I am late to the party, no doubt. I have been participating in the glory of DragonCon for just a few years and just this year, I learned there was an underlying stink around the entire event. Many more than I, have been aware of the sex abuse allegations that have been haunting the DragonCon leadership. Not to mention many people have boycotted in an effort to make their voice of dissent known. Just a few weeks before the leadership was able to successfully disentangle themselves from all things Edward Kramer and his ongoing sex abuse trial, I wrote this piece in an effort to give voice to sexual assault survivors. Although there has been success in removing Kramer from a leadership position, I still believe what I wrote has merit in that those that deserve to be heard remain silent. You will find me at DragonCon wearing my teal ribbon with pride. If you want to know why, read on, knowing that this is my attempt to allow the silenced to be heard.
Do Something That Helps: A Differing Vision on Boycotting DragonCon
Originally written July 2, 2013
If you have ever been in love with superheroes, vampires, zombies, the paranormal, video games, fantasy and science-fiction, Anime, or cartoons; this blog is a must read. You may be unaware, but the largest all fan based convention with all the above love affairs, complete with costume and camaraderie, take place in Atlanta every year during labor day weekend. About 50,000 people gather from all over the world to share in their love of all things chic-geek. From an outsiders position, those that truly run this country, are who show up. The brightest and most creative minds come together to be accepted and nurtured in a space that celebrates the numerous talents of both the celebrity and individual. Big names like William Shatner and George Takei From Star Trek to Nicholas Brendon from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. But the real heroes are those that toil over their personal costumes and seek out moments to be enjoyed and respected for their creativity; reflecting their love of a genre of work.
Unfortunately, a dark cloud hangs over this magnificent conglomeration of creativity. One of the original investors of DragCon is a man named Edward Kramer. Kramer is currently being charged with six counts of child molestation from 2000, but has been able to successfully postpone trial, get out of jail and had been free to move about the country until 2011 where he was caught with another adolescent in a hotel room in Connecticut (AJC News, April 26, 2013). It appears that the other investors have attempted to untangle themselves from Kramer because, as a share holder, he is required to continue to receive a share of the profits from the convention (Atlanta Magazine,
March 28, 2013).
Now, you may love your superheroes, but we all love to love a villain. In an effort to take away Kramer’s money, which likely goes to lawyer fees, many have chosen to boycott DragonCon. Both individuals, promoters and celebrities have attempted to use their voice of dissent in an attempt to either shut down DragonCon all together, or at minimum to tell the other investors and DragonCon Board that they are not doing enough to stop their money from going to Kramer.
As a sexual abuse trauma survivor myself, I agree that the DragonCon bosses are not doing enough. The ongoing and repeated choice to create a hush-hush environment about these facts continues to not only create a dismal cloud over every person attending, it perpetuates and grows the shame of silence for all trauma victims and survivors. I can understand and support an individuals decision to not be associated with a potential pedophile, but I do not support those that are in power to continue to take the stance of silence. Although there is some growing conversation of how they would like to disentangle themselves and believe that no one would want to willfully be associated with even a hint of victimization, taking no meaningful stance on this issue simply creates an opportunity for real loss.
When I began just a few years ago attending DragonCon, I was NO believer. My spouse is the smart, sharp geek who loves all things Stars Wars and is currently shaping the world through his professional work to broaden what we literally understand about the universe. I, the psychotherapist, was going along for the ride. In absolute truth, magic happens at DragonCon. People who often struggle with feeling that they don’t fit in and are misunderstood, maybe are awkward in this every day world that expects conformity, come to breathe in the memory that they are not alone. Even if little of what DragonCon offers is not exciting or interesting to you, just being present with others who live out their truth and give up what the world pressures them to do, can be meaningful to any human being. As a trauma survivor, it continues to encourage me to live out loud and honor my whole Self, accepting and honoring those parts of me that for much of my life was silenced and shamed.
So, it may seem unlikely that I would want to openly support, with my money, a man on trial for sexual molestation. Although it is true that money often speaks loudly, nothing has the power of supporting and honoring survivors more than embracing and speaking its realities. I understand that the institution of DragonCon would like nothing more than to make Kramer and his ugliness go away, but avoidance, pretending it does not exist and not inviting a forum to speak these truths are the choices being made. These choices are the hallmark of why sexual abuse and all forms of trauma continue to occur every single day. I have personally known the shame and continue to watch others be potentially destroyed not by the abuse itself, but the shame associated with the silence.
1 in 4 women will be victims of sexual violence over the course of their life time, while between 1 in 6 and 1 in 8 boys will be victims by the age of 18. How many attendees, promoters, merchandisers, celebrities, hotel staff, artists, DragonCon staff and volunteers are victims and survivors? How many of them have to potentially loose their moment of emotional glory or even their paycheck to financially hurt one perpetrator? Instead, why not embrace would could be the perfect moment to open the dialogue and truth telling that is required for a trauma victim to move towards seeing themselves as a survivor. Yes, I understand this convention is not one big group therapy session and no, there is no track for trauma survivors. I understand that DragonCon had no intention of taking on such a monstrous taboo, but here it is. Continued decisions to operate by silence do not honor victims and instead continue to give growing voice to all the Kramers in the world. The question now is, who will speak louder?
If the voice of the people and the voice of all trauma survivors is what deserves to be heard, there is a simple solution. During DragonCon, wear a teal ribbon, the symbol of hope and support for all sexual assault victims. Allow it to create a conversation and recognition that it is ok to talk about sexual abuse. It is ok to speak the words, ‘I am a trauma survivor’. It is ok to advocate for change through education and support. I will wear mine for myself and for each of Kramer’s possible victims to let them know; they are not alone. If we are bigger and more powerful than the pressure of the outside world, and I am confident we are, we can become real superheroes in one simple act. When we say, ‘I won’t go because of Edward Kramer’, we give more power to his voice. When we give open voice and dialogue for healing, every day courage becomes an extraordinary act. As fellow DragonCon members know, this is how we change the world.