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SON OF EDIT: Senate never got back to me, I never got an apology for the harassment LeAmber subjected me to by posting my real name, and the Code of Conduct is now absent from the Keycon website, as well as the Senate and ConCom list. It looks like all Keycon has learned is to hide their tracks.

Sorry, but until I hear better things from the con, it's staying on my Red Alert list.

*EDIT THE FINAL* Keycon has updated their Code of Conduct and it is FANTASTIC. You can read the Code of Conduct here and the Letter to Members prefacing it here. It took a while, but I am very proud of the Senate and the two other members of ConCom's response. (You can read Levi Labelle's response here, and I want to say that he seems like a class act all the way and I hope he stays involved in Keycon.)

I AM KEEPING #RAPECON ACTIVE. With con season kicking off, a specific Twitter feed for highlighting safety issues at other conventions is a great place for activism. I also endorse using it to promote conventions that are safe and respectful. If people want to flood it with thanks for Keycon, I would be, as the kids say, down with that.

The #rapecon hashtag has been started. You can tweet @Keycon28 and ask what they're thinking. #rapecon is NOT just for Keycon, it for publicizing assault and harassment at ALL geek conventions.

Hello everybody!

I posted a few months ago about starting the Back-Up Project at Keycon, and was looking for suggestions on panels. I was asked to talk to both women and men and get a general idea of what the situation was at Keycon, and how safe it was for women.

The results were absolutely horrifying. I couldn't find a single woman who hadn't been followed, groped, or harassed. I couldn't find one woman who hadn't been followed, groped, or harassed for even one day at the convention. Many of my friends who go have been raped attending the con, and I myself was raped after being at the con for approximately eight hours. The rape was never prosecuted, because I couldn't find anyone who didn't treat it as a joke and took me seriously. The defense was, "That's just what happens at Keycon."

I sent in my findings and received this in response:

"We share your concern over the issues you have raised in your email and I would like to assure you that we take your concerns very seriously. We encourage anyone who has experienced harassment or feel that they have been threatened in attendance of our convention to bring forward their complaints directly to the convention chairs who will deal with it promptly. In the case of criminal victimization and assaults of any nature, we strongly encourage that victims approach the police. We would support any criminal investigations and legitimate case brought to the authorities to the best of our ability."
- LeAmber Kensley

Now here are a few problems:

1) I brought forward my complaints. They were brushed off.

2) Pushing survivors to file police reports is re-victimizing, forcing them to relieve what happened and justify their actions. (Because Keycon is a convention at which alcohol flows freely, there is a large amount of victim-blaming directed at women who have the misfortune of not having rapist-dar.)

3) The convention chairs are, depending on how they're defined, three to ten people in a convention of hundreds to thousands. They are strangers to most of the congoers. Asking someone reeling from her assault to spend what can literally be hours hunting down one person to report is cruel and inhumane.
3b) This is their response to my complaint that their volunteers don't take rape and sexual assault seriously, and either victim blame and slut-shame the woman, or ignore the problem. Their solution is to make it harder for assault victims to get help.

4) They want the survivor to prove that her rape was legitimate, and only then will they prosecute "legitimate cases". Here is what I wrote in my e-mail to them:

"This is the heart of the problem. Until all victims are trusted to be telling the truth, you are perpetuating an atmosphere that implicitly supports rapists. No woman, upon reporting her rape, should have to go through questioning to determine whether it is "legitimate". The percentage of false rape accusations is lower than the percentage of false vehicle theft allegations, so unless you are treating all criminal incident reports as fallacious, there is absolutely no reason to force a traumatized woman to relive her rape to prove its veracity to a group of voyeuristic onlookers."

This is Keycon's solution to the problem of harassment. Rather than banning harassers and gropers, they want to make it even more difficult for women to come forward about their harassment. Instead of having a Code of Conduct, they basically have a Code of "What You Should Do When You Get Assaulted (You Dirty Slut, You're Probably Lying)". This is completely, utterly unacceptable.

