Tabletop Gaming Has a Sexual Assault Problem

April is sexual assault awareness month.
• Touching another person in a sexual manner or sexual part of their body without their permission is sexual assault or sexual battery. Making unwanted sexual comments about someone is sexual harassment.
• Don’t tolerate this behavior in a game store, comic book store, convention, or at your gaming table. Or anywhere. Don’t excuse it, don’t explain it, don’t downplay it.
• Don’t let strangers do it. Don’t let acquaintances do it. Don’t let your friends do it. Don’t do it.
• Speak up if you see it. It’ll be awkward for a minute, but you’re a gamer, you’re used to being awkward. You feeling awkward for a minute is better than someone else feeling assaulted.
• Yes, gamers are usually socially marginalized people. That doesn’t mean they should get away with groping, harassing, or sexually assaulting anyone.
(Article trigger warning for sexual assault and sexual battery.)

Edit: If you’re doubting what she’s saying, here is a link to a news article about her workplace sexual harassment lawsuit (because of the customer who repeatedly groped her and made rape comments). And here is a link to the actual court findings for that case (which ruled in her favor, and other employees corroborated her statements). So if you can accept the truth that that happened, perhaps you should also consider that she’s telling the truth about the other events.


38 thoughts on “Tabletop Gaming Has a Sexual Assault Problem

  1. I guarantee that if this ever happens in any of the game days in my region, as Venture-Captain for the Pathfinder Society, that I wouldn’t put up with it. And yeah, that means kicking out well-liked, veteran players if I have to. Even if I’m friends with them.

    There is no room in the Twin Cities for Sexual Assault, and everything within my power, I will make sure it doesn’t happen here!

    I’m appaled that this stuff still happens.

  2. Thanks for the headsup, Sean. As Venture-Captain for the Phoenix Pathfinder Society lodge, I will not hesitate to ban any such offenders at my events. I’ll do my best to be vigilant as I attend PaizoCon and GenCon this year.

  3. I’m happy to say that I’ve never seen nor heard about this kind of thing happening at my region. The gamers I see at conventions are very polite, welcoming, and take any precaution to not offend their fellow gamers.

    Unfortunately, I have been the victim of police officers not wanting to help or take responsibility several times.

    • That’s really lovely. I should let you know, though, that a lot of us who have been harassed get pretty frustrated about frequently hearing from men that they never see harassment happening. Men who harass often take care to do it when other men aren’t looking. When you say you’ve never seen it and that everyone around you is polite, it sounds like you’re not going to believe us when we report to you. I doubt that what’s you intend, of course! But just so you know, that’s how it comes off. I’ve been harassed at at least half the conventions I’ve been at, and I would agree that most gamers are welcoming and polite. The way some male gamers present to their peers, however, is not the way they present to the women they target.

      • I understand. In fact, I revised my above post when typing it because I know that some people believe something never happens if they never witnessed it firsthand, but I didn’t do a good enough job! I meant to say that most of the events I go to in my area are filled with older gamers who have families and children. And they’re the type that wouldn’t hesitate to give a whooping to anyone that harasses a woman.

        And yeah, there’s a lot of sickeningly crafty guys try to play it off like it’s no big deal. A fairly common tactic for any scumbag that downplays the horrible things they do. Another tactic being “playing the victim.” I’ve seen so many cases where someone attacked, stole money, or vandalized property and then insisted the victim was the bad guy!

      • Thanks so much! You’re awesome! I definitely agree that that majority of gamers are awesome and don’t do those things. It’s important to let folks know that harassment and assault do happen a lot, though. The more men express intolerance of bad behavior to their peers, the less likely those peers are to engage in this behavior when the good guys aren’t looking. And the more people come to believe that this stuff does happen on a regular basis, the less likely women are to not be supported when they report. (I was treated abysmally by con staff when I reported a guy who told me all about the “rape kit” in his trunk, for instance.)

      • It’s really awful that convention staff does stuff like that. I was shocked by the story in the article about convention staff threatening to lie to the police if the rape victim called the police. If someone assaults you and the staff doesn’t care, write down their names and go over their heads. Contact their superiors. Call the police if necessary. If the superiors give you the same reaction, then contact whoever owns the convention. If they don’t care, then send a polite letter to the convention’s sponsors — THAT will get their attention. If the apathy is particularly egregious (like indifference to a rape victim) then get the press involved. The media usually will conceal the victim’s name if they ask for it.

