Revealing MESconduct (pt1 of 3): Balancing survivor privacy, community education, and community safety concerns.

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Part 1 of a 3-part series on revealing serious misconduct in volunteer-run organizations within the gaming community. Part 1 focuses on the tension between survivor privacy, community education, and community safety in handling sensitive information and our methods.

The definition of a dilemma: there are no easy or good answers.


The Bottom Line Up Front

Based on prior work, I know serial offenders alleged to have conducted serious misconduct ranging from harassment, stalking, violence, and sexual assault within a gaming organization. This gaming organization successfully managed to remove these members. Some of these individuals have joined adjacent gaming organizations or continue to operate within the larger gaming/SciFi/Fanom communities.  Some were caught in the act of attempting to re-offend. Others have gained the same leadership positions they held in the organization when they conducted their incidents. I also know that these individuals are not unique. They represent common misconduct patterns, not limited to gaming organizations or the broader gaming/SciFi community.

Given the premise that I have no intention of releasing survivor information without their explicit consent, but only perpetrator information and even that heavily aggregated and blinded, the key questions to keep in mind are:

  • If these individuals follow the same behavior pattern during past misconduct, do they remain a risk for current misconduct in other organizations and the community?
  • If you were a member of these other organizations, would you want to know these individuals and their established behavior patterns before you put yourself in the proximity of risk to these individuals?
  • If you are a survivor of trauma, in any community, and someone had an opportunity to provide credible warnings of the individuals presented – would you have wanted to know of this risk before your own experience?

Full Context in the Back

Yesterday I previewed an upcoming post on Facebook wherein I intend to share, in highly limited form, specific perpetrator information for severe alleged misconduct in a gaming organization. This information comes from over eighty cases I worked on over two years as a volunteer assistant for the organization, known by its acronym, the MES. The information shared in Part 2 consists of 11 cases representative of the most common problems small to mid-sized organizations (500-5k members) face.  In Part 2, I will allow MES an appropriate amount of time to confirm that information. If they do not, the InfoMullet may take additional actions in regards to the alleged perpetrators in Part 3.

However, two of those eleven cases involve serial sexual predatory behavior. A serial sexual predator is one who commits two or more different against two or more individuals. Both cases exceeded that criterion.

The rest of this article deals with how I intend to release these two specific cases, though I will be including all cases, even if not related to sexual assault, under these guidelines. I hope this series continues to provoke discussion, connection, and dialogue around survivor privacy, community education, and community safety. As I see questions pop up on social media or sources shared, I will try and add them to the FAQ and Resources, respectively, below.


Wait – what is the MES? What is a gaming organization?

Posting this on the InfoMullet, many of my audience may not understand what gaming organizations are or how they relate to other organizations. I will try and write for two audiences at once so that it is understandable to gamers and non-gamers alike.

Those who don’t recognize “MES” it is the abbreviation of a gaming organization of several thousand members. The MES is only one of the dozens of organizations worldwide ranging in size from a few hundred to multiple thousands. This particular form of gaming organization is a bit unique, as it consists of Live-Action Roleplaying (LARP for short). And the specific LARP style that MES runs is based on White Wolf’s popular World of Darkness line of books. Players portray vampires werewolves, fae, mages, wraiths etc. while costumed and playing “in-character.” Organizations like these have specific overlapping risk factors that are in addition to normal risk factors found in government, military, workplace, or other community organizations. 

But despite these differences in particular, these gaming organizations often run into challenges similar to any other small to mid-sized non-profit or volunteer-based effort: academic societies, professional societies, social clubs, athletic leagues, etc. What I am describing here is just as relevant for those organizations. These gaming organizations – like society – have struggled over the last few years with a long-overdue reckoning on dealing with harassing, inappropriate and toxic behavior by members up to and including alleged sexual assault. I use the term “alleged” throughout the rest of this post because that is what the MES policy is. We were not a court of law but an administrative process.


Okay got  it – now what’s going on?

Many useful discussions emerged from the preview, including sharing resources, sharing contacts for support, and sharing personal stories and experiences. One issue raised that deserves a full answer is how I intend to handle survivor privacy in this series related to alleged perpetrators’ potential naming. That deserves a full post unto itself, before the release of the eleven cases. So here we are.


Survivor Privacy, Community Education & Community Safety

There are three interacting tensions in discussing, reporting, and acting upon sexual assault incidents: survivor privacy, community education, and community safety. For grounding, survivor privacy is the survivor’s personally lived experiences in the incident, during the investigation, and through the aftermath. The specifics of survivor experiences are not to be shared absent their explicit prior consent.

