10/25 -Arisia Guests of Honor Daniel José Older and Malka Older will not be attending as things stand.
10/26 – Arisia posted the following on Twitter:
“Regarding a recent influx of comments, the Arisia Executive Board takes our Incident Response process and the safety and concerns of our community very seriously. We will follow up with a statement by the end of the weekend.”
10/26 – Nalo Hopkinson has turned down Arisia’s invitation to be their 2020 Guest of Honor.
10/26 – Arisia Artist GoH Elizabeth Leggett announced on Facebook that she’s waiting until Monday to see how the convention handles things, at which point she will decide whether or not to attend.
“Effective immediately, Noel Rosenberg is no longer President of Arisia, Inc. On October 26th, at an emergency meeting of the other members of the Arisia Executive Board, the first step we took was to ask Noel to resign as President of Arisia Corporate and we have accepted that resignation. The Arisia 2019 Conchair has informed the Eboard that Noel is no longer the Operations Division Head, and will not be placed in any other staff positions.
“Yesterday we issued a short statement that ‘the Arisia Executive Board takes our Incident Response process and the safety and concerns of our community very seriously.’ We mean that, but we acknowledge that we failed severely in this case…”
“This one set of incidents–not just Morgon’s behavior but the complete lack of backup from [the head of security at the time] and the general chain-of-command fumbling that led to Morgon keeping his badge and ribbon well after he was known to be violating Arisia’s code of conduct–was the immediate cause of Arisia losing two dedicated, hardworking volunteers who might otherwise have contributed a great many more hours to the convention, and of Arisia’s community losing two people who had previously been very involved in the convention’s social aspects.”
10/28 – Per the Arisia Eboard, Noel Rosenberg has been permanently banned from Arisia. (Though there are ways this ban could be overturned.)
“I have taken too long to make this public statement; I apologize for that. Between now and the convention, I intend to frequently put out messages like this one indicating what we are doing to make Arisia a safer place…”
“What I can tell you is this: There was an investigation about the allegations against Noel, but it was taken so lightly, and without seriousness, they didn’t even bother to tell the person running con safety, someone who worked closely with him, anything about it. I believe Crystal Huff. And I feel utterly betrayed by so many people I thought I could trust.”
“At this time I, Gregorian Hawke, have accepted the resignation of the the following Eboard members (those who stood for re-election in September). Anna Bradley – Vice-President, Rick Kovalcik – Clerk, Benjamin Levy – Treasurer, and Sharon Sbarsky – Member-at-Large. Anna Bradley has resigned effective immediately. Rick Kovalcik, Benjamin Levy, and Sharon Sbarsky have resigned effective upon the election of a replacement (per Bylaws 3.12) at the November 11th meeting when elections will be held.”
I’ve known Crystal Huff for years. She’s active in fandom, and was one of the people helping to promote the 2017 Helsinki Worldcon bid. She’s chaired or co-chaired at least half a dozen conventions. She’s been one of the moderators of the Journeyplatypii of Fandom conrunners group. She’s the Executive Director of Include Better and the former Executive Director of The Ada Initiative.
She’s also a rape survivor. Like many survivors, her rapist wasn’t a stranger hiding in the bushes, but a man she knew and trusted.
A few things to keep in mind:
- 7 out of 10 rapes are committed by an acquaintance, friend, family member, or significant other — not a stranger. 25% of rapes are committed by a current or former romantic partner.
- Being in a relationship does not equal consent.
- Consenting to one act does not mean consenting to another. (For example, consenting to making out doesn’t mean consenting to sex.)
- “Freezing” is not consent. (Often it’s a fear or trauma response.)
Conventions have gotten better in recent years about establishing policies on abuse and harassment. When it comes to following and enforcing those policies, the record is spottier. I know of some instances where conventions have done an amazing job of following through and working to promote the safety of their attendees.
