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.
1. He wins because he thinks it wasn’t rape. At first, I didn’t, either.
In the moment Rosenberg violated me, I couldn’t believe what was happening. “What the fuck are you doing?” were, I believe, my words. A note: “WTF” is not consent to a sex act. When he replied with, “This is what you wanted,” though, I froze. And yes, those words are etched into my memory. That is exactly what he said.
In case you weren’t aware, freezing is a common response to rape and sexual assault, in the moment. It took me a long time to figure out that just because I froze, that wasn’t actually me consenting to what he did. That’s not what consent looks like.
During my relationship with Rosenberg, we had had explicit, specific agreements about requiring barriers (condoms) for all penetrative sex. Those agreements were in writing, even, because they were so important! He intentionally and with premeditation violated my consent. When I objected, he simply informed me that it was what I wanted, and kept going.
I objected, and I continue to be outraged whenever I’m reminded that he explicitly and intentionally violated my consent in this fashion. This was a violation of my consent in a sex act. (If you are here to tell me that “stealthing” isn’t included in the legal definition of rape in Massachusetts, kindly sit with why you think that is, and also please read this. The legal definition of rape in MA requires “physical violence,” which, as we all should know by now, has nothing to do with whether or not a sexual encounter was consensual.)
It took me a while to figure out that this was not “what I wanted,” and that it had happened without my consent. But it did.
2. He believes he can’t be the bad guy.
Rosenberg thinks he’s a good person, so he can’t have done something bad to me. Rosenberg spent a lot of time in voicemails and in emails trying to convince me that he wasn’t in the wrong — that he loved me, even. He left me over 90 voicemails in the year after raping me, according to the count in my journal, trying to convince me or himself that he loved me and wasn’t in the wrong. He sent text messages and left voicemails when he knew I was on a plane, so that I’d receive them when I landed. He thought that was a romantic thing to do, even after we “broke up” (his term). At the time, I was tremendously conflicted about communications from Rosenberg. Now I find all of that very creepy.
3. People kept asking me, “Are you sure it was rape?”
When I told friends in positions of authority and leadership at Arisia, friends I’d known and worked with for years and who I trusted to understand the violation of my consent that had occurred, the first response I got from Arisia leadership, literally, was this question, from Rick Kovalcik. Was I sure it was rape? The legal definition of rape might not have included “stealthing,” then, but the violation I experienced was real. A sex act that was explicitly against our agreements occurred. I was violated. Yes, I’m sure it was rape.
4. Other people consider his expertise too valuable to lose, and some feel that he shouldn’t experience consequences for his actions.
When I said that I didn’t want to work with Rosenberg anymore, two or three people on the executive board told me that his experience was invaluable and Arisia staff needed his expertise in order to have the best possible event. One Arisia senior staffer and a former president of the organization literally told me I should “prioritize the needs of the convention” over my own needs or wants. Rosenberg’s participation was deemed important; my expertise and involvement were treated as disposable if my feelings became too inconvenient.
Rosenberg also insisted he still had a “right” to be on staff of Arisia after raping me, which he informed me of even after I emailed him to say that I wanted nothing further to do with him and no communications from him. Other senior people on staff also told me that I shouldn’t “use [my] position of authority inappropriately.” I shouldn’t “blackball” him from being on Arisia staff, because that would be “unfair.” I had to read Rosenberg’s emails, I was told, if they were related to the event. I’m sure you can imagine how quickly my inbox filled up with messages from him that I didn’t want to read and shouldn’t have had to. But I wasn’t supposed to forward his emails immediately to the trash without reading, because I had a “responsibility to Arisia.”
5. His creepy, stalker behavior was barely acknowledged as problematic, even to friends.
I was told by a member of the executive board of Arisia that I was being “overly emotional” and “making a big deal of it” when Rosenberg was seen walking past my house, within feet of my front door.
Another Arisia executive board member verified that Rosenberg had walked past my house, but then told me to my face that it was “reasonable” for him to walk past the door of my house when he was en route to a meeting. The meeting was a 25 minute walk away from my house. He lived a 45 minute drive from my house in the opposite direction. Google mapping suggests that the most expedient route to the meeting would not go within a quarter of a mile of my home. It seems only reasonable to me that he stay away from my home, but at minimum, surely he could avoid the extra exertion involved in going out of his way to walk down my street.
He followed me from room to room at Relaxacon, a small Arisia staff event of 30 to 50 people, for at least two years running before I stopped attending. One year, Rosenberg even invited himself along to a six-person lunch that my friends planned in order to get me away from him. Some of my friends ended up going to lunch with Rosenberg instead of me that day, so that I could be away from him and know where he was.
For one Relaxacon, Rosenberg contacted my partner and asked to share a hotel room with him for the weekend. Friends on Arisia staff agreed that that was a weird thing for my rapist to do, but they claimed I was being unfair to characterize it as “creepy” or “stalker-y” behavior.