The Keycon website is here. All of the con heads and their e-mails are on the far right side. Let them know that this their actions and policies are cruel, inhumane, and hateful towards women.

(If requested, I will post the full e-mail chains between myself and Keycon. I've been trying to keep the exact numbers of my findings out of the public. If Keycon decides to shape up, I don't want those numbers haunting them.)

*EDIT v.1.0* I have started receiving death and rape threats, sent from various public libraries.

*EDIT v.2.0* A write-up of the Keycon info session in which these concerns were addressed and brushed off is here (part one) and here (part two). Looks like Keycon doesn't care about preventing the assault of women OR children.

*EDIT v.3.0* ConCom called off a meeting for women's safety, told the concom member concerned not to attend, and then dragged out the meeting so the issue couldn't be raised by other members of the community.
*EDIT v.3.1* This may have been misinformation by a well-meaning volunteer. Either way, Keycon's response to assault is accurately represented by their comments to this post.

*EDIT v.4.0* LeAmber responds here and here. No comment, as they speak for themselves.

*EDIT v.5.0* LeAmber deleted one of her responses. A copy of the e-mail she sent to me (more or less the same as her response) is here. My response on the background is here for those interested.


( 103 comments — Leave a comment )
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Mar. 28th, 2011 07:04 pm (UTC)
Who did you send your findings to?
Mar. 28th, 2011 07:19 pm (UTC)
The member of con staff who requested them, who forwarded them to the con heads. The quote is from the response e-mail I received from LeAmber Kensley, who is one of the three con chairs.
Mar. 28th, 2011 09:53 pm (UTC)
This is really crazy. I mostly attend anime conventions and have not experienced harassment, but I wonder if the younger age group at anime cons has something to do with this.
Mar. 28th, 2011 11:07 pm (UTC)
This level of harassment is not something I would expect at any convention, and I've gone to a bunch (including this sort of free-wheeling party con.) Something is seriously, seriously amiss at Keycon.
Mar. 28th, 2011 11:12 pm (UTC)
This is horrifying and necessary to know about. Thank you for doing this research, and for persevering in the face of Keycon's dismissiveness.
Mar. 29th, 2011 02:27 am (UTC)
Thank you! I've been getting a lot of pushback in my local community for this. Keycon is the local con where All The Fandoms Come Together And Everyone Is Friends, so any criticism is dealt with harshly.

It's nice to hear other people hear about this and not go, "Yeah, it's a party, alcohol is flowing, things happen. Why are you getting so bent out of shape?"
(no subject) - torrain - Apr. 16th, 2011 06:17 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 29th, 2011 12:21 am (UTC)
With rates that high, it sounds sort of like some people are attending because they know they can assault women and not face any consequences for it. Ugh.
Mar. 29th, 2011 02:13 am (UTC)
I can say from experience that is EXACTLY why some people are going.
Mar. 29th, 2011 01:31 am (UTC)
At the very bottom of the homepage:

"Want to help out? Fire off an email to our volunteer coordinators Ed and Glen, and they'll get back to you. Be sure to let us know about your particular interests or relevant skills, so we can make your volunteer experience fit you to a T!"

How about a whole bunch of people email the volunteer coordinators and say they would like to be sexual assault resource people at the con, helping victims to find the con organizers? Probably they won't take anyone up on it, but it's another way to raise awareness.
Mar. 29th, 2011 02:24 am (UTC)
This is from the e-mail I sent them; this is what I would like to see as a policy:

"If you want to make the convention safer, post code of conduct and the consequences for violating said code of conduct. Post it publicly on the website and link to it from the main page. Link to the Criminal Code of Canada definitions of rape and sexual assault and make it clear you support those definitions. Give a list of victim-blaming and state explicitly that those are not excuses for rape or sexual assault, and any volunteer, room head, or con staff member espousing such opinions will be removed from their position and banned from the con for the duration of the weekend. Have a zero-tolerance policy for groping, harassment, and assault, by which offenders are banned from the rest of the convention, and repeat offenders are barred for the next five years.