Crystal’s experience, when she reported this to Arisia, was … well, it sounds like she’s correct when she says she doesn’t think Arisia was prepared to deal with this situation. It’s one thing to create a policy. It gets messier when the accusation is against someone you know. Possibly a friend. Possibly an officer in your organization.
That doesn’t change the organization’s obligation to follow through and protect its attendees.
One objection Crystal encountered was that people didn’t want to have to choose between her and her attacker. And sure, that can be a lousy position to be in. But let’s be clear about who’s responsible for putting people in that position. Hint: the one creating this “awkward” situation for everyone is the guy who committed the assault in the first place, not the person who reported it.
This is a long post, but an important one. We have a lot more work to do to make fandom a better, safer place. I hope Crystal’s post, which I’m sharing at her request, can be another step in that process.
Trolling, harassing, and victim-blaming comments will be deleted, and the commenters tossed into the moderation queue.
Content warnings: rape, trauma, sexism, gaslighting, harassment, intimidation, stalking, and general asshattery of a group of people in general and one rapist in particular.
This is really long, and I am sorry, but it is mostly depressing.
I know why my rapist wins.
TL;DR: After a few years of intimidation and stalking behavior that drove me more and more from the Arisia community, my rapist, Noel Marc Rosenberg, was appointed as the Operations Division Head of Arisia 2017. I’d objected to his positions of authority in Arisia before, privately, to leadership, but I strenuously objected at that point, and did not attend the convention. That appointment made Rosenberg the person responsible for oversight of the safety team of the convention. In September of 2017, he was also elected as president of the umbrella corporation of Arisia. The president of Arisia presides over the executive board, which is apparently the entity to which safety concerns and incident reports are referred if they are too complex to address during the convention itself.
This year, on September 23, 2018, Rosenberg was re-elected as president of the organization. The election was held less than two hours after the executive board notified me that they would not be addressing my safety concerns regarding him.
The Arisia Code of Conduct states:
“…all Staff are representatives of Arisia and therefore are held to a higher standard of behavior, even when off duty.
“…Arisia forbids abusive, insulting, harassing, and / or intimidating behavior which includes, but is not limited to, stalking, physical or verbal intimidation, discriminatory comments, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.
“Please report any incidents in which a member of the convention is abusive, insulting, intimidating, bothersome, or acting in an unsafe or illegal manner to Incident Response Team (IRT), an Assistant Div Head, a Division Head, an Assistant Con Chair, or the Con Chair.”
It’s impossible to start at the beginning, or even know where the beginning of this story should be.
Arisia was the first science fiction event I attended, my first year in college. It was the first convention for which I volunteered on staff. After working on the convention for several years, it was the first one I chaired, in 2011. I served on the executive board several times. I used to regard Arisia as my “home convention,” and I was proud of the things I did to make it happen. I regarded the progress on the con’s inclusion and diversity efforts in recent years as having roots in things I did years ago, in ways great and small, and I was thrilled to see accessibility and safer spaces and diversity of program participants expand beyond those efforts. I was, to be honest, chuffed that Arisia was considered a feminist convention by other convention-runners. My online handle, for many years, was “ArisiaCrystal.”
You can therefore perhaps imagine how awful and gutting it was for me when members of Arisia leadership, over the past few years, told me that there was nothing to be done about the fact that my rapist was also on staff, in positions of authority, and has in recent years involved himself with the safety processes of the convention. Over the past few years, these developments have edged me out of the Arisia community. I didn’t feel safe attending Arisia in 2017 or 2018, given Rosenberg’s position and authority over the safety team.
This post is because I think he’s finally won. I can no longer imagine attending Arisia.
I share some of my thoughts here in the hopes it is useful for other organizations in the future. It’s my hope that talking about this in public might help address the underlying problems. If nothing else, as my friend Nóirín Plunkett once urged me, I’m going to refuse to participate further in my own gaslighting.
So. Here is a list of some of the reasons why my rapist has won.
These factors all tie in together, but this only happened because Arisia, as an organization and as a community, decided that this was all okay.