He also showed up and stood around in the parking lot for some time at Readercon while I was the conchair of that event. He did not have a membership. His ex convinced him to leave, eventually.
At Wiscon in 2016, members of the safety team told Rosenberg to stay away from me. He was told not to enter a room if I was in it, and leave if I arrived. He initially agreed to this, but later did not behave according to the agreement. I discovered this by virtue of his tweets on a Wiscon panel hashtag. I’d asked a question of the panelists and was looking at the hashtag for responses online. He was tweeting from within the panel room. I had been the first person to ask a question at this panel, for which Justine Larbalestier rewarded me with a book. She made a big deal of giving me the book in the middle of the panel — there was no way he could have missed my being in the room. And yet, Rosenberg did not leave as he had agreed. Despite not being a regular user of Twitter at the time, he apparently tweeted twice from that room, on that hashtag. They were the 17th and 18th tweets he had ever made, and the only time he ever tweeted from a convention panel. Given the context, it seems to me that those tweets were a form of intimidation, which he hoped I would discover.
He did this kind of thing a few times during that Wiscon: Rosenberg publicly and clearly behaved in direct violation of the boundaries set by convention safety staff — boundaries to which he had agreed. He escalated the situation over the course of the weekend, even coming up to my table at the banquet event and staring at me. The safety team decided to take action, which they asked to do in consultation with me. They banned him from attending the event on alternating years, so that I could attend then without concern.
There were plenty of other situations over the past several years, many of which occurred at Arisia corporate meetings and staff events, most of which I have less documentation for. More incidents happened than I want to recount or remember, to be honest. At each juncture, I was told by people I considered friends, by people who were in senior positions of leadership at Arisia, that I was being “unreasonable” or “Arisia’s hands were tied.”
6. I was told I shouldn’t file for a restraining order because that would be inviting drama.
One member of the Executive Board of Arisia informed me that it would be a “drama queen” move to file a restraining order against Rosenberg. This conversation happened shortly after the incident where he was seen walking in front of my house. My attorney said that I had sufficient proof to get one, but I decided to listen to Arisia leadership. To be fair, going through the restraining order process might have been grueling. I don’t know if I would have been up for it. I wish now that I had done it, though.
7. Apparently, people think they shouldn’t have to choose sides between me and my rapist.
I ran for an election in which Rosenberg was my opponent for the position, a few years ago. Someone literally wrote on their ballot slip “I love you both” as their vote, rather than one of our names.
In 2017, he ran unopposed for the position of president of Arisia. I had already stopped attending any Arisia meetings, at that point, since that was after he’d become a manager of the safety team at con. I definitely wasn’t going to run against him again. Out of 56 people, eleven of them voted against his candidacy when the secret ballots were counted, but no one ran against him or said anything publicly when he was elected. Privately, I received several text messages of sympathy, but that was all.
In 2018, Rosenberg again ran unopposed for the position of president of Arisia, and was elected with 42 out of 54 votes. He was publicly endorsed by vice president Anna Bradley, someone who I had thought was a friend of mine. When I tried to ask her about the situation a few years ago, she said “there are some conversations I’m not able to or willing to have.”
Choosing to not get involved supports the status quo, which is that I suffer the consequences of Rosenberg’s actions and remove myself from his vicinity in order to avoid more stalking and intimidation behavior from him. Anna is not the only one who decided to not be involved, despite knowing many of the details, and that is part of the party line that Arisia upper leadership has decided to adopt.
8. He thinks he has every right to be wherever I am, even if I can’t leave freely when he shows up.
There were several points over the past few years when I was staffing an informational table in a public space. Rosenberg developed a habit of casually walking by with alarming frequency.
At Arisia 2016, the last year I attended, Rosenberg “coincidentally” struck up a conversation with someone at the table next to mine, and stood there for at least 15 minutes, staring at me the whole time, before I finally called a nearby friend over for help. That friend’s job was to block my rapist from making eye contact with me anymore. That was all. Given the way Arisia leadership had treated me over the years, I didn’t trust Arisia’s safety team to intervene. Interrupting the stare was all I could manage. After another incident in which Rosenberg decided to ride the elevator with me after I got on (staring at me for the entire length of the ride), I tried complaining to a former member of the executive board. I was told my rapist “was probably doing his best” to avoid me, or words to that effect.
At Wiscon one year, Nóirín Plunkett and I timed Rosenberg walking past my location three times in one hour, then standing alone across the hall from my table for over fifteen minutes, staring at us. We were at a table in a hallway that led to the dealer’s room, and had been there for only three hours at that point. Nóirín finally convinced me to call the convention safety team and ask for help. They set boundaries with Rosenberg, to which he agreed, but which he then repeatedly pushed and violated. After Wiscon had documented his aggressive behavior at their convention over the course of two years, they decided it did warrant consequences. I proposed we trade off years of attendance, since I did not think I could afford to lose fandom goodwill, and I was convinced my reputation would suffer if it became public that I had requested he be banned while I was co-chairing a Worldcon. I had already been chastised about “abusing my position of authority in fandom” when complaining about his behavior elsewhere, and I figured the likelihood of internet harassers aligning with my rapist were pretty good if it became public. I wish I had asked for what I really wanted, that Wiscon ban him entirely for his stalking behavior toward me, but at least they did make sure that I wouldn’t run into him again on years when I do attend.
