Link to original: http://atlantavampirealliance.com/educational/safetyprivacyawareness.html
A sobering message to the participants of the vampire community
The vampire community was formed in part to promote the well-being of its members with a supportive social network. We've done an admirable job in promoting safer feeding practices, sensitivity and acknowledgment of donor concerns, and sharing the most effective ways to manage or conceptualize vampirism. We've supported one another as we discovered that it was acceptable to form our own identities, even if those close to us can't or won't be supportive. Despite our advances, we’ve fallen short at protecting our community from exploitation by both outsiders and subversive participants who exist among us. The most visible members of the vampire community should strive towards being more open to newcomers and willing to work with them on finding responsible resources. When newcomers find themselves in a leaderless environment they are more likely to encounter individuals willing to serve this role who have less than honorable intentions. The time has come to acknowledge and correct this problem.
Participants in the vampire community have a responsibility to one another to correctly identify, acknowledge, and remove illegal, abusive, and predatory behavior from our own milieu. We’re all aware there are predators and opportunists who want to capitalize on the popularity of vampires; using the vampire community as their personal one-stop deli counter of potential victims. Actively promoting a cultural set of values to which real vampires already tend to aspire is the strongest and most far-reaching way to undermine these individuals. If it’s widely known that real vampires promote safe behavior, healthy personal growth, and interactions between equally-powerful individuals on a level social playing field, then it's far more difficult for predators, abusers, and opportunists to effectively pretend to be part of our community, or worse, to fool others into following them based on the merits of their supposed vampirism and charming charisma.
In building the vampire community, we've created a culture that encourages introspection, promotes individual health, and tries to meet the needs of its individuals. We can also use these methods that are unique to the vampire community to address dangers and promote health at the community level as well as the individual level. We owe it to ourselves and those who participate in our community, both online and offline, to acknowledge that the vampire community is at risk for specific types of abuse. We must be willing to take the necessary steps to create a culture that lessens that risk to our participants. This also includes identifying community participants who choose to prey on others, create imaginary lives that have the potential to adversely affect those around them, or who commit crimes and engage in behaviors which pose a clear danger to the personal safety, security, and livelihoods of law abiding participants in the vampire community.
I. Avoid Enabling Or Encouraging Outright Fantasy
When an individual participates in discussions solely on the internet, others can only judge who they are as a person by what they write. While the same can be said for those who choose to reveal selective sides of themselves over the telephone or in person, it’s less likely to occur with the same degree of success. We’re a non mainstream community, whose discussion topics include spiritual or occult themes, and these themes can appear dramatic, compelling, and intense. We understand that simply by virtue of existing, a community dedicated to the support of real vampires will inevitably attract people with unstable emotional or psychological conditions who are drawn by the appeal of the fantastic. We must work to explicitly distinguish the vampire community's disposition towards the dramatic from facetious rhetoric. It’s detrimental to us all to enable anyone’s confusion of fantasy with reality.
Our community has a strong appreciation for personal expression, which has given participants a wide margin of acceptability in use of dramatic and fiction-derived language, but we're reaching the limits of what the community can tolerate without becoming abject enablers of outsiders' ego-based fantasy and role-playing behavior. A culture appreciating and rewarding precise communication is far more valuable to us than a culture which allows metaphorical language to pollute the discussion with drama while helping predators blend in. Imposed social hierarchy, assigned personal titles, and arbitrary laws derived largely from role-playing games are counterproductive to protecting the community from abuses. We must be able to discern legitimate community members from outsiders or those who have simply borrowed terminology in hopes of a quick assimilation and a naive fan base who’ll succumb to their wishes or possible ulterior motives. Many predators aren't easily identified as being either unstable or violent. The most dangerous are often those who are the most charismatic; assimilating into the crowd and rising through the ranks until they obtain the level of recognition or respect necessary to carry out their actions. If you have a feeling that something is not "right" about someone then you should perhaps listen to your intuition; especially if others are in agreement.
