Geek Girl Chicago’s Controversy in the Cosplay World

Written by: April.

She is PopCultHQ’s resident cosplay, convention and tech expert.

Editors Note: This an opinion contributed piece and does not reflect the views of PopCultHQ, its staff or that of PopCultHQ affiliated media partner C2E2 Comic Entertainment Expo; ReedPop Media.


zerotolerance

There has recently been an article posted on Geek Girl Chicago (that we have provided at the bottom in full) by one of their writers, Lauren Faits, that has caused quite the significant controversy in the local cosplay community. Unfortunately the article originally began as very one-sided, as it was written from the perspective of the victim. There was no third party perspective attached and the accused was not provided an opportunity to defend themselves in the same forum. The article has already done significant damage to the reputation of the hobby but mostly to the very career of the accused.

While I applaud the fact that Lauren chose to stand up and speak about an incident that has apparently been haunting her for years. Unfortunately it was 13 years ago, so both parties memories have been clouded with age.

We all know that perception for everyone is different, depending on your emotions, your viewpoint or even your eyesight. Ask thirteen witnesses about an incident 10 minutes after it happened and you are likely to get five different responses, this is something law enforcement has to deal with daily.

perspective truth

Unless others who were actually present at the time step forward and give their perceptions of the incident, no one can truly say if there was an actual threat involved.

However, there are now currently major consequences involved…to both parties. Since this was written publicly, many have taken the original Geek Girl article too far and have labeled Ron Ladao as a sexual harasser, some even using her false term of sexual assault to call him a child molester. Readers have taken the incident to the point of ruining his photography career as well as any future careers he chooses to pursue, whether it is involved in cosplay or not.

Ron has posted a response on his Facebook page (that we also provide at the bottom), but due to his privacy settings, the general public has not been able to leave comments. I appreciate the fact that Ron has not deleted any comments from his friends (that I know of) and has simply responded to them, not necessarily in her defense, but in a plea for others to be civil and polite. He does not have a ‘public’ forum as Lauren does, and the fact that others cannot post on his response has made them think he has something to hide.

On the other hand Lauren has brought herself into the limelight and is being called a wolf-cryer or worse by several. Many are belittling her feelings in the entire incident. Unfortunately, she has not helped her cause by editing or removing comments left on the blog as this has made many feel that she has something to hide.

 

Is It All Just Bad Wording?

Lauren Faits

The author, Lauren Faits, who goes by the moniker “Writer by day, gamer by night, sci-fi/fantasy costumer by weekend, blogger by… well, whatever’s left,” first attempts to recount her version in the article, found on Geek Girl Chicago, of an incident in question 13 years ago where the reader is misled by many of her badly worded statements. According to the law, everyone has a right to defend themselves against an accuser and the accused has come out and said their part, basically letting the dominoes fall as they may. We will be bringing both sides together in this article, in the hopes that the readers could make up their own minds.

In the article (that we provided for you at the bottom in its entirety, along with the response from Ron Ladao himself),

“Thirteen years ago, I was under 18- a minor. I was attending an anime convention in the Chicago area. A group of cosplayers, including myself, headed up to a hotel room to change out of our costumes. We were followed. While we were undressing, a photographer began slamming into our room’s locked door in an attempt to break in. The room had one of those sliding locks, which broke open under the force. The photographer rushed in with a camera, attempting to get nude photos and/or video of underage cosplayers.”

Ron’s view:

Regarding the specific event discussed in the blog post: It was the fall of 2003, during Kazecon. I let Troppy Lauren, Sassy Lauren, and RikkuX Jennie use my room to change out of their cosplay. Me and the other guys left the room to let them change. We were all the same age– 17 or 18 years old. Being a stupid 18-year-old kid, fresh out of high school at the time, and being the only one with the room key, I thought it would be funny to enter the room and give them a scare as a prank. When I did, I didn’t see anything. I poked my head through the door for a few seconds, but I didn’t enter more than that. They were a good 15 feet away from me. When they yelled for me to get out, I immediately turned around and shut the door, and that’s all I remember of the incident.

Lauren, attempts to mislead the reader by stating things like

“I was under 18- a minor,”

Which indeed was true, but so was Ron Ladao. In fact there is only one year separating Ron and Lauren in age. Ron was born March 20, 1985 and Lauren was born March 19, 1986. This was not a case of an adult preying on a minor, it was a group of teenagers; peers who were all friends at the time. 

“A group of cosplayers, including myself, headed up to a hotel room to change.”

She also at one point refers to it as ‘our’ room. I am uncertain if the verbiage has changed since I originally saw it posted, but many have been led to believe that she claimed the room as belonging to the girls in question. Whether it is them misreading it, or a verbiage change on her part, I couldn’t say. In Ron’s rebuttal he states that it was indeed his hotel room, and that he was letting them change in it. Which in effect, at that point would make it temporarily ‘their’ room.

She also stated that

“We were followed”

to the room. As it was Ron’s room and he was the only one with a key, this would mean that he “accompanied” them, and did not “follow” them. Ron, has also stated that

“Me and the other guys left the room to let them change,”

so per his version they had been in the room already with the girls.

Lauren admits to some modifications in her post and has added multiple edit notes at the bottom, edit 2 addresses the room issue:

Lauren mentions that the security lock on the hotel door was broken as he “began slamming into our room’s locked door in an attempt to break in.” Ron states that it was his room and he had a key, meaning that it was easy enough to open the door. Hotel rooms have had sliding security locks for many years, and if the girls had connected it, then her statement about a broken lock may come into question as those locks do not break easily. If the lock was broken then there may be a record with the hotel of its repair, but as thirteen years have passed there is a very high probability that any repair records have long been discarded. Ron does not recall a lock but remembers entering the room briefly after the door was closed. As for her statement that he

“began slamming into our room’s locked door in an attempt to break in,” 

I have attempted to open hotel doors with the security slide lock in place…and they make a lot of noise, even a gentle attempt can sound like slamming.

