any stage in the process. These protections for victims
do not mean that offenders can be treated insensitively. Both victim and offender must be dealt with respectfully.

The downside to this solution is that it’s very time consuming, and Kink conventions tend to run on a very tight budget. I don’t know how willing someone would be to take on the role of mediator if they were not somehow compensated for their time. If the incident happens at a national event and the parties involved live in different states or countries, the process would probably have to take place via videoconference. I imagine there’s also a slew of legal considerations to take into account, as is so often the case.

So that’s the best I’ve got. For now, at any rate. Am I completely crazy for thinking this might work?

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