Time is a valuable commodity, so we resolve to only spend it conversing with people worth our time; surrounding ourselves with those who are mentally and emotionally stable, grounded in reality, and those who don't engage in or encourage dangerous behaviors. Observing the actions of others and measuring their loyalties over long periods of time will often reveal those who are truly deserving of your company. We have a responsibility to ourselves to understand what attracts us to someone, how they are viewed and treated by their peers, and how they respond to setbacks, refusals, or disagreements. This is how a safe and stable community can be built at a grassroots level: by individuals making better-informed choices about who to interact with. Pathological liars, mentally ill participants who constantly cause discord or whose delusions tear at the harmony of community interactions, and attempts towards establishing oligarchical power structures must not be welcomed in our community.
II. Acknowledge The Ways In Which We Are Targets
We’re a community of outsiders and identity seekers, and over time we've shared our experiences of building our hard-won senses of self over and against the disapproval of family or religion, despite lack of social support, or even in the face of outright sabotage by our peers. Many of us have a personal story in our past in which we had to choose between who we are and who someone else wanted us to be. Many vampire community participants are drawn to our discussions of identity because they are themselves in the process of developing those same personal tools of self-discovery, and may be facing adversity of their own in the process. The vampire community has become an incubator for individuals' sense of self, both vampires and non-vampires; keeping it a safe space for such exploration should be foremost among our responsibilities.
The vampire community has always tried to be a safe space in which uncertainty is allowed. We allow one's identity to remain a question without an immediate answer as individuals develop the tools to ask themselves who they are, and uncover their answers for themselves. As a non-authoritarian culture, vampires have always held that validation of one's own experiences need not come from those in higher positions of respect or authority than oneself. The vampire community has supported this idea by encouraging individuals to “discover themselves” and to “be honest with themselves”, but we can be more assertive in reminding those on a path of self-discovery to maintain their own autonomy: that the checks and balances of logic and realism are better tools than the arbitrary mandates of others and that they themselves are the only ones they have to please.
If our community is intended to be a safe space for self-discovery, then we need to be aggressively aware that being uncertain makes one a target; opportunists will always be there to exploit any uncertainty and any weakness in one's sense of self. The vampire community can promote awareness of attacks upon the self by outlining probable patterns of attack: the offering of a ready-made identity in place of one's hard-fought search for identity; encouraging vulnerable individuals to sever ties with their current support network; blatant disregard of the health of a donor; asking for time, money, personal information, or sexual favors. We must be conscious, and encourage awareness, of the ways in which opportunists try to hijack the process of self-discovery in vulnerable individuals.
Encouraging or facilitating association and open discussion with those under the age of eighteen by adults is inherently problematic. This openness and lack of restrictive access on the part of the vampire community is often looked upon by predators as an opportunity to fulfill their fantasies. It’s simply not safe for children or young teenagers to participate in the vampire community in unrestricted or unsupervised social networking environments. While we acknowledge that the search for identity is just as legitimate, and just as personally important (if not more so) in the young as it is in adults, we must also acknowledge the increased vulnerability of this demographic. Furthermore, the type of discernment that we intend to encourage can only come with maturity and experience. This is true for all at-risk groups: those new to the internet, those who are used to sheltered environments, but especially for the young and inexperienced. The internet vampire community can not realistically keep at-risk participants safe from potential abuse, and therefore can not ethically allow their interactive participation. The best way to serve the needs of those high-risk groups is to encourage every individual to engage in honest introspection free from the undue influence of others, and to only join interactive participation after they have developed a strong sense of self, and of self-defense.
Many of the aforementioned behaviors, at least in their beginnings, have largely flown under our radar as a community. Perhaps we've seen forum postings in which someone's recruiting members sight-unseen for their new “House” or “Clan”, or perhaps we know someone who was told that if they really want to "be a vampire", they should send some money to find out how. This strikes many of us as an off-note, but we don't know what to do to prevent it from occurring in the future. It's not an explicit illegal offense, but it erodes our culture and our purpose. We can work against this type of exploitation by directly addressing the problem with new and vulnerable community participants, pointing out the techniques used to undermine individuality, and by creating a culture that explicitly refuses to tolerate behaviors that subvert, rather than support, a developing sense of self.
