Reporting Roadblocks: Denial, Fear, Shame, Guilt, Embarrassment, etc.



  • Barring the rare exception of crazy staffer or badly constructed policy, most games I've seen over my twenty years in the hobby have practically posted neon signs in every corner to let players know: please tell us if you have a problem!

    But people still don't often report issues when they arise.

    In some cases, this is for external reasons: because they distrust staff -- because of something that staff did or didn't do in the past, or even because of what staff on the first game they ever played on did or didn't do. Maybe this staff is brusque and doesn't seem approachable. Maybe no staffer they ever reported to before ever did anything but make it worse, so why would they try now?

    But that's not what this thread is actually about, unless it's in a tangential fashion. This is about the internal roadblocks to getting these issues resolved, and they're rarely discussed outright. All the same, I've seen them come up every time an issue has been brought to me when I have staffed somewhere. I've seen it every time I'm just a player somewhere, and I ask someone why they haven't reported that jerk who won't leave them alone or is making them miserable. I've seen it come up in threads here, though it's often in passing.

    The 'it takes two to tango' logic -- that crappy staffers everywhere so often use as an excuse for inaction -- ends up being an excuse for inaction on the part of people who could and should be reporting a problem -- but aren't -- also. This is not because they're responsible for the other person behaving in a horrible way, but because they feel they've done something that would muddy the waters somehow and make the issue less clear, and much less likely to become anything other than 'worse'.

    A lot of times, these feelings focus on shame, embarrassment, denial, or guilt. Think of how many times you've seen or heard the following, either as a staffer, or privately as a fellow player, or even just as a reader of the forum:

    "I can't believe I fell for that craziness!" (when hindsight makes things finally clear)
    "I was OK with this, but really not OK with that. But, well, since I did the first thing... "
    "How could I be so stupid as to believe <person> again when they said they changed?"
    "It's my fault, I should have seen it much sooner."
    "I did something really shitty to <name> because of them, how can I complain about them now? I'd have to admit all the stuff about <name> for it to even make sense!"
    "I froze. I didn't know what to do."
    "I thought we were friends. They know everything about me. I know what they're doing is really fucked up, but if I say anything... "
    "I don't want to let them hurt somebody else, but the stuff we did isn't something I even want to think about, let alone talk to someone about. I don't want people knowing I did <potentially taboo or embarrassing thing>, even if I decided I really didn't like it at all once I did."

    ...yeah, probably a lot. Probably really a lot. A 'somebody get me some strong liquor to belt down, because wow, now that I think on it, that's really, really a lot'-sized a lot.

    This isn't really any game's problem to solve on its own. I think games have their part to play in it, as does the community trying to behave with some basic human decency about these sensitive issues, but I don't think it's possible for a game or the community to resolve this entirely, as the problem is an internal one to any given participant on it.

    What do you think games can do to help? (Not resolve, but help.)

    What do you think individuals people do discuss these things with should do to help? (Not resolve, but help.)

    What do you think individuals in this situation should do when confronted with these feelings?


  • Pitcrew

    @surreality Considering the post I just wrote before seeing this, I think well.. sometimes, when you realize you fucked up, you just need time and space to figure out what went wrong. Sometimes, you look at the fragments and think 'well, I could have done this better'. And sometimes.. you just have to apologize and move along.



  • @downwithopp I'm honestly not quite sure what to say here. I don't know anything about the situation you're describing and I really, really do not want to be drawn into whatever it is in any way, but it sounds like what you said was heartfelt, or at least I'd like to think so.

    It's just... er, how to put this delicately... it's not what I'm talking about here. I get that it touches on some of the same emotional resonances in a big way.

    I'm talking about situations in which someone refrains from reporting abuse (harassment, stalking, cheating on the game, abusive behavior) happening to them because they feel something they have done makes them responsible in some way, in whole or in part, for the unacceptable things that happen to them.

    I agree that in your situation it sounds like an apology was the proper answer and I commend you for making it no matter how things shake out for you going forward in that situation, but I don't believe someone who is the target of abusive behavior owes an apology to staff (save for in cases in which they engaged in genuine wrongdoing with the abusive party before the abuse was turned on them, and in that case they should be apologizing to the person(s) they wronged, definitely!) or to their abuser.

