How to React When a Member of Your Con Staff is Accused of Rape

One thing that’s easy to forget in the con scene is that it all takes place in the real world. The same bad people out there work their way in here as much as any other place. Over the years we’ve covered some pretty dark stories, and unfortunately this is one of them.

On Monday it came to light that long time staffer of Twin Cities based Anime Detour Stephen Gifford has been charged with third-degree sexual assault in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Gifford was head of Convention Communications for Anime Detour’s 2019 event earlier this year, and has previously served as the event’s convention chair.

The assault occurred in early June, and Gifford is currently free on bail.

Now we’ve seen cons react to situations like this in many ways, but thankfully Anime Detour’s staff has taken the situation seriously. Late Monday night they released an official statement in which the event explained that they had been made aware of the situation in late June, and that Gifford has been completely removed from staff and banned from all future events.

Honestly this is an awful situation, and Anime Detour’s actions are only a small consolation. The sad fact is though that not all conventions have had the same follow through when they’ve found themselves in similar positions, and it’s important to acknowledge it when a convention does the right thing when allegations like these come out. This is what a con should do when events like this happen.

Because they unfortunately will again, as we as a community have a very long way to go.

Trae Dorn

Trae Dorn has been staffing conventions for over twenty years, and is a co-founder of Wisconsin’s longest running Anime convention No Brand Con. Trae also wrote and drew the now completed webcomic UnCONventional, and produces the podcasts BS-Free Witchcraft, On This Day With Trae, Stormwood & Associates, and The Nerd & Tie Podcast. This leads many to ask when the hell they have time to actually do anything anymore. Trae says they have the time because they “do it all quite poorly.”

3 thoughts on “How to React When a Member of Your Con Staff is Accused of Rape

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  • October 27, 2019 at 1:31 pm

    I worked on a con for its first two years, until I learned that the Head of Security had been arrested for and charged with a variety of crimes, including hate crimes, as well as rumored to have allegedly driven a minor across state lines in order to have sex with her in a state where it was legal, among other things. I raised these concerns in an email to the chair and vice chair of the convention, and was immediately dropped from staff without even being told. I found out when they posted that they were looking for a new Head of LARP. I was very vocal about what happened but nobody listened to me, and he wound up entering a kink relationship with a friend of mine and manipulating her to drive us apart. I, and a few other friends, warned her several times about him and his problematic and illegal behavior, but he kept telling her I was just jealous because I was interested in him. It got to the point where he made her block me on Facebook and wouldn’t allow her to attend social gatherings in our friend group where I would be present.

    They eventually broke up but our friendship never recovered and to this day she still resents me and defends him. He no longer works for the convention to the best of my knowledge but I will never forgive the con chair for how he handled the situation. The con has gone on to be a moderately successful small to mid-size convention in our area and it’s frustrating to know that they could potentially be at risk if another individual joins their staff whose past transgressions are actively ignored the chair and I can’t do anything about it. Especially someone in a position like Head of Security.

  • October 27, 2019 at 1:31 pm

    I’m very sorry for the effect this has on our community. This is very hard to accept and believe. Stages of grief…


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