Harassment Policies: New Allegations Show More Work To Be Done

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The specter of sexual harassment has once again risen up in tabletop gaming circles. Conventions are supposed to be places where gamers and geeks can be themselves and embrace their loves. Conventions need clear and well formulated harassment policies, and they need to enforce them. In this instance the allegations from multiple women have taken place at gaming conventions and gathering in different locations around the country. In one case, the harassment was took place over the course of years and spilled over into electronic formats.


The alleged harasser in these cases was Sean Patrick Fannon, President of Evil Beagle Games, Brand Manager for Savage Rifts at Pinnacle Entertainment Group, as well as being a game designer and developer with a long history in the tabletop role-playing industry.

There is a long and untenable policy of harassment at conventions that stretches back to science fiction and fantasy fandom in the 1960s. Atlanta's Dragon*Con has been a lightning rod in the discussions about safety at geeky conventions after one of the convention's founders was arrested and pled guilty to three charges of molestation. We have also covered reports of harassment at conventions such as Paizo Con, and inappropriate or harassing behavior by notable industry figures. It is clear that clear harassment policies and firm enforcement of them is needed in spaces where members of our community gather, in order that attendees feel safe to go about their hobby. Some companies, such as Pelgrane Press, now refuse to attend conventions where a clear harassment policy is not available.

Several women have approached me to tell me about encounters with Fannon. Some of them asked not to be named, or to use their reports for background verification only. We also reached out to Sean Patrick Fannon for his comments, and he was willing to address the allegations.

The women that I spoke with had encounters with Fannon that went back to 2013 and 2014 but also happened as recently as the summer of 2017. Each of the locations were in different parts of the country, but all of them occurred when Fannon was a guest of the event.

The worse of the two incidents related to me happened at a convention in the Eastern part of the United States. In going back over texts and messages stretching back years the woman said that it "is frustrating [now] to read these things" because of the cajoling and almost bullying approach that Fannon would use in the messages. She said that Fannon approached her at the con suite of the convention, and after speaking with her for a bit and playing a game with a group in the suite he showed her explicit photos on his cellphone of him engaged in sex acts with a woman.

Fannon's ongoing harassment of this woman would occur both electronically and in person, when they would both be at the same event, and over the course of years he would continue to suggest that she should engage in sexual acts, either with him alone, or with another woman.

Fannon denies the nature of the event, saying "I will assert with confidence that at no time would such a sharing have occurred without my understanding explicit consent on the part of all parties. It may be that, somehow, a miscommunication or misunderstanding occurred; the chaos of a party or social gathering may have created a circumstance of all parties not understanding the same thing within such a discourse. Regardless, I would not have opened such a file and shared it without believing, sincerely, it was a welcome part of the discussion (and in pursuit of further, mutually-expressed intimate interest)."

The second woman, at a different gaming-related event in another part of the country, told of how Fannon, over the course of a day at the event, asked her on four different occasions for hugs, or physical contact with her. Each time she clearly said no to him. The first time she qualified her answer with a "I don't even know you," which prompted Fannon after he saw her for a second time to say "Well, you know me now." She said that because of the multiple attempts in a short period of time that Fannon's behavior felt predatory to her. Afterwards he also attempted to connect with her via Facebook.

Afterwards, this second woman contacted the group that organized the event to share what happened and they reached out to Fannon with their concerns towards his behavior. According to sources within the organization at the time, Fannon - as with the first example - described it to the organizers as a misunderstanding on the woman's part. When asked, he later clarified to us that the misunderstanding was on his own side, saying "Honestly, I should have gotten over myself right at the start, simply owned that I misunderstood, and apologized. In the end, that's what happened, and I walked away from that with a pretty profound sense of how to go forward with my thinking about the personal space of those I don't know or know only in passing."

Both women faced ongoing pressure from Fannon, with one woman the experiences going on for a number of years after the initial convention meeting. In both cases he attempted to continue contact via electronic means with varying degrees of success. A number of screen shots from electronic conversations with Fannon were shared with me by both women.

