Friday, December 8, 2017

Harassment in Indie Games: Part 4 (Conclusion) - How

Content warning: sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual violence, threats, online harassment, threats of violence, harassment and assault of minors, statutory rape, rape, mental illness, anxiety, social ostracizing

Harassment in Indie Games: Part 4 (Conclusion) - How

This is the fourth and final post (posts one, two, & three) in a series about sexual harassment and assault in indie RPGs, larps, and spaces. I put out a survey to ask people about their experiences. This post is going to cover How (how do we fix this).

Previous posts have said this has not been an easy task for me or, especially, for the people who shared their stories. It has certainly been that. This has been really hard, and exhausting, for me. I can’t imagine how hard it was for people to relive their own experiences and trust me, to some a stranger, to talk about them with respect. Whether they chose to be anonymous or to share their personal information, I think it takes a lot of fortitude to talk about our experiences.

This last post’s Patreon proceeds will go to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest Network) and I ask you to join me in supporting RAINN to promote the safety and wellbeing of survivors and at-risk individuals as much as we can. Donate here. Thank you!


How do we fix this?

Change. We need to change, and we need to do it as soon as possible. A few suggestions from the respondents really are valuable in how we can look at this:

- I think the community needs to learn effective ways to self-police. Maybe it should be included in first sessions, but I know not every one of the men I encountered in my early years was a sexual predator but they were complicit and probably egged some of that behavior on without realizing. Creating an environment where those predators are afraid and terrified of the reaction should they behave that way is paramount and an active contract the community and the game runners should participate in.

- A clear consent/anti-harassment policy would have helped. The convention has that today, and they have panels on sexual harassment and how to identify and help stop it. People also need to feel stronger about calling out bad actors' behavior.

- Making it clear that these spaces (and really any spaces) don't work without consent, and the adults in a space need to make sure that if there are minors in a community older members aren't making advances towards them.

- They should have listened and made it clear that this behavior was not acceptable and worked with [the bad actor] to adjust his behavior into something not deeply harmful to members of the community. If it came to it, I think people should have asked him to leave the space/community.

All of the things we can do are such concrete, understandable actions. Most of them involve acknowledging the risks within our own communities. They also can often mean excluding people, sometimes even people we don’t know if we want to exclude. The reality is, some of the time we have to exclude people to include people. For every bad actor you include, you are excluding at least one other person or group, and that is a choice you should be conscious of every time, and you have to ask yourself whether the wellbeing of people at risk is less valuable than letting a well-known game designer speak on a panel at your convention.

Is it worth hurting people to be able to play with a GM who constantly runs over people’s consent? Is it worth losing the participation and contributions of tons of women to let the senior manager for D&D say women aren’t “real” developers? I ask anyone with power, with anxiety in my heart, with fear inside me: are we worth anything to you? Do you care? Will you read this and just turn away? If you decide we don’t matter now, I hope someday you change.

If instead you think it’s time to make a difference, my suggestions are here:

  • Create guidelines and standards for all levels of community (table, region, convention) whether it’s online or offline and ensure they meet the needs of all of the individuals in the community with consideration of their identities and their needs. (Examples at GeekFeminism Wiki and Big Big Bad Con.)
  • Educate people about consent and boundaries with the assumption that if we don’t teach them, no one will, so that we move forward with comprehensive information.
  • Learn signs of bad actors and their habits, like being unwilling to respect consent or not asking for it, lying about their behaviors, invading others’ space, suggesting content or actions that are inappropriate for the audience or that make people feel unsafe, and similar issues.
  • Call out bad actors when they do something wrong. Do it publicly or privately, but make sure it won’t hurt the survivors when you do it. Respect their safety and wishes, but don’t let people keep doing bad things when you witness them, when you’re made aware of them otherwise, or when you’ve been called upon to speak on behalf of those harmed.
  • Believe the people who speak up and support them. Don’t leave them hanging and alone when something bad happens. Support them through the whole process, and do what they ask (even if that means keeping quiet).
  • Remove repeat offenders from the community, even if it means banning them from conventions, events, and even your game table. Don’t let them continue to act badly in spaces you control or that you have influence over. If they apologize and demonstrate meaningful change, work with the survivors to see what is possible.
  • Protect minors and marginalized people from bad actors. Make spaces where those people can feel safe and where they can easily get assistance. If someone breaks the rules of consent and respect, get them away from underange and marginalized people as soon as possible.
  • Learn signs of abuse and harassment and find out if someone needs help if they seem in trouble.
  • Start using safety tools (link) and encouraging consent-based play in your games.

These don’t sound so hard, but they will take effort and time. If you want more complex efforts, hire a diversity consultant for your convention, for your project, and anything else you want to do. Ask people for their perspectives. Trust people who ask for help. This section is so brief because the reality is, the work isn’t complicated - it’s just going to be challenging. We need to change our culture and our ways of responding to the needs of survivors, and help protect people from being harmed in the first place.

Let’s start now.

US Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
- Chat

US Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
- Worldwide chat:

US Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255
- Chat

I apologize for not having non-US numbers at this time. The chats should be accessible for anyone, and if you still need help, please contact me directly via I'm sending good vibes to you as well as I can. Thank you!

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