This is a followup to a previous post: Yes, I said the “Rape” word …
[Updated as more events have unfolded]
I think I may have broken everything. In the morning I might have a drastically reduced friend group.
In that previous post I discussed my discomfort in dealing with an accusation of rape occurring between two members of a LARP organization I’m on the board for, outside of a standard event. I wanted to demonstrate my support for the victim, but as the incident did not occur at game, no charges had been pressed and no restraining order or other court action taken, I wasn’t sure if it was the place of a hobby organization to act as judge and jury.
Well, we banned the player. The victim has been gradually becoming more involved in the organization, and the return of the support network to her has had a lot of positive impact. It was undoubtedly the right action. Everything on that course is proceeding smoothly.
What was so difficult was that I was unwilling to make a one off decision. I insisted to the other board members that we define an enforceable policy before we took action. I didn’t like that we had waited so long to act and I felt that a clear policy would make it easier for us to act more promptly in the future. But neither I nor any other staff member could phrase a policy that felt like a clear case for action. In the 5th argument I had with another board member where they advocated for skipping the policy and just banning the guy and me feeling like a terrible human being for arguing against that … I had a weird revelation.
See we were spending all of our time talking about Steve. Was Steve guilty? Did Steve deserve it? What was fair to Steve? Had Steve learned his lesson? Was Steve a better person now? Something was broken in us that we felt he was the only person we had to consider. In the criminal justice system, where you are considering depriving a person of liberty or life, of course you only consider the guilt or innocence of the accused. But in acting as a custodian for a community … we ought to be discussing the victim. Alleged victim. Almost certainly victim.
And she was afraid. Terrorized. Clearly no longer able to function within the community. She was implicitly banned from the game. Because she couldn’t reasonably be expected to attend while he was there. Did she deserve to be banned? Considering her actions, are those grounds under which I would ever ban someone? Fuck no. Of course not.
In the criminal justice system the victim doesn’t go to jail if the accused is found not-guilty. But when you chose not to act against an abuser in a shared community, that is the choice you are making. You are choosing, actively, whether you like it or not, to ban the victim. If you are not comfortable with that, you are making the wrong decision.
So here’s the new policy for cases of abuse. “Does a player have sufficient and reasonable cause to feel unsafe or unwelcome?” Yes. Because a victim of abuse, in the company of friends who have embraced their attacker, is unsafe and is unwelcome.
So we placed the ban. There was some fall out but it smoothed over. And Samantha is coming back to life.
And now another game in town is reversing a ban in their game that came from an accusation of physical abuse. One that I happen to know was true. On the grounds that the abuser was a “nice guy” who had changed.
The victim is, quite reasonably distraught. She’s been effectively banned from her community as further punishment for the crime of existing too close to another person that didn’t know how not to inflict harm. Does it fucking matter that he has learned his lesson? If he has truly learned his lesson, he shut put his damn tail between his legs and leave by himself, give her the space she needs. THIS IS NOT ABOUT HIM. This is about continuing to inflict punishment upon someone who has had enough already.
So I replied to the thread. The first disagreement to voice itself. And now the torrent of rage has been unleashed.
But here’s the thing: just 3 1/2 months ago I was wrong about this too. Its a hard issue to get your head around. It takes an epiphany to realize what is actually going on, to rationalize what is right with a culturally driven sense of what justice is, unreasonably patterned after the criminal justice system. I’m not convinced that the staff of this game deserves the anger that is getting flung at them. They made a mistake .. but they made a mistake at something that our society is so unbelievably terrible at. Its something there is no guidance on. We just didn’t learn about this shit growing up because its taboo. And the relevant cultural wisdom that does exist is flat wrong. We’re only just starting to understand the responsibilities of a community to deal with abusers in their midst. We’re all making this up as we go.
I think there may be a schism unfolding in these communities. I hope not, but it seems inevitable now.
I know I did the right thing helping to ban Steve and forming a policy for our game that will prevent us from making wrong decisions in the future. I know I did the right thing speaking up in this other situation. Why do I feel so shitty anyway?