Diane Bulkeley was willing to come forward and speak on the record of her incidents with Fannon. Fannon made seemingly innocent, and yet inappropriate comments about her body and what he wanted to do with her. She is part of a charity organization that had Fannon as a guest. What happened to her was witnessed by another woman with whom I spoke about that weekend. As Bulkeley heard some things, and her witness others, their experiences are interwoven to describe what happened. Bulkeley described this first encounter at the hotel's elevators: "We were on the floor where our rooms were to go downstairs to the convention floor. I was wearing a tank top and shirt over it that showed my cleavage. He was staring at my chest and said how much he loved my shirt and that I should wear it more often as it makes him hot. For the record I can't help my cleavage is there." Bulkeley went on to describe her mental state towards this "Paying a lady a compliment is one thing, but when you make a direct comment about their chest we have a problem."

Later on in the same day, while unloading some boxes for the convention there was another incident with Fannon. Bulkeley described this: "Well, [the witness and her husband] had to move their stuff from a friends airplane hangar (we all use as storage for cars and stuff) to a storage until next to their house. Apparently Sean, while at the hanger, made grunt noises about my tank top (it was 80 outside) while Tammy was in the truck. I did not see it. But she told me about it. Then as we were unloading the truck at the new facility Sean kept looking down my shirt and saying I have a great view etc. Her husband said to him to knock it off. I rolled my eyes, gave him a glare and continued to work. I did go and put on my event day jacket (light weight jacket) to cover up a little."

The witness, who was in the truck with Fannon, said that he "kept leering down at Diane, glancing down her shirt and making suggestive sounds." The witness said that Fannon commented "'I'm liking the view from up here.'"

Bulkeley talked about how Fannon continued his behavior later on in a restaurant, having dinner with some of the guests of the event. Fannon made inappropriate comments about her body and embarrassed her in front of the other, making her feel uncomfortable throughout the dinner.

Bulkeley said that Fannon also at one point touched her hair without asking, and smelled it as well. "[Fannon] even would smell my long hair. He begged me to not cut it off at a charity function that was part of the weekend's event." She said that he also pressed his pelvis tightly against her body while hugging her. These incidents occurred at a convention during the summer of 2017.

Fannon denies these events. "The comments and actions attributed to me simply did not happen; I categorically and absolutely deny them in their entirety."

When asked for comment, and being informed that this story was being compiled Fannon commented "I do not recall any such circumstance in which the aftermath included a discourse whereby I was informed of distress, anger, or discomfort." He went on to say "The only time I recall having ever been counseled or otherwise spoken to about my behavior in such matters is the Gamers Giving/Total Escape Games situation discussed above. The leader of the organization at that time spoke to me specifically, asked me to be aware that it had been an issue, and requested I be aware of it in the future. It was then formally dropped, and that was the end of it until this time."

There were further reports; however, we have respected the wishes of those women who asked to remain anonymous for fear of online harassment. In researching this article, I talked to multiple women and other witnesses.

About future actions against the alleged behaviors he also said "It is easy, after all, to directly attack and excise obviously predatory and harassing behavior. It is much more difficult to point out and correct behavior that falls within more subtle presentations, and it's more difficult to get folks to see their actions as harmful when they had no intention to cause harm, based on their assumptions of what is and isn't appropriate. It's good for us to look at the core assumptions that lead to those behaviors and continue to challenge them. That's how real and lasting change within society is achieved."

Fannon's weekly column will no longer be running on E.N. World.

Have you suffered harassment at the hands of someone, industry insider or otherwise, at a gaming convention? If you would like to tell your story, you can reach out to me via social media about any alleged incidents. We can speak confidentially, but I will have to know the identity of anyone that I speak with.

