The State of Convention Safety and Harassment in 2016

One of the things I’ve been happiest to see over the last half-decade is that the convention scene is finally starting to address the ongoing harassment problems which were traditionally swept under the rug. The community still has a long way to go, but it’s a heck of a lot better than nothing.

I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about a couple of ongoing situations though, and how they illustrate what’s exactly is happening right now — in 2016.

A few days ago blogger Lauren Faits (aka “Geek Girl Chicago”) wrote about her experiences with Cosplay photographer Ron “Soulcrash” Ladao. She details an incident where, years ago, Ladao effectively broke into her hotel room to try take photos of her and other cosplayers in a state of undress (many who were underage) burst into a shared hotel room where Faits and other cosplayers (many who were underage) were changing with a camera. It’s been since pointed out that this was also Ladao’s room and that he was only a year older at the time, but that doesn’t make it much better (edited for clarity). It’s frankly pretty gross, but as she feared the consequences of coming forward, Faits remained quiet for years on the matter.

(Update (3/17): Ladao has posted the video from the incident. While it contradicts some details from the version of events currently presented on Geek Girl Chicago’s blog, it’s clear where both Faits and Ladao are coming from in their interpretation of events. We recommend watching the video without annotations, and keep in mind that over a decade has passed and that memory is an imperfect thing. You can find our full thoughts here.)

Well, after seeing that Ladao as the official photographer for Uchicon and We Are Cosplay events, she’s decided to stop keeping her mouth shut. Faits is now refusing to work with any conventions that work with Ladao, and rightfully so. And you know what? Some people are actually listening to her. To the credit of one of Chicago’s best comics events, C2E2 has decided to break off any relationship with Ladao specifically because of this.

(Update (2/12): Ladao has responded to these allegations on his Facebook page)

The creepy photographer seems to be a theme these days, with people like Photographer Eric Pearce approaching cosplayers on Facebook who might be attending Katsucon this weekend in Washington DC.

Now, while Pearce’s requests to take suggestive poses of Cosplayers in a private hotel room will set off most people’s squick alarms, I fear someone may trust him enough. And while I don’t want to accuse Pearce of being anything other than just kinda icky, he does have a reputation for misleading cosplayers about what his photographs will be actually used for.

You know, like selling body pillows with the cosplayers’ images on them.

One of the most common things I hear from the few convention organizers I’ve met who deny these issues is that they say the alleged perpetrator would “never” harass anyone or do anything wrong. Well, while I was writing this very article I found out someone a lot of my friends might have previously vouched for from the con circuit just got picked up in a Pedophilia sting.

(I would point out which guy he is, but c’mon — all of the guys busted in this are pretty gross and should be avoided.)

I don’t know if this “gentleman” ever did anything at a convention, but I know I’ve been to the same events as this guy and (as the arrest indicates) he’s tried gross things outside of cons. Stuff like this is why it’s important to listen to victims though regardless of how well you think you know the people involved.

Because you may not really know the people at all.

We like to pretend conventions are special places; that they’re protected from the outside world. The truth is they aren’t though. The same people out there are in here too, and event staff has to stay vigilant to make them as safe as possible.

It’s getting better, but the work isn’t done.

Frankly, it will probably never be done.

  • April Widrick
  • Kersten Peterson

    Nerd & Tie, the thing is Ron Ladao was only a year older than Lauren himself and a teenager as well. He wasnt some pedofile. Its been 13 years and we cant really know what truly happened since both of their memories are fuzzy on the situation itself. But he is now 30 years old not 18 and has worked hard to become the professional year and there has been no sex assault or him creepily approaching people at all in the 6 years I’ve personally known Ron. And I’m a female photographer and cosplayer who has been in front of Rons lens as well as standing next to him with my own camera getting advice. He doesn’t even feel comfortable touching models or shooting privately with females one on one. Ive even seen him refuse to shots that were too sexy and R rated.. He mostly shoots in public settings and its strictly professional. He takes the shot, gives his photo page info so they can look for it later and goes. He doesn’t force a friendship or lure them to do anything inappropriate. He just provides cosplayers a good shot of their photos. Now it’s understandable that Lauren won’t work at the same con as him. That’s her personal choice and if you don’t wanna be around someone, you don’t be around someone. And that’s cool. But labeling him a creep and someone to watch for at con because of one incident as a 30 yr old man did at the age of 18 and that I don’t agree with. Ron has learned and matured from his 18 yr old self. I believe I speak for everyone in their 20s or older, that NO ONE is who the person, they were as a teen.

  • Danielle Oliver

    I used to really respect you guys for always being biased but you failed your research on this particular situation and it’s an absolute shame too.
    I don’t know Ron personally but I know many many many who have worked with him and know him on a personal level.
    He has chosen to speak his side and the fact you disregarded that makes me sad to see such a one sided story.
    For one they both were of legal age (17-18) at the time it happened. He is not in any form harassing under age girls.
    For second, no one knows the real story. And if he was a harasser in this day and age someone else would have spoken and reported by now.

    I’m glad women are speaking up I’m all for it but we should report the REAL harassers who are a real danger to the community.