9. I’m told that my rapist’s behavior at events other than Arisia has no bearing on Arisia. The rape also didn’t happen at Arisia; therefore, it’s not considered the business of the convention.
Rosenberg has been banned from at least three other events due to his behavior toward me, in addition to the Wiscon decision. Arisia’s executive board believes that none of that has anything to do with Arisia, though, so it apparently can’t be considered when weighing what to do about my concerns. One Division Head of the convention told me that the rape didn’t happen at Arisia and I didn’t file criminal charges at the time, so “Arisia’s hands are tied” with regard to the situation. This is despite the fact that Arisia’s Code of Conduct explicitly states that staff are “held to a higher standard, even when off-duty.” While the rape wasn’t at Arisia, some of the stalking was at the con and Arisia-related events. Rosenberg, in his position as president and a division head of the convention, obviously represents Arisia at the con and at those events.
10. Many people believe his public persona, that of a “feminist” and “ally.”
He has identified himself as a feminist and ally to women for longer than I’ve known him. He’s a queer rights activist. Clearly that means he can’t have violated my consent, right?
Relatedly, someone who believes Rosenberg is a feminist said that my issue with him is a personal one, that he wouldn’t violate someone else’s consent and isn’t a danger to anyone else.
11. No official report was filed using Arisia’s new reporting process, so nothing could be done about my rapist’s behavior or my concerns.
In 2016, Conchair Anna Bradley appointed Rosenberg as the head of her Operations division, which managed the safety team of the convention. I emailed her to say that I would not be attending the convention (for the first time in at least 15 years) because of my safety concerns. Her staffing decision didn’t make me feel safe, and she knew why I felt this way, because she was one of the people I told about Rosenberg’s stalking behaviors years ago, sitting in her car on my street. Anna’s email reply encouraged me to email a report to the safety team, apparently not recognizing the irony of asking me to submit a report about my rapist that would land in his inbox.
When the stalking and intimidation first started, I spoke with at least eleven senior members of Arisia leadership (presidents, vice presidents, division heads, convention chairpeople, and other members of the executive board) about my experience and my concerns about Rosenberg being on senior staff. Apparently, those discussions no longer counted under the new reporting system in 2016. I was even chastised for “not following procedure” and “using the whisper network.” During the Arisia “investigation” of this issue that went on for the past 14 months, I spoke with another four members of Arisia leadership in April of 2018, including a future conchair, and answered questions from some of the current executive board.
In words and actions, over the years, Arisia’s leadership has told me that either they don’t believe me or they don’t care.
12. Arisia decided to proceed with an actual investigation in July of 2017, absent consent from me. They interviewed my rapist months before talking with me.
In July 2017, at Readercon, I was asked if I was attending Arisia. I reminded then-conchair Jaime Garmendia (another person in Arisia leadership that I’d told about Rosenberg’s stalking behavior in the past, in the lead-up to Jaime’s race against my rapist for vice president of Arisia in 2015) that he’d received the email explaining why I wasn’t attending Arisia — and he had reappointed Rosenberg as management over the safety team, so I would not be going. Jaime and I tried to schedule a chat to discuss things, but he then decided it should be a formal meeting, and he added seven people to the cc line of our emails without checking with me.
A particularly memorable paragraph in his email stated, “After some thought and discussion with the ConChair team, we’d really like to take this meeting more formally. This does not obligate you in any way to any specific course of action, but it does mean that per policy we need to have a second senior staffer present to take notes.” If only that had been an accurate statement, that Jaime’s actions didn’t “obligate” me.
At some point, Jaime decided to file a report to the safety team of Arisia without my participation, since he hadn’t heard back from me quickly enough. I resent that choice being taken from me, although in his defense, I was out of the country for most of the next few months. Rosenberg was apparently notified in November or December of 2017 that there would be an investigation, and he was told it would be about his behavior toward me, specifically. He was interviewed in February of 2018. (I was told in August 2018 about this having happened.)
By the time anyone from Arisia spoke with me about the new process, I was having a meeting with members of the Incident Review Team (IRT) instead of Jaime. It was April 2018, months after they’d decided to proceed with their process and speak with Rosenberg. I was asked to recount my concerns and the events that had transpired. I did my best. Toward the end of the discussion, I asked the people on the IRT if they believed me that I was violated without my consent and that Rosenberg behaved in the ways I described, which I’ve recounted here. Two of them said they believed me, that I was raped. One of them equivocated, “I believe something happened, at least.”