It seems the big debate here is not that he attempted to enter the room, but HOW he entered the room. Both parties agree that he entered the room briefly.

“For a long time, I told myself that “we were kids” and that maybe Ron had grown up. Unfortunately, his behavior online has told me otherwise. He continues to post sexist, degrading comments about “cosfamous” cosplayers on his social media accounts. He appeared on a panel last year spouting the same sentiment. His opinions aside, I’m here to tell you that there is a REASON some of us choose not to work with Ron Ladao: He is a criminal harasser.”

Lauren had valid reasons for not reporting it at the time. All of us have been insecure at times in our lives. We all seek approval from our parents and our peers and fear to be rejected by them. If she truly felt victimized then that was another reason she should have filed a report, even after the fact. Perhaps it was the fear of rejection by her peers that prevented her from doing so.

As for using his photos in an attempt to convince herself he was a good person? I’m not exactly sure how someone’s photos can convince you of their personality; all it really means to me is that they have a good eye. But I suppose that everyone has their own ways of dealing with things.

“He is a criminal harasser.”

Criminal harasser is a harsh term to use. The true definition of harassment is “aggressive pressure or intimidation,” by that definition the original issue was harassment. However, his online posts against cosfamous cosplayers are not harassment by that definition. He is simply stating what several think and voicing an opinion on his page. I admit that I don’t read his posts often so I may have missed something particularly provocative, but I have not seen him actually attack or harass any people.

As for criminal harasser, I do not know what Lauren is referring to. If she is referring to my alleged continued harassment, I did not do anything else besides the hotel incident. If she is referring to my opinions on the cosfamous, my opinion is just an opinion, and I’ve never brought those issues into the real world outside of facebook. If some things I say come across as inappropriate or sexist, I’m sure what I’m saying is being taken the wrong way as I don’t ever mean to be hurtful or offensive to anyone. As far as some of the other stories being passed around, I really can’t address them as none of them come to mind and I don’t recall ever being in any of the alleged situations. They mostly regard events that happened at bars, but I don’t drink since I need to drive in the morning or I usually have a job to work.

As for the legal definition of harassment – it is “conduct which may require a person to be given legal protection in terms of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. For these purposes harassment is not defined but it includes causing the person alarm or distress. For the courts to act under this legislation the harassment was caused by a course of conduct. This is defined in the Act as conduct on more than one occasion. It need not be the same conduct on each occasion. There are defenses such as that the conduct was reasonable in the circumstances. It is not open to plead as a defense that it was not intended by the alleged offender that alarm be caused. It is enough if his or her conduct would cause harassment, if a reasonable person, in possession of the same information, would think that the course of conduct would have that effect.”

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There is a lot of leg room in this definition, however the harassment is caused by a course of conduct. One incident does not make it legally definable as harassment. If, however, she was threatened or harassed by Ron on multiple occasions either online or in person, it would count. She was not listed in any of the posts (that I know of) until this recent incident and they were not a direct threat to her. Simply being in the same room as him does not make for a threatening situation if they are not actually associating, or there has been a history of repeated harrassment. As for the cosfamous players, they would have to be the ones that felt threatened or harassed by him.

“I told a few friends about the incident. As a result, I keep getting private messages about other people’s experiences with Ron. I’m not surprised by their public silence, given how often organizations sideline cosplayer safety. I’m happy to finally speak out. I hope more of us do.”

A few people have made statements in the comments of the original posting by Geekgirl, most of which are witch hunting. I haven’t really seen anything offered up by others that would be considered concrete information regarding Ron harassing others. Some have stated they felt an uneasiness around him, or got a weird feeling but that was about it. There was one comment about what they thought was inappropriate video that focused on boobs and butts, which was more than likely around the same time as the incident as Ron identifies himself as a videographer back then at the age of 18 and now does photography. 

“I want to publicly thank C2E2, Chicago’s premiere comic convention, for action they took this afternoon. I was not going to attend their Mardi Gras event tonight due their affiliation with a traumatic figure from my past. Now, I enthusiastically will, and encourage everyone else to support C2E2 as well.” 

Also a key note to point out, Ron Ladao has NEVER officially worked for C2E2. The only action taken by C2E2 was to cancel his attendance on the night of the Mardi Gras event. They did not use this accusation as the reason for the cancellation. They have not stated or done anything officially. The reason listed for the cancellation the night of the Mardi Gras was because the venue had hired their own photographer and they would not be needing his services.

“A lesson for everyone: If someone is making you or a loved one uncomfortable, don’t ignore it. We should believe and support one another, and let our actions show zero tolerance for harassment. We don’t owe harassers anything.”

I agree harassment should not be ignored, but does one incident make for harassment? Ron admits to the incident, however he states nothing was seen. Lauren states there were several girls in various states of undress and believes he may have seen something or managed to take video of the incident. She also feels his intent was more than he stated. Without statements from the others that were in attendance, we can’t make a judgement.

We can all agree that at the age of 18, Ron Ladao made a stupid move and attempted, in what he thought was a joke, to enter a room where he knew his female peers were changing. It was a joke gone wrong, and apparently Lauren still feels threatened by the incident.

 

“I’m not here to ruin anybody’s career or to make decisions for others.”

But she is, and has ruined his present career and future careers.

“I just want to make sure that the female cosplayers in my community know who they are dealing with when they decide what a great deal this free photography appears to be.”

Everyone male, or female, should be cautious regarding a photographer. Choose one you are comfortable with and bring a friend to any photo shoots. Cover your ass, in all situations.

“This was breaking and entering.”

