I don't have a lot to add to the many heartfelt statements already posted regarding the ReaderCon board's terribly wrong-headed decision not to follow their stated harassment policy and ban René Walling for life. Genevieve Valentine and the entire community all deserve better.
I'm reminded of a similar situation that arose in the late 1990s in several conventions on the Southern circuit. In that situation, a con guest was using his status to harass young women. As the complaints about him began to accumulate, the folks who ran the conventions on the whole seemed dismissive, as the guy came off like a "harmless" scatterbrained goofball in public interactions, even as he escalated the boundaries he would push in private. He was finally banned, but frankly, the revelation that he was lying about his credentials ultimately did him a lot more damage than his harassing behavior. At least today there's a chance someone like him would be exposed quicker.
But the board's decision certainly doesn't give encouragement to the targets of harassment to come forward.
This is a pattern I've seen repeated. A body like the ReaderCon board faces a decision. The right thing to do is obvious but for some reason unpleasant -- so the group ends up shirking, and the resulting consequences are much worse than if they'd followed through. And anyone with half a brain could have predicted this result.
No one ever seems to learn that lesson.
Anita's told me she's not sure she wants to go back if this decision stands. While I'm not in that place myself -- I love ReaderCon, and the people there have been very good to me -- if Anita doesn't want to go, I don't go, and that's that.
I've sent the board an e-mail asking them to reconsider, and I've thanked Rose Fox for trying to set things right. I hate seeing a wonderful thing hijacked by such terrible short-sightedness.
This is only a guess, but I can't help but wonder if Walling isn't a friend or friendly acquaintance of one or more of the board members. As, alas, I've learned all too well in a number of capacities, "Oh, I know that guy, he's not that bad" is a dangerous assumption.
According to what I've read on various posts/comments, Walling is a BNF/SMOF who has organized and run a number of extremely important conventions, including Worldcon. He's a long-time contributing writer for the Tor blog/website, and attends pretty much every single large con in the Americas every year. I've also heard (also via various comments on posts) that he was not unknown to the Readercon board. So, take that information for what it's worth.