        There’s a lot a victim should do. Being silent is not one of them.

      • @Garrick: your post is coming off like you are reprimanding the victims for not coming forward. The issue, though, is that they don’t feel safe coming forward. Because when they have or do, they get marginalized, threatened (sometimes with death), or further harassed. I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection over the last couple days. Recently, there was a post put up on facebook by a facebook friend, where they were upset by something a local message board operator had posted. From my perspective (from 2,000 miles away) without any context for the complaint, I queried what it was about, because the “offending” post did not seem too horrible to me. I did not question it in a mean or nasty way, I was honestly trying to learn what the issue was. They got really angry at me because they “are exhausted from having to explain equality issues to cis-White Males.” I think that situation was kinda ridiculous, but it does highlight the fact that I’m pretty clueless as to what women, minorities, non-Christian faiths, LGBT community or anyone else who is discriminated against truly go through on a daily basis. Because of that, I’m asking a lot of questions of people who I’m very close to, to help me learn (or know where I can go to learn) about these issues and the best way to communicate my support. As a leader in my particular gaming community, I owe it to them to be as open and inclusive as possible. But if I’m spouting typical disenfranchising rhetoric like what you have posted so far, then I’m not going to show them that they have a safe place to voice their concerns. Then I become part of the problem. And I’m really dedicating myself to be part of the solution.

        One of the ladies who is on one of the various PFS leadership teams indicated that what she specifically looks for is a) to feel heard b) acknowledged that something has happened and c) for a real solution to be given. For that solution she suggested if the convention organizer had said, “What would you like done about this? Do you want them removed or would you just like to be moved to a different table?” would have been sufficient. But this is in regards to verbal harassment going on at the gaming table. Physical Harassment probably needs a different set of actions.

        As I ask questions and seeing responses from many women I respect greatly, I’m gathering that being heard, acknowledged that something has happened, and assured that rectification will happen, that is a huge first step in helping them to feel safe. Platitudes about “you must report the incident” or “I will protect you” aren’t really what they are looking for, and are actually more damaging to helping them feel safe.

      • I appreciate what Garrick is saying, because I think he’s working hard to be supportive, but it’s true that he’s getting quite a lot wrong without at all intending to, and I’m too overloaded to take the time to explain today. I’ll try to remember to do it later. Andrew–many thanks!

      • no problems anatu13. I’ve found over the last few weeks, that trying to be supportive, while being clueless of what is actually wanted, just makes me part of the problem. I guess probably one of the best responses I could have if this sort of issue was brought to my attention, is to make sure that the person coming to me feels heard and acknowledged. Then we can get into the investigation part of it and take any necessary remedial action as the circumstance dictates (up to and including calling the police if that is what the person wants.)

      • @Andrew
        I do not understand what you mean by “enfranchising rhetoric.” Admittedly, I do get infuriated when people — victim or non-victim — choose not to speak up about an injustice, but I’m not reprimanding victims. I’m encouraging action and perseverance.

      • Not really necessary for an all out argument about this topic. However, I believe I said, “disenfranchising rhetoric.”

        Here are a couple examples of what I’m referring:

        “I’m happy to say that I’ve never seen nor heard about this kind of thing happening at my region. The gamers I see at conventions are very polite, welcoming, and take any precaution to not offend their fellow gamers.”

        “There’s a lot a victim should do. Being silent is not one of them.”

        When someone is assaulted, it is often accompanies by shame or guilt. As unreasonable as we may think those feelings are, they are there and they are real. There is also this fear that if they come forward that the person that assaulted them will do worse.

        So when you start making declarations about what a victim should do, you are invalidating all the complex, crazy and terrifying feelings running through that person. And that disenfranchises them. Makes them feel like they aren’t good enough or capable enough to do the right thing. Each victim has to work through all their own feelings to figure out how to handle these things in their own ways. It is helpful if they have a good support system around them.

        That’s all I meant by that. I apologize if it came off a bit too preachy.

      • I realize you’re trying, but Andrew’s right. Please, please read more on this issue. A lot more. What you’re saying is incredibly stressful to sexual assault survivors. Until you’ve reported, you have _no_ idea how unbelievably horrible and completely pointless it usually is. The people you report to are vile and care far more about their organization than about helping you. You lose most of your friends. And that’s usually all you achieve. We generally report if we’re up to it, if we think we and our families won’t be killed or injured by the perpetrator, and if we think there’s a bit of a chance it will accomplish something. Don’t tell us we’re irresponsible if we don’t report.

