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How to Handle Abusive Roleplay Partners and Friends

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There are a wide variety of behaviors that might be reasonably called abusive. Harassment is an obvious one, but emotionally manipulating someone into doing something they normally would not do can be just as bad or even worse even though it can appear almost harmless to others. The term "abusive" should be understood here as a catch-all for any behaviors that harm you or cause you serious distress. It can be hard to come to terms with the fact that someone you view as a friend or creative partner has become a source of negativity for you, and even harder still to decide what to do when you come to that realization. This Resource will hopefully give you a guide to use in case you ever find yourself in that unfortunate situation.

How To Tell If Someone Is Abusing You​

The short and unfortunate answer is that there's no objective way to easily point out abuse. As noted above, the hallmarks of abuse are that it causes harm or makes the target very distressed. For example, being bugged many times a day by a roleplay partner demanding a post may not seem like a big deal, but it can cause a lot of distress depending on how it's done and how persistent the person is. Another example is someone talking about being suicidal in order to manipulate you into roleplaying with them or giving them personal information; in that scenario the abusive behavior comes from them intentionally making you distressed by talk of suicide in order to get you to do what they want, generally by saying that it will make them feel better.

There are plenty of other potentially abusive behaviors out there, so go with your gut instinct if it's not something obvious like a person sending you hate-filled rants. If another person's actions are making you feel bad, then you should probably do something about it. Nobody has a right to make you feel like shit, and on Iwaku you've got some options to deal with it yourself or get help from the Staff if you need it. We strive to make Iwaku a comfortable place for everyone, as described in our rules on flexibility of speech and behavior on site.

We follow Flexibility of Speech not Freedom of Speech.
The U.S. laws for Freedom of Speech do not apply here. You have the freedom to voice your opinions; HOWEVER, you do not have the freedom to force your opinions on others, post malicious comments (such as aggressive or direct hate speech, threats, or calls to violence/illegal acts), or attack another member's character. Just as you wish to be respected, others must be respected. Iwaku may be a public forum but we are not a public service or business. We are a privately-owned community. All members are expected to follow the rules of our home. We will put a stop to any behavior we feel is being disruptive or damaging to the mood of our community and Administration reserves the right to ban anyone for any reason.

Note that abusive behavior is definitely "being disruptive or damaging to the mood of our community" and will be handled as such.

What To Do With An Abusive Friend/Partner​

The first step to take is to ask them to stop. Sometimes people do things that they don't realize are making you feel bad, such as bugging you for posts even though you're very busy because they're eager to continue the roleplay. If it's something like that, a mistake of some kind rather than intentional, generally asking the person to stop will yield positive results. However, if they brush it off and persist in doing whatever made you uncomfortable, then you've got a pretty strong hint that they don't care about your feelings and are only interested in what they want. If asking someone to stop doesn't work, then it's time to move on to something more forceful.

Cutting off contact with someone is a perfectly reasonable response to them refusing to treat you with respect. If they won't stop harming you or stressing you out, you're probably better off dropping them and looking for better friends or roleplay partners. If you tell someone you don't want them to contact you any more but they persist, that's harassment and is against the rules of the site (see below for a quote of our harassment rule). If you're running a group roleplay and you tell someone to stop posting in your threads but they do so anyway, that's also against the site rules that state a roleplay GM is allowed to decide who can and cannot participate in their threads (see below the harassment quote for that rule as well). Whether it's a matter of rules being broken or you just want to be sure they can't contact you any further, you can also ignore and/or report the person.

What is harassment?
Harassment is the badgering of another person for ANY reason. If you continue to bother a person after someone asks you to stop, that is considered harassment. This includes things such as pestering a person in private Inbox Conversations or Profile Messages, constantly being rude to them in the Chat or forum threads, any form of sexual harassment, and deliberately causing fights. This also includes "airing dirty laundry" by ranting about a person in any public area of the site (which is everything outside of Inbox Conversations). If we receive complaints about your behavior towards other members, you may be warned, suspended temporarily, or even banned. The time frame for a suspension of your account may vary depending on the situation and will be determined case-by-case by Security Staff.

A Game Master's word is Law. Please have respect for the owner of a roleplay.
A "Game Master" is the owner, creator, or thread starter of a roleplay. It is THEIR roleplay. Their personal vision is the most important thing. When you join their roleplay, you are agreeing to adhere by their rules and participate in a manner that accomplishes their goals. A Game Master has every right to kick a player out of their roleplay for any reason.

