With 2014 closer than ever, the biggest question that conventions will have to answer is how they will deal with harassment of their attendees. From the stories that made the front page of websites, to the ones that should’ve made the front pages, 2013 has brought an increased awareness about this unpleasant reality and how it affects those who have been victimized by harassment or worse. Unfortunately, 2013 is ending with another example of an incident that could have been easily prevented with more awareness.
On the weekend of October 25th, the 2013 edition of Aki Con was one of several “geek-centric” events that took place over the first of two Halloween weekends. Despite the show’s youth (2013 was its 6th edition) and relatively small size (2012 attendance was estimated to be around 3.500); the convention has gained a dubious reputation due to past incidents. Last year, multiple sources reported numerous problems in 2012’s artist alley, including the alley’s location, security concerns and poor conditions which caused sickness in several artists. In addition, Aki Con’s parent company Manga Kissasten has gained a reputation as being a bootleg seller and was reportedly kicked out of Sakuracon (one of the bigger Anime Conventions in the country) for such actions.
This year’s Aki Con was marred by yet another alleged incident. On the night of October 26th, one of the Cosplay Guests, whom some reports claim was a minor, claimed that a DJ of the event got her drunk and raped her. While a police report was filed, and the victim’s blood work tested positive for flunitrazepam, it’s unclear if police have moved forward with the investigation or not. What makes this incident worse is that, prior to the convention, several attendees discovered that the DJ had been previously convicted of sexual misconduct and served 4 years of a 6 year prison sentence. While Aki Con was warned of the DJ's past, it chose to move forward with his involvement, driven perhaps by the DJ’s past employment and friendship with Aki Con administrators.
For more than month, Aki Con remained silent about the event as rumors of the alleged incident grew. After the alleged victim released a video detailing her experience, Aki Con released a statement responding to the incident:
It has come to the public light thru a YouTube video that an underage young woman who was a member of the a (Coplay group), guests of our convention claims to have be sexual assaulted by another guest in a private hotel room.
Aki con did in fact know of the situation and advised the young woman and man in question to contact the police. Aki con’s guest liaison stayed with the young woman to aid her when the police arrived to take her statement and the other person's statement. After that this became a police matter, Aki con has no further information nor will Aki con be releasing information to the public as the persons (underage victim and accused) in question are entitled to privacy. Aki con advises all attendees to make good choice, stay with friends and trust loved ones. Aki con has rules against underage drinking and drug use but Aki con can’t control what attendees or guests or even other guests of the venue do in private rooms and remains a neutral party as the incident in question happened in a private hotel room. I would advise all persons not to pass judge on either party as you don’t know the details or circumstance. As for the accused In America everyone is “innocent until it can be proved that you are guilty.” and thus we will leave the rest up to the judicial system. It is upsetting that these things happen in every setting whether at work, school, concerts, churches etc. and that is why Aki con advises all attendees to make good choices and be safe. We live in a wonderful and dangerous world and to think that this doesn’t seep into our little anime world would be foolish. Our thoughts have been with the young woman in question and we hope that both parties get the help they deserve.
On first glance, the quote seems like a pretty standard, if rough, statement about the event in question. However, many have found fault with the response, pointing out that it engages in victim shaming while passing off responsibility of the incident to the attendees. Needless to say, Aki Con will have a lot to answer for over the next several months, which will be covered by The Outhouse. With that being said, there are a couple of reasons beyond the incident itself why we have decided to report on this story, the first centered on Aki Con itself.
Throughout its brief history, this has been a convention that has repeatedly gotten things wrong. To further establish that claim, 2012’s show was not the first the convention has held attractions in dangerous conditions. The convention was nicknamed “Garagecon” in 2009, after the event was held in a hotel garage. With such a dubious history, it is easy to see why the convention got kicked out of its previous hotel. In addition, choosing to hire a sexual offender after learning about his past also raises some questions. Even if one acknowledges that the laws pertaining to sexual offenders may sometimes seem unfair against those they target, the laws are in place for a reason. Considering the nature of who is present at conventions, the minute they learned of the situation, the executive staff of Aki Con had a responsibility to protect its attendees and take steps to prevent any unnecessary tragedies. At the very least, Aki Con is culpable of creating an environment that allowed the aforementioned incident to happen.
This incident is an all too grim reminder of where an evironment that condones or ignores sexual misconduct can lead, and it is my hope that by shedding light on this story, more light bulbs go off in the heads of those who are still undecided as to whether this is a major issue. Despite New Years usually being a time where many vow to reset their lives, this story needs to serve as a reminder why it would be extremely dangerous for the geek community to sweep this under the rug. With 2014, a mere 22 days from now, I hope this story spurs convention decision makers to tackle this issue head on. Anything less would make it all the easier for new stories of this type to rage on.