Posted with permission of author, Jan 2018.
This is hard. Until you sit right here, hands on the keyboard, wrestling with your fears and emotions, you have no idea how hard this is. Before I get started, this writing will have two sections. The first section will be talking about the actual incident and what happened and how it came about. The second section will deal with the process of coming forward about this incident and my troubles with that.
JM was one of the first people I encountered when entering the scene. You probably know him, or know of him if you're located on the east coast of the united states. He runs events, two of them are kinky events and then he has a few other events that aren't kinky, but are still fandom or geek based. There are some smaller events that sometimes happen and sometimes don't, the exact number of events his company (named after himself) put on each year changes but there are some core events. Over the years I have been a volunteer at multiple events. My compensation for volunteering ranged from free access to the event, to rooms, and at times I was offered sexual services as a bonus for doing “extra” or “beyond necessary” work. I have also been present, and had others mention in private, when my sexual services were offered as compensation to others. I had played with JM a few times before and after this incident, and some of those play sessions were sexual in nature. We were not partners, we had no relationship status.
I have always had some concerns about this incident, I did not choose to speak up about it at the time and I did not mention it at any later date. I was afraid, I was on the losing side. JM is powerful, he runs a company, he has a large group of people who support him, he has a cult of personality.
At the second New England kink event his company put on, I was attending as a volunteer. The opening day of the event, I was not on shift as a volunteer, JM found me in the hallways. I was asked to follow him, he had something he needed my help with. I followed him through the event to the dungeon. We entered and he explained that he liked to open the dungeon by being the first person to play in it. He asked if I wanted to play and I agreed. That was all the negotiation we really did. At most I may have reminded him of a chronic illness I have but most of the scene wasn't really blocked out. It was going fine until he stopped and motioned a couple forward. To this day I do not know who these people are. I can not remember if their names were used, if anything was discussed, nothing. It was explained that they were going to take over the scene since JM had somewhere to be. I believe I was asked if this was OK, I may even have nodded. (My nonverbal agreement is not consent in this situation). I know I was touched, body parts were grabbed, I may have been spanked. I may have been kissed and fondled. I do know that after a few minutes it started to feel awkward so I made my excuses and left the couple. I did not speak to JM about this incident. At this point, I was under the impression that this sort of thing was par for the course. I had had sex offered to me and been hinted that my sexuality could be up for offer as well, in exchange for volunteer work. I continued to volunteer for events run by JM but I made sure that I ended up doing known things and I tried very hard not to be an “undocumented gofer”. JM also did not ever check in with me about this incident. He left me with strangers, in a dungeon, in the middle of a scene.
That ends the first section. This was the turning point, the thing that made some of the other less than appealing parts of my experiences seem slightly sinister.
I'm a small fish in a big pond, I was scared and really didn't want to disclose, I didn't feel safe. Then JM started writing about consent. He started posting how his events were safer, how his events take steps to make sure that its a safe space. He starts talking about how he takes consent seriously, and that his events have systems in place to protect victims, even people who are having issues with staff members. Still being part of the volunteer team I was able to see how this system worked. JM was still able to access any and all violation reports that were submitted to his company. I chose not to disclose. Recently, a large amount of JM's staff left around the same time JM publicly announces that he's getting out of the consent game. He won't be handling consent issues himself, he's burned out. I felt more confident so I decided to disclose. I still knew someone who was staff at JM's event company. I chose to disclose to a partner and then to the person still on staff. They informed me that at the time of my disclosure the company's consent panel consisted of JM, and two other people. JM was running the panel and everything would still funnel through him. If I proceeded it was pretty sure that JM would be the one handling this issue, this is not how this should work. I spoke with my friend and we decided to fill out a report and to hold that until we could sort out a way to present this issue while maintaining my anonymity. That was roughly last year, 12 months have gone by and nothing has been done. Why not? Because in the last 12 months I've watched the names on this panel change regularly, I have no idea how secure my information is. I have no idea if I would have worked with the same person through the whole process. I can't even be sure that I wouldn't have just had to work directly with JM trying to figure out how to prevent such an incident in the future. If we are so worried about outing someone to their abuser how worried are we about forcing someone to work directly with their abuser to solve the situation?
I would really like to point out that I had contact with someone at JM’s company. I was walked along the steps that could be taken. I talked with my contact regularly, they kept me updated and informed. I chose not to have my file submitted because of the teams structure. I made that choice because at that time my safety was at risk, I would be potentially disclosing to the person who violated me and at this point I had enough personal proof to know that this was something that could very well happen. I was fully informed every step of this process, I chose not to proceed because I didn’t feel safe.
That should be a huge red flag, I could not proceed with reporting my consent violation, because I did not feel safe reporting it to the event company that runs the event I was violated at.
Things have gotten worse. After the most recent New Jersey event my friend is also no longer connected to JM's company either, we had the file for my incident but we still hadn't filed it. My friend told me the name of the person who was stepping up on the consent panel that I could work with instead of JM. My friend vouched for this person and also told me the name of someone else on the team. I waited, hoping for contact. Months went by and nothing happened. I got upset and posted online that it had been a year and nothing had changed. Shortly after that I was messaged on FetLife, the person who contacted me claimed to be on the consent violation team for JM's events. Multiple times in this message was the phrase “team” repeated. That sounds like a few people right? Currently there are two people handling the consent issues at JM's events. One of those people is JM. Before now the team consisted of four people, and one of those people was still JM. In the space of two months it looks like the entire “team” was gutted and restructured and I'm now supposed to trust this new stranger who may also no longer be on the “team” in two months?
I was told that a report was never filed (I know), and that I should feel comforted that the people who I would have reported to in the last year are no longer working for the company. I was asked to refile a report in writing and to give my permission to share all or parts of the report with JM's event admins and the rest of the consent team (so JM and one other nebulous third person that they are still looking for). I asked for clarification on who was part of the consent team. A second message arrived explaining the “team” structure and promising that JM would not be part of the resolution process.
I can't trust that. I can't, I can't trust anything from this company. I don't know what I want, I don't know what will fix this, I don't know what my next move is.
Update, 2nd post, 1/26
Update, 2nd post, 1/26