This does open up the question of: At what point do conventions become responsible for the actions of their guest, when they are not more closely scrutinizing the backgrounds of those guests? One woman, who is a convention organizer, with whom I spoke for the background of this story told me that word gets around, in the world of comic conventions, when guests and creators cause problems. Apparently this is not yet the case in the world of tabletop role-playing game conventions, because there are a growing number of publishers and designers who have been outed for various types of harassing behavior, but are still being invited to be guest, and in some cases even guests of honor, at gaming conventions around the country. The message that this sends to women who game is pretty clear.

More conventions are rolling out harassment policies for guests and attendees of their conventions. Not only does this help to protect attendees from bad behavior, but it can also help to protect conventions from bad actors within the various communities that gather at our conventions. As incidents of physical and sexual harassment are becoming more visible, it becomes more and more clear that something needs to be done.

additional editorial contributions by Morrus
 

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Here is the disconnect for me. You say Fannon has "allegedly" harassed people. But you have, essentially, tried him in the court of public opinion for allegations and banned him from the site. Were his posts, that were merely compilations of his daily blog that popular? Until the situations are sorted out in their appropriate places, didn't this article create bias against Fannon?
 

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lyle.spade

Adventurer
Here is the disconnect for me. You say Fannon has "allegedly" harassed people. But you have, essentially, tried him in the court of public opinion for allegations and banned him from the site. Were his posts, that were merely compilations of his daily blog that popular? Until the situations are sorted out in their appropriate places, didn't this article create bias against Fannon?

The article didn't so much create bias against Fannon - it presented a conviction already decided.

The allegations may be entirely true and the perspective put forth in the article could be accurate. Or they could be false and the conclusions, therefore, wrong. Or it could be something in between. I've been the victim of false accusations of misconduct in a professional environment, by an anonymous accuser. Fortunately I worked with and for people who has enough self-discipline and respect for the rule of law (as a spirit and a process), who let the process play out...and the truth came out, eventually.

It was a rough few weeks, I can say, and so when I watch the pitchfork-wielding mob torching someone's reputation as a reflex, it really makes me sad, sick, and angry - and fearful for the future of our collection culture, if that's the sort of mindlessness we're happy to promote.

Again, could be right...could be wrong..could be something else...but a trial of some sort ought to precede sentencing and punishment, shouldn't it?
 
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jimmifett

Banned
Banned
Here is the disconnect for me. You say Fannon has "allegedly" harassed people. But you have, essentially, tried him in the court of public opinion for allegations and banned him from the site. Were his posts, that were merely compilations of his daily blog that popular? Until the situations are sorted out in their appropriate places, didn't this article create bias against Fannon?

Agreed, allegations are allegations. IMO, this article slips very close to libel. I see no indication that Fannon was actually kicked out of any venue. Morrus is allowed to do as he wishes with contributors, it's his site, but so far this article seems like tar and feathering. Especially when accusers are not identified. That is the high point of false allegations. At least in the good old USA, you have the right to confront your accusers, they don't get to hide behind a shield of anonymity and lob grenades with impunity, so I discount any remarks of theirs outright.

I don't know didly squat about Fannon, but I DO know that it's not supposed to be Listen and Believe, it's supposed to be Listen and Investigate.
 

Particle_Man

Explorer
There are multiple allegations. It strains credibility that they all would be lying. There doesn’t seem to be a credible reason for them to lie while there is an obvious reason for him to lie. Plus it looks like at least two of them kept receipts, as the saying goes.

I believe them.
 
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The article didn't so much create bias against Fannon - it presented a conviction already decided.

Which is confusing due to the word "Allegations" in the Article. ENWorld has every right to make whatever decision about their authors/contributors, based on whatever facts they find relevant. But this article confused me. Essentially, until whatever course the victims take on this is clear, I just don't see the need for the article, which basically comes down to the fact that allegations are presented against Fannon. Here are those that came forward, we are parting ways with Fannon and we are no longer sharing his weekly rundown of "reviews".

I think this would be news once the victims achieved whatever recourse they sought.
 

There are multiple allegations. It strains credibility that they all would be lying. There doesn’t seem to be a credible reason for them to lie while there is an obvious reason for him to lie. Plus it looks like at least one of them kept receipts, as the saying goes.