    ETA: In light of the other thread... good gods. :/


  • Pitcrew

    @surreality No, I get what you're saying. I'm not looking to hijack your thread. I guess I could have done better with a simple upvote. I just hope it spurs some good conversation.



  • @downwithopp Honestly? You did the hard thing. No second guessing or apologizing on posting over here required!

    I didn't think you were hijacking, I just wanted to clarify in case I was being my typical clear-as-mud self, or somebody potentially jumped your shit thinking you thought a target should be apologizing to the person targeting them (which is not how I read it, but I winced the second I realized that maybe somebody could; that'd be a deluge that would suuuuuuuuuuuuuuck in an already raw moment).

    ETA: <facepalm> Yeesh.



  • @surreality Honestly, I'm not sure a game can do anything about it. We had a fellow staffer not complain about someone who was making her uncomfortable and was reluctant to do so even after we learned others were uncomfortable with him as well.

    I suspect it's less a Mu* thing and more a societal one. Women are taught not to complain or make a fuss. Even men are, in a different way. In their case they should be able to handle it on their own. That seems to be changing with each successive generation but we're obviously not there yet. Hopefully this swell of allegations from women and men will help change that.

    So what can a game do? Just be open about being available and take action when it happens. And when someone is asked to leave, a post about why (without getting into specifics) so others know that complaints do produce results.


  • Pitcrew

    @surreality I just thought I would note that I can't even count the times that the staffers thought themselves approachable and diplomatic, but in reality they were so damned defensive they'd harangue you for hours and were liable to talk smack about you behind your back.

    After a while it seems smarter to not bother. Of course this only exacerbates the problem. Just thought I'd note a lot of the time the metaphorical neon sign saying 'Talk to me' isn't the most sincere in my opinion.


  • Pitcrew

    @surreality said in Reporting Roadblocks: Denial, Fear, Shame, Guilt, Embarrassment, etc.:

    somebody potentially jumped your shit thinking you thought a target should be apologizing to the person targeting them

    Yeah. No. Not doing that at all. I owed a few people apologies for being a complete ass. And there was no excuse for it no matter how down I was on myself at the time. I shit on their table and now I'm trying to clean it up. Thanks for the clarification though, I appreciated it.



  • @phatdenny said in Reporting Roadblocks: Denial, Fear, Shame, Guilt, Embarrassment, etc.:

    @surreality I just thought I would note that I can't even count the times that the staffers thought themselves approachable and diplomatic, but in reality they were so damned defensive they'd harangue you for hours and were liable to talk smack about you behind your back.

    Creating an atmosphere where players actually feel complaints will be taken seriously is probably the most important part of this. There are a lot of reasons people don't report harassment, some of them personal and beyond your control, but you absolutely can control what you tolerate when you see it and what kind of tone you try and set. I think all of us can be more aware of the atmosphere on the games we're on and speak up and complain, even if we aren't the direct targets of harassment. Maybe especially then. I don't think it's on the person being fucked with to push back, it's on the game and the people around them to have their backs. These assholes thrive where their behavior is excused and normalized.


  • Pitcrew

    @three-eyed-crow True but the problem I'm referring to isn't 'not being taken seriously'. This is a different problem entirely in which it IS taken seriously but people get so defensive or even turn it against you that you wish you didn't take it seriously. A separate problem entirely imo.


  • Pitcrew

    @surreality said in Reporting Roadblocks: Denial, Fear, Shame, Guilt, Embarrassment, etc.:

    What do you think games can do to help? (Not resolve, but help.)

    I'd start by changing the disclaimer from "tell us immediately if you're being harassed" (or whatever similar sentiment) to "we're here to help you, so we hope you'll feel safe coming to us right away if you're being harassed." It's a minor change, but the first sentiment is very... well, it's very confrontational; not necessarily toward the victim--though there certainly is an angle there in the implications, that since it's phrased as a command, you have done something wrong and/or punishable if you fail to comply--but certainly toward the crime itself. That's a bad thing because it stresses the importance of the crime over the importance of the victim's needs, which as an aside is a cultural problem we need to deal with: go Google "Al Franken harassment" and count how many headlines come up that name the actual woman rather than calling her 'woman who accuses Al Franken' if you want an example of what I'm talking about.