I also supplied a list of seventeen people who I had told about my concerns over the years, which included some people who’d witnessed pieces of Rosenberg’s stalking behaviors, not limited to Arisia spaces. At least some of those people were since contacted by Arisia’s executive board at the end of August 2018. One person has said they don’t remember what happened and “don’t want to get involved.”
13. He tells other people I’m crazy, so clearly my desire to have nothing to do with him is suspicious.
I’ve heard from multiple friends that Rosenberg tells people that I’m “crazy,” that I’m out to ruin his life, that it was “just a bad breakup” but I apparently couldn’t handle it. If someone heard first from him about the situation, and then asks me about it, it’s a “he said/she said” situation.
There is plenty of research concerning first impressions that might apply here, but essentially, him “getting his side of the story out” means people are less likely to believe me. I’ve been reluctant to go around telling people I was raped and stalked, as you might imagine, so this has simply resulted in many people believing Rosenberg’s claim that I’m “crazy.” It gives me cause to wonder, too, that Arisia’s official process while investigating the code of conduct complaint was to speak with him months before they spoke with me.
14. Apparently, I have gone through all of this for nothing to change.
After the April 2018 meeting, there were months of little to no contact from the Arisia executive board or the IRT, broken occasionally by a promise that something would happen at some point soon.
April 15, 2018 at 5:16 pm
Thank you again for taking the time to meet with us.
This is the email to confirm email addresses, as promised.
June 12, 2018 at 7:03 pm
My apologies that this email wasn’t sent earlier. This is to let you know that we are still reviewing my notes and hadn’t forgotten you.
July 13, 2018 at 3:53 pm
I’m sorry. Travel plans, etc. delayed progress. We will be reaching out to some of the people that you mentioned in our meeting.
August 15, 2018 at 10:57 am
FYI, we are still actively working on this. We are still working on contacting your witnesses, we hope we will hear from them by the end of August and hope to wrap this up by the end of September.
August 28, 2018 at 12:19 am
Status update. We believe that we have sent emails to all of your requested contacts and are hearing back from them. Some may be contacting you privately for permission to reply with personal information.
In answer to your questions at Worldcon 76, two members of the Arisia Eboard met with Noel and Buzz on February 1, 2018.
That same day, August 28th, one of the people on my list messaged me that they’d gotten a message from the executive board. A second has since confirmed that they spoke. I have no idea how many they reached of the other 15 people I recommended speaking with, but it has become clear to me that they had only recently begun trying. I know at least two people were not able to reply to the executive board’s email in the short window of time available.
For my part, I was shocked to receive the following email at 11:49 am, on the morning of the September 23, 2018 Arisia corporate elections meeting. This email was sent 11 minutes before the meeting started.
The following statement will be made at the September Arisia Corp meeting:
The outgoing Eboard resolved the last two incident reports that have been brought before the Eboard to go through our disciplinary process. Notice about them will be submitted to go into the next Mentor with 12 days notice and reported on at the October meeting.
The notice for the incident involving you will be:
During Readercon 2017, the Arisia ’18 Conchair received information regarding reports of possible Code of Conduct issues that happened five or so years ago and elevated them to the Executive Board after the 2017 Annual Meeting. Because of the time that has passed and sensitive nature of the concerns, and the availability of witnesses, the investigation took place in fits and starts throughout the year.
Due to the complexity of the situation the Executive Board has decided to request that the two parties stay away from each other at all Arisia events and is taking no further action on this IR.
Noel Rosenberg will be named at the meeting, but not listed in Mentor. Your name will not be brought up and will not be printed in Mentor.
Please let us know if you have any questions.
Arisia Eboard Member-at-Large
Due to them sending this email eleven minutes prior to the meeting in question, I had insufficient time to even decide whether to attend the meeting in person, let alone have any emotional space before the public announcement process began. In the grand scheme of things, this is such a minor detail, but it was so unkind and, if intentional, it was cruel.
Then, the executive board DID disclose my name to the corporate members present at the meeting, in direct violation of the Arisia Code of Conduct on the website and contrary to the above email. I don’t know who disclosed my name, but Sharon Sbarsky (as above, a member of the executive board, and the only member of the executive board to attend the meeting I had with the incident response team in April 2018) told me that they did so “since you requested that this be announced, and [Rosenberg] also requested it.” I never requested that my name be disclosed to the corporate members or to Rosenberg, to be absolutely clear, and that is in violation of their own policy.
Rosenberg was re-elected as Arisia president less than 2 hours later.
I don’t think any of this followed the new reporting process on the Arisia website, but I’m particularly bitter to note that step 7 of their instructions to staff taking a report is “Find out if there is a specific action being requested or an action that would remedy any harm that has taken place.”
I don’t recall such a question being asked of me. Certainly, I do not feel that this process has benefited me or the Arisia community in any way. It significantly harmed me to relive all of these events in recounting them, and to what end?
