Tag Archives: anti-harassment

WisCon in solidarity with its community — a letter from our Anti-Abuse Team

WisCon Anti-Abuse Department
(And endorsed by the entire Concom.)

Dear WisCon Community,

We on the Anti-Abuse Team have been in a state of shock and horror since November 9, when the U.S. Presidency was won by a candidate who campaigned on a platform of explicit racism, misogyny, ableism, and autocracy. He and his supporters ridiculed, traumatized, and dehumanized Mexican-Americans, immigrants and undocumented people, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinx, Native Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, Muslims, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, Jews, survivors of sexual assault, women, Palestinians, prisoners of war, and their allies. Since the election, we have seen and heard about countless examples of racist, misogynist, homophobic, and transphobic abuse across the U.S., from diverse urban neighborhoods to rural towns. We have never needed the ability to imagine and enact a feminist, anti-racist, anti-ableist, anti-fascist future more. We have never needed WisCon more.

This May, when we come together in Madison to strategize, speculate, and celebrate the feminist science fiction whose imagination now feels so desperately urgent, we know that things are going to be fraught. We know that for many members of our community, the idea of coming to a small, majority-white city in a state that (however narrowly) voted for Trump in the election, feels terrifying, for reasons that are far from unjustified. We want you to know that the Safety and Anti-Abuse Teams are here for you before, during, and after the convention. Whatever we can do to help you feel supported, we will do. While we recognize that we are not able to control the climate in Madison outside of the Concourse Hotel, we will do whatever we can to mitigate that risk: we can walk with you and stand with you so that if anything does happen, you will not face it alone.

The job of the Anti-Abuse Team is to challenge and prevent harassment of our members from people within and outside the WisCon community, and to be proactive in keeping our convention spaces diverse, inclusive, and equitable. We want to support our community’s ability to disagree in an atmosphere of mutual respect, without reinforcing the disparagement of people inside and outside our community that Trump’s election has intensified. As we all work through complicated, controversial issues, AAT is here for you to call on if things get out of hand. We also know that you might be doing your political organizing elsewhere and want WisCon to be a place for relaxation and celebration. Our Statement of Principles and Code of Conduct are here to facilitate that too.

The Code of Conduct exists for your protection, and we take it seriously; this includes revising it to make WisCon better. Our mission may involve fostering conversation, providing training opportunities, or facilitating dialog; it may also mean supporting the convention’s provision of safer spaces, facilitating a buddy system, or even helping to provide opportunities for self care. We welcome your suggestions as we plan for WisCon 41.

Together, we can make sure that WisCon continues to be a space that allows us both to engage with politics and to escape from them in a space where our existence and humanity will not be under threat. We look forward to seeing you there.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us: antiabuse@wiscon.net

If you need to talk with Safety during the convention, please call: 608-957-7233 (957-SAFE)

Update to our Safety team’s phone number

Chris Wallish
SF3 Communications Committee

We have had to quite suddenly and unexpectedly change the phone number for our Safety team.  Please make note of this new phone number:

(608) 957-7233

(That’s 957-SAFE.)

Unfortunately this has happened in the year that we added the Safety phone number to the backs of everyone’s badges.  Please take a minute to cross out the phone number on your badge and write in the number above.  There are also signs around the convention announcing the new phone number.  And remember that you can also use Safety’s online form to report an incident.

We are so, so sorry for the inconvenience!  This took us by surprise and we are working to get the information out to everyone as quickly as possible.

Anti-Abuse Team

  • contact: antiabuse@wiscon.net

WisCon’s Anti-Abuse Team (AAT) is the permanent, year-round Concom department that both handles any report that is submitted to WisCon outside of the convention weekend and maintains the records of all reports brought to Safety during the convention. The AAT is also Concom department that directs WisCon’s Code of Conduct, reviewing and updating the policy annually.

If you have any questions or concerns related to WisCon’s anti-harassment policies and procedures, please contact us at the email address above.

Safety

  • email: safety@wiscon.net
  • phone: 608-957-7233 (957-SAFE)
  • reporting form:  wiscon.net/report

Safety is the at-con team that handles all concerns and reports that arise during the convention weekend.

Contacting Safety during the convention

Members of the Safety team can be easily spotted by their neon hi-vis vests. If you need to make a report and you don’t see a Safety team member, you can also get in touch by:

Anti-Harassment

  • contact: antiabuse@wiscon.net, safety@wiscon.net

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, religion, or class. 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.

Code of Conduct

Our full Code of Conduct details WisCon’s working definition of harassment, recommendations for how to handle incidents, and the process to follow once a report has been made.

Anti-Abuse Team

The Anti-Abuse Team is the Concom department that oversees WisCon’s anti-harassment policy and processes.

Safety

Safety is the at-con team that handles all incidents and reports during the convention weekend.

