Consent & Harassment: Convention Planners

Make A Plan

Successful relationships between conventions and attendees depend on trust. Addressing safety and consent issues will take more than the strong writing of policy and procedures. A culture of safety and good stewardship towards consent and harassment issues should be embraced by management down to the most basic staff member. Doing that will promote a culture of safety and polish a positive environment for all participants. 

What is consent and how does it affect nerd and pop culture conventions?

Definition of consent

Compliance in or approval of what is done or proposed by another: ACQUIESCENCE// he shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treatiesU.S. Constitution

Here are the basics of consent. Consent is:

  • Freely given. Consenting is a choice you make without pressure, manipulation, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Reversible. Anyone can change their mind about what they feel like doing, anytime.
  • Informed. You can only consent to something if you have the full story.
  • Enthusiastic. When it comes to consent, you should only do stuff you WANT to do, not things that you feel you’re expected to do.
  • Specific. Saying yes to one thing doesn’t mean you’ve said yes to others.

You get the final say over what happens when you consent to anything. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been friends for years or even if you said yes earlier and then changed your mind. Consent is never implied by things like your past behavior, what you wear, or where you go. Consent should always be clearly communicated — there should be no question or mystery. Silence is not consent.

What is Harassment?

Harassment is governed by state laws, which vary by state, but is generally defined as a course of conduct which annoys, threatens, intimidates, alarms, or puts a person in fear of their safety. Harassment is unwanted, unwelcomed and uninvited behavior that demeans, threatens or offends the victim and results in a hostile environment for the victim.

Harassment includes, but is not limited to; making unwanted and/or discriminatory advances on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, physical appearance, age, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, pregnancy, veteran status, or any other basis protected by applicable federal or state laws, intimidation, stalking, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of events, inappropriate physical contact, un-welcomed sexual attention or other verbal or physical conduct of a discriminatory nature, or by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment by engaging in such conduct.

What should I do if I have a consent or harassment violation at my convention or event?

Issues surrounding consent violations don’t happen in one single way. There doesn’t need to be a weapon involved, physical contact and the victim doesn’t need to have fought back, screamed, or said “no” repeatedly in order for it to count as an assault or consent violation. Most consent violations don’t happen by strangers in hotel rooms. Often, it’s someone the victim knows or such as a friend or acquaintance.

  1. Do NOT blame the victim for the consent violation or the situation they are experiencing. Often times people will blame the victim or state they were in an unsafe situation.
  2. Ask them what they feel that they want to do to address the situation. Often times victims of consent violations do not want to talk to the police or anyone official such as a staff member or convention management.
  3. Encourage them to file a report and take up the situation with convention management or local law enforcement.
  4. Take their account and version of events seriously at all times.  
  5. Be supportive and kind to the victim.

Note: If the victim is under 18, bring it to the attention of the highest member of staff or convention management for review. State, Federal or local law enforcement may need to be involved depending on the situation and or nature of the consent or harassment violation. Please consult your local laws for consent/harassment issues for people under the age of 18.  

Where should we put our policies and how do we take reports?

We highly recommend that every pop culture and nerd convention have their consent and harassment policy in writing, publicly visible at all times before, during and after the convention in online, physical and digital formats. A good consent and harassment policy will foster a culture of safety and goodwill for all.

We also recommend you have a reporting procedure for taking complaints in writing and train your staff in its procedure. We recommend whenever you take a consent or harassment violation report that you take all parties seriously and not joke around about the incident. Consent and harassment reports are among the most sensitive kind of reports nerd and pop culture conventions take. All reports should remain confidential and only be reviewed by decision makers and key people as deemed appropriate by convention management.

Professionalism and it’s importance in the Consent and Harassment Report Process.

Professionalism and its impact on everyone that attends/staff a nerd and pop culture convention‟ wellbeing is more than anecdotal, and that the topic is important to volunteers, volunteer coordinators, management and convention planners in general.

Handling harassment and consent reports carry with it a great responsibility. The positive perception the community has developed over many years can easily slip because of one simple lapse. This means you guard cannot be relaxed. A reliable and consistent behavior must always be displayed. This sense of professionalism is precisely the essence of a good first aid and safety culture.

All consent reports and policies should be reviewed by convention management at least once every two years.

Sample Consent/Harassment policy

Harassment includes, but is not limited to; making unwanted and/or discriminatory advances on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, physical appearance, age, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, pregnancy, veteran status, or any other basis protected by applicable federal or state laws, intimidation, stalking, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of events, inappropriate physical contact, unwelcome sexual attention or other verbal or physical conduct of a discriminatory nature, or by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment by engaging in such conduct.

Attendees must respect common sense rules for public behavior, personal interaction, common courtesy, personal space, and respect for private property. Harassing or offensive behavior will not be tolerated. *Insert convention/event name here* reserves the right to revoke, without refund, the membership and or pass of any attendee not in compliance with this policy. Persons finding themselves in a situation where they feel their safety is at risk or who become aware of an attendee not in compliance with this policy should immediately locate a member of staff so that the matter can be handled in an expeditious manner. All reports of harassment or violations of this policy will be handled with the utmost decorum and will allow for privacy of all involved in accordance with state, local and federal laws.

Convention staff/management  has sole discretion in determining what constitutes harassment or violations under this policy and reserves the right to take immediate action against anyone who violates this policy, up to and including expulsion

Note: This is a sample consent and harassment policy and should be reviewed by any convention that wants to use it beforehand.

Sources:

https://definitions.uslegal.com/h/harassment/

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consent

https://hdl.handle.net/10289/6010

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Consent & Harassment: Convention Planners by James Fedora is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.conventionfirstaid.org/consent-harassment-convention-planners/.
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