    Ron has worked hard for where he is now. He regrets his choices as a kid that lead to this but after 13 years we should forgive a small incident that didn’t mean to be seen as harassment rather than ruin a guys hard earned career in a case with no real evidence or proof.

    “It is not okay to victimize a man anymore than making a woman a victim”

    • We didn’t see his response until after this article went up, but we didn’t post an update because it didn’t really change my assessment. Then someone posted a link that has a copy of it in the comments, so we assumed people then had a chance to see it.

      Geek Girl Chicago’s post clearly says that it’s also been an ongoing problem, and the exact details of that incident from 13 years ago aren’t the main issue.

      We made a call, and gave you our sources. If you don’t believe them, that’s up to you. That’s WHY we give you the sources in situations like this. It’s true I should have linked to Ladao’s response myself though, and I’ll add that to the article now.

      • Kersten Peterson

        She didn’t say any actual harrassment was an ongoing problem though. She said she tried to work with him but didn’t like his comments on cosfamous things and unfriended him. There’s no other stories of harrassment on the article.

        • From her post: “I told a few friends about the incident. As a result, I keep getting private messages about other people’s experiences with Ron. I’m not surprised by their public silence, given how often organizations sideline cosplayer safety. I’m happy to finally speak out. I hope more of us do.”

          There’s more in there, but that counts as an ongoing situation in my mind.

          Look, I don’t know Faits personally, but I’ve read enough of her stuff over time where I tend to believe her. I think she’s credible. If you don’t, that’s your choice. I figure our readers at Nerd & Tie are smart enough to make up their own minds.

          • Kersten Peterson

            Okay I see why you felt that then, but there has no proof of other incidents. Like I can understand the 13 yrs ago having no proof, but I’ve been waiting for other stories of Ron to show especially after her claiming there were at least 40 and she basically paved the road for them to with thus article. But I have yet to see any of them. And people actually have been asking her for the other stories or even stories from the other girls in the room and she refused to give the proof of those ot share them anonymously and eventually deleted the comments asking.

          • Kersten Peterson

            Like I enjoyed your kopf article because it sat there giving actual evidence. But there is none in her article.

          • Well she’s choosing not to out people without their consent. I’ve been in her situation where you know things but addessing them directly would reveal the parties involved – it’s a complicated thing to deal with.

          • Kersten Peterson

            I understand not outting without consent. But when you are creating an article with allegations to the public. You need some sort of proof to show it was a real thing or else how is your audience suppose to know it’s believable. All these other articles about photographer harrassers had links to 2 or more other accounts or picture evidence, or even with the person stories from others who gave permission for them to post. And out of 40+ people none of them have spoken out. We haven’t even gotten a single public post saying another account happened that usually follow articles like this. (I mean look how quick stories went up against kopf.)

  • Nikki

    I used to like your posts because your were Bias or studied things you posted on but this is going to far.

    As someone else has stated else where:
    “An accusation was made, with no supportive evidence. It is
    defamatory. It has caused action. It has shut opportunities.

    She has not one bit of concern for legal procedure, innocent until
    proven guilty or even the common grace to speak privately and reconcile.
    She simply does not like Ron and has sadly spat upon him in a community
    that prides itself in creative unity.”

    Everything I was thinking has already been said in the above quote. I have studied law, I DO have a degree and everything she has said and done is down right able to be brought to a court case. She is Screaming all this shit without proof and when asked for such she tells people “No.” When asked for more details she says “No” Honestly she is now a reason why people that have been Sexually Harassed are afraid to come forth, even with proof.

    Please collect proof of all accounts and sides before posting of any matter from now on. This is not like you all here at Nerd & Tie.

    • Hi Nikki. As I said in my response to Danielle, I made a judgement call. It’s why I provided the source so you can read it for yourself. Frankly, this was largely a link post meant to redirect people to the other articles.

      But as I said in that other response, it’s true that I should have linked to Ladao’s response, so I’ve added it to the post.

      At Nerd & Tie we do tend to express our opinions on topics like this, but we do our best to include our sources so people can come to their own conclusions. We failed a little on this one, and hopefully we’ve now made it right.

      • Nikki

        I would like to point a few more points of information for you on this case, for future reading:
        “Ron Ladao has NEVER officially worked for
        C2E2. The only action taken by C2E2 was to cancel his attendance on the
        night of the Mardi Gras event. They did not use this accusation as the
        reason for the cancellation. They have not stated or done anything
        officially. The reason listed for the cancellation the night of the
        Mardi Gras was because the venue had hired their own photographer and
        they would not be needing his services.”

        the Hotel Room that Lauren was going to change in, was Ronalds’ room mind you, and he had the only key to said room. He did not follow them as she has said he did, NOR did he harass them due to what the definition of harassment is. And even if he did harass her it was never Sexual Harassment as she bluntly calls it.

        If you also study her blog and look into her blog posts you will see that she does post alot of negative things about other people, same as Ronald posts opinions on CosFamous people.

