Aki Con is an annual convention for anime lovers in the Seattle area. My adult daughter has attended Aki Con for the past 2 years. She is part of the cosplay community; fans who go to conventions in costume, portraying their favorite characters. She goes to a few conventions every year, and has fun at them, as do her friends. Cosplay is their hobby and they spend a good deal of time and money on it. The Seattle cosplay community is — in my admittedly biased opinion — one of the best in the country.
Aki Con has a troubled history.
This past October, my daughter and her friends attended Aki Con in Seattle. This is a fairly new con on the scene, trying to establish itself. But their reputation is spotty; last year they had some problems with their treatment of merchants and artists. But that is child’s play compared to what happened this year. For the Saturday night costume rave, the administrators of Aki Con hired a DJ who calls himself “Victor Malice.” He is touted as a Guest on the Aki Con website (as shown above).
A few people in the cosplay community had some information about Mr. Malice which they believed Aki Con should have taken into consideration before the event. Victor Malice, a.k.a Leslie Shotwell, is a convicted sex offender. He spent 4 years in prison in Arizona for sexual conduct with a minor, attempt to commit a sexual act with a minor and “dangerous crimes against children.” This information is easily discovered: all it takes is a simple Google search. The admins of Aki Con were advised of this. They were sent the link and warned that they shouldn’t hire this man. They ignored everything and hired him anyway, which was probably to be expected since he is a friend of theirs.
One of the people who warned the Aki Con staff about “Victor” had personal experience with his overt sexual gestures. She accepted a ride home from him last year after a meeting and was barely able to shove him out her front door when he tried to make his moves. She told a friend who worked with “Victor,” and had also had trouble with him. On a hunch, the two Googled him and discovered his record. They told the Aki Con admins but were ignored. A link to the information was posted on the Akicon Facebook page by yet another woman and was also ignored… and deleted.
Ignoring warnings leads to tragedy.
Sure enough, a girl came forward after Aki Con saying that she has been raped by Shotwell. The victim — whose name is being withheld both for privacy and legal reasons — had just turned 18 before Aki Con. At the rave on Saturday night “Victor” had been hitting on her (and other women, too, witnesses say). Sunday afternoon she woke up in his 11th floor hotel room, disoriented and frightened. She left and called the Guest Liaison, who stayed with her in her room until a couple of her friends showed up. She then called the police and the Liaison left (he should have waited until the police arrived). One of her friends took her to the hospital where a rape kit was done and her blood tested for drugs. Her blood work tested positive for flunitrazepam — roofies, the “date rape drug.” A police report was filed. So far, there is no indication that “Victor” has been arrested. It should be noted that his name does not appear on any Sex Offender registration lists: not registering is a felony.
Aki Con’s reaction was defensive and sloppy.
The Aki Con administrators have handled this incident very poorly. Their statement basically boils down to, “we know nothing and it’s not our fault.” They put the whole thing back onto the victim, as most enablers do, going so far as to accuse her of lying. But their liability in this case cannot be erased so easily. They knowingly, and with pertinent information provided to them, hired a convicted sexual offender. When they were warned about his record, they blew it off. They know that there are underage girls who attend their convention. That an alleged rape occurred is no surprise to anyone who was aware of “Victor’s” background.
The majority of the Seattle cosplay community are, rightly enough, outraged. Here is a convention that expects people to pay money to attend. Part of the contract this creates is trusting that the staff and volunteers are no danger to them. That trust has been destroyed by the actions of Aki Con both before and after this year’s convention. Their failure to act on the information provided to them prior to the convention was stupid. Not accepting responsibility for hiring a known sex offender is reprehensible, and, possibly, actionable. The fact that “Victor” is buddies with– and former staff for– the admins of Aki Con is highly suspicious. It’s also the probable reason for their enabling him. Their negligence resulted in a thoroughly predictable result.
Cosplayers ban Aki Con.
One of the best-known of Seattle cosplayers shared her feelings about how Aki Con has dealt with this. Molly McIssac is one of the stars of SyFy’s Fangasm and a local celebrity. She gave Addicting Info this exclusive statement:
I find the way that Aki Con is handling this entire situation to be absolutely despicable. This is why conventions need harassment policies.
There’s something else that Aki Con has fallen down on. There are no policies for their convention about harassment nor about bullying. These are very basic things that any event should consider. Yet another reason not to attend Aki Con in future.
Many members of the Seattle cosplay community have decided not to attend Aki Con again. Aside from the attitude that the admins are displaying, they are known for a propensity to ignore complaints. And the absence of policy regarding harassment and bullying shows their lack of professionalism. Other conventions manage to deal with staff and volunteer vetting very well: there is no excuse for Aki Con’s retaining a sexual predator as a paid Guest. Anyone who organizes a convention, knowing that many people attend (some underage), is responsible for making that event as safe as humanly possible. The Aki Con people didn’t do this. Now they must face the music that DJ “Victor Malice” has provided.
Another woman who was at the same convention has posted a video from the victim. The Finding Petunia Tumblr page also other important information in support of the underage girl who was attacked, including a petition and Aki-Con’s extremely tone deaf response to the situation. Here’s the video:
UPDATE – The original version of this article stated that the Finding Petunia page belonged to the victim instead of a concerned third party. This has been corrected and we apologize for the error.