Update: Who ya gonna call?

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Good morning ladies and gentlemen,
The noise, as it were, seems to have died down over the recent advent of a “Vampire Police” and we have yet to receive the interview responses that we are awaiting.

When we posted the follow up, on January 18th, to our initial report we noted that certain events had taken place and we posed certain questions regarding these events. Well, we have great pleasure in advising that a highly respected figure in the modern Vampire culture, an authority by virtue of tenure and a member of several notable cultural initiatives has approached us with a view to clarifying some of the reported events of the last couple of weeks.

It is with deepest thanks, and great honour, we are able to present an outline of the situation that unfolded by Lady Sylvere Ap Leanan.

RVL: Welcome to RVL Lady Sylvere, it’s a pleasure to have you with us… for any of our readers who may not know you would you be kind enough to give us a quick rundown on your work within the modern Vampire culture?

LS: Thank you for the opportunity. While I’ve been aware of RVL for years, this is my first interview with you. It’s exciting.

For those who don’t know me, I’ve been involved in the vampire subculture, both online and offline, since 1994. Since 1998, I’ve run the Real-Vampires Community Alliance (RVCA), which is the oldest Internet-based support group for the vampire community, first as the Real-Vampires email list on Yahoo, and now as the RVCA group on Facebook. I’ve been a member of Voices of the Vampire Community (VVC) since 2006, I’ve done interviews for various media, including ABC’s 20/20 and a documentary for XYTV in the UK, and I spoke as an expert panelist at the American Criminal Justice Society’s 2008 conference. I could list more, but those are the highlights.

RVL: Can we begin by asking when did you first become aware of the posts that provided the link for the “Vampire Community Police” initiative?

LS: I first became aware of the group when a link to your first article about it was shared in Vampire Network News (VNN) on Facebook. Around the same time, a direct link to the group was posted by the group’s founder in Vampire Community News (VCN), also on Facebook.

RVL: What were your initial impressions of the matter?

LS: Honestly, my first reaction was a huge eye-roll. This sort of thing has been tried before and it never ends well.

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RVL: What, in the main, was the general response and reception in the places you found it?

LS: The response in VCN was mostly to point and laugh, not going to lie. However, between the lulz and silly GIFs, there were good comments, questions, and even suggestions. In VNN, the response was more subdued, but no less critical.

RVL: What questions first came to your mind about it?

LS: The same questions that always come to mind when someone pulls this sort of stunt. In no particular order they include:

Who are these people?

What makes them think they’re qualified to police the vampire community?

What “rules” are they trying to enforce and how do they plan to do that over the Internet?

Who made up those rules in the first place?

Do these people realize what they’re proposing is impossible?

Don’t they understand that the vampire “community” is actually made of up of many communities, each with its own regional culture and standards?

Why do we have to go through this yet again?

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RVL: What were some of the other more ‘serious’ questions that the postings gave rise to?

LS: All of the questions I listed were posed in some form by various community members. None of them were ever answered. In my case, I tried to go beyond those initial questions to see if this group had anything to offer that past attempts lacked. The short answer was “no” and, as I researched further, it became clear that this group was destined for epic failure.

After reading some of what the administrators of the group proposed to do, it became evident to me that they really hadn’t given much thought to creating an action plan. First, they proposed to collect screen captures of Facebook posts or private messages to use as “evidence” to determine if there had been some sort of misconduct. I’m not sure how they were planning to determine what constitutes misconduct since there are no formal laws for vampires, but this is a violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service. Specifically, Section 5 states, “If you collect information from users, you will: obtain their consent, make it clear you (and not Facebook) are the one collecting their information, and post a privacy policy explaining what information you collect and how you will use it.” (Emphasis is mine.)

In addition, they were calling themselves “police,” which could be construed as ‘impersonating a police officer’. That’s illegal and could result in fines or even time in prison. Both of these things told me they had no idea what they were doing and I said so quite bluntly in both VCN and VNN. I also requested the name and contact information of the attorney the group kept on retainer so I could verify it. I’m sure it will come as no surprise that none of them could provide such information. After I pointed out that calling themselves “police” was likely to get them into real legal trouble, they very quickly changed the name of the group to something about counseling.

This change led me to ask what qualifications they had to act as counselors. The founder of the group and some of the administrators claimed they intended to collect “evidence” and then turn it over to the leaders of Houses or Courts so the leaders could take action. That’s closer to what I would expect of a community advocate, so I asked whether any of them have any training or experience acting as community advocates, such as acting as a court-appointed special advocate for children or as a domestic violence or rape crisis advocate. Only two of the group’s administrators bothered to respond, neither of them were the group’s founder.