III. Promote Aggressive Privacy, Personal Safety, & Identity Compartmentalization Techniques
We know that being different is a personal danger in our lives, and many members of the vampire community take steps to avoid having people who they know in a non-vampiric context discovering their nightside identities. To ensure our continued employment, involvement in our children’s lives, and avoid uncomfortable social situations, we've created a necessary aesthetic of privacy and of separation. However, when it comes to interactions within the vampire community, we don't have explicit ideals about how much information to share with one another, how to trust or not trust one another, or what kinds of protections we might be wise to employ from one another. It's not about being more honest and open nor is about having something to hide; it's about keeping the power over your personal safety firmly in your own grasp at all times. It's about being aware that exposing your private information on the internet, or trusting too easily in the real world, transfers the power from your own hand to those who receive your trust. If the vampire community is intended to be a safe space, part of enforcing that safety must include actively discouraging participants from making themselves less safe.
We can create a safer community by building explicit ideals about keeping one's personal identifying information secret on the internet and in real life to the best of our ability. We can discourage the use of personally-identifying email addresses, the sharing of names, phone numbers, or addresses, accessing vampire related websites from work computers, and especially the tendency to let one's Facebook (or other social network) serve double-duty for both nightside and dayside friends. Unless one’s identity was compartmentalized at the initial onset of participation in the vampire community, then that individual will be forever at risk to possible exploitation. Therefore, it’s important to monitor what information and conversations we engage in publicly, keeping track of what we've have shared about ourselves with others and being more cautious before giving freely of our trust.
Perhaps most importantly, we can remind ourselves that we can never know whether someone on the internet is really who they say they are, and build conventions of communication accordingly. We can discourage stalking, harassing, or malicious "outing" of fellow community members by promoting effective privacy as a community standard. We can teach and remind one another how to keep ourselves safe from harm, and how to recognize when we're placing ourselves into a situation in which we're dependent on someone else for our safety. These are not suggestions steeped in paranoia -- they are prudent measures in an age where our personal privacy is eroding and the means to manipulate others for personal gain are growing.
IV. Exercise Our Protections Under The Law
Opportunists know those outside the mainstream can feel rejected by society, and are less likely to believe they have normal social protections or legal recourse. This might even be true in many places, if law enforcement is intolerant of diversity or if they've fallen for Satanic Panic conspiracy theories. Whether hostility from law enforcement is real or simply feared, the vampire community has a real and valuable right to the protections of law, and we have a responsibility to call on the law to protect both us and our fellow community participants if a predator creates problems in our local communities or online.
No one should be afraid to report serious abuses and work transparently with law enforcement to remove predators from our community. Likewise, when abuses occur, it’s important to see that police reports are filed, personally record detailed narratives and facts surrounding the event, and be able to present irrefutable evidence when official legal inquiries are made. In conjunction with law enforcement involvement, participants who personally experience abuses or witness them firsthand should report them to those in a position of influence or leadership for those in the community who may come into contact with the alleged offender. Too often, violent and abusive community participants can continue their abuses simply by moving to another city or state, where the community hasn't yet heard of their record. Community participants who have good communication with one another should be able to thwart such behavior, so long as they are armed with legitimate data such as official police reports, rather than rumors and gossip.
Through the responsible sharing on actionable and verifiable information concerning crimes, we can create a culture which predators, child molesters, and those who are abusive and violent, are afraid to approach or participate in, because they know they'll get reported immediately, charges will be pressed, and they'll be called out and held responsible for trying to make the vampire community their personal playground. We can create a culture that makes vulnerable participants aware of the potential for abuse and that real vampires behave in ways designed intentionally to promote individual safety and security.
By Zero & Merticus; Atlanta Vampire Alliance [AVA] & Suscitatio Enterprises, LLC
July 18, 2011 - This article may be redistributed, translated, or adopted by other organizations provided there are no content modifications and full citation is included.