This was entering, breaking and entering is up for debate, based upon the two different descriptions of the entry into the room.

“This was sexual assault.”

There was no sexual assault, this is a false accusation.

“Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.” – source U.S. Dept of Justice

So again, there was no sex or assault involved, in any form.

“The women involved were under 18.”

She repeatedly states this, yet fails to mention that the accused was in the same peer group and a little under one year older than herself.

“In my opinion, nobody would protect or befriend ANY harasser’s actions if they didn’t offer free exposure. Ask yourself: Is a free photo worth the damage done to do to cosplayers?”

Free exposure has nothing to do with (or should have nothing to do with) befriending or protecting anyone. Each should be judged on their own merits, and everyone should make their own judgments based on their own morals.

Both accuser and the accused admit they were young and immature at the time of the event. Both also admit that there were other people present at the time of the incident. It would be enlightening if any of these other people could come forward and recount their memories of the event, as it has been thirteen years and time does cloud memories.

Ron has publicly apologized for the initial incident (see bottom) and Lauren has made what she calls the final edit:

FINAL EDIT: “I absolutely believe and respect the people who say they’ve had positive experiences with Ron. That said, someone being nice to you doesn’t make them incapable of being a harasser to someone else. This is, in fact, how many harassers stay well hidden in public. We’re not ALL targets of individual harassers. They will always have friends. That’s OK- it just doesn’t make victims wrong.”

April’s Final Thoughts:

I have spoken to the photographer in question, and yes, he was supposed to be a photographer at the C2E2 Mardi Gras event and he received a message at 4:10pm that day from one of the organizers telling him that they didn’t need his services for the event because the venue had brought in their own photographer. As of, February 8th, he has received no comment from Reed Pop as to whether or not he was replaced, or if the venue did indeed hire their own photographer. He has also received no response regarding his status at future events.

I feel the original intent of the posting was for Lauren to get something off of her chest and to post a warning to others of a potential issue, to let others know that this is how she felt. I honestly don’t think she thought through the entire ramifications of the post.

EDIT 1: “Uchicon and CosAwesome have also contacted me with how they are addressing this situation. I thank these organizations for taking cosplay safety seriously.” – Lauren

Unfortunately she has started an avalanche that she can not stop. Some organizations such as Uchicon have no choice but to cease any and all association with an accused harasser due to the stringent policies of their location. Uchicon is on a college campus, and most colleges apply a VERY broad brush stroke. Unless a very expensive lawsuit is brought against the college, there is no going back. Even if the accused can prove without a doubt that the accuser is fabricating the claim 100%, it is still difficult to clear the red tape. That portion of Ron’s career at that location is now forever effectively dead.

“After the blog post was made public, I got a lot of people private messaging me about it, asking for details or clarification. The stuff I told them is what I’m telling you guys right now on this post. I’ve known Lauren since 2003, since the cosplay.com days, and I know she is better than this. A handful of people have said to me that I should sue her, but I’m not like that. I do not understand why this is happening now, since that was 13 years ago, but the damage has already been done. I’ve accepted the outcome of this, having already lost a lot of friends and connections, but I will not press charges.” – Ron

As for CosAwesome Studios: Here is their OFFICIAL response to the whole thing

“CosAwesome Studios has zero-tolerance for any harassment at our events, and continue to take accusations seriously. We are very sensitive to the issues of harassment, defamation and bullying. We would like to stress that the incident of 13 years ago had no association with CosAwesome Studios. We have not made any official conclusions regarding this specific incident.

 


We have provided BOTH accounts and versions of what has been publicly stated. 

Statement from Ron Ladao

“As you guys have realized by now, there’s been a blog post going around about me. I know this is something that needs to be addressed on my end, so here it is. I’ve also quoted some excerpts from the article to address them directly.

Regarding the specific event discussed in the blog post: It was the fall of 2003, during Kazecon. I let Troppy Lauren, Sassy Lauren, and RikkuX Jennie use my room to change out of their cosplay. Me and the other guys left the room to let them change. We were all the same age– 17 or 18 years old. Being a stupid 18-year-old kid, fresh out of high school at the time, and being the only one with the room key, I thought it would be funny to enter the room and give them a scare as a prank. When I did, I didn’t see anything. I poked my head through the door for a few seconds, but I didn’t enter more than that. They were a good 15 feet away from me. When they yelled for me to get out, I immediately turned around and shut the door, and that’s all I remember of the incident.

I know Lauren stated I was a photographer in that post, but I was a videographer back in 2003. I had no intention for nudes when it happened. I thought it would be a good laugh, but as I said before, I was a stupid kid who couldn’t think ahead at the time. I would like to apologize for what happened 13 years ago. I was a dumb kid who tried to make a joke, and that joke backfired majorly. I regret my actions and decisions I made that day. Nowadays, I do the best that I can to serve the community, trying to make things better for cosplayers and others who participate in our community.

Ron was also a friend to many people I knew. He offered free photography, and I was worried cosplayers would take his side because of his services.”

I’m not expecting anyone to take my side on this situation. If people do, they know who I am as a person, my side of the story, and my beliefs on the convention scene in the last 10 years. I offer completely free photography services, although sometimes people give me money for my services.

I even used his photos on this blog once, in an attempt to convince myself that this was a good person and that the incident was a fluke.”

Lauren used my photos for her entry on the Japanese Festival in 2013, and again for the St. Patrick’s Day parade. The St. Patrick’s Day parade article won her an Amazon gift card, and she gave the gift card to me. I didn’t expect that I’d get anything in return from her. I only did this out of mutual respect. She added me on Facebook back in July 2008. I thought we were cool, even with that mess that happened back in 2003. That’s why I didn’t mind helping her out at all with her entries. Then one day I noticed she unfriended me. I only knew after seeing a few posts from my other friends and realizing Lauren’s name hadn’t popped onto my newsfeed at all for some time. I didn’t know the reason why she unfriended me.