Community education deals with the patterns of behavior, responses, and other elements of the incident, useful in two ways, first by demonstrating that these incidents happen, and these incidents are real. Second, equip organizations to learn from these incidents what warning signs to watch out for, what policies and procedures are needed, how to put them in place to reduce current and future incidents, and prepare for these occurrences. Community education does not always require the naming of perpetrators.

Community safety is the immediate need for a community to be aware of the ongoing risk in two different but essential ways. For those who are currently experiencing abuse, even if not at the hands of the same perpetrators – to understand and see that their circumstance is not unique, to understand it is abuse, and that it is a part of a pattern of abuse, that that pattern can be changed, and to begin to take steps to change that pattern. Second, inform the broader community of the risks present: either recognizing named perpetrators or recognizing similar patterns of behavior of misconduct in their current environment.  Community safety almost always requires the naming of perpetrators.

These three each relate to the release of perpetrator information in different and often conflicting ways. Survivor Privacy is paramount to the details of their experience. Community education is a judgment call. Community safety is itself a valid cause for releasing the names of perpetrators.  The first and the third exist in conflict.

Serial Sexual Predatory Behavior

Serial sexual predators show a propensity both to re-offend not only in sexual assault, but also in other inappropriate behavior including harassment, stalking, and physical violence. Serial sexual predators, by commonly accepted definition, are those who have committed two or more separate incidents involving two or more different individuals before being identified. The cases I will be releasing information on fit this definition, each having at least three different claims of sexual assault or rape, by three different individuals, in three different locations and times.

What is the information you are releasing? How are you handling the consent of the survivors?

The information that makes up the totality of these incidents consists of seven elements, and their associated tension found in the table below:


Incident Element Area of Concern Is disclosure a standard ethical practice?
The survivor’s name Survivor Privacy Without explicit prior consent, no.
The survivor’s experience of incidents Survivor Privacy Without explicit prior consent, no.
The survivor’s experience during the investigation and its aftermath Survivor Privacy Without explicit prior consent, no.
The perpetrator’s name Community Safety Yes
Warning signs of perpetrator’s behavior before incidents Community Education Judgment call, but often yes, to ground that these are real issues.
The outcome of the investigation Community Education Judgment call, but often yes, to ground that these are real issues.
Current status of the perpetrator as it relates to the risk of re-offending Community Safety Yes.


Survivor privacy elements are always off-limits without the survivor’s prior explicit consent in sexual assault or rape cases. There is no intention, desire, or aim to release these details. I do not hold the case files within which these details exist. Those files reside on a server maintained by the MES, which I do not have access to.

The elements of community education require a judgment call. A constant challenge of these kinds of incidents is that it is often not believed to be real. Therefore, grounding educational elements in real cases, with real perpetrator names, while protecting survivor privacy is a way of addressing this. However, it is not always necessary, so judgment is required.

However, community safety elements almost always require the naming of the perpetrator creating tension between survivor privacy and community safety.

Part 2 intends to share only perpetrator information necessary to meet the Community Education and Community Safety aims.

What information is in a Case Summary?

Part of the confusion yesterday had to do with the term “case summary,” which, to my error, I did not sufficiently define. A valid concern was that I would release a “story” that intermingled the survivors’ elements with those of the perpetrators. The reference to Case Summary Data is to an existing procedure and practice in assigning attribute data, in a summary form, to an open or closed case to enable tracking and analysis. A table of case summary data is included below, along with explaining what it means and how I intend to use it.


Case Summary Data Term What does it include? How will it be released? And when?
Case # A case # which consists of INV-YY-## where ## is the sequential case of that year, e.g., INV-20-5, would be the 5th case of 2020. This will not be released.
Name of Accused (Alleged Perpetrator) The name of the member who stands accused. Since all of these cases are closed and ruled on, I will use the term “Alleged Perpetrator.” In Part 2, alleged perpetrators will be named only with a Greek letter. In Part 3, I reserve the right to name them.
Topic(s) The number of allegations, the nature of the allegation (violation of social media policy, code of conduct violation, zero-tolerance policy violation, etc.) Yes, but only in aggregate form. Example: “Four allegations by four members alleged four different violations of the social media policy by the accused.” No survivor specific data will be released.
Status of Case The current status of the case. As all cases were closed by the end of 2018, this is no longer relevant.
Disposition of Case The final resolution of a case: e.g., Letter of Counseling, Reprimand, expulsion, etc. Released in Part 2.
Branch of Office (if any) of Accused Whether the individual held a Storyteller, Coordinator, or Convention position when the incident occurred, or a “General Member.” Released in Part 2.
Level of Office (if any) of Accused Whether the office was “Low” (local), “Mid” (regional), or “High” (national or global.) Released in Part 2.
Nature of Office (if any) of Accused Elected and Appointed for primary officers depending on level, or Assistant for Assistant Officers Released in Part 2.
Membership Class (MC) of the Accused MC is a membership recognition that equates roughly to the member’s length and amount of volunteer service for the club. It often serves as an informal proxy for prestige, authority, and influence of a member rated 1-15, with one being the lowest and 15 being the highest. Released in Part 2.
Region of Accused What region the accused lived within when the incident occurred. This will not be released.


