Caveat Emptor

(Originally posted April 12)

It’s amazing that when people post a list of common sense guidelines, how many people open their mouths about how “unnecessary” it is – in the face of the obvious facts that it is quite necessary.

The recent arguments on various forums and Facebook groups about items like the Black Veil and other law sets in the VC is a perfect example of this. Everybody likes to be treated like an adult, instead of an incompetent – and people generally don’t like rules, or guidelines even when they are as necessary as a sign warning of potholes in the road. Funny enough, some of the folks with the biggest mouths about smashed rims and shredded tires are the folks who mutter under their breath about the signs warning about the dangers on the road.
Why are guidelines like this necessary? Because aside from the young and inexperienced and naive’ kids getting involved in the OVC and RVC, there are adults who are no better equipped to deal with life in this community. Even though consenting, voting age, car-driving, gun owning, blood-drinking or energy-slurping adults SHOULD “know better” about life in the community and online, the facts reveal that some of them just don’t.Face it folks, there are some ignorant and ill-equipped people out there, doing some pretty darn stupid things – and quite often, they affect not just themselves, but other people who actually *might* be smart enough to look out for themselves, but get caught up in their mess anyway.

Anyway, all my own preaching on this topic aside, here is an item distributed by Merticus and Zero, both well known and long-time members of the VC, called “The Real Vampire Community Abuse Awareness Campaign”.
 

Real Vampire Community Abuse Awareness Campaign
A message to visitors, newcomers and all those on their paths of discovery“The real vampire community is an open and accepting culture, which should be a safe space to engage in introspection and the open exchange of ideas. Whether you have a solid self-understanding as a vampire or non-vampire, or whether you’ve come to the community in pursuit of such an understanding, the community is a place which is often engaged in dialogue about self and identity. Likewise, it often attracts individuals who are seeking tools with which to build and grow that sense of self.

Any space used for self-exploration and introspection will attract predators — those whose primary interest is taking advantage of others uncertainty and desire for answers. Just as the vampire community acknowledges its participants search for self-understanding and their right to discover their own personal truths, we also acknowledge the potential for predators to abuse members of our community. We must resolve to openly combat such manipulation by being extremely clear about the types of behaviors which are absolutely unacceptable to members of the vampire community.

The vampire community will not be silent about those who go out of their way to appear older and wiser with the intent of garnering favors in exchange for their knowledge of vampirism, and who lurk at the edges of the community in hopes of attracting potential victims of any age or background for physical, sexual, mental, or emotional abuse.  If members of the vampire community encounter abuse they should not be afraid to report such to law enforcement and remove themselves immediately from the abusive situation.

Whether you are vampire, otherkin, therian, energy-worker, or just interested in the community, you are considered a member of the vampire community for the time that you decide to participate, and deserving of the same safe space as any other participant. Unfortunately, there’s no border to the vampire community, no authority, and no one to evaluate its participants and remove potentially harmful individuals. Therefore, we want you to be aware:

DO NOT GIVE AWAY DETAILS OF YOUR PERSONAL OR OFFLINE LIFE:

This used to be a basic safety rule of the internet, back when people remembered that a loss of privacy was dangerous. If you’re participating in the community, pick a pseudonym (screen name/nightside name/etc.), don’t give out links to your real-life social networking, where you work or attend school, your physical address, phone number, or non-community e-mail addresses. Actively work to minimize the amount of information potential stalkers can locate and don’t assume any conversation you have online is ever completely private.

DO NOT TRAVEL TO MEET PEOPLE FROM THE INTERNET:

Unless it’s a public gathering like a convention or well established open house or meetup, this is taking an unnecessary and potentially dangerous risk. Do not meet a fascinating vampire personality through a forum or social network and then get on a bus, train, or plane to go find him. We’ve seen people encourage impressionable seekers to leave their homes and families to start a new life with the “elder” vampire. This turns out poorly when the “elder” is revealed to be a socially manipulative and emotionally harmful individual; or worse. Legitimate community members don’t want you to abandon your life and move in with them. They want you to live your life for yourself and no one else.