        Andrew, thanks again.

      • I *never* said victims were irresponsible for not reporting.

        I’ve been the victim of bullying and sexual assault for a large chunk of my childhood. At one point, I suffered so much that my family moved out of state at the first chance they could. The police and the school would keep passing responsibility between each other whenever my family reported an assault at the bus stop or at school. Most school officials ignored me when I reported the numerous death threats and sexual insults thrown at me. One teacher punished *me* when other students did nasty things to me. Even the school principal attempted to pressure me into lying to my mother and telling her that I made up all the stories. I felt worthless and afraid and frequently considered taking my own life.

        But I learned one lesson from the experience: never be afraid to stand up for yourself. Never fear seeking help, even when it feels pointless. There’s people that care about you and want to help, even if you believe otherwise. Easier said than done, but I still strongly stand by it. Perseverance is a powerful virtue to have.

        I’m sorry if communicating that lesson I learned from personal experience offended you, but I do not appreciate having everything I say be prejudiced.

    • No, you just said they infuriate you. Your experience as a victim does not give you the right to be ugly to the rest of us. I’ve been as patient as I can with you. You’re not the only person who’s ever experienced this, and you have no right to be so judgmental or to tell us what to do or how much we have to risk.

      No worries, Sean. I am _so_ done here.

      MANY thanks to Andrew, again.

  4. My game company has a no tolerance policy for sexual harassment, or trying to make people feel unwelcome, belittled or unsafe at games we run. It’s a small step (we’re a small company), but even small steps slowly move things forward.

    I’m not there to protect anyone. I’m there to listen to them, make sure that they feel that they can explain what the problem is in a safe manner, and try to find a solution that they find fair.

    My gut response is to thump miscreants because they didn’t learn basic manners in junior high school. This is a case where listening is more important.

  5. I have seen how some victims don’t want to draw further attention to an issue. If you look at some of the cases of online harassment, standing up can sometimes lead to an avalanche of harassment. I hate to say it but male/white/cis/etc privilege makes it easier to report an observed issue without serious repercussions. I feel that means I need to speak up. (as well as working on the bigger issues that lead to that privilege)

    Also be aware of the people who do a lot of “edge case” harassment. Things that could be perceived as a grey areas – like hugging too close for too long. Sometimes that’s just a test to see who reacts badly and who might be easier to press further. If many people report suspicions, then that’s a pattern and that’s a creep who needs to be ejected.

    Be aware of the harassment policy of any cons you go to. If they don’t have one or don’t live up to it, let them know that you take this seriously and expect them to as well. If they try to blow off a complaint, let them know that you will bring it to the venue owner or to law enforcement (if applicable). If they are more concerned with how they appear, then use that. No con wants to be ejected from a venue or deal with legal consequences. Yes, this is a very serious action, but harassment is also serious. If they will not stand up for it, they need to understand the consequences.

  6. Wow, just wow. Completely inappropriate!

    While her specific claims may seem over the top, and they certainly shocked me. I asked myself, “How is something like this still happening in 2016?”

    I have heard from no less than 8 women, that some level of sexual harassment happens on a daily basis to them at game stores and conventions.

    What you just posted is part of the problem. That attitude is part of the problem.

  7. Paul, did you read the Edit I put in my post that has links to the news article about her workplace harassment lawsuit, and the actual court documents explaining the court’s ruling (in her favor), which includes corroboration by her co-workers about the touching and sexual comments she experienced at work and how the business owner didn’t do anything about it?

    Also keep in mind that I *personally* know women *in the game industry* who’ve been harassed in game stores and at conventions. This sort of thing *actually happens*. I don’t have any reason to doubt this woman or think she’s exaggerating (especially as she went to court for part of it and *won* a settlement against her employer).

    Wyrd’s comment isn’t helpful and doesn’t come off like someone who really cares. “women employees outnumber men employees, so we can’t be misogynist” is the equivalent of saying, “I have black friends, I can’t be racist.”

    • I admit I did not see your edit until after I posted. I just read the original link and then found Caroland’s response when I first posted. I did not mean to come off stating that NOTHING has ever happened to this individual. Certainly did not intend to trigger Andrew Christian as I did.