Make the convention safe for women by targeting it at the source: the men who hurt them. Then and only then can you honestly say you support women and their presence in the geek community."

(Yes, it's hetero- and cis-centric, but in the context of Keycon it's mostly male-on-female violence.)
Mar. 29th, 2011 01:34 am (UTC)
Also, do you mind if I put this out to my contacts on Twitter? The con heads might start caring a bit more if this starts to get notice on social media networks.
Mar. 29th, 2011 02:11 am (UTC)
Go ahead!
(no subject) - succubus_esq - Apr. 14th, 2011 02:56 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 29th, 2011 03:57 am (UTC)
If you would be willing to PM me your mailing addy, I'll get some Backup ribbons (see icon) out to you. I generally send them in bunches of 10, so tell me how many you would like.

Mar. 29th, 2011 04:15 pm (UTC)
I don't know if I'll be going this year. Winnipeg is a small city, and making a fuss about this is painting a giant target on my back. I'm still deciding.

Although the idea of going as Wonder Woman and lassoing all the men who grab my butt and hauling them to con security is REALLY appealing.

"Officer, I've got another passel for you."
(no subject) - braidedmane - Aug. 2nd, 2011 06:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thatwordgrrl - Aug. 2nd, 2011 07:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - braidedmane - Aug. 2nd, 2011 09:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 29th, 2011 04:20 am (UTC)
That's terrifying. There is nothing about their website that would give me the impression that it's anything but a normal SF convention.
Mar. 29th, 2011 04:35 am (UTC)
Not that I find "go to the police" any sort of acceptable conduct policy, but my cynical self often wonders if concoms say this because they're counting on women NOT to do so. To keep silent.

Mar. 29th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
I think that's it. They know women won't, but then they can cry that they "don't know about the problem" or "people are exaggerating" when they get called on it.

I know for a fact that they called a lawyer and THIS was the policy they thought was progressive and a good idea. I am appalled.
(no subject) - thatwordgrrl - Mar. 29th, 2011 04:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - imnotandrei - Mar. 29th, 2011 04:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thatwordgrrl - Mar. 29th, 2011 08:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - badgerbag - Mar. 31st, 2011 04:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wordweaverlynn - Apr. 18th, 2011 06:28 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 31st, 2011 03:01 pm (UTC)
That is truly, truly awful. I'm so sorry someone raped you.

Might Girl-Wonder.org's Con Anti-Harrassment Project be of some assistance? It has resources for con committees that KeyCon's ConCom might find useful: http://www.cahp.girl-wonder.org/
Mar. 31st, 2011 03:01 pm (UTC)
(It hasn't been updated in a while, but the extant resources are still good, I think.)
Apr. 11th, 2011 07:30 pm (UTC)
Social media campaign?
Hi, I got here through geekfeminism. I think it's awful that people were raped at Keycon and nothing was done about it. What would you think about using social media to put pressure on Keycon to adopt an anti-harassment policy, and ban harassers and rapists? It's easy for them to ignore emails which no-one else will ever see, but it would be harder for them to ignore tweets and posts to their Facebook page, especially since the next Keycon is in a bit more than a month. Perhaps with #rapecon for a hashtag.
Apr. 12th, 2011 07:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Social media campaign?
They're holding a meeting about it, but with LeAmber (the main con chair) in charge, it looks like there will be a policy, but absolutely no enforcement. At a recent info session, when several people raised concerns about safety, she rolled her eyes and tried to change the topic.

You can tweet them demanding the resignation of LeAmber @Keycon28. Feel free to use the #rapecon hashtag, as LeAmber is the one who drafted the policy demanding women prove the legitimacy of their rape before they can receive any help.

(Also, helping to spread the word by e-mailing this around to places like Shakesville or Feministing would be great.)
Re: Social media campaign? - succubus_esq - Apr. 14th, 2011 02:58 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 12th, 2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
"They're fudging the books"
Last night I attended an info session held by the Keycon Chairs and a few Volunteers. They had put up an advertisement for it in the local Mcnally Robinson book store and had swiftly taken it down, this to begin with offered little time for the word to spread and people actually looking for information to attend.