AUTHORITARIAN SOCIAL STRUCTURES CREATE ABUSE:

This is true of any human social activity. All authoritarian structures breed abuse: physical, emotional, and sexual. You need only to look to religion, political history, the structure and abuses of churches, military dictatorships, authoritarian governments, or any other social context in which leaders have authority and followers must obey. Predators lurking among the outskirts of the vampire community might try to lure the new and uncertain into such an authoritarian context, trying to convince their audience that they know more, are wiser, have secrets they can share, or that they are established leaders and it’s appropriate for you to follow them. Like every other authority-centered social construct in human history, the attempt to gain power over others will result in the abuse of that power. Remember that real vampires don’t want authority over you, and don’t want you to join a social context in which such abuse occurs. Vampires value independence and self-definition and encourage seekers to make their own decisions.

Joining hierarchies or groups is not necessary or common, and joining groups in which one member holds all the power and prevents others in the group from making their own decisions, leaving the group, or declining to obey the leader is completely antithetical to the nature of the vampire community. Authoritarian groups aren’t healthy or safe for their members, and the vampire community encourages the use of the Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (ABCDEF) to evaluate any groups you might be thinking of joining.

REAL VAMPIRES DO NOT HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS:

Some of us who’ve been around longer have simply learned to ask better questions and hone our skills of observation. Chronological age or years spent participating in the community does not necessarily denote greater knowledge or wisdom. Beware of anyone who tells you he or she knows all the secrets of being a vampire, especially if they want something in exchange for their knowledge. We’ve seen people posing as “elders”, “leaders”, or other authorities, asking for sexual favors, monetary compensation, indentured servitude, or other benefits in exchange for sharing their “wisdom”.

REAL VAMPIRES PREFER YOU FIND YOUR OWN TRUTH THAN DICTATE IT TO YOU:

If you meet someone who insists they have the answers and want you to follow them because of it, you’ve met an aspiring cult leader, not a vampire. Real vampires want you to think for yourself, and we know better than most that one person’s truth might not be right for another. Anyone who asks you to subscribe to their belief system without evaluation is a manipulator, not a community member.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO JOIN A HOUSE OR GROUP TO BE A VAMPIRE:

We all have better things to do with our lives than collect followers. If a group of friends choose to arrange themselves in a House, et. al., that is perfectly acceptable, but you should be aware that this is an uncommon experience within the vampire community. It’s not necessary to join a House, and legitimate Houses are never dictator-styled authoritarian or controlling structures. Don’t feel like you must participate in any group whatsoever in order to talk with, learn from, or be a member of the vampire community. Keep in mind that over 75% of community members are solitary and unaffiliated with any House, et. al.

FIRST AND FOREMOST, YOUR SEARCH IS ABOUT YOU:

Don’t let your journey of self-discovery become about anyone else, no matter how fascinating a character they might present.  You won’t learn more about being a vampire if you let someone else dictate your experience or tell you what it should mean. When you meet a charismatic personality on a forum who tells you that you’re their long-lost reincarnated true love, or that they dreamed about you and you’re destined to be in their coven, trust us, it’s just a line. Your independence is your greatest asset – the mental freedom to decide who you are. Do not let anyone else hijack it from you.

By Zero & Merticus; Atlanta Vampire Alliance [AVA] & Suscitatio Enterprises, LLC
April 11, 2011 – This article may be redistributed or adopted by other organizations provided there are no modifications and full citation is included.”

You can find the original posting here.
I think this article will be of great value to people who stumble into the VC not knowing what is waiting for them. After all, not all vamps are *nice* people who mean what they say, or say what they mean, or deliver as advertised. There are some creeps around, hiding the fact that they prey on children or con the gullible or desperate and are generally in the habit of putting their interests first and will take the unaware – well, unaware. People coming in to the community need to know what to expect.
Of course, if you feel you’re smart enough to not need guidelines, or sound advice then fine, don’t. But I like to think of things like this as a kind of spare wheel, or a life boat, or a gun even – I would rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.
Use it, don’t use it. But if you buy into unsavory dealings, and get burned – don’t complain afterwards that you didn’t know or weren’t warned.
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