The Con Anti-Harassment Project is a grass-roots campaign designed to help make conventions safer for everyone. Our aims are to encourage fandom, geek community and other non-business conventions to establish, articulate and act upon anti-harassment policies, especially sexual harassment policies, and to encourage mutual respect among con-goers, guests and staff.
The problems are real (I know cons that have had to deal with some of them.) What I’ve read here persuades me a basic policy statement can be a useful tool that benefits both con members and conrunners, provided there’s an intent to act on it.. Here’s a generic example of such a policy:
“All attendees at [name of con] are expected to treat other attendees, guests, staff, and the general public with respect. Physical and verbal harassment and sexual assault will not be tolerated.”
Simple enough. Policies are already being created to help manage such issues as weapons, smoking, and disabled access, so the concept announcing convention polities is long-established and familiar. Fans also know that the meaningfulness of a policy depends on whether there will be a response when it is violated. The CAHP website recommends:
Be clear about the consequences for transgressors. This, again, can vary according to the con and the severity of the individual situation. SakuraCon has a Three Strikes and you’re out rule for minor transgressions, but will strip membership at its discretion. WisCon has a zero tolerance anti-harassment policy. Readercon reserves the right to strip membership at its discretion.
CAHP doesn’t overrate the deterrent value of a verbal policy, it stresses that effective action needs to be taken when the crisis arises. What action?
FAQ number 12 (“What can I do if I see someone being harassed?”) advises:
If you feel safe doing so, step in — or, if you think it’s bigger than you can handle, grab a few friends or call con security or local law enforcement.
A common sense answer, it seems to me.
The FAQ’s answer makes a few other points, and speaks about “bystander training,” my first encounter with the term. The phrase’s meaning and some of its nuances are apparent in this quote from an academic paper linked from the CAHP site:
The sexual violence prevention program we evaluated uses a community of responsibility model to teach women and men how to intervene safely and effectively in cases of sexual violence before, during, and after incidents with strangers, acquaintances, or friends. The program varies from other prevention programs in that it does not address men as potential perpetrators or women as potential victims. Rather it approaches both women and men as potential bystanders or witnesses to behaviors related to sexual violence.
I felt that the inclusive strategy under discussion in the quote also informs the whole CAHP website. I’m sure that has a lot to do with why I’ve responded positively to the initiative.