Want to put together an anti-harassment policy and make your con a safer, more welcoming place? Good for you! Here we suggest a few ideas, following the establish, articulate and act upon guidelines.
At the bottom of the page you can also check out some policy examples from conventions that have anti-harassment policies in place. We emphasize that conventions should put together their own policy, specific to the environment and needs of their con; these are comprehensive examples of effective policies and procedures for particular conventions, not boilerplate templates!
1) Work out what your anti-harassment policy will include. This will differ according to the atmosphere and demographics of the con, but we recommend that all policies include a general anti-harassment rule that something along the lines of:
“All attendees at [name of con] are expected to treat other attendees, guests, staff, and the general public with respect. Physical and verbal harassment and sexual assault will not be tolerated.”
Then you should get specific to your con. Try to anticipate possible situations before they occur. If exhibitors at your cons regularly employ “booth babes”, will you include a line emphasizing that harassing exhibitor staff is prohibited? If your celebrity guests take photos with attendees, will you outline a “no touching the guests without permission” rule to make it perfectly clear? If there’s cosplay at your con, will you specify all genitals and nipples to be covered, or go for a “bigger than a non-thong bathing suit” rule? If yours is an anime con, do you want to forbid the use of yaoi/yuri paddles at the con, or restrict them to consensual use in private areas?
2) Be clear about the consequences for transgressors. This, again, can vary according to the con and the severity of the individual situation. SakuraCon has a Three Strikes and you’re out rule for minor transgressions, but will strip membership at its discretion. WisCon has a zero tolerance anti-harassment policy. Readercon reserves the right to strip membership at its discretion.
3) Work out how the policy will be enforced. Will attendees experiencing or witnessing harassment be instructed to report to security personnel? Will they report to the con com room? Will security and other staffers wait for complaints, or act upon harassment when they see it? Do you have a template for recording and storing harassment complaints in case they are required later?
Once you’ve decided on your policy, make it visible to con-goers and staff so that both potential harassers and potential attendees know you’re serious about safety. Put it on your website and in your program book. Clearly label the security personnel, relevant rooms, or phone numbers to be applied to in case of harassment.
Make sure that staff understand the aims of the policy and how to implement it. Is there a template for reports and do they know how to store them? Do staff have a clear understanding of how to avoid victim-blaming? Do they know when to call the police? Promptly follow up on any complaints or reports of harassment and keep records of everything.
Even doing all this, you can’t eliminate the possibility of harassment taking place. But you can demonstrate to staff, con-goers and the general public that you take harassment at your con seriously, and that safety at your con is an important concern. If something does happen, you will have procedures and prepared staff in place to assist. If it doesn’t, then great!