I believe them.

I'm not castigating the victims or defending Fannon. I'm saying this article skirts closely to libel and I'm uncertain why it was presented this way.
 


I just realized exactly why I love ENWorld's "no politics" rule (and the high quality moderation team to enforce it): I find myself losing respect for certain commenters when they reveal political biases.

Anyway, this is obviously a complex problem that needs some nuance, but if we're helping fellow gamers avoid being harassed or assaulted, then I'm inclined to think things are moving in a positive direction.
 


As a woman who has been active in the RP community for over 25 years, I am in complete agreement with Mr. Helton that the issue is a serious problem in our community and needs to be addressed. I have been the victim of harassment and predatory behavior in this community. I am certain most women who read this article can say the same. We are here because we want to actively make the RP community a better place. Here in lies where I agree with Mr. Helton but his other discussions, being both irrelevant and slanderous, I disagree.His article is not an attempt to further a discussion about the predatory behavior in our community. To be clear, this article is a piece of writing with a weaker grasp on grammatical conventions than that of an average fourth grader, wherein the gross defamation of Mr. Fannon’s personal and professional character run rampant. I am disappointed in ENWorld for going against the very tenets they hold to in their own policies:“These forums were created nearly twenty years ago, and at that time Eric Noah established three simple rules: keep it civil, keep it clean, and keep it on topic. I later added keep it inclusive. Those rules are essentially the same rules we use today in the course of our duties.” Mr. Helton and his editor have failed to do so. They have additionally failed to protect some of their sources, as Ms. Bulkeley’s testimony is falteringly recounted using names which should have been redacted. There is no journalism here. We need to have conversations about the actual problem. We do not need people like Mr. Helton “mansplaining” the issue without any thought as to how to actually make our community better. I am not about victim blaming. The simple fact, in this case, is there is no case. All of the comments I have read on this thread MISS THE POINT. Mr. Helton is hoping people will read his story and behave like people on the Internet are wont to behave – to not really pay attention, and yet feel some vague sort of injustice at a public figure. We, as a community, are better than that. I hope, in retrospect, ENWorld recognizes the sincerity of its readership and redacts this story in full, replacing it with balanced, factual, and thoughtful journalism with the intent to help our community grow stronger.
 

Pauper

That guy, who does that thing.
There's a curious facet of this discussion that I'm not entirely sure how to process.

First off, I don't agree that incidents of sexual harassment are evidence that current harassment policies are inadequate. Yes, Fannon's comments about the Gamers Giving event and his description of men who give offense without meaning to and perhaps even without understanding how offense could be taken can be interpreted as a somewhat sophisticated defense of his behavior, but the point is that Fannon is now 'on notice'. It becomes harder and harder to justify harassing behavior as 'not understanding how the behavior could offend' the more times Fannon must be informed that his behavior does in fact offend. In this sense, harassment policies are working -- the goal may be to eliminate harassment, but this isn't achieved in a sudden reduction of harassing behavior to zero, but in a gradual realization that harassing behavior, even if unintentional, is intolerable, and those who would engage in that behavior find it harder and harder to justify until they either stop behaving that way or are forced to remain apart from the community.

But for me, the real head-scratcher is that it's hard to really understand how far along that process of disincentivizing harassing behavior is coming along when we only ever hear about famous harassers, famous targets of harassment, or both. The middle-aged guy nobody's ever heard of hitting on the twenty-something catgirl who hasn't yet made a name for herself in the cosplay community -- how prevalent is that sort of harassment? I'm wiling to accept that, given the rise of harassment policies in fan conventions of all sorts that this sort of behavior is significantly reduced from the 'bad old days', but do we know for sure? Or have we simply pushed that behavior into the shadows, where only the isolated and vulnerable are subject to it? In this sense, even though I don't agree that harassment policies are currently ineffective, I admit I have no way of knowing if the policies are actually making the situation better, or simply restricting the number of people involved in this unwelcome behavior at conventions to those most able to rationalize it, and against those for whom that behavior would be most damaging.

