- Individuals with competing businesses desire to slander my reputation due to the success of my business endeavors
- I have never sexually assaulted another person.
The mission of my company “AnimeCon.org” is to promote and support nerd fandom, which can not be accomplished without transparency. AnimeCon.org is organized and operated by Ryan Kopf.
I am Ryan Kopf, and in my efforts I have been attacked by unfounded smear campaigns and I am here to provide you with the truth.
Harassment, Rape, and Sexual Assault at Conventions
Unfortunately, every few minutes another American is sexually assaulted. 1 in 3 women in America are victims of sexual assault. The prevalence of this violence seeps over into every facet of American life. Sexual assault occurs everywhere that humans are present, and sadly that includes Anime Conventions. That is why it is our mission, my mission, to create a safe and inclusive environment at our Anime Conventions. Educating staff on signs of assault, and providing trauma informed care, is vital to this undertaking. Creating a no tolerance policy to protect our guests has become essential to their well-being. We aim to coordinate the safest and healthiest anime cons that are available to attend.
It can be summed up by a good phrase. “Cosplay is not consent.”
This idea meant that people in costumes should not be harassed or bothered simply because of the costume. This applied especially to women, as most female characters in all media (comic books, anime, video games, movies) wear unrestrictive clothing. Women cosplaying as these characters shouldn’t have to worry about being bothered, hit-on, etc, simply because they like a specific character enough to dress as them.
And that’s a great notion – people should be able to cosplay and wear costumes and have fun without worry of harassment.
At a few conventions, we call them “party cons,” this was an issue. However at most conventions with a responsible safety team, it was never an issue. Here in the Midwest at AnimeCon.org’s conventions, harassment in-person has never been a major problem due to the way we take safety reports seriously.
Unfortunately, at some conventions people abuse the system of investigation by reporting others due to personal feelings rather than the threat of violence. The no tolerance policy we’ve adopted is exactly that. Abusing the integrity and structure of our conventions by making false reports will get one immediately removed.
What our vigilance looked like.
At our conventions, starting at the very beginning, we took a great interest in creating an environment that was welcoming to all attendees. And to make that happen, it had to be free of harassment.
Every staff meeting starts with the same message: “You have two priorities: Customer Service and Keeping Everyone Safe.” Our staff, every one of them, is trained to escort any person who feels unsafe or is being harassed to our Convention Operations Department. (Children under 13 are generally not part of this process – as we expect them to be with adults and parents at all times.)
Once with our Operations & Safety staff, we get all the information we can about what happened. We talk to everyone involved. We try to get evidence, such as screenshots or messages. And then we figure out what to do based on the situation.
Sometimes that means making tough decisions, and kicking people out – either both parties or just one of them. We’ve on a couple of occasions found out that the person who originally made a report to us had a history of harassing people with false claims.
Every time these situations come up, we try our best to make the right decisions to keep our attendees happy and safe.
Our attendees are young.
Our average attendees age from 14 to 28 years old, and in today’s era this can be a critical time for young people. They are just discovering their interests, making lifelong friends, and beginning to socialize. This happens everywhere in the world, whether it’s conventions or not. Those over 21 might also talk to each other, make new friends, and even flirt. Usually this is perfectly respectful, if not a little awkward, as nerdy conversation can always be.
In the cases that someone takes something too far, we conduct an investigation to obtain the details of the situation, and when there is potential for harm or harassment – we remove the responsible party.
The evidence that supports the reaction to trauma inflicted on an adolescent brain is significant. Every decision inside our conventions is made with this heavy understanding and responsibility in mind. Every investigation done by our staff is conducted with this awareness. The only goal our staff prioritize at every moment is to keep our guests safe.
Conventions are actually pretty safe.
Fortunately, despite all of these facts, conventions are often the safest place for nerdy people anywhere on earth. Bullying and harassment happen on an all-too-frequent basis in school, public events, and programs outside of school. That makes for a tough situation for anyone being bullied in these places, so we’ve made our conventions a safe haven for those that need a soft landing spot and the permission to be as weird and nerdy as they please. As long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.
Ultimately, what we are creating is safe spaces that are aware of harassment and knowledgeable about bystander intervention – instead of just blindly ignoring it or pretending it doesn’t happen.
Harassment, sexual assault, assault, and bullying happen everywhere. Workplaces. Schools. Shopping Malls. Online Forums. Everywhere.
But most people are good people. Those are the people who frequent our conventions, those are the people we welcome, and those are the people we employ.
No matter the social, economical, or political cost – we will ensure the safety of our guests and staff.