TLDRUPFront: In our ongoing series Revealing MESconduct we review the Serial Predator Pool. This pool describes the warning signs, challenges, and lessons learned from investigations on reported Weaponizing misconduct that volunteer organizations may face. In the Serial Predator Pool are 20 investigated offenses across two alleged perpetrators.
FullContextintheBack: This article is a subsection of Revealing MESconduct Part2: Investigations & Lessons Learned. The series is based on two years of volunteer work investigating accusations of misconduct in a volunteer gaming organization, the MES. Part 1 dealt with balancing the tensions between survivor privacy, community education, and community safety. Part 1 also covers frequently asked questions about where the information came from, whether it is publicly available in other forms, and my motivations in doing this. Part 2 provides an overview of the 180 investigated offenses across 11 alleged perpetrators. The investigated offenses are segmented into six pools examined in sub-sections like this: Weaponizers, Creaky Stairs, Broken Stairs, Violent Actors, Broken Staircases, Serial Predators. Each pool summarizes the kinds of accusations, warning signs, challenges, outcomes, and lessons learned of those accusations and investigations. The lessons learned in each pool aren’t always limited to that pool and alleged perpetrators may have investigated offenses in more than one pool. Many of them apply across pools. In this article I’m focusing on a single type of reported misconduct: Serial Predators.
The main article of Pat 2 also covers important information regarding the MES organizational structure, volunteer benefits structure, types of administrative punishment and the blinded names of the 11 alleged perpetrators. This may be helpful for providing more context in understanding this sub-section.
Allegations, Accusations & Investigations
I use terms like the alleged perpetrator and accused for two reasons. First, this was the MES’s requested internal policy during the time I volunteered with the organization. Second, volunteer organizations do not have the resources to make definitive findings to a criminal or civil legal standard. Investigations on received accusations can only identify information that is consistent or inconsistent with the allegation. Often in the process, new allegations surface, and corroborating information from additional sources arises. From this information, the organization must decide on an administrative action: to do nothing, to issue a punishment or expel the member. For the MES punishments range across administrative options such as the loss of accrued membership benefits, prohibition on holding official positions, and suspensions. Motions to expel are handled separately from punishments. And the decision by the MES Board to expel a member can be made in conjunction, or separately, from punishments the MES takes. An organization’s choice to take action doesn’t establish the truth of the incident alleged – only that the organization found the information obtained in an investigation consistent with an allegation. The information presented below is based on this author’s role in the investigation process of the reported, alleged incidents. Ultimately, the question of whether the information obtained through the investigation was sufficient to substantiate the allegations, as well as the ultimate determination of what punishment, if any, was to be applied to the accused, was made by MES itself and not this author.
Serial Predator Pool
By definition, sexual Serial Predators are accused of sexual assault or rape by two or more different individuals in two or more different circumstances. The probability of a false accusation of these acts individually is already low, and it becomes vanishingly small as more individuals make credible allegations. The accused in this pool exceeded this threshold. Additionally, Serial Predators are at much higher risk to repeat-offend, creating a significant threat to community safety.
Pooled Serial Predator Investigated Offenses
There are 20 investigated offenses in this pool. There are 3 Minor Offenses, 4 Moderate Offenses, 3 Major Offenses, and 10 Extreme Offenses.
Investigations & Consequences
Accusations in this pool indicate predatory behavior patterns: that the alleged used the MES as a “hunting ground” to identify a common profile of the preferred target. Accusations describe how alleged perpetrators first identified then groomed targets through their offices, social cachet of high MC, and emotional manipulation. Accusations continued that alleged perpetrators used the same mechanisms plus stalking to intimidate and silence survivors and hinder investigations. Investigations uncovered information consistent with these accusations.
Warning signs in these investigations include a combination of previous warning signs such as whisper networks, frequent inebriation at events, and grooming the organization before grooming targets. However, there are specific signs that organizations should be on alert in terms of Serial Predators. These are discussed in more detail in Part 3: Origins & Organizational Risk Factors.
A primary challenge of dealing with an alleged Serial Predator is how to address member safety during the investigation. For one of the accused, based on information surfaced in the investigation, the MES pre-emptively suspend the accused for the protection of other members during the investigation and moved to expel before the investigation’s normal conclusion.
Another challenge is how to warn other organizations in the adjacent community space. One accused in this pool allegedly joined another gaming organization and information was obtained consistent with the conclusion that the accused began seeking to groom future targets even as the MES prepared to expel them. The alleged perpetrator was accused in that organization, investigated, and allegedly removed before any harm occurred.
A final challenge is how to handle threats of lawsuits. One accused claimed that if one of the Extreme investigated offenses occurred, it occurred on their parent’s property, and their parents were required to sue. The investigation halted while the Board debated the MES attorney’s recommendation to drop multiple reported Extreme offenses as they did not occur in sanctioned space. The investigation team countered, showing how information obtained in the investigation was consistent with accusations that the alleged perpetrator moved between MES sanctioned activities for identification and grooming, non-sanctioned space for alleged incidents, and then back into MES sanctioned space for silencing and intimidation or survivors. The Board accepted the MES attorney’s recommendation and an additional recommendation not to investigate alleged criminal acts. Even with the dropped reported offenses, the MES acted on information obtained during the investigation to issue a significant punishment that included binding guidance. The MES then expelled the accused several months later for failing to uphold binding guidance assigned to them.
Alleged Perpetrators in this Pool
Nu and Theta are in this pool.
Lessons Learned on Serial Predators
Your community can become a predator’s hunting ground. Alleged serial predators present one of the highest risks to community safety. Organizations should err on the side of caution, preemptively suspending the member against whom accusations were leveled during an investigation. They should also seek expert outside advice dealing with serial predators.
