Statement by Kae Devine
By now, a lot of people in the geek scene in Ireland will have seen the articles being shared around today about an attack at an Irish convention. The article is well written, accurate, and detailed, but what it doesn’t cover is what this attack means for us as a community.
On July 4th 2015 on the Saturday evening of ArcadeCon, where I was working for another year as the VIP Manager, I went back to my hotel room for a lie down after I’d taken a migraine. I can’t remember when I last spoke to my best friend Dominique before that, or what I said to her. I’ve known her since I was 12, we’ve been housemates for years, and she is my daughter’s godmother. About an hour later, I was woken up by a call from one of our friends saying I was needed downstairs.
I made my way downstairs where my friend Declan, one of the co-ordinators of ArcadeCon, was waiting to speak to me. I don’t remember much of what he said either—I remember being told something had happened, that Dominique was in the staff room with the Gardaí and didn’t want to speak until I got there. Once I heard Gardaí I ran up those stairs, and as soon as I got in there and saw the paramedics and my friend, I put two and two together and realised what had happened.
The details are all in the Independent article which I’ll reference at the end, so I won’t make myself write about that. I’ll just fill in the gaps that their article missed. Dominique had been working in and managing the screening room all weekend, which many people come and go in for those who don’t know. It’s a pretty boring job, so we’d been checking in on her every now and again.
Between one of those checks, that man waited for the room to empty to lock my friend in and rape her. He made many threats—threatened to break her neck, told her he had a knife if she didn’t be quiet—and we later found out that he had a bag with him that was fully equipped to carry out these threats. He even had a knife with him. She broke her phone on his face because it was all she had to defend herself.
This happened, first and foremost, because an evil man decided to rape someone. But secondary to that, he had his opportunity because we always assumed conventions were a safe place. We knew all the usual faces, and most of us came to conventions for that very reason—because we considered them to be a safe place for people to share their interests.
As staff, we loved providing this space. We came back year after year to bring people together at ArcadeCon, worked incredibly hard as volunteers, and loved every minute of it. We assumed that the faces gathering, and that we, the staff, were safe.
As we all know now, that is not the case. My friend Dominique has waived her right to anonymity so that she can spread this message. From the very beginning she knew she wanted to do that.
She spent days in a hospital in Dublin undergoing intrusive tests but kind after-care by trained staff. She came home to Donegal and moved back in with her parents because she was unable to take care of herself or be her own person. She couldn’t eat solid food. She was waking from nightmare after nightmare and living panic attacks when she was awake. She spent time in a psych unit because what happened made her suicidal, and meanwhile her attacker was walking free on bail. She began to get tattoos and will have five of them when she gets her new one on her birthday, Thursday the 27th of April, just to help her reclaim ownership of her own body. She went through all of that so that eventually she could come back and spread this message.
She does not want this to happen to anyone else. As a collective, we and the rest of the ArcadeCon staff decided we would no longer run it because none of us have the heart to after what happened. We wanted to cancel Sunday the 5th, the final day, but Dominique’s one request when they took her to hospital was to finish it and finish it well, so we did. But there are still other cons out there happening, and people need to be aware of this danger.
To convention staff—please pair up. Have as much security staff as you can manage. Make sure there is never anyone attending to something where no one else has eyes on them. Be prepared.
To convention attendees—do not go alone. Bring a friend and be with them at all times. Stay in the busy convention ground where you’re not likely to be singled out. Be safe at all times.
This type of attack will happen to one in three women, and men are also prey, so no matter who you are, what skills you think you might have, we urge you—take precautions, and be safe. The Irish convention scene is a great place, and with the right information, they will not let this happen again. Thanks to the Irish convention scene, I had more than one thousand euro in my PayPal account only days after the attack that people donated to help us buy Dominique a new phone after hers was taken as evidence.
Keep spreading the word among one another, and keep safe.
Statement by Dominique Meehan
Staffing at a convention, you expect to work from morning until night, moving chairs and talking to brand new people and the old friends you’ve met over the years. On July 4th 2015, I was working in the screening room, trying to get the computer to link up to the projector, but on this day, of all days, Windows updates got me so I was sitting in the screening room trying to get the computer sorted on my own when this man, Keith Hearne, aka Marcos Cuttle, aka Keith Cuttle, sat at the back of the room and the rest is history. He threatened to break my neck, he threatened me with a knife, I genuinely thought I was going to die.
Everything he did in there changed my life. I couldn’t leave the house on my own for weeks. I was scared constantly, stressed constantly. I didn’t know how to cope, and none of my doctors or friends or family could help. I was taking a fistful of meds every night just so I wouldn’t wake up to a flashback of his face.
Something needed to be done, and that’s why I’ve waived my right to anonymity. No one should have to go through what I went through, and if I had kept my anonymity, Hearne would have been accepted back into the con scene with open arms like he’d been away on holiday. Everyone needs to know that they need to protect themselves from this man, but also that there are people like him in every facet of normal life.
We shouldn’t have to say “HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM RAPISTS” when it’s never our fault! Ever! We should be telling people not to rape, give heavier sentences and explaining about consent from a very early age. But in the case of Keith Hearne, some people are just born evil.
But like Kae said there are ways to protect ourselves as staff and attendees alike, but my main one trust your instincts. If you feel like you’re unsafe, it’s never rude to excuse yourself from that person’s presence. I should have done that and I should have done it earlier, because I did get a vibe, I knew the situation was off. I had a text ready to send to the security staff at ArcadeCon and I didn’t send it because I thought I was being silly. And I wasn’t.
Please trust your instincts. If you feel off, get out of there. Your best defence is yourself.
Statement by Declan Doody
I hate Keith Hearne, Marcos Cuttle or Keith Cuttle or whatever name he wants to hide behind online. I hate what he did to my friend Dominique. I hate that people took the events of that day and twisted it into some sordid rumour. I hate how much Dominque has to had to fight every day, how much she has had to overcome every day, since July 4th 2015.
That day has changed so many lives, first and foremost Dominique’s.
I am truly sorry for the hurt, pain and anguish that Dominique and her family have felt. I can’t fathom what she has had to go through. I feel guilty telling her to be strong, I feel useless telling her how proud I am of her. They are just words and how the hell are they ever supposed to make up for the attack, for the rape.
I wish that it had not happened. I wish I’d put the screening room in a different, more open spot. I wish I could have done so many things differently. In the last two years I’ve been approached online and offline by so many former ArcadeCon attendees and past guests about running another show. They talk about it so fondly but the idea turns my stomach. I had wanted to cancel the third day of the convention but that wasn’t what Dominique wanted – she asked we continue on. So we did. So the rest of us came together on that day and pushed through to see the convention to it’s end. On the last day of ArcadeCon, I stood on the stage and I spoke about how our staff were like a family, how despite the bickering, the pressure, the bitching and moaning, we were a family. I never saw it more clearly than that day.
ArcadeCon didn’t shut down because of financial issues, in-fighting on the committee or lack of interest. It shut down because one of our own was attacked. The heart of the convention was gone, and there was no coming back from it.
I have seen an amazing outpouring of love and support today for Dominique and the general staff of ArcadeCon. It has been overwhelming to see the community come together to stand up for her, to stand up against the attack and denounce Keith Hearne for his actions. I hope to God, I never have to see the community do so again!
To those of you on the convention scene involved as organiser, trader, or attendee please pay attention to what you’re reading here today. To the statements made by Kae and Dominique. The convention scene is not a safe space and you are not powerless in preventing future attacks. If you see something, say something! Stop harassment at all levels and take a zero tolerance policy against those who infringe and break these rules.