Anti-Abuse Team new policies & procedures — Public comment period April 3-17

Anti-Abuse Team

Since last fall, members of the WisCon Anti-Abuse Team have been working on developing new anti-harassment policies and procedures for our convention. We have been guided by the goal of making WisCon a safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone. To that end, we have worked to develop a policy that 1) makes reporting easy, 2) is compassionate and reporter centered, 3) facilitates a timely response and clear communication, and 4) reduces incidence of harassment through member education and by fostering a supportive, respectful climate.

We have adapted this document from the Ada Initiative’s anti-harassment policy, which they have graciously provided for general use. The most significant change that we made to this document involves the addition of behavior outside of the convention, including online behavior, which may put members of WisCon at risk.

The Anti-Abuse Team (AAT) is a new, permanent, 6-member (or more) Concom department, consisting of a chair, a secretary/archivist, a Safety liaison, and three other members. Our goal is that the makeup of this committee reflects the diversity of our membership. Going forward, the AAT will handle incoming reports, including informal concerns raised about the general climate at the convention and concerns about safety and harassment. We worked closely with members of Safety on this policy, and also sought feedback from the rest of the Concom. Safety will continue to handle incidents at the convention, and is working closely with Application Development on our new secure reporting database.

Much of our work on this policy has been informed by the mistakes that have been made in previous years. We have built in a series of redundancies to make sure that reports can never be lost or ignored. For example, prior to WisCon38, harassment cases were handled by the convention chairs, who typically step down shortly after a convention. By establishing a permanent team, including an archivist and Safety liaison, we have multiple checks in place to make sure reports move forward.

Another function of the AAT is to protect member confidentiality — only a limited number of individuals have access to our secure reporting database, and the bulk of the convention committee will not be involved in making decisions about individual cases. Additionally, we have built in the flexibility to allow us to appoint ad hoc members as needed, including advocates on a case-by-case basis (rather than our previous trial model of a single, permanent Member Advocate).

Our hope is that in sharing our draft policy with our members we will receive valuable feedback, as well as provide transparency about our policy and procedures moving forward. We have recommended that once our policy is approved, all members must acknowledge our statement of principles and harassment policy during the registration process. We understand that the goal of a safe convention is something we must always strive for, even if we may never attain it. We thus see our policy as a living document that will grow and adapt with our needs and the needs of our members.

If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment below, or send an e-mail to antiabuse@wiscon.info. Our open comment period will last two weeks (though we are always happy to receive feedback), after which we will make appropriate edits and then consult with the SF3 board and our lawyer. We will then provide a final draft to the Concom for approval via a vote. Our goal is to have this done in time for our new policy to be in place for WisCon39.

Jacquelyn Gill (chair)
Jackie M. (secretary/archivist)
Ann (Safety)
Lenore Jean Jones
Alexis Lothian
Sandy Olson
Two anonymous members

The draft policy below involves two sections: the first is our anti-harassment policy, which will be posted online and in the Pocket Program Book at the convention (we also have short and medium versions for other applications, which are a subset of the following full text). The second part outlines procedures for the rest of the convention committee; this text will be shared with Concom members. Bracketed text will be updated for each convention as necessary.

I. Anti-Harassment Policy

WisCon is dedicated to working towards a harassment-free convention experience for all members, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, age, origin, or religion. We do not tolerate harassment of WisCon members in any form. Convention participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the convention without a refund at the discretion of the convention organizers.

We are not always able to perceive the ways in which our words or actions reinforce the oppressive structures that are part of dominant languages and cultures, and so at times we must rely on others to let us know. We encourage WisCon members to hold one another accountable to the Anti-Harassment Policy and Statement of Principles [link], and to take the perspectives of others seriously when a disagreement arises. Educating ourselves and one another is our best hope of ensuring a harassment-free convention for everyone.

Harassment:
WisCon’s definition of harassment may not necessarily align with legal definitions of harassment. Harassment includes: Verbal comments or displayed images that reinforce social structures of domination and oppression (related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, religion, geographic origin, or socioeconomic status); deliberate intimidation; stalking; harassing photography or recording; sustained disruption of talks or other events; inappropriate physical contact; and unwelcome sexual attention. Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately. Exhibitors in the Dealer’s Room, volunteers, and Concom members are also subject to the anti-harassment policy.