In 2016, Ron Ladao is an official photographer for Uchicon and We Are Cosplay events like the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Cospys. More and more, I have to decide if I want to see this person, if I want to speak with him, or simply just watch other women allow photos to be taken.”

I wouldn’t say “official” as I do not receive payment beyond a badge and sometimes expense reimbursement (van rental, supplies, etc). I volunteered for some of them, and for some I was asked to participate. If someone asks me if I can do a photoshoot for them, my reply is, “Let me see my schedule and what I can do.” I don’t expect pay nor anything in return. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, woman, transgender, fat, slim, etc. If you ask for my help, I’ll be there if I can. I have a schedule, but I try to fit them in. If the request is during the con, I usually have to decline the request since space, time, and rules are against me. I obey convention rules, and I come to conventions to just have fun, take photos, talk with people, and make new connections. I get a large variety people and requests and I try my best to fulfill all of them.

He continues to post sexist, degrading comments about “cosfamous” cosplayers on his social media accounts. He appeared on a panel last year spouting the same sentiment. His opinions aside, I’m here to tell you that there is a REASON some of us choose not to work with Ron Ladao: He is a criminal harasser.”

For people who have known me since day one, I am an activist against the whole “cosfamous” fad that’s been going on in the last few years. Yes, I know “cosfamous” cosplayers make good costumes, but some can be full of themselves. Those that only care about the fans and likes on Facebook don’t really represent the cosplay community at all. I’ve never hid my opinion on this matter. I’ve been with the cosplay community since 1999, starting out by hanging with the anime cosplay community, then working my way to hanging with the comic book cosplayers in 2012. I really like how some cosplayers are really supportive of each other, and how they serve the community by attending special events. They serve the community by making a day better for someone that needs it. That’s something I believe in and that’s why I helped Lauren in the first place with her two Geek Girl Chicago entries when she asked me if she could use my photos. I’m here to help, not suck up all the glory for myself. But when there’s a cosfamous or cosplay drama report on my news feed, I repost it and the community has a discussion about it.

As for criminal harasser, I do not know what Lauren is referring to. If she is referring to my alleged continued harassment, I did not do anything else besides the hotel incident. If she is referring to my opinions on the cosfamous, my opinion is just an opinion, and I’ve never brought those issues into the real world outside of facebook. If some things I say come across as inappropriate or sexist, I’m sure what I’m saying is being taken the wrong way as I don’t ever mean to be hurtful or offensive to anyone. As far as some of the other stories being passed around, I really can’t address them as none of them come to mind and I don’t recall ever being in any of the alleged situations. They mostly regard events that happened at bars, but I don’t drink since I need to drive in the morning or I usually have a job to work.

When several women complained about his statements about women on a Chi Fi panel to We Are Cosplay, we were told that everyone has a right to their opinion, and that his was as valid as ours. Ron was even given a People’s Choice Award at their most recent awards ceremony. After this event, I resigned from the club.”

At the Chi Fi panel, Paul from We Are Cosplay gave me a question to answer, and I told him how I really felt regarding the cosplay scene. I understand that my response may have come out poorly and could be considered abrasive, but again I’m not one to censor my opinion on controversial topics. I often air quote my statements because I don’t want to offend anyone or word it wrong. I’m like the worst guy when it comes to wording anything, but I just tried to tell the attendees on how I felt about this. I was unaware that it came out wrong or abrasive to some people and I apologize.

I didn’t win the “People’s Choice Award.” I won the “Best Photo” award, which I had a hard time accepting. I didn’t have a speech prepared, so I just thanked everyone that got me to this point, from my car crew, to my cousin, to the community. I still have a hard time accepting the fact that I won, but one of my cosplay buddies said something to me that’s helped with my feelings about it. He said, “It wasn’t about the photography that won, it was the stuff you’ve done to earn those votes.”

I was shocked that I got nominated for the People’s Choice Award. When I saw the other entries, I knew that I wasn’t going to win, but I’m really honored that I got selected for it anyways, and I am still very thankful to the We Are Cosplay admins for their consideration. I am glad that the guy who won was the right guy though. He’s the greatest costumer you guys will ever meet, and he really earned that award.

After the blog post was made public, I got a lot of people private messaging me about it, asking for details or clarification. The stuff I told them is what I’m telling you guys right now on this post. I’ve known Lauren since 2003, since the cosplay.com days, and I know she is better than this. A handful of people have said to me that I should sue her, but I’m not like that. I do not understand why this is happening now, since that was 13 years ago, but the damage has already been done. I’ve accepted the outcome of this, having already lost a lot of friends and connections, but I will not press charges.

If any of you want to say something, I’m asking you to be civil and professional about this. Please do not flame or insult Lauren or anyone involved on her entry or anywhere else. I don’t want her to receive anymore backlash than she already has. We’re better than this.

Thank you for making it to the end of this long post. I hope you take my version of events into consideration.”

 

Article from Lauren Faits, originally published on  Geek Girl Chicago:


“I want to publicly thank C2E2, Chicago’s premiere comic convention, for action they took this afternoon. I was not going to attend their Mardi Gras event tonight due their affiliation with a traumatic figure from my past. Now, I enthusiastically will, and encourage everyone else to support C2E2 as well. 

I am going to share my story before anyone else does.

Thirteen years ago, I was under 18- a minor. I was attending an anime convention in the Chicago area. A group of cosplayers, including myself, headed up to a hotel room to change out of our costumes. We were followed. While we were undressing, a photographer began slamming into our room’s locked door in an attempt to break in. The room had one of those sliding locks, which broke open under the force. The photographer rushed in with a camera, attempting to get nude photos and/or video of underage cosplayers.