Case summary data is regularly reported and reproduced in both the National Coordinator and the Director’s monthly reports. Also, case summary data was published in a special report by the National Coordinator and has been shared on social media numerous times over the past few years. (see the example below.)

Will you add any additional information to the case summary?

Where appropriate to achieve community education and community safety, I may include highly abbreviated summaries of perpetrator behavior during the investigation and its aftermath. These summaries enable lessons learned summary, which supports the goal of community education. However, there is a strong bias to the less-is-more approach to information that may step into survivor privacy.

What additional measures will you be taking?

There are two additional practices often used, even when dealing with perpetrator information, to respect survivor privacy. These are aggregation and pooling. Aggregation combines all case summary data into a numeric summary, without any specific case information revealed. For example, in this report, which I assembled on request of the National Coordinator in January 2018 and was released publicly, an aggregation method is used on case summaries. Although aggregation can still be useful for achieving community education, it does not help with community safety.

A second method is called “pooling.” Pooling consists of a smaller level of aggregation based around cases that share a common topic. Each pool contains the combined summary data of cases related to that pool. Each pool also contains a list of perpetrator names and perpetrator information associated with the pooled cases. However, pooling still limits one-to-one association of a direct case with a direct alleged perpetrator’s name, or in this case, Greek letter alias. A notional example of pooling, using Greek letters that will not be associated with any cases I will end up releasing, is shown below.

Notional Example of Pooled Social Media Violations Case Summary                         

There are ten cases in this pool. Each case involves 1-3 allegations by 1-5 members of inappropriate behavior using club related social media. There are at least two cases against each pooled alleged perpetrator.

Notional Example of Investigation & Aftermath

During the investigation, alleged perpetrators often continued using social media to continue inappropriate conduct, complicating the investigations because new charges were hard to add in the middle of an ongoing investigation. And because punishments, including formal warnings, had to wait until the end of an investigation, it complicated dealing appropriately with the infractions as they accumulated.  According to the organization’s procedures, each new charge had to go through the full investigation process. Even after finding against members and cases closed, members often rage quit and continued inappropriate behavior on social media. Beyond the reach of organization consequences the behavior continued.

Notional Example Pool of Alleged Perpetrators

Iota was an MC12 Assistant Mid Storyteller at the time of incidents.

Phi was an MC 6 General Member at the time of the incidents.

Chi was an MC14 Elected Low Coordinator at the time of the incidents.

Notional Example Lessons Learned

There needs to be a more straightforward method to add additional charges during an investigation while the investigation is ongoing. Mitigating the ongoing harm by members who quit is difficult unless the organization moves to a proprietary communication service wherein members will not have immediate access to connect with other members as they currently do with Facebook to such a degree.

What is the standard ethical practice for naming perpetrators?

First, the media’s standard ethical guidelines for naming perpetrators typically only apply to sexual assault and rape cases. They do not apply to cases of harassment, toxic behavior, violence, or other inappropriate behavior. I am using this one standard, however, to discuss all cases.

The standard ethical guidelines are that perpetrators can be named, and they should be named in the interest of community safety, especially if they have already been through an administrative process that has arrived at a finding. (1),(2),(3) All while protecting the survivor’s privacy and survivor specific data unless the survivor has given explicit prior consent to have their data shared.

These guidelines do point to some reasons where naming a perpetrator should be avoided or limited. I list these below and their relevance to this series.

  • The perpetrator is a child. All alleged perpetrators were over the age of 18 at the time the incidents occurred.
  • The perpetrator lives within a vulnerable population group such as inmates, refugees, etc. None of the alleged perpetrators were a member of a vulnerable population when the incident occurred, or are now.
  • The perpetrator has not had an opportunity to defend themselves. All of the cases that will be referenced consist of investigations that are complete. In each case, the alleged perpetrator had an opportunity to defend themselves, though some declined that option.
  • The perpetrator’s case has not concluded yet, and there is no final finding. All cases that I will reference in Part 2 are closed with final findings made. In most cases, alleged perpetrators were either expelled, allowed to resign before the expulsion, resigned out of frustration (e.g. “ragequit”), or resigned their membership rather than face extensive punishment.


Q1: Why are you doing this? What is your motivation?

