Readercon Procedures for Addressing Reported Violations of the Code of Conduct

These procedures are in effect as of 7/1/2013. Readercon's safety committee (safecom) and convention committee (concom) will annually review these procedures and amend them as needed.

Who receives reports?

Initial reports can be made to any concom member or directly to the reports number. A report can also be made to the info desk, or to whoever is staffing con suite. If the staffer who receives the report is not a concom member, they should immediately report it to a concom member; if a concom member is not in the immediate vicinity, the staffer should ask the person making the report to either wait for a concom member to arrive, accompany the staffer while they find a concom member, or provide contact information so the concom member can speak with them.

How do we handle reports made at the convention?

If a concom member receives the initial report

The concom member will:

  1. Ask whether the person making the report needs medical care, and call 911 or the Operation Hammond number if they do. (If the person appears to be injured or in shock but refuses medical care, call Operation Hammond so a trained medic can assess their state. We cannot force medical care on anyone unless it's an emergency, but some emergencies are not immediately visible to laypeople.)
  2. Ask the person what can be done to help them feel safe in the moment.
  3. Ask the person to relocate to the designated quiet space or to a quiet space of the person's choosing (such as their hotel room or a friend's room).
  4. Invite the person to call a partner, friend, or other supporter if they don't already have someone with them.
  5. Tell the person that the concom member is going to make a call that will summon two responders: a listener and a procedures person.
  6. Call the reports number.
  7. Wait with the person until both of the responders arrive.

When the responders arrive, the procedures person will ask whether the person making the report would rather the concom member stay or leave, and abide by those wishes.

If the person making the report calls the reports number

The call will reach the responders directly. They will begin with the above steps 1–4 over the phone, ask the individual to withdraw to a location where they feel safe or provide directions to designated quiet space, and remain on the phone with the individual until they are all in the same space.

Once the responders have met the person making the report

The two responders will:

  1. Identify themselves and their roles (listener and procedures person), and make certain that the person making the report is comfortable with both individuals handling the report and vice versa. If there are concerns, summon alternates.

The listener will:

  1. Confirm that the person making the report has received any appropriate medical care or other urgent care, and help them get anything they still need. All other actions will be delayed until the person's immediate needs are met.
  2. Explain that the listener's job is to listen to, support, and advocate for the person making the report.
  3. State that the responders may disclose the name of the person making the report or the nature of the report to the safety committee, involved members of the concom, and any witnesses who are asked to provide information to Readercon regarding the report. In addition, if there is no way to take action regarding the report without revealing the person's name to the subject of the report, and if Readercon's safety committee chair decides that taking action is necessary for the safety of convention attendees, the name of the person making the report may be disclosed to the subject of the report. Readercon will protect the person's confidentiality in all other respects.
  4. State that there will be no reprisals from Readercon for making or not making a report.
  5. State that they are available to help the person making the report if they would like support with actions such as:
    1. Involving hotel security (through whom the police can be contacted).
    2. Calling the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) hotline (the listener can provide the number) or other hotline.
    3. Seeking medical treatment via Operation Hammond, calling 911, or going to a hospital.

The procedures person will:

  1. Explain that the procedures person's job is to handle practical matters so the listener can provide support without distraction.
  2. Provide a sheet summarizing Readercon's procedures for handling reported code of conduct violations, including a URL for the complete procedures document.
  3. State that we only handle reports pertaining to code of conduct violations.
  4. State that if the procedures person feels that the subject of the report poses an active danger to con-goers, they will need to take action.
  5. Outline possible immediate actions, subject to ratification by the safety committee chair or their designated alternate:
    1. Summoning witnesses to obtain more information about what occurred.
    2. Banning the subject of the report from the convention currently taking place.
    3. Telling the subject of the report they are required to modify their behavior (e.g. stop doing a problematic thing, avoid a person or people).
    4. Involving hotel security.
    5. Involving local law enforcement.
  6. State that after the convention, the safety committee chair will convene a working group of 4–6 people, including both responders, and that group will determine whether to take any long-term action.
  7. State that if action is going to be taken, the procedures person will have to disclose the identity of the person making the report, and provide a summary of the report, to the subject of the report. If this disclosure is made, we will instruct the subject of the report not to approach the person who has made the report.

If, after these statements, the person wishes to continue with their report, the two first responders will listen to the report. The procedures person will be responsible for taking notes. Both responders will follow SEEK (Safety, Empowerment, Empathy, Knowledge) guidelines.

After the report is made

The listener will:

  1. Offer to let the person making the report stay in the quiet space for as long as they would like.
  2. Ask the person if they would like to summon a supportive person (if they haven't already) before they return to the convention.
  3. Ask the person for their phone number and email address.
  4. Provide the listener's own contact information and make certain the person making the report understands that at any point during the convention, they can call the listener or the BARCC hotline for help and support.

If the person making the report witnessed the incident but was not targeted or otherwise directly affected by it:

  1. The procedures person should attempt to contact the person or people who were targeted or otherwise directly affected (asking the person making the report for help, if appropriate).
  2. Once that person or those people are contacted, the two responders should start these procedures from the top for each person, calling on alternates if there are more people involved than one listener can support.