This photographer’s name was Ron “Soulcrash” Ladao.

From the start, I was absolutely clear about how wrong this was. Amidst girls’ screaming of “No!” and “What is wrong with you?” and “Go away!” I made it clear that this act was unacceptable. I threatened to call the police if he did not immediately leave us alone. He left, but not without grinning and calling me a rude name because I had touched his camera to point it away from the girls.

I was young, and admittedly didn’t have the emotional maturity or feminist intelligence to fully process this assault. I just wanted to have a fun con with my friends. I was scared that my parents wouldn’t let me attend things like this anymore if I admitted what happened. Ron was also a friend to many people I knew. He offered free photography, and I was worried cosplayers would take his side because of his services. For these reasons and more, I tried to minimize things for literally years. I even used his photos on this blog once, in an attempt to convince myself that this was a good person and that the incident was a fluke.

My feelings about this event are coming to a head now. In 2016, Ron Ladao is an official photographer for Uchicon and We Are Cosplay events like the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Cospys. More and more, I have to decide if I want to see this person, if I want to speak with him, or simply just watch other women allow photos to be taken. I’ve internalized this as “my” problem and “my” burden, when really, that’s the opposite of what a victim should do. We shouldn’t be the ones running away while they live their lives like nothing happened.

For a long time, I told myself that “we were kids” and that maybe Ron had grown up. Unfortunately, his behavior online has told me otherwise. He continues to post sexist, degrading comments about “cosfamous” cosplayers on his social media accounts. He appeared on a panel last year spouting the same sentiment. His opinions aside, I’m here to tell you that there is a REASON some of us choose not to work with Ron Ladao: He is a criminal harasser.

I have not been completely silent about this issue. I informed CosAwesome studios about the incident. (EDIT: My friends at CosAwesome have spoken to me, and things are great. Please support them. <3) When several women complained about his statements about women on a Chi Fi panel to We Are Cosplay, we were told that everyone has a right to their opinion, and that his was as valid as ours. Ron was even given a People’s Choice Award at their most recent awards ceremony. After this event, I resigned from the club.

I told a few friends about the incident. As a result, I keep getting private messages about other people’s experiences with Ron. I’m not surprised by their public silence, given how often organizations sideline cosplayer safety. I’m happy to finally speak out. I hope more of us do.

C2E2 is the first organization thus far to take me seriously. They are no longer professionally affiliated with my harasser, and thanked me for helping provide a safe environment for all. I encourage everyone to attend their party tonight, the convention, and other affiated events.

A lesson for everyone: If someone is making you or a loved one uncomfortable, don’t ignore it. It is easy to brush off someone’s disconcerting actions as “just their sense of humor,” but acts like these are no joke. We should not be laughing at predators. In fact, several people told me I should “talk” to Ron, to see if he’d apologize. Absolutely not. If someone broke into your home, or mugged you on the street, would you follow them later to seek an apology? No. We should believe and support one another, and let our actions show zero tolerance for harassment. We don’t owe harassers anything.

I’m not here to ruin anybody’s career or to make decisions for others. I just want to make sure that the female cosplayers in my community know who they are dealing with when they decide what a great deal this free photography appears to be. This was breaking and entering. This was sexual assault. The women involved were under 18. In my opinion, nobody would protect or befriend ANY harasser’s actions if they didn’t offer free exposure. Ask yourself: Is a free photo worth the damage done to do to cosplayers?

You can answer that on your own. I have, and won’t be working with organizations that endorse him. I WILL be working with the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo. Thank you for all you do, C2E2. 

EDIT 1: Uchicon and CosAwesome have also contacted me with how they are addressing this situation. I thank these organizations for taking cosplay safety seriously.

EDIT 2: I’ve encountered quite a bit of conflict for this post, which I expected. Most issues that have been brought up (e.g. “Why didn’t you mention this sooner?” and “He was young!”) are already mentioned in the above text. Please read thoroughly. One wrinkle that has come to my attention is a party of people saying “This was Ron’s room!” and using this to discredit my story. I would like to address this:

Given the time that has passed, I can genuinely say I do not remember whose room it was. This doesn’t change the narrative at all. If this was, in fact, Ron’s room, I would not be surprised. He WAS a person I trusted at one point in my life. In that moment, he broke that trust. I would certainly never be seen in his room again. Gender aside entirely, someone paying for a room does not mean they can behave however they choose. Women were clearly screaming “No,” “Go away,” “etc.,” and he pushed forward. He DID know women were changing, he DID still have his camera, he DID have his eyes wide open, and he DID throw his weight against the door despite clear protestations. OF COURSE he feels he was in the right. He was not, and that’s it. With his actions, he said “If you share my space, even for 5 minutes, you cannot expect respect or privacy.”

FINAL EDIT: I absolutely believe and respect the people who say they’ve had positive experiences with Ron. That said, someone being nice to you doesn’t make them incapable of being a harasser to someone else. This is, in fact, how many harassers stay well hidden in public. We’re not ALL targets of individual harassers. They will always have friends. That’s OK- it just doesn’t make victims wrong.”

 

That is the end

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25 Comments

  1. The main problem here is that all 3 parties are trying to play Law and Order when none if you have any idea about the law in the first place. This article and the entire situation is a mess.

    • No. An accusation was made, with no supportive evidence. It is defamatory. It has caused action. It has shut opportunities. I don’t need a law degree to see this as wrong. I need a moral compass that places truth, not convenience, not sympathy, as the highest value.

      The Joker says something in The Dark Knight. “I know squealers when I see them…and…”

      This form of “I just want you all to be safe from…HIM!” smells so bad, I want to wipe it off of the bottom of my shoe. In simple terms, she has taken an incident which scared her a little to demonize a man who does not satisfy her emotionally. He is not a predator, not a threat – and she already is getting comments of gratitude from her little fanbase.