Code of Conduct

  • last updated:  May 2017
  • contact:  antiabuse@wiscon.net
 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, religion, class, or other marginalized identity. We do not tolerate harassment, whether of WisCon members or of hotel staff and others in our community, in any form.

Educating ourselves and one another is our best hope of ensuring a harassment-free convention for everyone. We encourage WisCon members to hold one another accountable to the Code of Conduct and Statement of Principles, and to take the perspectives of others seriously when a disagreement arises. We expect participants to follow convention rules at all venues, including those online, and convention-related social events.

Harassment

WisCon’s definition of harassment may not necessarily align with legal definitions of harassment. Harassment includes: Verbal comments or displayed images that harmfully reinforce structures of oppression (related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, religion, geographic origin, or class); deliberate intimidation; stalking; body policing (including gender policing in all bathrooms); unwelcome 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.

Harassment does not include: respectful disagreement or critique in good faith. WisCon continues to welcome and appreciate the reading or performance of risky, transgressive material and the discussion of controversial ideas.

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 (safety@wiscon.net), or call 608-957-7233 (957-SAFE) 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.net).

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. Your participation makes WisCon what it is, and we’ll do everything we can to honor it.

Important Contact Information

  • WisCon Chairs: chair@wiscon.net
  • Anti-Abuse Team: antiabuse@wiscon.net
  • Safety: safety@wiscon.net
  • Emergencies: 911
  • Wiscon Safety On Call: 608-957-7233 (957-SAFE)
  • Madison Police Department (non-emergency): (608) 255-2345
  • Dane County Rape Crisis Center Crisis Line: (608) 251-7273
  • Mental Health Center of Dane County 24-hour Hotline: (608) 280-2600
  • Union Cab: 608-242-2000

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, online harassment or stalking, or deliberately connecting a pseudonym with a wallet name are all considered violations of our Code of Conduct 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 or policies at the convention, 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 represent our 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.

Situations involving harassment are not always clear-cut. One of AAT’s roles is to help WisCon members navigate the complexities when they ask for our assistance in doing so. We respond to all complaints on a case by case basis and take as much contextual information into account as we are able to do. If you disagree with or have questions about AAT’s decisions or policies, you can write to us at antiabuse@wiscon.net. We will discuss your issue at our next meeting and respond as soon as we can.

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 Code of Conduct. 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 may 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 at board@sf3.org, WisCon’s parent organization.

WisCon’s new Anti-Abuse Policy: Reflections on the first year

Anti-Abuse Team and Safety

This year was the first convention where we had a formal procedure in place for what to do when individuals attending WisCon violate the code of conduct described in our anti-harassment policy. The policy is intended to be flexible to allow for different situations, but its basic idea is that if somebody reports a harassing behavior to Safety, the person responsible can be issued a warning and asked to do something differently (such as staying away from a place or person). If warnings aren’t attended to or harassing behavior escalates, the policy describes a few more options, including –– in the worst case scenario, which we hope to avoid –– that Safety and Chairs in consultation with available Anti-Abuse Team members can make a collective at-con decision to ban someone from WisCon.

Now that the convention is over, Safety has handed off their at-con reports to the full Anti-Abuse Team, which is reviewing reports that are still open post-con and evaluating how well the policy performed on- site. Here’s how things looked in our first year:

  • 11 issues relating to the anti-harassment policy were reported to Safety.
  • 4 attendees were issued warnings for harassing behaviors.
  • 1 disruptive non-member was escorted off the premises by hotel staff.
  • 1 person was banned, after several warnings, in response to reports both from multiple departments and from the hotel –– some relating to patterns of behavior going back several years.

What have we learned from the first year of the harassment policy?

Many members have stated that WisCon felt safer this year because they knew that the concom was explicitly trying to make WisCon a place where members could be free of microaggressions and harassment, even if that’s a goal we can’t ever expect to 100% reach. This is what we have been hoping for in our work on the policy and we are very pleased to hear it.

Other members have stated that they fear not being welcome because of the new policy; we have heard terms like “feminist thought police” thrown around. To this we can only say that we do not intend to be a disciplinary committee, and our intention is not to police but rather to be part of a community that holds its members accountable to the principles that we have organized ourselves around. But we also understand that the line between accountability and policing can be a hard one to walk, and we will continue to listen to your feedback on how well we are managing to walk it.

A member who received a warning stated that they would like further information about recourse: what is there for someone to do once they have been given a warning? We agree that this is a gap in the current policy, and we will revise the policy to fix this before WisCon 40. In addition to providing a process for members to appeal decisions with which they disagree, we want to be able to support members who receive warnings that they recognize as justified, so that they can reflect on their behavior, make amends if necessary, and work to be a part of change for the better in future. After all, the structures of white supremacy, patriarchy, cissexism, ableism, colonialism, and capitalism live within all of us as we live within them. Our aim is to make WisCon a place and time in which everyone can be liberated from these oppressions as much as is possible, not to punish those who misstep.