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What A Girl Wants #24 - The Rest Of the Story!

by Ronee Garcia Bourgeois 2006-04-10

I am damn proud to be a woman this week.

I offer no apologies for it either. I am loud and proud and strong.

Why is my estrogen running so high you ask?

Because this week marked the beginning of a very important endeavor for Friends of Lulu and women in this industry, a fund inspired by a story that started months ago….

Back in December, I first told you about an alleged sexual assault that occurred at a comic convention and expressed my own personal feelings on the subject as I tend to do. Since then I have learned to be a bit more politically correct and all that crap but I do not apologize for bringing the topic up, for saying what I think or for being a passionate person for women’s rights.

However, at the time, the victim was not ready to come public and wanted to handle the situation the right way and through the proper channels, which I applaud her for of course… I then promised not to publicly speak of it again until SHE was ready to tell it herself.

Well. She’s ready.

Let me introduce you to Taki Soma, an extremely talented artist and a brave woman.

As many of you reading this, I’m sure it sounds familiar. Well here’s the rest of the story, at least from my side:

The incident happened late in the year of 2005, during pre-convention prepping and partying;

I was invited down to the pool in the hotel I was staying at by friends but I turned the invitation down per I didn’t have a bathing suit with me, but after some coaxing, it was decided that it was okay to go in my clothes – But instead of swimming, there was an attached hot tub sectioned off in the pool, where everything is wide open and we all gravitated towards the hot tub to sit and just talk about comics and movies, etc.

I was thrown into the pool area by surprise a couple of times by this one man, which made me quite unhappy and uncomfortable. This was a person I had met during a convention a little over year ago and had developed an acquaintanceship from seeing him around at all the conventions I attend. He knew everyone and introduced me to the Editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, given me advice on my art, shared amusing tales about the industry, etc. – I thought he was definitely someone I’d want to keep within networking relations, or so I thought:

After a while, most others went up to their rooms and the remaining people were this individual, my friend Ken and myself; I excused myself and started to leave, but before I succeeded in getting out of the tub, this man grabs my shoulders from behind and started to massage me there, then slip his hands under my shirt, felt around my back and then slipped his left hand toward my left breast. He had his hand cupped on my breast when I pried him off of me. Ken, who was swimming must have noticed what was happening and came in from over the ledge. I then stated again that I am leaving and started to get out of the tub when he grabs onto my shirt with his right hand and attempted to remove it off of me. Ken grabs the man’s offending hand to try to remove it while I grabbed the shirt down to keep it on me. I kept warning the attacker to let go, don’t do this, etc.; and all 3 of us struggled for maybe 10 seconds, it was an awkward struggle because Ken and I are both trying to remove this man’s hand away without having my top ripped or slipped off of me. Ken overpowered him and got his hand off of my shirt. Ken then told me to run back to my room.

Soon afterwards, I filed a police report. (Report #051059701)

This is where it gets complicated; the incident happened in Ohio, I’m in Minnesota, my witness, Ken is in Canada and the individual in question is in yet another state – these factors have made it very difficult for me to obtain legal representation or to seek legal advice. I have made countless phone calls, researched, and all I get is the run around and speculation as to what to do. Every single attorney I spoke with, civil, pro-bono, even the D.A.’s office in Ohio were unsure of how to advise me confidently – I’ve also contacted various organizations, including those who give support to sexual violence victims, artists in need of legal advice, and even their contact attorneys – and still, no solid legal advice. I felt overwhelmed and powerless… how can I not have any answers? - I’ve been told to move on, I wasn’t raped, it’s no big deal by a few… but it is a big deal, to me. I understand fully what occurred, and I’m not here to say that my experience was as horrendous as rape cases are, but I was nonetheless wronged. I also know that my incident was not an isolated case by this person, but repeated behavior that has been escalating each time. I wouldn’t forgive myself if I remained silent and just hoped it wouldn’t happen again to someone else.

I am still searching for legal advice and I’m finding tremendous support from Friends of Lulu and I would love to be involved in their mission. I don’t want another victim to ever have to face what I am facing. It is my hope that through greater awareness that people will be able to find the resources, answers, confidence and support if and when they ever need it.

-Taki Soma

Now, here is where I want to tell you that in researching this case and talking to witnesses I have heard numerous accounts of behavior by the alleged attacker that range from just demeaning women to unsolicited advances to full blown assault, the earliest of which I found going back to 2003. I asked Taki point blank, had she known about the allegations back then would she have even been in the presence of this individual in 2005? The answer I got was a resounding no.

So she is coming forward, looking for help so that she can take this person to court and hopefully stop the cycle.

This inspired me.

At first, I had offered to see if Friends of Lulu would help her raise money for a lawyer which of course FOL was ready to do… but through time and working with wonderful people in this industry as well as Taki herself, this became so much more. With each story, each account of women and men alike that had witnessed or been victim to something like this in the industry, my heart broke a little bit more. And every time someone would say “I had no idea this kind of thing was going on..” the fire grew.

This is where this fund was born, not only to help in funding for legal representation in cases like this.. but also to help women fight back, take control and be brave enough to come forward. Yes, right now this fund will help Taki, but it will also provide money to further educate ALL of us and to help comic fans stand up together and say that this kind of behavior is not acceptable.

The FOL Empowerment Fund is still in its infancy, with the official kick off being a raffle at CAPE in Dallas on FCBD. But we are also looking for donations of art, memorabilia, collectibles or whatever to auction off at HeroesCon this year as well as monetary donations. Send all inquires to me at ronee@friends-lulu.org

And hey, you got ideas? You think you can help? We are all ears!!

Ronée hopes that you all find it in your heart to help this cause, join FOL, donate, or just spread the word! She commends Taki for her courage and means it when she says she is there for her and she would also like to publicly thank Donnie Tracey of Gotham City Limits and Vicious Circle Projects for his tireless work on this as well as his inspiration to her personally. It is people like this that restore your faith in humanity... thanks Snickerdoodle!