Most importantly, is the prominent focus on harassment policy as enforced by convention organizers excusing the obligation of the community to aid in policing its own ranks? It's comforting to blame incomplete policies or inconsistent enforcement of those policies by organizers, but is it too comforting? Do we not let ourselves off the hook by assuming this is a problem that needs to be solved by 'the folks in charge' and that we're best off by not getting involved?

--
Pauper
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Accusations.

Allegations.

All someone needs to do is make the right accusation, and the court of public opinion screams "guilty!" and punishment is handed down. What a clean and efficient form of 'justice.'

Think on that.

Multiple allegations from women unconnected to each other. Clear pattern of behavior. Think on that.
 

Pauper

That guy, who does that thing.
As a woman who has been active in the RP community for over 25 years, I am in complete agreement with Mr. Helton that the issue is a serious problem in our community and needs to be addressed.


Here's an example of one of the things I'm talking about. This introduction seems reasonable, even sincere, and should be acceptable as a 'voice of reason' in the context of a community discussion. Yet the poster concludes:

I hope, in retrospect, ENWorld recognizes the sincerity of its readership and redacts this story in full, replacing it with balanced, factual, and thoughtful journalism with the intent to help our community grow stronger.

As a member of the community, do I point out that this stance seems inconsistent with the poster's stated background and interest in the topic? Do I point out that the poster created 'her' account today, and that this post is the only post 'she' has made to ENWorld under this ID? Do I point out that I put 'her' in vagueness quotes because, while 'she' identifies 'herself' as female in 'her' introduction, 'she' does not reveal 'her' gender in 'her' user profile? Is it possible that this is merely a sockpuppet account, created to stir antagonism against the forum as punishment for serving as the dissemination point for the allegations against Fannon?

Does pointing all this out make me part of the problem, part of the solution, or simply a distraction from the real work of having the community conversation we need to have to reduce the prevalance of harassment in our community?

--
Pauper
 

When you’re attracted to someone, you will see signs of consent that do not exist. Your subconscious will invent it out of casual behavior. Especially if, like many geeks, you have minimal social skills and may be awkward at approaching people.
It’s totally acceptable to misread the situation and approach someone who is uninterested, and even come off too strong.
Once.
Maybe even twice over a period of several years.

The behaviors described above shows a repeated and deliberate pattern, which makes it abuse.
And when you continue to engage after receiving a firm “no” you have seriously crossed a line.
 


Dire Bare

Legend
I just realized exactly why I love ENWorld's "no politics" rule (and the high quality moderation team to enforce it): I find myself losing respect for certain commenters when they reveal political biases.

Anyway, this is obviously a complex problem that needs some nuance, but if we're helping fellow gamers avoid being harassed or assaulted, then I'm inclined to think things are moving in a positive direction.

One thing I like about these threads is that I get to pad out my ignore list with all the troglodytes who somehow think Fannon's behavior is okay and that complaining about it is "political correctness".
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Accusations.

Allegations.

All someone needs to do is make the right accusation, and the court of public opinion screams "guilty!" and punishment is handed down. What a clean and efficient form of 'justice.'

Think on that.

False reporting of any crime is a justified concern. False accusations can ruin lives. See the Richard Jewel (Olympic bomber) case. Even though he was exonerated, many people “didn’t get the memo.”

According to various studies, Only about 2%-10% of all sexual assault accusations reported to police turn out to be false. This is the same rate of false reporting as other types of violent crime.

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1077801210387747
https://qz.com/980766/the-truth-about-false-rape-accusations/
https://endsexualviolencect.org/resources/get-the-facts/national-stats/
http://www.ndaa.org/pdf/the_voice_vol_3_no_1_2009.pdf

And in addition to that, just as in any other case of false criminal accusations, false accusations of sex crimes- such as in the Tawana Brawley case- can result in jail time and big fines.