      This diva is damning. Unless she brings forth some real evidence of pattern, persistent abuse, etc. she needs to stop. This personality type that makes their feelings “facts” and “so important for you to know this…” utterly rankle my soul.

      She has not one bit of concern for legal procedure, innocent until proven guilty or even the common grace to speak privately and reconcile. She simply does not like Ron and has sadly spat upon him in a community that prides itself in creative unity.

      She did this willingly and with effort. She now demands we trust her judgment.

      I am sorry. I do not trust her perceptions and judgment. She was a minor, running to a hotel room with other girls to change and go back out. She felt vulnerable and was scared by Ron’s prank. Calling that sexual assault is pejoratively asinine. He saw it was too much, moved on.

      She will not. She wants her feelings validated publicly. She wants to cloud him in suspicion and shine as an angel of survival.

      I think I better allow God to deal with this craven witch, because my temper at this is red-hot.

      I despise beauty being used to hide malice. I despise those who spread slander.

      She is on my list of people to actively avoid from this day forward.

      • 10000% this.

        Those “two” people she talks about having banned? I was the first. You know why she banned me??

        Because I refused to let her continue to skirt around requests for evidence, when she gave excuse after excuse after bullshit as to why she “couldn’t” (but had no problem referencing a 4chan thread that never was able to be found or screenshotted, and the thread didn’t even allegedly corroborate her story, but rather was, she claims, “other women” accusing Ron of the same behavior he showed towards her). I told her she was breaking the law, and questioning isn’t victim blaming as she kept crying out, and whatever. No one was belligerent, we just wouldn’t swallow her bullshit and wouldn’t stay quiet about it either. I will wear that First Ban badge with pride as that’s what ACTUALLY happened and the reason why she got scared and blocked me from commenting. I have, unlike her, everything screenshotted from that entire conversation before I was banned, and I will not hesitate to produce them if asked.

  2. Very informative, fair-minded and granting equal time to both parties.

    My comment and opinion is this: if the incident was as egregious as she has remembered, it seems to follow that she would have dealt with it far earlier and with a consensus.

    What I hear in her wording is wounded pride. It is the only glove that fits. Let me put it this way: I love Bill Cosby. I have no doubt that his accusers have REAL events of REAL abuse. There are just so many repeats and so many victims connected to him.

    Now with Ron, the predator she paints has very little canvas. In fact, credibility plus character plus repeated service factor a far more positive moral character, up to and including his apology, willingness and meekness.

    Her cry of abuse that cannot possibly be verified at such a late date after receiving gifts from Ron reveal a character of narcissism and entitlement, intentionally defaming and damaging a cosplayer who does better work with his camera than his mouth.

    She cannot have missed this. She has attentive ears, but they hear only evil speech. Hell indeed has no fury like a woman scorned. Or a cosplayer ignored.

    I suspect her “nuke from orbit” using self-proclaimed victimization has ZERO basis in giving fair warning to others. She is THIRTEEN YEARS TOO LATE for that action.

    So why? Why now?

    One of my favorite writers has said: “Pride when it is strong is boasting. Pride when it is weak is self-pity.”

    I think she saw Ron honored and treated kindly before peers. This angered her and she has chosen this time to damn him in a flagrantly thin cover of “concern for others.”

    I never want this woman near me, for any reason.

    She terrifies me. I mean that.

    Ron: even if you sinned against this creature – granting her cred she has not remotely earned – you show a character and kindness that impresses me.

    Sincerely,

    Rev. Justice Carmon
    Wheaton, IL

  3. This was a very well informed article. I know neither person but I read both sides of the story. Ron seams very forth coming with information. I feel like it was a joke gone bad and that he’s character shows him a stand up guy. I hope everything works out for him. And awesome job on the article April

  4. Feeling a bit sick from what transpired from Geek Girl Chicago’s blog post. It was worded in such a way to maximize your vilification for one stupid mistake thirteen years ago. You don’t deserve this Ron.

    Charges should be pressed to make an example out of that bully.

  5. This is upsetting. 13 yrs ago? please. age difference wasnt a huge thing and trust me, ive had experienced with an ACTUAL OLDER 40YR OLD MAN attempting and forcing himself on me last yr. i was 18. i waited about 3 days to come fourth and decided that i could at least report it, but not trial bc i was scared. waiting 13 yrs to say this now sounds sketchy. sounds like she wanted attention like bill cosby “victims” there are many things that dont add up imo.

  6. Everything that was mention in both parties messages is from 13 years ago, both parties were same age group and teenagers. I think honestly she has gotten angry over something she is t telling us, and is taking it out on Ron. I have known Ron for nearly three years now and never once has he been a perv, sexual predator or mean and horrible. He works hard and loves what he does. He is a good man that is having his name drug through the mud over old history of teenagers. Also if Ron was so bad why continue to speak to him for years after this happened? Something is off here.

  7. Ron really doesn’t deserve the mess that was thrown onto him. When I looked at all the hate comments being thrown at him in the GGC article, feared it could turn into a witch hunt. I still fear that.

    Personally, I’ve only known him for a short time; probably a day’s worth of moments in a span of two to two and a half years. But during that time I could easily read the excitement he has when cosplay is the main event. Just like most of us, Ron can see cons and cosplay events as a second home.

    I really hope that Lauren’s intentions weren’t the entire mess that has transpired. I also hope that she can be in speaking terms with him, at least to quell the anger that this situation has caused.

  8. So I saw this on a friends page read the article and both sides. I must admit the article itself seems very oneside. And only good for reading what both parties say at the end.

