We interrupt your regularly schedule Cosplay posts with a very important personal safety announcement/affirmation.
You, a cosplayer, are allowed to say no to any situation you are uncomfortable with. You are entitled to say “NO” to these situations.
Last week several cosplayers stepped forward with allegations that a prominent Canadian cosplay photographer has manipulated and groomed them in the past for sexual favours. Since then, more cosplayers have added their own accounts of similar behaviour, either experienced first hand or through friends who felt too uncomfortable to speak publicly about what happened.
To say that this is a blow to the community is an understatement. This photographer was well regarded by others in the community and has had work featured on Cultress, Kotaku and more major geekdom sites. I’ve never met them personally, but I’m sure that even if I had, I would have no idea that these allegations existed. Do I believe it’s possible? Absolutely. At this point so many individuals have stepped forward with similar stories that it’s hard to ignore even if I wanted to. (I don’t.)
This got me thinking about my experiences last year in the workplace. I wasn’t being coherced into anything, but my boss at the time was using a lot of the usual predatory tactics in an effort to get me to quit or get fired. I’m lucky, I’m older than most of the girls who’ve told their stories (some were as young as 14-15!), I have a solid support network of friends and family, and I had a paper trail. But there’s still some things that I learned that might be useful to someone, somewhere. I hope that they will help at lease one person.
Predators use Guilt like Paula Deen uses Butter
“I’m trying to work with you here.”
“I don’t know why you’re being so aggressive.”
“You’re making me do this.”
“It’s your fault I’m XYZ”
ahem. Let’s say this once. It is NOT your fault you are uncomfortable. It is NOT your fault that the person saying this is feeling XYZ unless you actually hit them with your car or something. (Protip: Don’t hit them with your car, no matter how much you might want to).
I’ll let the lady-bae Cassandra Portia Calogera Filomena Pentaghast guide you on how to respond to these guilt trips. (Let her guide you on many things.)
When someone tries to guilt you into something Tell them to…
“Deal. With. It.”
Guilt is powerful, that’s why they’re trying to guilt you into doing something for them. You are NOT the problem. You are NOT the cause of the problem. THEY ARE.
By the end of my time at my old job, no one on the floor would make eye contact with me. Tool #2 of predators and abusers is isolation. See, if they treat everyone as badly as they’re treating you, it’s harder for them to operate. Instead, they act nice and friendly and kind to the majority of people. That way their chosen target feels that they have nowhere to turn when the abuser starts grooming them or pressuring them into things they are uncomfortable with.
“Maybe I’m the problem,” we might think to ourselves. “I’m the only one who’s having any trouble with this person.”
Guess what? It’s pretty likely that you’re not. Abusers cycle. If you look around chances are you’ll find someone else who’s been or going through the same thing as you. It’ll be hard, I know, but there’s people out here who will believe you. And yes, there will be some that won’t, for many reasons. Maybe they don’t want to believe someone they’ve invested friendship in can be that terrible, or… who knows. It doesn’t matter.
You are NOT alone. Don’t let them make you think that you are. If you need to talk to someone anonymously, contact your local crisis line, or look for a support group related to what you’re experiencing.
Predators Gaslight like it’s 1899
“You said you would do this.”
“Why are you changing your mind? You were okay with this when we talked last time.”
“But we’re such good friends.”
This one’s tough. Predators will make you doubt yourself, second guess your decisions. It’s hard to stick to your guns, and that’s where paperwork comes in. Cosplay’s avoided it until now, but I think it’s time to introduce release forms to cosplay photoshoots. It clearly outlines the terms for the shoot, who owns what, what is owed, who is involved. That way later if a predator comes up and tells you that you ‘owe’ them for those free pictures, staple that form to their fore- er, don’t do that. Point out the terms of the contract to them.
This one sucks.
I’m not going to try to sugar coat it. They lie. And they lie to people about you, and try to make sure that you’re no longer considered trustworthy to people whose opinions you care about.
Sometimes, you’ve got evidence to back you up. Sometimes you don’t, and that sucks harder because you’re stuck with telling ‘your side’ aka the truth, and it’s up to everyone else to decide who to believe.
The only way to avoid this is to keep a paper trail. It sucks extra hard because all the work is on us. If you don’t feel comfortable with a potential predator, don’t be alone with them. If they try the guilt thing, say you don’t feel comfortable being alone with them. They’ll probably try the guilt thing again, but try to use that as evidence to bolster your resolve. It’s not easy, but it’s better than the alternative.
I wish we didn’t have to have checklists on how to deal with shit people like this. I wish that it just didn’t happen, but it does.
What can we do if we’re not the one being targeted?
- If you see something, say something
- Ask if someone’s okay if they look uncomfortable
- Call out the predator’s bullshit
- Back up a target if they say they aren’t okay with something the predator’s doing.
- Reassure the target that the predator is being shitty and that it’s okay to be angry/uncomfortable/upset.
- A friend/acquaintance might not be able to speak up for themselves. Offer them an way out that’s non-confrontational. “Hey want to go grab food?” or “Wanna get coffee?” are good go-to’s.
If you’re going through something like this, or have gone through something like this, take a deep breath. You can keep going. There’s a better situation on the other side of it, and people that believe you.
PS – Cassandra Pentaghast is (c) to Bioware. I don’t own her. But she is amazing.
We return to our regular posts tomorrow,