        Another thing to add is they were both the same age group mind you, Ron is only alittle older the Lauren. Both were in 17-18 year old range. So this stuff Lauren is going over and over again in her post about “we were underaged,” seem shes to forget they were same age.

        I Really do like that Nerd & Tie is bias on things but this article lacks alot of the research adn well writing that you all usually have in stuff. I hope that more research is done on this topic as there are alot more details to the story if you read both sides that need to be highlighted and alot of Laurens details are lacking and seem very unfair and outright wrong.

        • I’ve clarified the hotel room situation in the text (honestly I hadn’t really revisited the story again until tonight – we’ve been working on other, unrelated stuff this week).

          And honestly? Him only being a year older doesn’t make it that much less creepy.

          • Nikki

            As stated before C2E2 has not broken off working with Ron, and I even quoted that much. (See my previous comment)

            Him being a year old and it being his room, them being friends even through last year (I can give proof of her asking him professional and friend questions) her sharing a room with him, him NOT busting down door as she stated does make. Less creepy and more stupid teenage boy. Even he has stated he was stupid for opening door,( BUT anyone that has been in hotels know a hotel room set up and know if the girls were where Lauren stated they were from door you would barely even see them. But that’s against the point.)

            Also there I alitle morethings off in Laurens side if you really read and study it all. There are holes in places. Such as why should an award mean anything to her? (Also she stated wrong award it was best photo nothing more) why should his opinions on cosfamous people be mentioned in her article? She posts her own opinions on people, why can’t he have his? Most of what she states has nothing to do with anything else. And she has also stated convention have banned or refused to work with Ronald when only one has, and the refused to work with either party til all is cleared up. (Last I heard of it)

            Since you have stated to another persons comments you trust Laurens posts, I feel any proof or information you receive is useless.

            Sadly this post you have made is not what you tried to say it is. (Will quote you) “frankly this was a largely a link post meant to direct people to other articles” this post is damning a name, calling someone you don’t personally know something, helping ruin a mans career, while not researching evidence or looking more into it, and saying you trust someone’s word that you do not even know. This post is unprofessional and honestly as bad as Laurens. Once you research and word things better i shall return to being a supporter of your (be it proof against ronald or lauren i care not) please be professional and respectful to all parties with proof and research as you have in the past rather then blantly taking a side.

            Thank you.

          • It’s summarizing the link. I didn’t make claims, Geek Girl Chicago did. I just happen to believe her.

            We do more than one kind of article here — sometimes we break stories, going indepth on an issue ourselves. Sometimes we summarize and link to other’s work.

            This one happens to be the latter. I’m not really sure why it’s been shared this much, when people should just be following through to the primary sources.

            Honestly, I’m surprised this article is getting this much attention five days after it went live — from people completely ignoring the parts about an active danger at KatsuCon this weekend and the fact that a long time Wisconsin congoer got picked up in a pedophilia sting.

            (This is unrelated, but we take sides here and express opinions all the time at Nerd & Tie — and we’re very upfront about it. We just also make sure you know how we got there. It looks like we disagree in this case, and that’s fine — but it’s not because you don’t know how I got to my conclusions. Hopefully the next time we’ll make a strong enough case to convince you)

      • Echo

        You didn’t just “fail a little”, and you kept calling him a creep even after he was proven innocent.
        What would you have done if he hadn’t kept the proof for THIRTEEN YEARS? You’d still be calling for his head!

        • I’m starting to think you actually didn’t read all of the words that were written.

          I’m going to close comments on this article, and if you wish to continue the discussion, it can be done on the more recent article.

  • Many of us know Ron as a professional. He does not drink during cons and I’ve never seen him put a hand on any person during our brief interactions. First and only time I’ve had him take photos of me in cosplay he showed enthusiasm to work with me. Not once did he touch me or say anything obscene or offensive. The Ron from 13 years ago is not the same Ron we know today.

    Personally, I feel as though Lauren has created a mess, and the only way she is handling it is by deleting anyone who questions her. I recently saw this photo and makes it really difficult for me for give her compassion. It makes me feel as though she was mocking harassment and assault victims like myself. I’m happy she spoke up about it, but I feel as though she should have had some form of mediation done before writing the blog.

  • disqus_ZlAkf5oEE3

    I am stepping forward because I want to put fourth my input. I was a victim of a horrible sexual assault while intoxicated by a grown 40 yr old man. I think your article is not reliable because there is so much you DONT know and you do not have enough proper information to create a well constructed article. I don’t know either parties but I know what its like (being a correctional psychologist major) and being a victim of an assault. These things do not add up, and it was too long ago. You realize that this was not an assault, and by no means does what happen change the fact that it wasn’t okay, but there is a big difference between assault and harrassment, and she cannot testify because how long she waited. The police will tell you (when I went in to report mine) that the longest they would reccommend you wait is as little as 18 months. Did you not know the fact that she also used photos Ron took of her a YEAR ago and used it in a contest? I dont think if someone was so traumatically hurt by their victimizer would do that. I just don’t think it adds up, I’m sorry. People doing this make it harder for victims to come fourth because no one believes us. I apologize for this, I’m simply upset by this whole situation. It’s not okay.