Incidents at WisCon:
If a participant engages in harassing behavior at the convention, the Con Chairs and pre-selected Concom members (with or without consultation with Safety and/or the Anti-Abuse Team) may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expulsion from the convention (with no refund). If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact Safety on duty and/or a member of the Concom immediately. At the convention, Concom members can be identified by badges, lanyards, stickers, or buttons (this may vary from convention to convention), while Safety team members wear neon vests. You can also use Safety’s [online reporting form], [email], and [phone number] to file harassment reports at any time, including after the convention has ended. General concerns about the climate at WisCon may also be directed to the Anti-Abuse Team (antiabuse@wiscon.info).

Concom members will be happy to help participants contact hotel/venue security or local law enforcement, provide escorts, or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to feel safe for the duration of the convention. We value your attendance.

[Email address for organizers]
[Phone number for convention security or organizers]
[Phone number for hotel/venue security]
[Local law enforcement]
[Local sexual assault hotline]
[Local emergency and non-emergency medical (e.g., urgent care, day clinic)]
[Local taxi company]

We expect participants to follow these rules at all convention venues, including those online, and convention-related social events.

Incidents outside of WisCon:
At times, concerns may be raised about members (or potential members) based on conduct that has occurred outside of WisCon that may include gross violations of our policy and/or put members at risk, including:

  1. Individuals who have not attended WisCon, but have a history of abusive behavior and/or known incidents that took place outside WisCon that may cause risks to a member’s (or members’) safety, or which may contribute to a hostile or non-inclusive climate at the convention.
  2. WisCon members who have been reported to Safety for outside incidents, including (but not limited to) conduct at other conventions, threatening or abusive behavior online, or assault.

These may be individuals who may or may not have expressed interest in attending the convention, and for whom reports may or may not have been filed, but who have come to the attention of the Concom’s Anti-Abuse Team.

WisCon considers online behavior to be just as important as offline behavior. Doxing or outing [link to Geek feminism wiki], online harassment or stalking, or deliberately connecting a pseudonym with a wallet name are all considered violations of our Anti-Harassment Policy, and will be treated accordingly. These actions need not occur in WisCon-affiliated spaces (e.g., our blog) in order to be considered.

We understand that at times, our members will have disagreements or interpersonal conflicts that do not necessarily escalate to the point of harassment or abuse. WisCon will not arbitrate feuds; we ask that you please leave these conflicts at the door to the extent that you are able. If, however, conflicts escalate to the point that they 1) threaten member safety, or 2) violate our Code of Conduct at the convention (e.g., racist or sexist language), the Anti-Abuse Team may become involved.

The Anti-Abuse Team:
The AAT is a permanent Concom department with the long-term goal of making WisCon safer and harassment-free for all members. The team should comprise a diverse membership (e.g., including representation from Safety, Access, members of color, LGBTQ members), and may appoint ad-hoc members as needed (e.g., to replace a member with a conflict of interest, or in the events the team lacks the background or perspectives relevant to address a particular case). The team also includes a Chair and a Secretary/Archivist to ensure continuity and transparency. The AAT may also appoint member-specific advocates on a case-by-case basis for reporters or reported members if requested. Current members include: [to be filled out upon final completion, and updated as needed].

Once a violation has been reported:
Following the convention, the Anti-Abuse Team will review all reports in a timely manner, following the procedures outlined in our Anti-Harassment Policy. The AAT will also review all reports made throughout the year, including general concerns about convention policies or climate brought to our attention (the AAT will document all concerns or informal reports about specific individuals with a formal report to Safety). All reports will be entered into a secure database with access limited to Safety chairs and relevant members of the AAT as deemed appropriate.

If the Anti-Abuse Team decides to take action (including but not limited to a preemptive ban, programming restrictions, volunteering restrictions, etc.), they will communicate all decisions to Safety, the co-Chairs, Registration, Programming, Volunteering, and any other relevant departments, and may notify the Concom as a whole. On a case-by-case basis, the AAT may seek a vote or a review by the Concom before finalizing a decision. The Anti-Abuse Team will also notify local law enforcement if necessary, and will work with Safety and other departments to be on alert during conventions.