When confronted Serial Predators may just shift hunting grounds. Expelling alleged serial predators is often not sufficient for community safety. They’ll move their hunting ground to adjacent organizations in the same community. The shifting behavior is why for community safety, greater transparency on who these individuals are is required. Organizations, in a way, form whisper-networks by sharing private information and concerns about bad actors. But like individual whisper networks are not fail-safe organizational whisper networks have limits.
Volunteer organizations face safety vs. resource predicament. Organizations with limited resources staffed by volunteers face a dilemma between their members’ safety and exposing themselves to the threats of lawsuits they may not have the means to defend, often while reliant on volunteer legal advice. This means organizations are often receiving traditional legal advice advising them to protect the brand and corporate liability over individual safety. However, organizations face increasing risks, both reputational and fiscal, for failing to have acted on credible accusations – regardless of where the incidents occurred. Some varied examples of this include the Weinstein Company, Michigan State University, the Catholic Church, and the Southern Baptist Conference.
Organizations have to decide how far into “private-lives” they wish to become involved. There are valid reasons an organization may not want to police the private lives of members and investigate any alleged act brought forward. Organizations need to balance this concern with understanding how their specific organization structure, model, and audience combine to create risk factors. If an organization is creating the environment for a Serial Predator they should not look-the-other way when that risk manifests. If they cannot afford adequate legal protection, they need to take action to reduce risk. If they want to embrace risky models – they need to be resourced to ensure member safety. In Part 3: Origins & Organizational Risk Factors, I discuss what elements organizations should consider in evaluating their safety model.
Predatory behavior doesn’t limit itself where it’s easy to address. Volunteer organizations need to move beyond an ‘incident’ perspective where they evaluate alleged incidents to whether it occurs in “sanctioned” or “unsanctioned” organizational space. Misconduct does not confine itself to organizational boundaries and can consist of a “patchwork” of activities. Grooming of the organization, identifying, and grooming occurs in the organization’s space. But alleged assault, stalking, and harassment can happen outside the organization’s “sanctioned” space. Afterward, alleged perpetrators return to the organization’s space to use rules to silence survivors, deter reporting, and identify new targets to repeat the behavior. This patchwork effect, behavior crossing sanctioned and unsanctioned space, and a resolution to the challenge it presents are explored further in Part 3: Origins & Organizational Risk Factors.
Shifting-the-burden of community safety to survivors does not alleviate an organization’s ethical responsibility for creating a safe environment. The MES policy enacted in the events above remains in place. Written in bold in the most recent release of the Membership Handbook:
“Any actions that happen outside of a sanctioned MES event or the Social Media Policy are not within the club’s ability to act upon, even if they happened between two members of the club. This includes all alleged criminal complaints or activity. Should a member of the club believe they are the victim of an alleged crime at a sanctioned MES event, they are encouraged to contact law enforcement. The results of which may then be sent to the National Coordinator and Board of Directors who will review it and determine a course of action for the safety of the membership.” (see MH2020, p80)
This policy punts the matter of member and community safety to agencies that traditionally struggle in these matters. This struggle means members reporting criminal incidents may be ignored or subjected to further harassment by the law enforcement agency. Even when reports are accepted, law enforcement agencies have a much higher standard of evidence and even longer investigation timelines. A failure to meet that standard is not “proof” that there is no risk to community safety. Volunteer-based organizations do not need to meet criminal standards beyond a reasonable doubt to refuse service for any reason. Nor should organizations outsource membership safety to third-party organizations’ complexities or delays unless they do so at the organization’s request and in its members’ interest.
Gaming organizations should consider a whole-of-community approach to address serial predators. These challenges are not unique to the MES. Volunteer organizations in isolation lack the resources to resolve these predicaments individually. However, they may benefit by sharing resources and creating joint efforts between organizations sharing similar models and risks. The pooled resources may still not be large, but they will be better than each organization going alone on this effort. As alleged perpetrators do not respect organizational boundaries, so organizations should embrace cross-boundary and whole-of-community approaches where they can.
Request to the MES to Confirm these Accusations & Investigations
In keeping with the final general lesson learned in the main article, I am calling upon the MES to do the right thing. Follow its procedures to release limited information found in “Notifications Regarding Officers” of their handbook (see MH2018Q4 p70-74 and 2020 MES HB, p95) and apply it for the alleged perpetrators of the Serial Predator Pool. This information consists of:
- The name of the alleged perpetrator.
- The rule(s) or policies that were found to have been violated (e.g., Offense Levels).
- What Disciplinary Action the MES issued.
- What penalties were levied (e.g., loss of prestige or MC, suspension, etc.).
- The current status of the alleged perpetrator in regard to the MES (e.g., Member, Non-Member, Non-Member with Do Not Renew.)
If the MES declines to produce this information within a reasonable time period following the publication of this article or offer a suitable compromise confirming these are real investigations with real consequences, the InfoMullet reserves the right to take further action at a later time, though we will not disclose survivor information without prior consent.
I can assist the MES with information to validate these allegations and their investigation records for each alleged perpetrator. I will provide this information to an appropriate officer on request to facilitate proper identification.
Navigate between Six Pools of Accused Misconduct & Main Article
You can follow the links below to navigate to other misconduct pools or the main article. Each pool describes the warning signs, challenges, and lessons learned from the investigation of the type of reported misconduct volunteer organizations face.
Revealing MESconduct Part2: Investigations & Lessons Learned
MH2018Q4: MES Membership Handbook 2018 Quarter 4 Update
MH2020: MES Membership Handbook 2020