15. Even the follow-up after the announcement prioritizes and is supportive of Rosenberg.
In the day after this announcement, I texted Ben Levy, another member of the current executive board, and a person who I thought was my friend. I said, “Is this a decision you personally agree with? That the solution is to be told to stay away from each other, which I’ve been doing for the past several years by myself by absenting myself more and more from Arisia? Like, I’ve not attended anything related to Arisia in about 3 years.”
I received his reply, “With 4,000 people at the convention, it should be possible to attend and still stay away from each other.”
I wrote, “And yet, the last time I was at Arisia, he got in the elevator with me and stared at me the whole ride.”
“If something like that happens again, please let the IRT know,” came Ben’s answer.
Having told the IRT and the executive board that I was raped, then stalked, and intimidated at Arisia and in other fandom spaces over the past several years … what, a new complaint would cinch it for them? That seems ludicrous, and monstrously unfair to me. I must expose myself to further bad behavior in order for Arisia to take it seriously, because what happened up until this point was insufficient?
In addition, this response clearly assumes that I will not attend Arisia corporate meetings (of which I have continued to be a member, despite not feeling comfortable attending for several years) nor smaller staff events, some of which have had only 10 or 15 attendees. Arisia’s response is tone-deaf and shows complete disregard for my safety or comfort.
No plan or suggestion to make it easier for me to rejoin anything with regard to Arisia has ever been presented, throughout this entire process.
None of the members of the executive board asked me how I was doing or if I was okay, in the wake of their decision.
I’m left to assume that either Arisia leadership doesn’t believe me, or they don’t care that they’ve re-elected my rapist as their president.
16. Organizationally, I do not think Arisia was prepared to deal with this situation.
For years, I’ve told myself I would not talk about this in public because I was not up for the emotional toll.
In the year of Trump and the week of Kavanaugh hearings, however, I am fucking done being silent.
Arisia leadership wanted to have an official report from me on what happened? This is my report. It contains the things I already told them over the past several years, most of which I have had to repeat several times over the past three years, in particular. The difference now is that I’m not quietly waiting for them to quietly do something about the situation. I’m not quietly hoping that Arisia doesn’t want to have a rapist as their president.
I am angry, writing this. Especially after the horror show Kavanaugh hearings, which happened at the same time as Arisia announced this decision, I am incandescently angry. I have tried to tone down my language here because, as everyone knows, an angry person isn’t believed or cared for or prioritized unless they are a cis dude.
I don’t know that writing this will actually solve anything. But I’m tired of hoping that Arisia, as an organization, will try to be better than any other institution built in rape culture.
… and finally, perhaps my rapist wins because I haven’t known what to do about all this. If I could list some wishes, however, I think these are chief among them:
I would like an apology from Arisia, as an organization, and from the individuals in leadership who I trusted over the years with pieces of what happened. (To be absolutely clear, I continue to wish to never receive any further communications from my rapist. Just to be completely, utterly clear.)
I would like the members of the Arisia executive board who supported this decision to resign. Immediately.
I would like Arisia as a community to decide they do not, in fact, want a rapist as their president or in a position of authority over their staff, but especially not as a manager of their fucking safety response team, or in oversight of the incident responses. Fire and ban Rosenberg. He’s again been appointed as the division head to whom The Watch (the Arisia name for their safety team) reports to at-con, and he’s been re-elected as president, which means he’s also involved in the oversight of all “complex” incident reports that are referred to the executive board. He “recused himself” from the vote on this matter, I’m told.
I wish that you, the person reading this, would commit to not attending Arisia or working on the staff of Arisia or presenting on panels at Arisia until changes are made and my rapist is no longer the president of Arisia or involved in any way with senior leadership or staff of the event.
I wish that people would hold Arisia accountable for this.If you feel that these events were bad, and that Arisia leadership has treated me badly, I would appreciate it if you would say so. You could tag @arisia on Twitter, or post to the Fans of Arisia Facebook page. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org. (Please be aware that I think the people who are operating the social media of the convention probably have no idea that this has been happening, and they are humans who don’t deserve harassment.)
I would like an official reexamination of how Arisia actually implements its code of conduct, in light of how it so spectacularly failed to even follow its own procedures, here. Preferably a reexamination with someone who has professional skills in this area, like Sage Sharp of Otter Technology.
I would like all members of Arisia staff to take trauma-informed training on how to respond to an incident. (When I was chair, we used to optionally offer such a training through BARCC, but I don’t know if this is still done, and it is clear at any rate that it’s insufficient.)
As my friend Vicka likes to say, “Don’t hang around with people who make you feel like shit.”
To those of you I told who have treated me kindly and supported me, I thank you. To those of you who I didn’t trust with this story or some details, whether out of fear of not being believed or due to exhaustion (the topic is, understandably, rather draining to revisit), I am sorry you’re hearing of it this way. I hope you understand.
