Photographic Justice: A Case Study in Victim Shaming and Unequal Justice For All

“These aren’t evil people, Odo. These are people I’ve worked with. They’re my friends – people I respect. How can I turn against them?”

  • Commander Benjamin Sisko, Deep Space 9

“It seems to me, if they have committed treason against the Federation, the Federation that you swore to protect – you won’t be turning against them. *They* will have turned against you.”

  • Odo, Station Security, Deep Space 9

Clarification: Those that say “Let the courts / government decide” is not part of the group herein referred to as “remaining neutral”. I do not encourage vigilante justice for they only work in movies and comic books.  In fact, I want to see this play out in the court of law, for that is when this Northern California community can finally have some form of closure.  So if you post PSAs about safe cosplay/photographer etiquette is at least a step in the right direction.  What I can’t take is all the little jokes about how this is “no big deal”, that the victims “should have known better”, and the continued defense of this man’s actions.  If there is to be any sort of contrition for the actions of people like him, there has to be universal acknowledgement.  He might have been a good man.  He might have done a lot for the community.  But those quality do not outweigh the sins he has committed.

I can understand those that initially took the man’s side in the matter.  These days, it is hard to have facts verified, making it even odds that this is a slander.  However, as the victims all at once spoke out, many in the community chose the easier option to either ridicule the victims or classify the whole thing as “drama” and “remained neutral”.  So when is it do we stop and realize that someone has been hurt?  The second victim?  A minor?  What is the breaking point for people to realize that Cosplay =/= Consent?  Remember that was something that we all agreed to so much that many of us demanded that conventions and events increased security to prevent more incidents?  But now that the perpetrator has a face and reputation that everyone knows, instead of immediately calling for blood, we are still expected to assume the victims were liars?  It is noble to continue the “Innocent until proven guilty” but to say that after the evidence is out there for all to see.  Loyalty is very admirable and in short supply in this community, but the man clearly violated the trust of the community.  After 24 hours from the initial posting, it should be obvious.

Another topic is that the victims “should have know better”.  It is a common flaw in this society that “I think this is obvious, therefore other should too”.  I’ve trained in both photography and Information Technology and I know for a fact that not everyone is trained the same way.  Just because someone can sew a cosplay and another can make a prop doesn’t mean I can (I’ve tried).  The worst part of this mentality is that it feeds into “victim shaming”, that it is not the criminal’s fault they were violated but rather the victims themselves for somehow being too stupid to know better.  What those under “should have known better” forget is that many cosplayers in this community start out young.  I’ve heard and read stories that many of you started out in elementry or high school.  Increasingly I also see very long children wearing actual armor plates from Big Hero 6 and Ironman.  Should they “know better” too?  The man had impeccable credentials with a strong portfolio, there were (at the time) few complaints about his methodology, and many recommended his services in modeling, fashion, weddings, and events.  To say the girls didn’t do their research is not true.  Try doing research by looking at the screenshots ask yourself “what possible reason would there be for someone to transmit nude photographs for a non-nude photoshoot?”.  It was used as a method of coercion with lines like “this is common in photography (Spoilers: No it is not!)” or “We’ll delete these photos later (The iCloud scandal proves otherwise)”.  The definition of an “ambush” is “a surprise attack by lying in wait from a concealed position”, something that happened on multiple occasions over the years.  This could happen by the photographer using physical force (no evidence of that in this case). It could be by using words like “everyone else does this” and “this will help you boost confidence”.  Or it could be that the photographer will threaten to black ball the victim.  In these and many other cases, a simple “no” might not do any good.

So now that his guilt is obvious, instead of raising awareness, there are still groups in the NorCal area that refuse to prosecute the problem.  Indeed, they simply declare Neutrality and continue to write this off as “drama”, a spat between two parties.  The problem with taking a neutral stance in this case is that this is a clear violation not only of State and Federal Law but of the Rules and Regulations within the cosplay community.  In the past, the entire community was united whenever cases like these came up where someone would rig a shoe camera to take photos up cosplayer’s skirts.  After every major con, stories of people inappropriately touching without consent boiled the blood of every cosplayer. The whole “Cosplay =/= Consent” became almost universally adopted by the community at large.  So why then would someone who has been proven (admittedly outside of the courts) to be just like those other criminals and outcasts.  My answer is that just like the justice system at large, we give lip service to justice being blind of class, color, and creed, but when it comes from a very influential member of the community, then it becomes just that: lip service.

Regardless of all our opinions the fact is that the photographer did something that violates both the trust of the community and the laws in which we are all governed by.  By the letter of the law, what he did was a crime.  By the intentions of the cosplay community, he has been found guilty.  The law will decide this, but in the meantime, it is how we conduct ourselves that matters more.  Do we stand and defend the actions of a criminal by either defending him or sitting this out?  Or do we do something proactive like warn other young cosplayers and models of him or people like him?  Do we continue to preach that cosplay =/= consent, but implicitly allow anyone with roots in the community and years of service to commit criminal acts?  Or do we make it one big offensive joke about it, using words like “Salty” and “They should have known better”?

I’ve chosen my side in this fight.  But the Gods honest truth is:

I have never been more ashamed of being a part of the Northern California Cosplay Community.  I’m ashamed that this happened.  And I’m ashamed that people continue to make excuses for the criminal.  And to anyone who stands idly by and decide that there is not enough proof, I say keep your heads buried in the sand for that’s how I see this community because of you: Dead and Buried.

The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it’s scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth! It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based. And if you can’t find it within yourself to stand up and tell the truth about what happened, you don’t deserve to wear that uniform!

  • Captain Jean Luc Picard, U.S.S. Enterprise-D

References:

US Code of Justice, Title 18, Part 1, Charpter 110, Subsection 2251

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2251

“Notably, the legal definition of sexually explicit conduct does not require that an image depict a child engaging in sexual activity. A picture of a naked child may constitute illegal child pornography if it is sufficiently sexually suggestive. Additionally, the age of consent for sexual activity in a given state is irrelevant; any depiction of a minor under 18 years of age engaging in sexually explicit conduct is illegal.

Specifically, Section 2251 makes it illegal to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for purposes of producing visual depictions of that conduct.”

Link:

http://www.justice.gov/criminal-ceos/citizens-guide-us-federal-law-child-pornography

http://nerdreactor.com/2015/10/14/indecent-exposure-cosplay-photographer-controversy/

1st Major Social Media Source

2nd Major Social Media Source

All the victims are working with Local Law Enforcement.

Bui has been reached for a statement by other sites.

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~ by BlizzardTerrak on October 16, 2015.

One Response to “Photographic Justice: A Case Study in Victim Shaming and Unequal Justice For All”

  1. I totally agree not only should the cosplay community be out raged but any self-respecting photographer should also be outraged at this misuse of our given craft.
    Photographers can catch enough grief doing their job the very best that they can and to have someone in the business do something like this is unimaginable

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