SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Comic conventions like Salt Lake’s FanX bring together fans to meet their favorite celebrities, artists, vendors and each other.
It’s a chance for the true believers to show off their dedication to beloved characters by cosplaying, but that fun can turn to fear in seconds when a cosplayer’s boundaries are violated. That fear can follow you well after the convention.
One cosplayer shared her story about the dark side of cosplay.
“I’m a portrait artist… with cosplaying you’re creating a portrait of a character you get to wear. Not just on a canvas. You’re creating a character you get to interact with,” said Sarah Jane Eaton, long-time cosplayer.
Sarah’s home in Salt Lake City shows her incredible dedication to cosplay. She has bins filled with dozens of costumes and props that took countless hours of work.
But one terrifying situation almost killed her love of cosplay. She felt like her passion was being ripped away.
“There were moments, I thought to myself. If I can’t enjoy this… then, why I am doing it?” said Sarah.
This year, during FanX 2018, Sarah spoke to ABC 4 about what happened.
“I had stopped going to events because I was tired of him trying to follow me around,” said Sarah.
Sarah said a man harassed her at FanX and other cosplay events for two years. The situation came to a boiling point right here in Salt Lake City in 2016.
“Our security team asked them to leave us alone. They agreed to leave the convention because, apparently, I was not the only person who made complaints, had issues, felt uncomfortable, felt fear around this person,” said Sarah.
The harassment didn’t stop there, and the fear followed her into her daily life.
“It got to the point I had anxiety issues going to the grocery store in the case I would run into this person.” Sarah said her friends and family did what they could to get him to stop the behavior.
“My late husband had a sit-down talk and asked him to leave me alone, but after my husband passed he began contacting me again,” said Sarah.
The harassment escalated once again.
“It made me sick to my stomach with why were they unable to take the hint? Not even the hint. The blatant ‘please leave her alone.’” Sarah felt she had no other option but to take that man to court, but there was no guarantee a judge would side with her.
“I was honestly really scared if I didn’t get the injunction that someone might show up and harass me further and threaten physical violence,” said Sarah.
In the end, she got her injunction.
Sarah said harassment is still a problem at conventions, but she isn’t letting that or what happened stop her. She’s already planning her cosplay for FanX this spring.
Sarah said despite the dark side of the convention community, “the amount of support that I had, the amount of people that said ‘yes, I believe you,’ that said ‘we’re here for you’…. It outweighed that.”
When Sarah was at one of her lowest points, it was in the cosplay community that she found support.
“When my husband died, it was the cosplay community that rallied. And that made me feel safe. That made me feel really loved and appreciated,” said Sarah.
“I’ve created a really solid group of friends. People that I depend on. That are brilliant, creative, fun people…and one of the things that we do together is cosplay,” said Sarah. “I don’t want to give that up.”