I put over a decade of my life into Arisia. Closer to two decades, actually. Yet even after the work I did for the convention, and in the middle of the public discourse about #MeToo and #TimesUp, the very week that the Kavanaugh hearings began, Arisia announced this decision, that my rapist was more important than I am and that Arisia as an organization would continue to have a rapist as their president. Arisia would have to do a lot of work before I’d ever consider trusting them with my time or my safety again. I’m not sure it’s possible, after this.
This is why I have absented myself from Arisia, for those of you who’ve been asking. This is why I’m gone.
I’d ask you to consider who else has been missing, and why. Others have even worse stories than mine, but they are not my stories to tell. This is not the first time I’ve heard of Arisia’s safety team telling someone to “just avoid your rapist for the weekend.” If nothing changes, it won’t be the last, either.
52 thoughts on “Why I’m Not At Arisia Anymore: My Rapist is President. Again.”
Hi Crystal, thank you so much for publicly posting this. I am completely appalled by this but, sadly, not terribly surprised based on some of my experiences with certain members of Arisia as well the experiences of a friend. As I am a board member of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, I will be bringing a motion to ban Noel from our convention.
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Time to put heart into a competing safer event, preferably at that same time for people who get tired of the constant vigilance it takes to be safe.
Oh Crystal, I am so sorry. I had no idea he had gone that far, and it was practically brushed over at the annual meeting. I completely agree, he should not be allowed to be part of Arisia (and having gotten the same run around from senior staffers when I was stalked, I completely believe you on this). I am already upset with the IR process personally, and will definitely be working on this in the future. Dr. Karen
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I’m so sorry, Crystal. I was completely unaware of the existence of this whole thing. I’m linking to this, and am outraged, and hope that public outrage forces enough change that I can feel comfortable going to Arisia, and you can, too.
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I am sorry for your experience, you are not alone in the initial situation he put you through. My rapist similarly penetrated me without a condom against my wishes, and then went on to be someone who was running kink-community events and munches in my area. I told others about it, and while they believed me, they still went to his munches, they still went to his events. I don’t speak to any of them anymore and have had to distance myself from the local kink community because of it. A different asshat who raped me has been allowed to stalk me at a kink convention, where I was similarly told to “avoid him” so unfortunately that meant avoiding the con all together, after having been a volunteer and knowing the people running it closely, and my rapist being someone who no one knew from adam, had no standing in the community, and has been confirmed as serially abusing his partners for years, yet they didn’t do anything to stop him from hovering around me at the event…
I am sending e-hugs of love from my screen to yours, no one should have to deal with this, but thank you for coming forward about it, as I was intending to attend for the first time this year, I won’t be now.
(signing here with an alias)
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Thank you for speaking up. And hugs. This changes things. And it may be time for a big change within Arisia too.
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The BARCC training was offered again in 2018. I do not know anything about 2019 plans.
I confess I tried to get two other people to run. I am, alas, overcommitted. I did not feel it appropriate to share many details.
Thank you for sharing this.
This year was supposed to be my first time at Arisia, after my local convention scene turned out to have been harboring an abuser. To see this same issue crop up in a convention that was highly recommended for its feminism and valuing of consent is so disheartening.
Will be looking into whether getting a refund for my ticket is an option. 😦
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Sorry to hear this I loved this convention once apon a time.
I feel somehow complicit, because there was another awful person on security staff and I simply avoided Arisia till I knew I didn’t have to run into him. I thought that this meant that condescension to women wasn’t part of the culture of Arisia, or was at least no longer the culture of Arisia. I’m really sorry.
This has been painful to read. It has also, as I wept, offered me a sense of relief. Relief that I am not alone in what I went through and that someone far braver than I stood up for herself. Regardless of the end result, knowing that you had the courage to do what I never did gives me hope and some measure of comfort.
Thank you for speaking. I believe you. I support you. I had hoped to attend Arisia for the first time soon but I will not do so until they have taken steps to make these changes. I will also continue to advocate at my own home con and use my position there to make sure we never put anyone through this sort of pain.
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Crystal, your story is devastating and you have so much courage for sharing it with us. You didn’t deserve any of that to happen to you. I run a small organization called the Cosplayer Survivor Support Network, originally formed to provide support for survivors of stalking, harassment, abuse, or assault, and are cosplayers; some of our goals moving forward have been improving convention policies to include better protection for all (because Cosplay Is Not Consent is NOT a policy, and hot damn, it didn’t help you AT ALL). We mostly attend anime/gaming cons, but I suspected other cons were bad, too. Reading your account, I’m horrified. You’ve hit all the major gaps, and one I’ve been angrier and angrier about lately: cons not caring about offenders/abusers/predators/etc. unless it happens on their property at the con itself. That, and also that there are MANY con chairs who are offenders/abusers/predators themselves, and it feels impossible to win safety measures at those cons I believe you. We at CSSN believe you.