Think on that.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
As a woman who has been active in the RP community for over 25 years, I am in complete agreement with Mr. Helton that the issue is a serious problem in our community and needs to be addressed. I have been the victim of harassment and predatory behavior in this community. I am certain most women who read this article can say the same. We are here because we want to actively make the RP community a better place. Here in lies where I agree with Mr. Helton but his other discussions, being both irrelevant and slanderous, I disagree.His article is not an attempt to further a discussion about the predatory behavior in our community. To be clear, this article is a piece of writing with a weaker grasp on grammatical conventions than that of an average fourth grader, wherein the gross defamation of Mr. Fannon’s personal and professional character run rampant. I am disappointed in ENWorld for going against the very tenets they hold to in their own policies:“These forums were created nearly twenty years ago, and at that time Eric Noah established three simple rules: keep it civil, keep it clean, and keep it on topic. I later added keep it inclusive. Those rules are essentially the same rules we use today in the course of our duties.” Mr. Helton and his editor have failed to do so. They have additionally failed to protect some of their sources, as Ms. Bulkeley’s testimony is falteringly recounted using names which should have been redacted. There is no journalism here. We need to have conversations about the actual problem. We do not need people like Mr. Helton “mansplaining” the issue without any thought as to how to actually make our community better. I am not about victim blaming. The simple fact, in this case, is there is no case. All of the comments I have read on this thread MISS THE POINT. Mr. Helton is hoping people will read his story and behave like people on the Internet are wont to behave – to not really pay attention, and yet feel some vague sort of injustice at a public figure. We, as a community, are better than that. I hope, in retrospect, ENWorld recognizes the sincerity of its readership and redacts this story in full, replacing it with balanced, factual, and thoughtful journalism with the intent to help our community grow stronger.

Not sure how seriously Helton or Morrus is going to take you with your hyperbole and post history of ONE.

You're right that Helton's post isn't about "furthering the conversation", at least that is not the main point. The point is to report on allegations against an industry professional, Sean Fannon, which Helton does rather well. Your comments about a lack of "journalism" in the post or on this site are hyperbolic, ignorant, and wrong. And, "mansplaining"? That made me spit my drink as I laughed.

Interesting how most of the folks defending Fannon and/or attacking Helton have a post history of 1 post, the very post in this thread. Or at least, most of the folks who aren't already on my ignore list.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I've been a bad actor, creating unsafe and unwelcoming spaces. It doesn't matter that I was ignorant and well-meaning – not one bit. It was simply wrong, perpetuating a condition on our community that has lasted far, far too long. We need to have this conversation. We need to call out these behaviors. We need to change the game.

I am deeply, profoundly sorry for harm that I've caused, discomfort that I've created, bad behavior I've committed. I am very grateful we now have a condition in our community where such things are called out, and we are no longer tolerating this kind of thing.

I can’t know if you’re sincere or not, but I DO appreciate you saying this. If your words cause one person to reevaluate and improve their behavior, then that’s a valuable contribution.
 

Accusations.

Allegations.

All someone needs to do is make the right accusation, and the court of public opinion screams "guilty!" and punishment is handed down. What a clean and efficient form of 'justice.'

Think on that.

Here is the disconnect for me. You say Fannon has "allegedly" harassed people. But you have, essentially, tried him in the court of public opinion for allegations and banned him from the site. Were his posts, that were merely compilations of his daily blog that popular? Until the situations are sorted out in their appropriate places, didn't this article create bias against Fannon?
If multiple unrelated people told you someone had beaten them up at a convention, would you feel the same way?
If several individuals told you that someone in the industry had stolen from them at a Con, would you also want that person freely invited back to other Cons? Would you want to attend a Convention with them?
If numerous people reported that a individual flagrantly cheated at a game, would you want them at your table?

Think on that.
Seriously.
If I told you that while at GenCon 2014 I met Morrus at the Marriott bar and he was drunk, belligerent, and kicked the every living :):):):) out of me in a hallway. Would you respond with “allegedly”? Would you question the accusation?

(For the record, the above is totally not true.)
 

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