Ignoring a member will make them unable to private message you, you won't get notifications from them tagging you in posts, and their posts will be concealed from you; you'll still see that they posted, but you won't see the actual post unless you click the option to show it. Reporting a member should only be done if you believe they have broken site rules with their behavior. Filing a report will send a message to the Security department of the Iwaku Staff, which will lead to them investigating the matter and doling out a punishment if appropriate. For a guide on how to ignore or report another member, see this Resource.

If you've gotten to the step of ignoring and/or reporting, then that ought to be the end phase of the problem. If you ignore and they somehow circumvent it (getting friends to bug you, making another account to message you, etc), that's harassment and possibly a violation of other site rules and should be reported. If you report them and they get in trouble, then keep on doing the same things, report them again and they'll get into deeper trouble up to and including a potential permanent ban from the site. We do not allow abusive behavior and harassment on Iwaku, so if things get elevated to the point of reports and Security intervening then that will be the end of things one way or another.

What NOT To Do With An Abusive Friend/Partner​

In the course of dealing with an abusive person, it can be tempting to do some rash or unkind things yourself. These can make it difficult for the Security Staff to handle problems or get you into some trouble, because even if they are done in retaliation they might break some rules. Take the higher road and avoid retaliation. Here are some specific things that we suggest to avoid causing any issues of your own.

Don't harass or abuse the person. Fighting fire with fire is never a good idea. Even if they started it, you can get into trouble for doing these kinds of things too. There have been instances of both sides of an abuse-fest being banned, so do try to avoid becoming the latest example of that scenario.

Don't go publicly complaining to others about this person or their behavior. There's a phrase we use on Iwaku, airing dirty laundry (see above quotation on our harassment rule), which means going and throwing your problems with another member out into the public. This can cause a variety of problems: the other person might see it and grow angry and do something in retaliation, their friends might see it and do something negative against you, your friends might see it and attack that other person, or uninvolved third parties might see it and do who knows what to inflame the situation. There are no good outcomes when you air dirty laundry, because at the very least someone from Security is going to come and have an annoyed chat with you about it. Vent to friends in private if you must, but do what you can to ensure that it stays private and doesn't turn the current problem into an even bigger problem.

Don't delete roleplay posts. For roleplay posts, we have a rule against spite deletion (see below for a quote). Whether it's your own posts or someone else's that you're removing (which can be done with Donator perks in your created threads) it will fall afoul of the spite deletion rule. Removing them harms the roleplay as a whole, and once they are posted to a roleplay they become part of the sort of collective property of the group rather than being just yours to be removed as you please. Also, it can cause some anger and backlash from others, similar to airing dirty laundry, which is bad news.

Do not "spite delete" your roleplay threads or posts.
This means deleting an entire roleplay thread that contains characters or in-character content written by other members, or deleting all of your roleplay posts from another member's thread. Roleplay is a COLLABORATIVE medium. Once you share your content with the group, it's part of that group effort and you cannot take it back. People can't claim it as theirs or repost it without your permission, but you cannot revoke it once it's posted or you'll be destroying other people's work along with it.

Don't leave/delete private messages or chats. This isn't a matter of being against any rules: you certainly can leave or delete such things at your leisure. However, if the matter has gotten bad enough to file a report, the Security Staff may ask for evidence and logs to show the behavior being reported. If you go and destroy or remove your access to such things, then we may not be able to do anything to help. We can't punish or ban people based on mere hearsay; we need some proof to work with, and private messages and chats tend to be where most abusive stuff happens.

Don't just walk away without reporting if it was really bad. A lot of people have a tendency to want to put things behind them as quickly as possible and move on, which is very understandable. It may be very tempting to just throw an abusive jerk on ignore and then disregard their existence, or even to leave the site entirely to avoid them forever. However, do keep in mind that if someone was being an abusive jerk toward you, they're quite possibly doing the same exact crap to other people, many of whom may not have the courage to speak up against the person or get out of the situation. Even if you've handled the issue satisfactorily for yourself, you could be helping a lot of other people if you make sure that really bad behavior gets reported. We have unfortunately had instances of abusive creeps, both of the sexual predator type and the kind that are just huge assholes, go about their business undisturbed on Iwaku for years because nobody reported them. Avoiding that sort of thing is in the best interests of the community as a whole, so please report severely abusive types if you're unfortunate enough to encounter them.

Where To Go With Questions And Concerns​

If you have questions about the content of this Resource, you can post a thread in the Help Desk if it's something you're fine with asking in public. If you would prefer to ask in private, then you can send a private message to an Admin or any member of the Security Department of Staff.

If you are not sure about whether or not something constitutes abusive behavior, please report it anyway. We would rather receive dozens of reports that go nowhere than let abusive behavior go unanswered. Better safe than sorry.
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