    But anyway. By changing the statement to "we're here to help you, there's at least an implicit promise of comfort, and that staff will listen to the victim without discarding her as having played her part in the procedural drama of hunting down the wicked harasser. It's a good start.

    I think the logical follow-up to that is to look for staff that has experience with victims. We're off-balance, so we need someone who knows how to approach us and how to not knock us further off-balance than we already are. This may mean letting an accusation go because the complainer isn't willing to pursue a course of action for whatever reason, and that needs to be something that's okay. The victim needs to know that though one person on the game has violated her dignity for the sake of his own needs, the staff won't do the same thing to her.

    I think the logical follow-up to that is to have a policy in place protecting the confidentiality of any communications. The complaints are only for the eyes and ears of the advocate-staffer, not for anyone else, especially not staffers who feel gung-ho about "protecting other players" by taking a victim's complaints and beginning an investigation anyway. Don't be that guy. That guy might help some potential, future victim, but he does so at the expense of hurting the victim who's already here, and that's fucked up. The victim you have is the one who deserves your concern.

    Anyway. I'm going to see a movie in fifteen minutes, so that's all I got for top of my head ideas. Feel free to criticize them if you think I'm overlooking something.

    What do you think individuals people do discuss these things with should do to help?

    The first response to the story always has to be, "What do you (the victim) want to happen here to be safer and happier?" Obey her wishes as best you can. What she wants may not be what's best for her, but it's not your place to make that decision. You may have to negotiate a compromise--obviously, not every wish will be ethical to implement--but the goal should always be to give her what she needs to restore her sense of agency.

    What do you think individuals in this situation should do when confronted with these feelings?

    Whatever they can. I've discussed how idiosyncratic my own coping mechanisms are, so I'm not going to suggest there's any one correct way for a victim to respond. The context of who's involved, the risks, the consequences, and the needs of the moment are all too complex. If you've been harassed, then you do the best you can with what you have, and please don't beat yourself up if hindsight reveals you didn't choose the optimal course. You're muddling through a hard, scary time: no one blames you for not thinking straight.

    Except assholes. They blame you, but they can go to hell. People who've been through it are with you and support you.


  • Pitcrew

    Oh. Another thing staff should do when dealing with a victim to be be careful in all phrasing of discussions. "Do you have logs?" is an accusatory question whether it's intended that way or not, because of the social context it takes place in, where victims are often considered as guilty as their harassers are. "Do you want to show me any logs you have?" is better, because it acknowledges her role as the driving force in whatever happens next.

    Stuff like that.



  • @greenflashlight I'm with you completely re: ensuring the confidentiality of the person making a report.

    The one thing to keep in mind with something like this is... well, it's two-fold.

    Different games have different structures to their staff, and rarely does one person have the authority to act without consulting another member of staff. Some will only take action about something if the whole group agrees, for example, while others, if you reported the incident to a lowly admin, they are likely going to need to discuss the matter with the headwiz or someone who does have the authority to take action if something further needs to happen.

    This is a checks and balances issue; though I agree that 'the fewer involved the better' for confidentiality, some staff corps are just not designed to allow that and you run a real risk of things going much worse if only one staff member ends up handling it solo. Others may have at least one or two others who need to weigh in. That doesn't mean anyone's name goes out to the public, however. The hard part here is that the game does actually have to protect itself, too. Solo staffer action -- especially if it potentially involves removing a player from the game -- can get the rumor mill turning much faster and louder and more viciously than an actual accounting of everything that's fully public (which I agree would already be horrible), and this can end up harming everyone involved, including the person making the report (as men report, too, but as @TNP said, much more rarely -- I'm keeping my pronouns as neutral as possible for a reason), considerably more.

    You also have to figure, most complaints and reports are kept fairly confidential. People who are awful tend to accrue a fair number of them, even if it's not in the form of a formal report or complaint with or without logs, though this may not be known to the person making the report this time unless people who have reported things previously tell them so. Staff have usually observed the behavior themselves, too. These patterns are often more valuable to staff than any potentially embarrassing detail or log could ever be. Very rare is the 'huh, this is the first time I've heard anything like this!' about an abusive player, unless that player is very new to the game, staff-side, because even without formal complaints, people do mention these things when they arise, even if it is just in passing, and good staff notice them when they show up on channels, etc.

