Thursday, December 13, 2018

Safe Places Are Hard To Find

Safe Places Are Hard To Find
If you're someone who has social anxiety, depression, anxiety, PTSD, been raped and any other number of things that leaves you needing a safe place sometimes, you also know that sometimes it can be really hard to find them.

Over the years, I've had a few different ones ...my friend Dave's house in Vermont, until he got married and now it wasn't just him there. My friend Rob's place in Canada...until he had to deal with some life stuff of his own. I could list more but even just with two, you get the idea. Except, I'm going to list one more because really this last one is what this post is all about.

Now stick with me here...I know what I'm about to say is going to sound...well, crazy...but I promise you that it isn't. Comic conventions. Comic conventions have been my safe place for years. They're often filled with people that I know, like, and respect. Some of them I'd even consider to be friends. They're also full of strangers, but usually strangers who love the same things that I love and sometimes, I feel safe in a space full of people I don't know. Because of the nature of the event, I can get lost in a crowd. There's no pressure to be "on" or "happy" or anything. I can just be. If I need a break, I can find a corner and sit and watch the people. I love to watch people.

Over the years, I've met a lot of people at shows. Some I've enjoyed, some I've been glad to avoid later. That's just the way of life and personalities. Unfortunately, one of those that I've met and enjoyed has been revealed to be a rather horrible human being.  It's come out that he's treated women rather horribly. He's pressured them into doing things that they didn't really want to do. He's used his position within not only a place that he used to work, but also his position within the industry to lure women in and then mistreat them. I don't mean that he beat them, but sometimes the scars of emotional abuse and sexual misconduct (not the right phrase, but this is so hard to write that I can't let myself get hung up on phrasing right now) outlast bruises and broken bones.

As a woman, learning of his behavior upset me. It ought to upset everyone. But, under all of that was a feeling of deep unease and I've had a tough time figuring out why until last night. I was reading through a post written by someone calling out this man and supporting the art crew that had been working with him on a very popular title. The art crew chose to walk away from the book because they refuse to reward his heinous behavior. I applaud them for that and their actions led to the post I was reading. The more that I read, the more I found myself feeling uneasy, unhappy, and I hate to use the word...but triggered.

It got to the point where I had to shut down my laptop and step away. It took me a while, but I finally figured out what was causing it. I've known this man from the convention circuit for as long as I've known him. Conventions were/are a safe place and now he might be there. Granted, I'm not the type of woman that has ever had a real problem with sexual harassment or come ons...I'm just not the skinny, beautiful type. I've never had a problem with him approaching me this way and I doubt I ever would. Still, now that I know what's lurking in the dark, it's made me edgy whenever I think about the one that I'm supposed to go to in March. I was looking forward to possibly seeing him there. I was excited about going. I was insanely excited. Now? Now, I'm afraid. I'm afraid of what's in the shadows. I'm afraid knowing that I'll be traveling in and out of the area every day on a lightrail for an hour. Before, I was excited for that very same travel. It's always been a place to people watch and to meet new people.

My reality is that he's made a safe place feel not so safe. My reality is that I don't know if I want to go now. My brain has gone into "What if..." mode.  An event that I was so excited and proud (I was awarded a pro level badge this year which is a huge deal to me.) to be attending now has me wondering if anyone would notice if I just stayed home. I'm sad. I'm sad for me. I'm sad for every single woman that he has ever been in contact with. I'm sad for the industry because he's left another dark mark on what's beautiful.

Do you know what else I am? I'm angry. I'm angry that he's done this to me and to others. I'm angry that a grown ass man doesn't know that this is beyond wrong. I'm angry that I'm feeling as vulnerable and weak as I am. Anger is good. Anger is cleansing. Anger keeps me moving forward when I want to hide under the blankets.

I'm also proud. I'm proud of the woman who stood up and told her story. I don't know that I ever have. I'm proud of the industry professionals who have said no more. We will not tolerate this in our midst. I'm proud of the store where a lot of this story took place because they've declared that not only will they no longer stock anything that he's worked on, they're working with this woman to build policies so that nothing like this ever happens again. I'm proud of "my people".  Those are the people that I'm going to be looking towards as I work towards this trip because those are the people that I want to be around.


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