Off to a rocky start already as they hide behind the books.

The session was lead by Con Chairs LeAmber Kensley, Levi Labelle, Vice Chair Tim Hogue, Marketing staff Mark "DaGopher" Dobres, and another woman who came later, though I do not recall her name.

Questions were brought up regarding, the safety of women at the con, background checks on the volunteers, how the con responds to situations, and preventative measures. The panel claimed to not have any previous knowledge of the issues, though the audience was obviously seeded with people who had felt harassment and were fortunate enough to have it dealt with. They also claimed that their Code of Conduct was on every publication and bulletin space involved with the con, but failed to have it located anywhere in any publication they brought with them for handouts, or on their website.

The panel responded with stating the Code of Conduct was being, "Revamped" and updated, but when asked for further details and examples would use the same wording, "that it was being made more dynamic" and "more comprehensive," without giving any actual details to what this meant. When the example of a pregnant woman being accosted sevens times in the span of a Keycon night, with no aid was brought up, every woman in the info session responded that, they had also been harassed, or groped, and had found the staff they knew immediately to deal with it. This was also when it became visible that myself and two men in the crowd were the only ones in the info session who were NOT volunteers or staff at the con.
Apr. 12th, 2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
When I asked them about volunteers, they replied that background checks on the volunteers was too costly, (The cost of a background check is $20; the same amount as the discount the volunteers receive on their tickets) and that with privacy acts background checks were, "illegal". In reassurance that the volunteers were safe it was brought up that many of the volunteers had been volunteering for as many as ten years. This however doesn't prove that they are safe; if you would have failed a background check ten years ago, what incentive have you to pass one now when they aren't being enforced?

Furthermore, the Con boasts an environment safe for children and that many children as young as eight years old attend the Con year after year. Children of that age are considered vulnerable peoples, if your child at the Con is lost and is taught to seek out the Cons volunteer security, is it really any safer knowing that the Con refuses to do background checks, and that anyone can make themselves that "security".

The security staff was stated to be everywhere, and immediately after wards said that the hospitality suites had their own form of security that they were responsible for. Later stating that no Keycon was responsible because they had to go through Keycon to hold a hospitality suite. Therefor Keycon is at once accepting responsibility for and denying any knowledge of what occurs in the hospitality suites as it suits their needs. This clearly shows that Keycon's main interest is providing a solid PR front, rather than providing a save con environment.

The conversation moved on, with an abrupt, awkward, and uncomfortable change of topic to the art show.

When the topics had been put forth every member of the panel got a look that changed from, guilt, to shock, to genuine concern, except in the case of the Con Chair LeAmber Kensley, who rolled her eyes and maintained a look of anger that they topics were brought forth, AND later in the session brought forth again, at which point the entire panel held an annoyed, aggravated expression and abruptly changed the topic, now avoiding questions from the three people in the crowd who were NOT already apart of the Con.

Keycon also has a reputation for being unsafe and hostile to queer identities, myself being visible gender non-conforming, LeAmber Kensley spent much of the session glaring at me in way that I felt unwelcome and even threatened.

The evening having been filled with a rocky navigation through waters they were obviously uncomfortable in, ended with myself and the two other non Con volunteers being followed through the book store, to ensure we were not an organized entity. This is representative of the harassment campaign used against people who are speaking up against Keycon.
Apr. 14th, 2011 06:48 am (UTC)
i think that a really effective technique for putting pressure on the con-com would be to get in touch with the GoHs. i don't have the cycles to help out... but it's an idea.

i'm sorry you are faced with this kind of epic bullshit from them. it sucks.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 15th, 2011 07:02 pm (UTC)
Re: We are still waiting for you to contact us.
Posting someone's given name on a public forum is bad netiquette.
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( 103 comments — Leave a comment )