    The other thing is, staff actually is responsible for more than just that person who reports. If what they report having happened is NOT OK on that game, there's really only so much someone can ask to be done. For instance, someone reporting may not be demanding, asking, or even hoping that the offending player be removed from the game, but if the offending player broke the rules and was behaving inappropriately, they should be removed. This doesn't mean digging into anybody's business or prying around, but it does mean there are some limits on what can be asked for. For instance, 'don't ban this person even though they did this' would fall into that 'this could ultimately be unethical' category of requests if what the offender did warrants removal from the game. It would be the same if someone asked for someone to be banned who didn't deserve it, just flipped around -- it would cross an important ethical line that would make the whole game less safe, and the whole game is in the realm of the staff member's responsibility and concern.

    You can't, essentially, ask to leave the predator out in the wild to harm others if what they've done would warrant removal from the game. Staff can remove them without exposing who reported. You are very right about one thing: that part is about ensuring there will be no next target of abuse, and that no further abuse from that offender occurs to the reporting party on that game, not about punishing that person for what they did wrong already or about helping the target get back on their feet. But that's a very real and important part of staff's job and responsibility.

    Providing care and support is a separate matter entirely. There's really only so much of that staff can do, and ethically speaking, only so much they should. While a lot of us have training and/or personal experience in this area, there aren't a lot of actual therapists or counselors or victim services folk staffing -- and when staffing a game, this isn't typically on the qualifications list. People are usually there for code, for running scenes, etc. (And even the actual qualified folks who do this for a living are not likely to want to do the same, at length, for no paycheck.) The only thing worse than no support is someone who thinks they're being helpful who has no idea what in hell they're talking about, much of the time.

    This is where a good RL support network -- or network of supportive friends within the hobby -- comes in, for the most part. It isn't, and can't be, staff's job to make someone whole again after something horrible happens. Staff can be respectful of the target's privacy, and they can listen to what the target wants the resolution to be, but it is ultimately not their responsibility to provide counseling and recovery services after the fact if someone needs them.


  • Pitcrew

    @surreality said in Reporting Roadblocks: Denial, Fear, Shame, Guilt, Embarrassment, etc.:

    This is a checks and balances issue; though I agree that 'the fewer involved the better' for confidentiality, some staff corps are just not designed to allow that and you run a real risk of things going much worse if only one staff member ends up handling it solo.

    I was probably unclear. The advocate isn't empowered to do anything a normal staffer of their rank isn't. The advocate is there to listen carefully and consciously to the victim. When I said there may have to be a negotiation process in order to enact the victim's wishes because of ethical complaints, this is what I was talking about.

    You can't, essentially, ask to leave the predator out in the wild to harm others if what they've done would warrant removal from the game.

    It's your (hypothetical) game, so you run it however you have to, but I'll just warn you right now to be extremely careful in how you express this sentiment, because it is very easy for a frightened, panicked person to see this and hear, "We're going to put you through this process whether you want it or not because what you need for you isn't important compared to what we need from you."



  • @greenflashlight This is why I'm saying there are instances in which there's no 'investigation' or 'process' required at all to put someone through; there's enough info right there to take action. Staff should not be forcing information out of someone or demanding it, period. The target will either provide it if they are comfortable providing it, or they won't.

    The problem here is an old one: sometimes that isn't enough information to do anything with. In these instances, you will probably get asked if there's anything else in those cases, no matter where you are or who you're dealing with. You're right that how someone asks is important. Staff has to be willing to accept a 'no' here, too. "You must comply to protect the herd!" is definitely a bullshit attitude for someone to have -- but I can't actually say it's one I have ever seen. I don't doubt it exists out there, but like the 'all staff have to agree on a thing for something to happen' thing ever going well for long if ever, it would definitely be an outlier.

    The downside of this is that the person reporting does have to understand that sometimes that's going to mean not much can be done. Any staff member worth a hill of beans is going to want to do something for the person making the report, and similarly, protect everyone else on the game from similar abuses.

    I'm not a big 'benefit of the doubt to the accused' sort of gal personally, but a complaint is not a conviction and it can't ethically be treated as such. Evidence actually matters. It comes from any number of sources, including direct observation of the way the accused person conducts themselves and any previous reports or mentions of similar behavior, in addition to anything presented in the actual complaint.