If the person making the report can identify (other) witnesses to the incident:

  1. The procedures person will attempt to contact them. It is up to the procedures person how to make contact attempts, how many times to try, and how long to wait before moving on without that witness's contribution.
  2. The procedures person will inform the witnesses that their names and the information they provide will only be released to the safety committee and involved members of the concom.
  3. Both responders will interview any reachable witnesses in the secondary quiet space with minimal prompting, telling them only that someone has made a report about [person]'s behavior at [place and time]. The person who made the report should not be present for these interviews. If it is necessary for the listener to stay with the person who made the report, the interviews can be conducted by the procedures person alone.
  4. The procedures person will ask the witnesses for contact information and ask whether they wish to be informed of Readercon's actions in connection with this report.

After any witnesses have been interviewed

The procedures person will summon the safety committee chair or designated alternate and provide them with complete notes about the report and any witness interviews.

If the procedures person and the safety committee chair or designated alternate believe that the subject of the report may pose an immediate threat to the physical or emotional safety of one or more people at the convention, they will:

  1. Find the subject of the report and request that they move to the secondary quiet space. Invite the person to call a partner, friend, or other supporter if they don't already have someone with them.That person may not interfere with the interview process.
  2. Tell the subject of the report that a report has been made, provide a summary of the report, and ask how the incident unfolded.
  3. Step aside and privately decide whether immediate action needs to be taken.
  4. Inform the subject of the report of their decision, and enforce it.
  5. Inform the convention chair of the decision, as well as anyone else who needs to know (e.g. registration if membership is being revoked, hotel security if someone is being asked to leave the premises and not come back).
  6. Inform the listener of the decision; the listener will then inform the person who made the report and any witnesses who asked to be kept informed.

After the convention

The safety committee chair will assemble a working group of 4–6 representatives of the Readercon concom, safety committee (safecom), officers, and board, which will include anyone involved in the original incident. The group will then review the incident. This review is not intended to revisit the fundamental questions of what happened and whose version of events is more credible, because those determinations were already made based on first-hand observations at the time of the incident. It is simply to assist the group in making their determination regarding long-term actions, if any.

The group will:

  1. Read the original notes taken by the procedures person.
  2. Interview the responders and any other convention personnel who were involved in handling the original report.
  3. Contact the person making the report, any (other) witnesses, and the subject of the report for more information as necessary.
  4. Determine whether long-term actions are necessary. These may include:
    1. Banning the subject of the report from the convention for one or more years, or permanently.
    2. Requiring the subject of the report to change their behavior for one or more years, or permanently.
    3. Instructing the safety committee to review and possibly amend parts of the code of conduct, policy, and procedures to handle previously unanticipated situations.
    4. Making a public statement regarding Readercon's actions during or after the convention.
  5. If long-term actions are required, bring the decision to the board for ratification. (Board ratification is needed for all long-term action, since that is handled at the corporate level rather than the convention-year level.)
  6. Draft a statement on the group's decision. Simultaneously email the statement to the subject of the report, the individual who filed the report, and any witnesses who asked for updates (using BCC to obscure individual addresses). Post the statement on the Readercon website and social media if the group feels it is necessary and appropriate to do so.

How do we handle reports made after the convention?

Reports will be made to safety@readercon.org. The safety committee chair will convene a working group to handle these as described above.

What do we feel is an appropriate response to a particular type of incident?

This overview is not definitive; each individual situation will have nuances that cannot be captured in a one-size-fits-all set of procedures.

We will abide by our code of conduct, our policy on handling reports, and this procedures document when handling all reports. Readercon will always offer the person making the report as much support as we can, and will treat them and their report with respect (including safeguarding confidentiality). Our default is to treat all reports as if they are true.

Sample actions and reactions

  • If someone has been physically or verbally assaulted and wants to call the police, we will assist them in doing so by involving hotel security and waiting with them until the police arrive.
  • If we determine to our satisfaction that someone has committed physical or verbal assault, we will revoke their membership and ban them from convention premises.
  • If we suspect but are not certain that someone has committed physical or verbal assault, we will ask hotel security to monitor the individual's behavior closely and alert us if there is any cause for concern. We will also inform the individual that hotel security will be watching them, and remind them that they are required to abide by Readercon's code of conduct if they wish to remain at the convention.
  • If we determine to our satisfaction that someone has misbehaved in a problematic but not egregious way, we will remind them that they are required to abide by Readercon's code of conduct if they wish to remain at the convention.
  • If a person's behavior is acceptable except when they are around a specific other person, and if their misbehavior is not sufficient to justify immediate eviction, we will ask them to keep their distance, as follows:
    • If the subject of the report is in convention space (including a program room, the bookshop, the hotel lobby, or an open-door party at the hotel) and they realize that the other person is in that space, the subject of the report must immediately leave the space.
    • The subject of the report may not initiate interaction of any kind (including calls, texts, emails, and passing messages through third parties) with the other person while at the convention.
  • If anyone about whom a report has been made declines to be interviewed, we will revoke their membership and ban them from convention premises.
  • If we believe that an individual poses an active threat (physical or otherwise) to one or more people at the convention, we will revoke their membership and ban them from convention premises.