In June, Jessie PRIDEMore released testimony of her experience of rape with a gaming industry insider, Shane DeFreest. For well over 20 years, Shane DeFreest was frequently the subject of warnings on whisper networks. Despite this, he continued to offend for many years because whisper networks are imperfect in their coverage and tend to exclude newer members to the community, who, as indicated in Jessie’s story, Shane would target. However, I first ran across Shane’s alleged misconduct in the late 1990s, when I served as an Assistant National Storyteller for the MES’s predecessor organization. At the time, we “did what we thought we could” as far as the system allowed us. Shane enjoyed the protection of being a professional insider in the gaming industry, and the “system” did not work for people like Shane.

What I realized on reflection is that within the eighty cases of my volunteer work, I had eleven potential “Shane DeFreest’s.” Although they may have been handled by one gaming organization, these eleven individuals still operate and enjoy access within other gaming organizations and the broader gaming community. Moreover, whisper networks remain imperfect. What followed was a multi-month effort to prepare the groundwork for this series. To take what steps I think I can, in good faith and conscience, even if they are “outside the system” and do now what many should have done with Shane over the years – and that is to provide credible information on the risk of alleged perpetrators to increase community safety without violating survivor privacy.

Q2: Why am I only considering the MES?

A: This is the only organization in gaming where I have a sustained, first hand, and detailed knowledge of the events. I only include those cases in which I worked. Excluded are many cases I saw in the archives or became aware that others worked within the MES. It also excludes the vast universe of similar cases shared with me since leaving with the MES. I hope this template of approach provides an opportunity for reflection, and replication, by other organizations and individuals to the extent they can bring forward and name their own Shane DeFreest’s.

Q3: These individuals are no longer in the MES; why do you care?

A: Because their behaviors are unlikely to stop at the boundary of a gaming organization. The individuals listed in these cases have gone on to participate in other gaming organizations. Some of them had gone back to the same leadership positions they held when these alleged incidents took place. I know of cases where these individuals were engaging in the same grooming behavior leading to sexual assault that fit the pattern of what we had seen in the MES. A warning from the MES did not identify them, but only by the intersection of vigilance, diligent investigation, and a bit of luck did the new organization they had moved to catch them before another person was harmed.

Q4: Do you think you are Batman?
A: Hardly. I think I am someone who remembers back to the 1990s and that I did all that a broken system allowed me to do when it came to removing serial predators in gaming organizations and the community, such as Shane DeFreest. That gap between what the system allowed us to do and what was required was enough for Shane to continue his alleged abusive behavior pattern for another decade and a half. I think I am someone who spent a significant portion of two years of his life identifying and removing similar threats from the MES. I now see those alleged perpetrators moving into other gaming or gaming-adjacent organizations. However, I think I am also someone who, ten to twenty years from now, hopes not to have to look a future survivor of harassment, assault, or rape in the eye and reply lamely I did all that a broken system allowed me to do.

Q5: As a man, you do not understand what it is like to be a survivor of sexual assault and rape.

A: As a man, I am a survivor of sexual assault and rape. The cases do not fit preconceived notions of sexuality, gender, and their interaction with assault, so community education is essential.

Q6: Don’t you realize you have already caused harm among some survivors?

A: A characteristic of a broken system is that harm is a given. In this scenario, I can either say nothing – and allow harm to continue to accumulate by exposing additional individuals to risk and trauma. Alternatively, I can do the best to mitigate the harm to existing survivors of providing this information, even while knowing this act alone might create some harm. The ethical guidelines I follow in cases such as this when all outcomes produce some form of harm, are to choose the path where you have the most control to mitigate the harm and prevent the accumulation of additional harm over that already existing. In this situation, I can only achieve that by releasing the limited information I have.  If I do nothing, I have no control over when and how one of these individuals will act again.

Q7: What is your experience in this area, outside volunteering for the MES?

A: My experience consists of past professional work with the Department of Defense in analyzing sexual assault and harassment both in Afghanistan on military bases and globally across the department. I have an MSc and am ABD Ph.D. focused on the reduction of violence and instability, including criminal violence. After leaving the MES I volunteered with other organizations, assisting in analysis and research of these issues. I have also written a working draft paper “Risk Assessment in Gaming” which is publicly available as a condensed literature view for game runners and organizations to understand the overlapping risk factors unique to game organization environments like the MES.

Q8: You mentioned much of this information is public, where is it available?

The MES does not prohibit members from releasing information related to a Disciplinary Action though asks it be done in a way consistent with the Code of Conduct (see MH2018Q1, p68 and MH2020, p95.) I will not be sharing that information myself, but only the limited elements from the Case Summary data described above. This Case Summary data is already published monthly in both the National Coordinator Status Reports and Board Monthly Minutes, though with alleged perpetrator names removed. The format has varied by National Coordinator, but the information can generally be found under “Disciplinary Actions” of the reports.

Sources & Resources