    Further, I'm well aware of the emotional sensitivities during and after a traumatic experience, online and off, and don't need a primer on that front.


  • Pitcrew

    @greenflashlight said in Reporting Roadblocks: Denial, Fear, Shame, Guilt, Embarrassment, etc.:

    his may mean letting an accusation go because the complainer isn't willing to pursue a course of action for whatever reason, and that needs to be something that's okay.

    But it isn't okay, is it? Because if a player is doing this stuff to one person...they are probably doing it to others, too. Like, yes you should strive for comfort and understanding but at the same time the staff's job is to do the best they can for the players. That means protecting them from known shitlord elements.



  • @kanye-qwest said in Reporting Roadblocks: Denial, Fear, Shame, Guilt, Embarrassment, etc.:

    if a player is doing this stuff to one person...they are probably doing it to others, too. Like, yes you should strive for comfort and understanding but at the same time the staff's job is to do the best they can for the players. That means protecting them from known shitlord elements.

    ^ This. And sometimes it really is as simple as just paging staff, "Dude did X, it made me super uncomfortable."

    @GreenFlashlight If that's not new news to the staffer -- and it almost always isn't, even if it's the first formal report or complaint -- there's usually no need for the Spanish Inquisition, anyway.

    Saying 'don't ban Joe on my account!' is just not going to work, because if staff decides to ban Joe, it's not a matter of punishing Joe. It's a matter of not letting Joe be a shit to people on the game any longer, and that's done on the behalf of everyone, not one person making a complaint.

    If Joe did something worth getting banned for, Joe's gonna get banned. 'Don't ban him because of what he did to me' is no more practical or reasonable than a friend of Joe's insisting Joe not be banned in spite of what they did to (generic) you.


  • Pitcrew

    I would say a couple of things.

    One, as hard as it can be to see it, remember that the power they have over you is wholly artificial and is predicated on you not wanting to let go. Letting go is the fast, sudden pain compared to the methodical, drawn-out grind. You can always, always start again, and the people who will like you will still like you, unless they never really liked you at all, in which case, fuck 'em.

    Two: Not only do you not have to take that shit, you shouldn't have to. I recently had an experience with a staffer who was just mean as all fucking hell. Everything they said was peppered with unnecessary insults, what I can only call unprofessional tone (yeah, it matters) and all the other "Bad Boss" earmarks. I didn't even want to open +jobs because they'd be handled by this person and... naw dawg, just naw.

    After one final encounter, I sat and I thought about it and I realized, I don't like this person, in fact, I eminently dislike them. They weren't going anywhere; there was no 'fix', and I went through the usual path of talking to one of the game-runners who told me their hands were tied.

    So I said goodbye to the people on the game I liked and deleted it out of my client. No +jobs, no posts, nothing like that.



  • Tangential to what's being talked about, and more specifically prompted by a discussion on another thread which title I can't remember, we just changed our policy regarding complaints.

    The 'try to resolve it yourself then come to staff if you can't' policy has been a carry over from just about all games I can recall playing on where I actually read the game policies. After bringing up changing it, we pretty unanimously decided to make it 'bring it to staff' followed by 'if you want to try handling it yourself first, great but it's not a requirement'.

    So hopefully that'll remove one external roadblock. There's not a lot we can do about internal ones.



  • Another thing that comes to mind here is this: how hands-on and accessible are staff for other things on <game>?

    It strikes me as being somewhat relevant, in that if you know you can easily approach staff with questions generally, this will be a help.

    Like, I know I was looking at a default consent-based setup for all CvC RP; there’s info there noting that players have every right to ask staff to step in and mediate if they can’t agree on something as (usually) simple as a scene outcome. First, I am optimistic that would cut down on the number of incidents of someone trying something shady (due to the presnce of a neutral observer) but also it lets people know they are indeed welcome to tap a staffer on the shoulder as a sounding board or for oversight even for ‘the little stuff’ if someone feels they need a second opinion or an assist. Ideally, that would help more players get the chance to build rapport with staff more broadly, or at least develop the basics of a working relationship, which would potentially cut down on the fear of approaching a complete stranger or unknown quantity outside of the mechanics of an app process and maybe some idle channel small talk.


Log in to reply
 

Looks like your connection to MU Soapbox was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.