Multiple women have come forward on social media alleging that writer/artist Cameron Stewart engaged in sexually predatory behavior with them.
The first allegation came when artist Aviva Artzy revealed on Twitter that Stewart had groomed her when she was 16 years old and Stewart was in his early 30s.
As Artzy’s tweets circulated, other women came forward alleging that Stewart had done the same to them. Writer/artist Kate Leth tweeted that she was either 20 or 21 when a 32-year-old Stewart groomed her.
Several other women have come forward in replies to both Artzy and Leth to say that Stewart engaged in the same behavior with them, though they did not reveal specifics.
Stewart’s pattern of alleged behavior appears to have been an open secret in the comics community for some time. Marsha Cooke, wife of the late Darwyn Cooke, tweeted support for Artzy and said that she witnessed Stewart’s behavior, and that “there will be others” who come forward about him.
Con organizer Andrea Demonakos also tweeted about the nature of Stewart’s behavior as something that was “widely known” in the Toronto comics scene.
Artist Babs Tarr, who worked with Stewart on Batgirl and Motor Crush, also tweeted her support for Artzy, who Tarr said contacted her “a few months ago” to let her know about Stewart’s behavior.
For the unaware, grooming, in this context, is when an older person establishes a relationship with a much younger person (typically a minor) with the goal of engaging in sexual activity/abuse. In Canada (Artzy, Leth, and Stewart are all Canadian), the age of consent for sexual activity is 16 years old. However, the Canadian criminal code (section 172.1) defines “luring a child” as applying to communication between adults and “a person who is, or who the accused believes is, under the age of 18 years” for the purposes of committing a criminal offense. One of the criminal offenses listed under that section is “sexual exploitation,” which specifically says offenders may be those “in a position of trust or authority towards a young person.”
We can’t know for certain what Stewart’s motivations were for engaging in these relationships, nor has anyone accused him at this point of anything beyond establishing age-inappropriate relationships with these women. But it’s the power dynamic that’s at the heart of the allegations against Stewart. Making comics is something anyone can do, but Breaking Into the Comics Industry is often as much about who you know as it is how talented you are. As Leth put it this morning, those engaging in grooming behavior “usually have some kind of power […] that draws girls in”. For someone like Stewart, that position of authority comes from industry connections and “clout.”
It’s also troubling to see people talk about how Stewart’s alleged behavior was known to them for some time. As Demonakos tells it, so many people knew about Stewart’s behavior that he ended up moving out of Toronto. But who knows how many people have been victimized, not just by Stewart but by any number of abusers, because the culture of open secrets in comics has allowed them to continue to target people who were unaware of their prior actions.
As of this morning, Stewart has locked his Twitter and Instagram accounts, so it’s unclear if he has issued any statement or comment on the allegations against him.