I’d love to talk with you about what we’re trying to do if you’re interested, but even if you’re not, know that I’m absolutely carrying your torch as we strive to make cons safer for survivors and those who would become survivors. Thank you again for sharing. It means more than you know.
Are you only in one region or are you nationwide? If you have a West Coast presence I’d love to chat.
programming at baycon dot org will reach me.
Those people were not your friends. I’m sharing your post via my personal platforms. I hope you find the justice you deserve.
I’m heartbroken, disappointed, and facing many feelings right now related to how betrayed you were by the systems that were supposed to be in place to help and protect you. I loved Arisia but this is obviously unconscionable. How can I help to support you? How can I help you reclaim your space?
I am so sorry you are experiencing such horrible treatment. You deserve better and I hope you are finding it elsewhere.
Hi Crystal, I’m not sure if my comment was lost to technology or is awaiting moderation, so here’s a brief redux:
Thank you for posting this. As a survivor of stalking and rape, I recognized my own experiences in your words. You helped me feel stronger, less alone, and more hopeful.
I haven’t attended Arisia in years because I don’t like being at large events where pervasive sexual harassment is the norm, and will continue to not attend. I’ll copy this to the Arisia board via the info email you shared.
(I think WordPress ate my original comment.)
I don’t know if I can get a refund or enact change, but I tweeted #BanTheRapist at @arisia. I hope it helps.
I’m sorry that Arisia didn’t take you seriously and give you the respect you deserve. Thank you for speaking up about this broken stair.
How awful! I’m sorry that people you trusted and thought of as friends let you down in such a continuous, exhausting and angering way.
I had been planning on going to Arisia this year, but I definitely won’t be now.
In this day and age, conduct like his is utterly unacceptable. At any level, what he did, was abominable. Whether it was a criminal act at the time in the state, it was a violation of your agreements and the moment you objected to it being violated it became rape. Everything after that is classic stalking mentality. As a former LEO, I strongly advise you to never be in a situation where there is a chance that you could be caught alone with this person. I do suggest getting a restraining order, if that is still possible. Please know that there are still many other regional Cons that would love to have you come attend. https://www.confusionsf.org is held every January in Michigan and has become the premiere LitCon. Notables such as John Scalzi,
Amal El-Mohtar, Annalee Flower Horne, Jim Hines, Kate Elliott, Yanni Kuznia, Geralyn Lance,
Cherie M. Priest, Nisi Shawl, and many other people return year after year stating that this is their favorite convention. Confusion is going into its 45th year and is still going strong.
We have strong anti-harassment policies (https://2019.confusionsf.org/policies/) that we take very seriously. We would be happy to see you at Confusion in January if you have time.
AASFA board member & V.P.
Confusion ConCom – Programming Operations
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I highly recommend ConFusion in Michigan in January. It was my home convention for approximately 20 years until I moved last year, and the ONLY reason I am no longer attending ConFusion is because I now live in Florida and money is too tight to fly back right now.
Thank you so much for coming forward with your story. I am a scientist in training who has been on science education panels at Arisia in the past and was looking forward to doing so this coming year. I will now not be attending unless Rosenberg is removed and policies are instated to prevent this from happening again, including removing any other sex offenders from the leadership.
You don’t know me. I don’t know you. But I believe you, and I will not be attending Arisia.
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I Am Now Decidedly Displeased With Arisia.
My household and I have mostly been away from everything due to family and other considerations, but this year I felt I had enough energy and time to attend and volunteer. I put in to help Arisia with some pre-con work, Innkeeping.
If they cannot provide a solution suitable to you, I cannot work for the organization. This would be true whether I knew you or not; but I do know you, and I do respect you, and a threat to your well-being is not something I would ignore.
I hadn’t attended in a couple of years for reasons of my own (family and finances) so knew nothing of this. I had planned to return this year, bringing friends from DC with me because I love Arisia so much. It’s not happening now. Let me know if I can help in any way.
The original incident shouldn’t have happened. But once it happened, Arisia should have stuck to its own policies and dealt with this correctly. I’m so sorry it happened to you.
Hugs, my dear.
Thank you for your courage and commitment in posting this. Arisia has been my favorite convention for 20 years and it hurts to see this ugly underbelly in a convention that seemed to set the standard for diversity and awareness. I hope Arisia gets its act together, but, even more I hope you are safe and are able to continue healing and taking care of yourself.
I haven’t been to Arisia in years, so I can’t meaningfully offer to boycott. But I wanted to post and say #metoo, and I’m so sorry that this has happened to you — all of it, from the initial rape to the gaslighting to the disappointing community response. You deserve better.
I don’t recall ever going to an Arisia-run con (though I’ve been to so many that I can’t be sure), but I have a suggestion about how to deal with this sort of problem. Plenty of fans can remember, all these years later, the con when I got into a fistfight with Jordin Kare, and knocked him down. After that, con-coms everywhere took care to keep JK away from *me*. A reputation for competent “vi-o-lence” can be wonderfully useful.