Once the AAT’s decision has communicated to the relevant parties, all have the opportunity to appeal this decision with an email to SF3 [link], WisCon’s parent organization.

II. Internal policies for Concom use

Warnings:
Any member of the convention committee (listed on our website) can issue a verbal warning to a participant that their behavior violates our anti-harassment policy. Warnings should be reported to Safety as soon as practical. The report should include:

  • Identifying information of the participant
  • The time you issued the warning
  • The behavior that was in violation
  • The approximate time of the behavior (if different than the time of warning)
  • The circumstances surrounding the incident
  • Your identity
  • Other people involved in the incident

Pre-selected Concom members who volunteer and are vetted by Safety, as well as Con Chairs for that year (with or without consultation with Safety and/or the Anti-Abuse Team), may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expulsion from the conference (with no refund). Individual Concom members may give a warning at any time as individuals, but Safety, the Con Chairs for that year, and these pre-selected Concom members are empowered to make official and timely decisions in these cases.

Programming:
Panels or similar events should not be stopped for one-time gaffes or minor problems, although someone empowered to issue formal warnings (as indicated above) should speak to the presenter afterward as appropriate. In the event of repeated or serious violation of the anti-harassment policy, moderators, panelists, and audience members can contact Safety, who will send a representative to evaluate the situation. The Safety contact number for phone calls and texts will be printed on panelist name tents and can also be obtained from Registration. Members who recognize harassing behavior on a panel they are moderating have several options based on the specifics of the incident and their comfort levels: moderators might choose to challenge the behavior while it is occurring; to do nothing and make a report later; or – in the worst situations – it might be appropriate to politely and calmly stop the panel without explanation before reporting the incident to Safety.

Taking reports:
When taking a report from someone experiencing harassment you should record what they say and reassure them they are being taken seriously, but avoid making specific promises about what actions the Concom will take. Ask for any other information if the reporter has not volunteered it (such as time, place) but do not pressure them to provide it if they are reluctant. Even if the report lacks important details such as the identity of the person taking the harassing actions, it should still be recorded and passed along to Safety. If the reporter desires it, arrange for an escort by a Concom member or a trusted person, contact a friend, and contact local law enforcement. Do not pressure the reporter to take any action if they do not want to do it. Respect the reporter’s privacy by not sharing unnecessary details with others, especially individuals who were not involved with the situation or Concom members.

See sample Safety report form [link] for information collected while taking reports — WisCon members can also be invited to submit a report to Safety directly. If a reporter prefers to work with you, inform the member that the report will be forwarded to Safety, but kept secure at all times. Make sure the member knows who (the names of the Safety Chairs, the Anti-Abuse Team, Con Chairs, other parties if relevant) will see the report.

Expulsion:
During the convention, a participant may be expelled by the decision of the co-chairs or Safety Chairs (in consultation with the Anti-Abuse Team if need be) for whatever reasons they deem sufficient. Here are some general guidelines for when a participant should be expelled:

  • A third offense resulting in a warning from concom members
  • Continuing to harass after any “No” or “Stop” instruction
  • A pattern of harassing behavior, with or without warnings
  • A single serious offense (e.g., punching or groping someone)
  • A single obviously intentional offense (e.g., taking up-skirt photos)
  • Complaints from attendees.

Hotel/venue security and local authorities should be contacted when appropriate.

Public statements:
As a general rule, Concom members should exercise discretion in making public statements (including on privately maintained online media accounts such as Twitter) about the behavior of individual people during or after the convention when possible.

5 thoughts on “Anti-Abuse Team new policies & procedures — Public comment period April 3-17”

  1. Can you please change the list of actions under “Taking Reports” to say “and/or contact local law enforcement” instead of just “and”? As written, people may think that a request to arrange for an escort or contact a friend includes a request for a report to the Madison Police Department.

    (I’m not suggesting minor copyediting changes, but I think this one matters.)

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