Part 2: Developing Solutions
Yesterday I shared my observation that we can do a better job in addressing issues of harassment and sexual violence within our respective LARP/Gamer/Fandom communities. Today, I’d like to share with you a couple of things that we can do to try and move forward. This is not by any means an exhaustive list, and I would encourage you to share additional ideas and suggestions in the comments.
The first thing that we need to do is acknowledge that this problem exists. We need to avoid the blame game on why this has gone on for so long, and focus on what we can do going forward.
As for the specifics on “what can we do?”, here’s my list:
We need to educate our community about consent.
High-immersion LARPs are on the rise. In the early days of parlor LARPS, we were able to get away with having a “no touching” rule. At this point, such a protocol is like abstinence-only sex education – too restricting to be realistic. We need to teach LARPers how to communicate what level of physical touch is acceptable in various scenes, and how to break the scene to reassess physical boundaries if one of the participants feels uncomfortable.
Every LARP – from troupe games to full networks – need to have an anti-harassment policy.
Even though we are adults, sometimes we have to make doubly clear what is considered inappropriate behavior. That way, if and when something happens, we can point to the line that we drew in the proverbial sand and show how it has been crossed.
Incident response needs to focus on the safety of the victim, and include law enforcement when necessary.
When I refer to the “safety of the victim”, I speak of their mental, emotional, and physical safety. That means having individuals who are trained to help someone through a potentially traumatic experience. This means having people who can walk the victim through their legal options if needed, and who can serve as an advocate. It means being willing to keep their identity anonymous if asked, and pursuing in-club corrective action even if they do not wish to press legal charges.
We need to be willing to tell assailants to leave.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to those who commit sexual harassment or assault within the LARP community. Some feel very strongly that we need to ban any perpetrator with extreme prejudice. Their logic is that by allowing them to remain within the community, we are sending the message that the “value” that this person provides to the community is worth more than protecting the victim (and other future targets) from additional harm. It furthers the image that perpetrators receive a “slap on the wrist” response to their actions.
The challenge with this is how realistic this approach is. How many of those who rally for such a wholesale ban would actually do so if the perpetrator ends up being a long-time friend? Would they still support such a ban (and potentially put a strain on said friendship), or would they try to seek a way to bring that person back into the fold?
This leads me to the second school of thought regarding how to move forward after an incident occurs: to review each situation on a case-by-case. There are some habitual assailants who may not be able to (or aren’t willing to) change, and we should not feel guilty for cutting them out of our LARPs. However, there are those who can be reformed with enough time and effort. There are members of our community whose sexist thoughts and behaviors are a product of their culture and upbringing. Some may not be aware that their attitudes towards women contribute towards an unsafe and uncomfortable LARP environment. This is where male allies are vital in providing a solution – they are often the ones who are able to get through to these individuals and show them how their thoughts and behaviors are hurtful and guide them on how to be better.
While the latter option (treating situations on a “case by case” basis) acknowledges that people can change and gives them the opportunity to do so, the LARP must weigh the risk of the perpetrator harassing and assaulting others in the future, and how their community may be perceived for allowing the assailant to remain among them. It is also important to take the wishes of the assailant’s victim into account; if they do not feel comfortable with the perpetrator remaining part of the community/club, then the LARP should follow through with banning that individual. Doing otherwise sends the message that the wishes (and emotional well-being) of the victim do not matter.
Jessica is one of the founders and president of The Hidden Parlor, a World of Darkness LARP network dedicated to supporting the in-person LARP experience and creating a cohesive setting while empowering players and storytellers at a local level. In addition to her executive duties for the club, she is also their Arch-Technomancer (web developer) and graphic designer. Her support of the fandom community extends to CONvergence – an annual science fiction/fandom convention – where she helps oversee the care and feeding of hundreds of hungry volunteers. When not trying to save the world (one geek at a time), she portrays her Child of Gaia at the local werewolf LARP (The Last Stand: part of The Garou Nation), plays 16-bit video games, and tends to her three cats (Pirate, Ninja, and Doc Holliday)