I meant to post on this a couple of days ago when I first saw it on Lea Hernandez's Livejournal, but I've got some time now, so I'm joining the chorus (like you knew I would). The Friends of Lulu organization has started to raise funds to provide legal assistance to victims of sexual assault within the comics community. They are taking money donations over at empower at friends-lulu dot org. Also, they may be interested in artwork or collectible items, and you can send an email to ronee at friends-lulu dot org to ask about those kinds of donations. Then head on over to Buzzscope, where the victim of the case that inspired all this way back when steps forward and identifies herself, explaining what happened. From a legal standpoint, it seems pretty complicated, and given the number of times this type of thing probably happens, I can only think that this fund is a good thing. Increased awareness of how to navigate the complex legal issues surrounding these kinds of cases removes one weapon from the arsenal of the abuser, and makes the environment less hospitable for them.
Which brings me to my next point: the hospitable environment needs to go away. Why aren't the gropers the ones forced to scrounge for change to find legal representation? Why, if it's such a small and maladjusted minority doing these things, do they feel as though they are in a space where it is safe to do it in the first place? And why are they right?
I know, I know, it's a boys' club, and the world is a boys' club. But it is important to mark off some territory that is hospitable to decent folks just trying to do their thing, and that means all decent folks, and that will only come with open hostility to those who think it's okay to display harrassing behavior at conventions or over email or in weblog comments; those who think it's okay to go on a message board and make rape threats (yes, even if they think it's a joke); those who make creepy comments about how hot a creator is as though that has anything to do with anything, and then stare lewdly at them in their convention booths; those who get gropey at convention gatherings (camera phones, people. I can't stress their value enough); those creators who try to get a feel off of their fans or otherwise make lewd remarks. These are not the kind of things that basically decent people do in good fun, and they're honestly not the kind of things those of us who are far from decent do in good fun, either. It's what nasty, creepy people do, and I'm tired of accomodating them and living with the hostile environment that they create, and that is maintained by those who are willing to give it a pass because c'mon, it's not like they're hurting anybody. For once, can't they be the ones who have to crawl off to clandestine spaces in order to soothe each other? Can't they be made to feel that fandom and the industry (for God's sake, the professional industry!) are hostile to them?
Comics, SF, fantasy, gaming and like fandoms/industries attract a good number of women, and in fact a good number of feminist women. And you know, there's something about it, and I don't know what it is, but I like it, and I keep coming back to the idea that it's a good place to dig in and insist on change. Maybe it's just a small enough space for such a reversal to work, for the focus of the hostility to shift from women to those who make the environment inhospitable to women. And maybe contributing to this fund is a good place to start, but no, an even better place to start is that when someone tells you a story about an incident happening to her, or about a situation making her feel uncomfortable, believe her. Don't "withhold judgment" until you have "all the facts" or any such nonsense. Just believe. It's easy and you're not out anything by doing it. Believe, but also donate, if you can. Yeah, believe and donate. That'd be awesome.