Genevieve Valentine was sexually harassed, and some could even argue, assaulted by Rene Walling at this year’s Readercon.
In her own words:
At the con, someone introduced himself to me and started a conversation, accompanied by elbow-and-shoulder touches that I moved away from. At one point he said I had to stop saying things that “made [him] want to say “wrong” things”; I shut him down politely, turned my back on him, and talked to someone else until he eventually left.
That night at a room party, I paused in the hall bottleneck and said to a passing friend, “Oh man, it’s crowded.” From behind me, the man wrapped an arm around my shoulders and said, “Well, you and I will have a good time!” at which point I spun and said loudly and clearly “You do NOT touch me,” and moved inside. He stayed in the bottleneck for more than thirty minutes trying to catch my eye before he left; I recruited someone to walk me to the elevator.
Sunday morning, I fell in with some friends and was chatting near the entrance to the book room, when I saw him, again hovering nearby. My friends, up to speed on the issue, eventually tried to walk me to the table, at which point he cut in with us and started apologizing. I said, “Don’t want to talk about this, don’t worry about it, goodbye,” and kept walking.
Later, he stopped by the Clarkesworld table again and hovered for so long that a friend stepped in while I went elsewhere.
Readercon’s supposed zero-tolerance harassment policy in theory:
Readercon has always had a zero-tolerance harassment policy. Harassment of any kind — including physical assault, battery, deliberate intimidation, stalking, or unwelcome physical attentions — will not be tolerated at Readercon and will result in permanent suspension of membership.
Readercon’s zero-tolerance harassment policy in action:
We want to thank everyone who came forward – both in person and via email – to report a harassment incident at Readercon 23. We followed up those reports with interviews with the target of the harassment, various witnesses, and Rene Walling, the harasser. The information we collected and reviewed was consistent, consequently, we feel the facts of the incident are not in dispute.
When we wrote our zero-tolerance policy in 2008 (in response to a previous incident), we were operating under the assumption that violators were either intent on their specific behaviors, clueless, or both.
During the course of our conversation with Rene it became immediately apparent that he realized what he had done and was sincerely regretful of his actions. It was that recognition and regret that influenced our decision, not his status in the community. If, as a community, we wish to educate others about harassment, we must also allow for the possibility of reform.
Our decision was suspension of his membership for at least two years. In the three years between Readercons 23 and 26 we will actively look for evidence of real and permanent positive change in his behavior. It was made very clear to him that if we receive any substantiated reports of continued inappropriate behavior at any venue – during or after the suspension period – his suspension will become permanent.
Should any other incidents occur, we encourage witnesses to report them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We want to reaffirm our continued support for all members of the community who are the targets of harassment, and our continued determination to make Readercon a safer space.
Asides from the usual outrage over Readercon’s current fail and its apparent numerous other fails in the past, I actually am a little more perturbed by the language used by some people in their posts about this particular incident.
Originally, I was going to do direct quotes, but I closed the tabs by accident and after about half an hour of hunting through various link round ups, I have decided that I really don’t need to have precise links. Suffice to say that I noticed that some of the earlier posts on the incident referred to Genevieve Valentine as an “excellent and accomplished writer”, “an author guest”, a “novelist and SFF critic”, and so on and so forth in that vein.
I thought it interesting because it seemed like all of the posters were very careful to define Genevieve Valentine as not just the average convention attendee. Not only was she an author, but a panelist, a specific guest of the convention, and an excellent writer who is accomplished and …. therefore above reproach?
Perhaps it is my cynicism speaking, but I thought that perhaps these posters were careful to frame her as not someone who would be the type to be “overly sensitive” and who “didn’t understand the concepts of flirting” and who might have “misinterpreted his actions”, who might even have “sought attention by playing the victim when it was all in good nature”.
After the initial posts, the framing tapered off to “author” or simply “novelist” and then finally people were just referring to her by name. Presumably now that the whole brouhaha has already exploded, they don’t need to establish that this is a woman who isn’t just “out to get a man in trouble”.
I’m really frustrated and disappointed that a woman still needs some sort of proof of good faith before people can take her harassment or assault claims seriously. It’s very disturbing, to say the least.
I’m not even going to touch the whole “aspie” or “just socially awkward” thing with a ten foot pole. That’s already been exploded to bits by people more eloquent and involved than I am. But seriously? The ladies who said that this was failed flirting and now they don’t have any idea what the rules are? I don’t even have words for you for how wrong you are.
Readercon? You fail.
Everyone else on the internet who is proving to me just how rape culture is still alive and well? You fail even more.