Handling reports of harassment

Guidelines for responding to reports of harassment

All committee members should read this document and be familiar with its contents.

Be sure to have a good understanding of our Code of Conduct. Also have a good understanding of what is expected from an attendee who reports a harassment incident. These guidelines can be found here.

First steps on receiving a report

Try to get as much of the incident in written form by the reporter. If you cannot, transcribe it yourself as it was told to you. The important information to gather includes the following:

  • identifying information about the attendee doing the harassing;
  • the behavior that was in violation of the code of conduct;
  • the approximate time of the behavior;
  • the circumstances surrounding the incident;
  • other people involved in the incident.

Prepare an initial response to the incident. This initial response is very important. Depending on the details and severity of the incident, please follow these guidelines:

  • If there is any general threat to attendees or the safety of anyone is in doubt, summon security or police.
  • Offer the victim a private place to sit.
  • Ask "is there a friend or trusted person who you would like to be with you?" (if so, arrange for someone to fetch this person).
  • Ask them "how can I help?".
  • Provide them with your list of emergency contacts if they need help later.
  • If everyone is presently physically safe, involve law enforcement or security only at a victim's request.

There are also some guidelines as to what not to do as an initial response:

  • Do not overtly invite them to withdraw the complaint or mention that withdrawal is OK. This suggests that you want them to do so, and is therefore coercive. "If you're OK with it [pursuing the complaint]" suggests that you are by default pursuing it and is not coercive.
  • Do not ask for their advice on how to deal with the complaint. This is a staff responsibility.
  • Do not offer them input into penalties. This is the committee's responsibility.

Handling a report

Once something is reported to you as a committee member, immediately meet with the conference chair and other committee members. The main objectives of this meeting is to find out the following:

  • What happened?
  • Are we doing anything about it?
  • Who is doing those things?
  • When are they doing them?

After this meeting and discussion, have a committee member (preferably the conference chair if available) communicate with the alleged harasser. Make sure to inform them of what has been reported about them.

Allow the alleged harasser to give their side of the story to the staff. After this point, if report stands, let them know what actions will be taken against them.

Some options for the committee to consider when dealing with Code of Conduct offenders:

  • warning the harasser to cease their behavior and that any further reports will result in sanctions;
  • requiring that the harasser avoid any interaction with, and physical proximity to, their victim for the remainder of the event;
  • ending a talk early that violates the policy;
  • not publishing the video or slides of a talk that violated the policy;
  • not allowing a speaker who violated the policy to give (further) talks at the event now or in the future;
  • immediately ending any event volunteer responsibilities and privileges the harasser holds;
  • requiring that the harasser not volunteer for future PyCon UK events (either indefinitely or for a certain time period);
  • requiring that the harasser immediately leave the event and not return;
  • banning the harasser from future events (either indefinitely or for a certain time period);
  • publishing an account of the harassment and calling for the resignation of the harasser from their responsibilities within the community.

The way we deal with the incident publicly is very important. Our policy is to make sure that everyone aware of the initial incident is also made aware that official action has been taken, while still respecting the privacy of individual attendees. When speaking about the incident to those who are aware of it, but who were not involved with it, it is a good idea to keep the details out.

Depending on the incident, the conference chair may decide to make one or more public announcements. If necessary, this will be done with a short announcement during a plenary session, or through other channels. No one other than the conference chair or someone delegated authority from the conference chair should make any announcements.

This document has been adapted from PyCon US's guidelines, which were in turn adapted from the advice from the Ada Initiative.

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