      To Andrew…My opinion is mine to have. I do not believe wild claims because… Logically they hold no weight with me. Reread my statement. I don’t take issue or say her time as a comic shop employee in Winnipeg is far fetched. I said her telling the police and the police ignoring her…is a stretch. Her having a friend that spiked her pepsi…and then a convention sweeping away her abuse and threatening her? Sounds embellished and far fetched to me. Police telling her “give up the hobby or die” I mean come on… To say what I wrote was inappropriate because you disagree (or because I don’t believe what you believe)? Seems intolerant.

      The mind set of someone blaming a miniature company to do something about sexual deviants as a whole…Is not someone that is stable in my opinion. Somewhere in her narrative is the truth…but I am skeptical as which parts are true and which are embellished fan fiction from someone who needs to amp up the story because they were ignored with a real problem.

      I disagree that Wyrd’s response is a problem. Sounds to me they were ironically harassed by this woman and her friends. I just didn’t want the same to happen to you Sean.

      I didn’t mean to cause problems Sean…I respect you and your work immensely and certainly did not intend to upset you or your audience.

    • @ Paul, lets assume for a second that you are correct. And the worst of her claims are lies. Your response will be seen by other victims that have legitimate complaints, and they will further assume that if they do complain, they will be seen by the establishment to have no validity. That they either deal with the harassment or go away (preferably the later).

      This is not the correct forum to voice your disbelief in that particular story. That story is just a catalyst (even if it is an erroneous story) for men to stand up and stop sweeping harassment and assault under the rug. Coming in here and railing against that particular person and warning Sean about how crazy they are, is part of the problem, even if you are correct.

      Because Sean didn’t post this up in support of that particular person. He posted this up, so Men, in general, would stand up and support women. Please don’t squash that message with skepticism laced with vitriol towards this one person.

      And frankly, regardless whether you believe her story or not, she deserves the benefit of the doubt, that those things happened, until its proven that they didn’t. In the eye of public opinion, when dealing with issues of assault, innocent until proven guilty isn’t a valid stance.

      Now I’m not saying that you don’t verify before you act. But the only way abuse stops, is if the prevailing assumption is that the complaint is valid.

    • Paul, the board of the convention I used to help run also treated me horribly after I reported. The guy was staff at another convention, and HIS convention head was exemplary in his response. Some cons have fantastic leadership, and others do not.

    • And yes, Paul’s comments have this effect on me: “Your response will be seen by other victims that have legitimate complaints, and they will further assume that if they do complain, they will be seen by the establishment to have no validity.”

  8. And yes, Paul’s comments have this effect on me: “Your response will be seen by other victims that have legitimate complaints, and they will further assume that if they do complain, they will be seen by the establishment to have no validity.”

  9. Wierd stuff happens. Everything I read the news something ludicrous that the police or civilians have done assault my senses.

    Just because you, a man, believe she is lying, doesn’t mean you immediately treat it like a lie.

    Will there be a few rare women that take advantage or make vindictive claims? Sure. But I’ll wager you a year of my salary that the number is less than 1% of the legitimate claims. No matter how wierd.

    • “Oh come on, now you’re just making stuff up to validate your original post.”

      That is why I professed my reply with the word “hypothetical”

      It was a made up scenerio to show how adding lies to truth are harmful. It could discredit her REAL claim or worse…If they catch someone that is guilty but can’t make the mom slap or dog kick stick… They could throw out the whole thing.

      A year’s salary?

      I’ll take that bet

      The claim is 2-8% of rape accusations are false… 5.9% were proven false.

      Click to access False-Allegations.pdf

      PM me so you can send me my money

      also the line, “Just because you, a man, believe she is lying, doesn’t mean you immediately treat it like a lie.” Is that suppose to shame me for having a penis? Are you saying a man can’t weigh in with their opinion? Or they can’t weigh in when it doesn’t blindly accept YOUR truth or the truth of a woman? Maybe I read you wrong? That sounds sexist.

  10. Paul H

    Apathetic police officers do exist. When I was a kid, I lived in a town where the police never wanted to get involved when other kids assaulted me, attacked me, and made death threats. They kept passing the responsibility to the school, who kept passing responsibility back to the police. They’re a minority, but it happens.

    I do agree that it’s a good idea to check sources before getting up in arms over things.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s