One administrator claimed to have a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and experience working with children as an advocate. In the US, the minimum requirements to act as a licensed counselor are a Master’s degree in social work or a PhD. in psychology. So where did she do her undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate studies? What were the subjects of her Master’s thesis and Doctoral dissertation? Where did she complete her internships and where is she licensed? This is all public information, so I’d like to verify it.

Another administrator claimed to be an ordained minister. I’m an ordained minister too. All it takes is a few minutes to fill out some online forms and you’re ordained. In no way does it qualify him to act as a counselor or community advocate. However, in the US, an ordained minister can act as a crisis intervention counselor if he has completed 275 hours of training or education in crisis intervention and then takes another specialized training course that grants a certificate. [See: American Institute of Health Care Professionals. If that’s the case, where did he receive training and where is his certificate held? Again, this should be public information if the person’s claims are legitimate.

These are the types of questions anyone who proposes to take this sort of action should be prepared to answer. The fact that they couldn’t or wouldn’t answer them in a public forum should raise an army of red flags for everyone. To make matters worse, not one of the administrators of that group has ever been recognized as a leader or mentor in the vampire community in the 20-something years I’ve been active. Why in the world should anyone trust them?

RVL: In your opinion, is something of this nature ever going to work, or find a home, in the modern living Vampire culture? Why do you think this is?

LS: Nothing like this is ever going to work, if for no other reason than the fact that the modern vampire culture is international and connected via the Internet. It’s difficult for real law enforcement officials to enforce laws on the Internet or across international borders, how would any group without public backing or formal training and credentials manage it? Even if it were possible, laws vary from one country to another and from one state or province to another. How is an informal, ad hoc group going to enforce anything? It’s utter nonsense.

RVL: What method, or methods, would you advocate in any attempt to eliminate or curtail the more, shall we say ‘destructive’ or ‘disruptive’ elements in the online world of the real Vampire culture?

LS: Start by growing a thick skin. There’s a tendency in the vampire culture to get “butthurt” over very small issues. If someone says something that upsets you, don’t respond immediately. I know this is harder than it sounds, but it’s the first step. Yes, words can hurt, but they’re just pixels on a screen. You can choose whether or not to read them and whether or not to respond. Go outside, read a book, play some video games; whatever it takes to get you away from the forum for a couple of hours and help you cool down.

When you come back, you can ignore the person’s post if it’s better for your emotional health. You don’t owe anyone a response. It might help to reread the post and see if there was something you misunderstood. Text is an expressionless medium that doesn’t convey tone of voice or facial expression, so it’s easy to take things in a way the writer didn’t intend. If it still seems worth a reply, at least you’ll be in a clearer state of mind.

If someone continually says things that are upsetting to you, there’s a wonderful little button labeled “Block” on Facebook and on most other forums as well. Make it your best friend. You also have the option of contacting the group administrator and requesting they take action if you think the person is far enough out of line.

If someone is harassing or threatening you, report them to the appropriate authorities, including law enforcement if necessary. There are resources available, use them.

RVL: Do you think that there needs to be some mechanism for being able to “deal with” blatant instances of unethical, immoral/amoral or criminal activities suspicions within the culture?

LS: We have real law enforcement officials to deal with criminal actions. Let them do their jobs. In the case of things that might be viewed as unethical or of questionable morality, that’s where we start running into the issue of cultural differences and personal ethics. We can’t run a blacklist of “bad” people because then there’s the risk of someone using it to make false claims to further a personal vendetta. Talk about a legal disaster waiting to happen.

What we can do is look out for each other. If you see something sketchy, say something. Learn the warning signs of abuse and cults and if you notice someone needs support, try to offer it. You don’t have to call yourself the “vampire police” to do that. You just have to be a decent human being.

RVL: Thank you very much for shedding some light on these events for us Lady Sylvere, we appreciate your time as, I’m sure, our readers will.

LS: Thank you again for the opportunity. I hope I can give some useful information to your readers.

——————————————————————————————————————–Observations and questions from long tenured and highly respected members of the modern Vampire culture should be accepted for what they are, a very real desire to stop people from creating problems that could lead to potentially disastrous consequences – for them. The folks who have been in the culture, both online and off, for a long time have seen all of this before, they know the damage that can be caused and the ramifications that such damage can engender. No one wants to see anyone get hurt. Yes, there will be those who have nothing but nonsensical, intimidating, sarcastic, self-serving and infantile comments to make… we need to look past, as Lady Sylvere put it, “the lulz and silly Gifs“, and take heed of the good advice that is between the b.s.

We are still hopeful of receiving response to our interview request with the head of the project, perhaps we may find something re-vamped and couched in a less severe manner will be coming forth.

Copyright RVL & Lady Sylvere Ap Leanan, 2018

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