I’m saddened and deeply disappointed to hear about this
I believe you. I am sorry you’ve had to go through this.
I don’t attend Arisia, but some members of my family do and some of them were planning on attending this year. I’ve asked them them not to. One of them has already bought a ticket; I’ve suggested that she ask for a refund, and justify her request by saying, “I am not comfortable attending a con where the person in charge of the safety and security of the guests is a rapist.”
I know your pain. My spouse’s rapist was allowed to be a part of a medical team working for a Boston anime con a couple years ago, and she attacked him multiple times using her ‘authority’ as an excuse for betting near him in the first place. The con had originally banned her, so it wasn’t the con’s fault this happened. They actually tried to prevent it.
And there is another abuser on Arisia staff. But he was emotionally abusive. He thankfully never got as far as sexual abuse. He stalked her too.
You should still file for a restraining order. It is never too late, and you still have the evidence. If you live in the Northshore area, I suggest contacting HAWC. They are good people whip can help you every step of the way. Their main office number is:978.744.8552 their 24hr hotline is:800.547.1649 And their website is http://www.hawcdv.org
I hear you, I see you, I believe you. I stand in solidarity with you as a survivor.
I’d been looking forward to attending my second Arisia this year. No longer – not unless every con staff member who failed you resigns. I wish I could send you replacement spoons for all the ones they forced you to spend. We’ve only met a few times but I believe you unreservedly.
Leslie — I wouldn’t call committing assault on someone a good strategy at all. That’s also something you can be kicked out of a con for . . . or sued. If you have to fight to defend yourself, that’s one thing, but picking a fight only opens you up to all kinds of consequences.
Those of us in the sf/f community like to think of ourselves as the cutting edge of diversity acceptance. That this continued to happen to you in 2017/18 is unconscionable. That women were complicit in it is horrible. It reminds me of church and/or workplace abuse, where herd mentality reigns and a few people at the top tell everyone what is and is not acceptable.
If you are ever at a con and this man is also there, and he seeks you out and stares at you, get a restraining order. If he ever walks by your house again or loiters anywhere close to you, get a restraining order. Do not fool around with making reports to con safety staff. The stalking you describe is beyond what con safety staff can handle. Inform them once a restraining order is in place.
I hope that writing this has empowered you and helped you get back on the road to recovering your sense of safety. No woman should feel unsafe at a con. The con leadership owes you a huge apology.
“I wish that you, the person reading this, would commit to not attending Arisia,”
“I wish that people would hold Arisia accountable for this.If you feel that these events were bad… say so.”
I am horrified and appalled at Arisia’ ‘presidential’ behavior.
I believe you.
I feel awful, I have been attending and recommending Arisia to everyone I know for over 15 years, after hearing your horror story and seeing others responses I won’t be doing that anymore…. I am sorry for what you went through and hope the good energy of those who’ve written help to heal you and bring you some measure of peace.
I am so sorry this happened to you. As a survivor who was raped at a convention, I fully agree with not attending again. May this bring the change we need.
Thank you for thinking you were important enough to act on your own behalf when so many people told you that you were not. It helps all of us who have decreased our attendance or just wondered away from scenes after having been told nearly identical things over and over while watching our or our friend’s assaulters continue to be welcome at social events and face no consequences because the resulting post traumatic stress we face is just not as important as protecting the perps. The extra added bonus of discrediting us, dismissing us as trouble makers, drama queens, or socially divisive really hammers the message in until we do have to leave. It’s an old and common story. Can’t hurt the perp’s future. Our own is not so important. We are just expected to suck it up until our lives are irreparably damaged from it.
The whole stalking thing from someone who believes themself to be a good person while at the same time discrediting you as they tell people that you are crazy because you dared ask for space when they did not believe your reason to be sufficient is particularly resonant. Clearly, asking for space does not wind up being rewarded with the granting of space unless we really push it and often not even then; it’s more likely punished with the “crazy” branding while we end up more alienated and leaving seems our only option. So is the situation of the friends who conveniently decide to believe in the “you are crazy/bad break-up theory” because it preserves their connection with people they find more valuable than you and keeps in tact their sense of reality so they don’t have to examine themselves or the status quo and their decisions within it’s context. Or because folks are sore at you for other things and are happy to see you punished in whatever way out of vindictiveness. It’s pretty ancient. And we wonder that our country has the president that it does. We’ve normalized it.
Thanks for vocally, loudly, and courageously fighting this. Respect. I sincerely hope Arisia heals itself and that you are somehow made to feel comfortable going again, particularly after your years of service. I have left spaces after receiving similar treatment and have never gone back despite so many people trying to get me to–the problem is pretty widespread. Sometimes trust is just irreparably broken. My own experiences have made me shut down to a pretty strong degree and have for many years, thus further decreasing my value to social groups because I don’t show who I am much anymore; I often feel it’s just not worth the effort/pain. I so hope the same thing does not happen to you. Thank you again.