    Though the girl Lauren should edit her post to take out the word sexual assult. Neither her or the other girls were assulted. And I pry the girl who posted her story 13 years later never is.

    If she mentioned his age boys will be boys and brush it off. Though in this case it can be said that girls will be girls. Because she was not sexually assaulted. Voyeurism is probably the best term for what happened here.

    Her post comes off as she wants to ruin his life because she didn’t talk to anyone about it, and instead of talking to living people. She goes on social media? From what I can assume is so that he will not be allowed at events. This makes her feel safe and he gets what he deserves justice is done without courts needing to be involved.

    I would like to hear what the other.girls that were in that room have to say. Is this girl over exadurating her story?

    And what about Ron? After Laura’s post he would have to be more careful about his words, and diffently be more forthcoming with his information. He has to save his image so he would have to make sure he crosses his Ts and dots his Is. He was over the age of ignorance so bargain into a room.of girls even if it was his room is inexcusable. But does this mean his life should be ruined because of one bad mistake.

    I am sure a lot of people would say yes! She had to live with this for 13yrs… I say Both parties are in the wrong. Lauren for painting the crime worse then it was saying she was sexually assaulted when he was attempting Voyeurism sense he had a camera. And Ron for bargaining in on the girls and attempting to photograph them.

  9. I don’t understand why this was brought up 13 yrs later when bother people are completely different from their 17-18 yr old self. We can’t even count on either story being true because of how long ago it was, memory could’ve been heavily distorted on both sides. I’m not choosing which story is right because there is nothing there for us that is a reliable side. So I’m not gonna sit here and say Ron or Geek Girl is telling the truth.

    What I do truthfully know is Ron of today. I met Ron through deviantart back in ’09 and became friends on fb within a year after that and then started to know Ron in person in ’11. He shot a few of my costumes since then and also have connected on a photography level since we both do photographers. We’ve talk about, gear, problems in the cosplay community, and let each other see results and setups of what we were working with. I’ve witnessed him shooting at almost every con and meetup I’ve been to. And he’s been nothing but professional and wanting to make sure the cosplayers get good shots and most importantly feel comfortable during the shoot. He doesn’t ever touch cosplayers to reposition them. He even will politely refuse if they give permission. And he used to be heavy on hallway photography because he wanted to make sure the cosplayers got at least one good shot of their cosplays, but with the community age getting younger and stories of the younger ones feeling uncomfortable with older male photographers approaching them, Ron turned to doing mostly studio shoots because he never wanted to put a cosplayer in a position where they had to experience being at a con and feeling unsafe because an older man was approaching them. With the booths, the cosplayers got to the shoot on their own terms and comfort. And they got to have fun. And that’s what he wants people to experience at cons. Ive watched Ron work his photobooths for the last 4 years and never once have I seen him harrass any cosplayer or make them feel uncomfortable. The setup was completely professional and all the cosplayers were comfortable and having fun.

    The story geek girl posts is about Ron as a teenager boy, who did something stupid. It wasn’t right, but who doesn’t do stupid things at that age? There are so many terrible things we do at that age because we just don’t understand how bad some things are. I mean even back when I was hitting 21 I looked back at my 18 year old self and was like “holy shit. I can’t believe I was that way back then.” And Ron is 30 now. Alot had changed since he was a wee 18 yr old boy. And geek girl obviously had to feel that too about it being she worked with him as a photographer. But it just seems this article is written purely because she doesn’t like Ron’s dislike for cosfamous and because he won an award in their community. I even got into an argument with her on why she felt it was neccessary to bring up something 13 years ago and she eventually stated that she brought it to public because he was known publicly and did public services. So pretty much because he’s a known photographer now, she should share a 13 year old story that doesn’t apply to the person he is now? What logic is that?

    Ive even talked to one of my friends who was actually assaulted by an older man about this situation and said this:
    The thing that isnt adding up to me here are the details. In no way does it say he touched her or harassed her or assaulted her. You have to own up to your situations and decisions you make. If it was a shared room, what were you expecting? I have had an actual grown 40yr old man take advantage of me, and humiliate me while i was intoxicated.
    I understand being confused on what to do on a situation, but if the experience was THAT traumatic, there would have been something said by now. Not 13 year later. The age difference was ONE year apart and she is making it out ot be like he was 30 or something. This seems like a lash back for something personal. When I was getting my police report done, It was the most horrible experience I had ever gone through as they make you explain EVERYTHING in FULL detail and content, and I never want to go through that again, it ruined me in so many ways. It is literally life ruining. The first thing they ask you in a police report if youve waited ovr ONE year is “Why did you wait so long” thats what the officer told me. You get around 18 months to testify, and if not, there is nothing they can do for you. What is she gaining.

    A person who was physically assaulted thought this and she was upset because stuff like this makes it harder for victims who have been raped.

    There is something obviously wrong with this whole situation and I hope things get cleared.

  10. So geek girl chicago is planning to not go to a ryan kopf con again right? He has real criminal charges against him but GGC is always there giving positive reviews.

  11. From someone who has been sexually assaulted for which I was touched while intoxicated and crying my eyes out, I’m sorry but I can’t consider this traumatizing. Was it wrong for ron to do? Yes but not to ruin is life over including outside conventions. I also like how she was friends with ron last year and using his photos for contests. If you were so traumatized, you wouldn’t even let him take photos of you or use them for a contest.

  12. First off, thank you for showing Ron’s side of the story. It seems like GGC is trying to silence his statement right off the bat.

    I was originally going to be quiet about this ‘scandal’, but you know, my friends lives really matter to me. It is a shame that GGC is trying to make Ron seem like a pedophile, but they were 17 and he was 18, that isn’t even near pedophile status. I knew Ron since i was around 17, and he always treated me with respect, he never tried to make any advances to me or any youngin in the cosplay community. In fact one of my best friends in the community a year ago turned legal age, and she even was treated with respect and Ron never made any advances to her. In fact he does not make any advances to ANYONE even if they’re of age. It is just not in his character.

    He did admit he did go in the room to prank them and he didn’t see anything. The thing is, when you’re a High Schooler or just an age or two above high schooler, you’re pretty fucking dumb. A lot of your choices are dumb, because you’re just a kid. Everyone does shit that is really really stupid when they’re around 18, and if you say you didn’t, you’re lying.

    I really hope the article that GGC posted doesn’t cost Ron any more defaming. Because he is a sincere dude in the community. He does not care if one is famous or one is just starting out, he legit cares about this community. He loves what he does and is really passionate about photography, the community, and his friends.

  13. Every time some cosplayer is in some revealing outfit he acts very professional about it and never makes any comments before, during or after about how “HOT SHE LOOKS LIKE”. I mean one time we were around 2 drunken cosplayers and they were very flirtatious and ron just put his hands up and left the area. I feel like this guy would rather kill himself before doing any sexual harassing. Any PERSON who has respect for others like that has my respect for them!

    And to get him banned from those other conventions??? Thats just wrong. Now im afraid to accidentally walk into the the wrong area at the wrong time whilst wielding a camera around my neck! Im a photographer, too, but I’m just going to put my initials in case anyone decides to have negative thoughts about me just because I’m standing up for this very full of life, fun type of guy!

  14. Of the 4 years that I’ve known Ron, I’ve never seen him do anything that would indicate him of being any sort of a “creep”.
    He & I would drive to events & cons together, for maybe 2 of those years. I can tell you right now, Ron is dedicated to his photography. Almost as if he is married it. With all of his “forever alone” jokes, it seems that he has accepted being single & placed all his attention to his passion.
    Whenever we would be at an event, and it was over, most of us would go and have fun. Hang out, eat, drink or whatever. Do you know what Ron would be doing? He would be editing pictures on his phone, linked to his camera. And when he wasn’t doing that, he would be sending me text messages, asking if I was ready to leave. Because all Ron wanted to do was get home & edit more pictures. Sometimes late into the night, when we still had to get up early & do it all over again.

    I cannot speak for the Ron of 13 years ago, but he was still a teenager at an anime con. If you need to point a finger at that guy, you’ve got to point fingers at a majority of any teenager at an anime con. Do they mean harm, or are they just sugar fueled kids doing stupid things?

  15. I don’t know Ron, but we live in a day and age where modern feminism means ALWAYS believing and sympathizing with with a “victim” no matter what their story is… And I believe the Geek Girl Chicago journalist is trying to gain attention, fans and money off of this current social situation. That’s just my two cents.

  16. HOLY SHIT! I just heard of the whole Ron vs Lauren thing. I find Lauren’s blast to be bullshit & it takes away from real harrassment.

    As many who knows me know, I have been harrassed & stalked; even to the point of me going to court to settle the matter. It still continues because they lied in open court & it came down to he said / she said. So I have to take it with a grain of salt.
    1) I’ve talking about this to anyone who’d listen from day 1.
    2) I never… EVER… tried to be his friend. A dick is a dick is a dick; got no time for that dick.
    3) The person who lied in court for him (she has Stockholm’s Syndrom due to years of abuse, mixed with spite because I told her to go eff herself) & her family know the truth because they were there when it happened, & they came to my defense when it happened.
    4) Courts & cops don’t care about “feelings” (unless you’re a woman); they only care about facts… the facts don’t even have to lead to the truth. (This has been all of my experiences to date.)
    5) Lauren’s take is misleading. Ron’s take seems more genuine, even to the point of taking his share of the blame.
    6) Lauren states there were others, but no witnesses were mentioned. I mented all of my witnesses at that time, even in open court. Yet she doesn’t name them; which is surprising because she called out Ron with no problem.
    7) To me, Lauren comes across as very self grandizing. After 13 yrs, her friending him & using his talents, this came out all of a sudden. It came out with 1 mission: to defame Ron.

    I wasn’t there, I do not know either party nor was this something I was aware of until today. This seems like a great story for “The Internet Ruined My Life” on SyFy. I will say that I do support Ron. Lauren seems more jaded & her story comes after she seemingly forgave him by accepting him as her friend & using his matterial to promote herself. (Again, I base my opinion on my own experiences & how both parties presented their cases.)

    For those reasons, I firmly believe Ron is treated unjustly. His reputation & his character have been damaged to the point of costing him job opportunities & attendance in conventions with no solid evidence or key witnesses, just what she “feels” now at the age of 30 about something that she is recalling occured when she was 17. That’s 13 yrs of resentment, anger & stewing going on.

    Family & friends will always have your back & take your side. They’ll believe you right from the get. But they also are supposed to push you towards the truth. The public is not as gentle about pushing for the truth. Since Lauren chose, after 13 yrs & a friendship & using his product, to bring this up, it was her job to prove her point; even to naming those who witnessed it because they are now involved & their silence speaks against her. Ron naming Lauren was him responding to her accusations.

    It is unfortunate that Lauren was able to garner so much support & have Ron banished from venues. It is also unjust. Especially when she mentions that others stepped forward against Ron but refuses to state who they are, what they said & when they said it happened. It is good that Ron is the type who would not seek legal action against her, especially since this is still up & he is losing business & friends as a result. But as one who has been in court over this issue, I can testify to 2 things: 1) the court will listen to you if you’re white & speak as if you majored in English at Harvard. 2) the court will always take the side of a woman over a man; that’s where the biast stands. If Ron was to go to court, he would have to take those who were there with him. But a letter from his attorney to Lauren about taking her posts down usually will do the trick.

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