Moderating forums that touch on sexual assault


I am interested to have a discussion about how BBS might be able to make changes the way it moderates forums that touch on matters to do with sexual assault.

Recently, there was a post about Woody Allen, there were some predictable posts made about Moses Farrow’s and Soon Yi Previn’s experience.

I know I shouldn’t have read the forum given my own experience with childhood sexual assault, but I just found it incredibly distressing to read the forum. I ended up writing a very angry comment directed towards two particular commenters - and then ended up deleting the comment because I just don’t need to bring that energy into the world and also because really I have never seen anyone get their mind changed as a result of fighting on an internet forum.

Even though I deleted my comment I was privately contacted by one of the commenters I had mentioned, apologising for ‘triggering’ me (it’s important for me to note here that I never used the word triggered - that was their word they used), but that I had misconstrued their comments and that the issue was very complex so they were not going to explain themselves further. (Like I don’t know it is complex!) I found having a commenter reach out to me also very distressing, because it seemed to me that the point of their contact was to reiterate that I had not understood them properly not to actually apologise for having ‘triggered’ me. The apology was just a trojan horse.

I was really happy to see Orenwolf come in at the end of the threat and reiterate the importance of believing victims. I really appreciated this.

I don’t know why I am writing this post or what I am hoping BBS to do about it. It’s not reasonable to wrap myself in cotton wool and I knew what was going to happen when I read the thread. Now having written this out I don’t know what I could reasonably expect BBS to do. Maybe a statement up front at the beginning of forums with links to support sites and a statement about believing victims? I just needed to get this off my chest I guess. I don’t mind if you delete this comment if I posted in the wrong forum. Thank you.


I don’t truly have an answer for you. I wish I did. There are sensitive subjects discussed here frequently, on a number of topics, and the commenters by and large try to be supportive and understanding, with strong moderation a big factor in that. @orenwolf does a great job ensuring civility, but no one can entirely prevent obtuse or offensive comments and individuals from appearing. We do try to minimize the damage those folks inflict, but I am well aware that it only takes a moment to hurt someone. I am sorry that you were hurt by this.


It’s possible to block private messages from other users if someone is harassing you.

In this case, though, it goes beyond that, and you should flag the PM as “something else”. I guarantee the mods take a dim view of this sort of behavior, and there is a good chance that user will be banned.


one thing to keep in mind is that if someone sends you an unsolicited private message, especially if that message is in any way abusive, threatening, or just creepy that you should be able to bring our moderator into that message by @ mentioning them, as @docosc did in his reply above.


The fact that this person contacted you at all after you had already made it clear that the topic was distressing to you is a transgression that goes beyond the pale. As others have said, you have every right to turn that matter over to the moderators. Flag it and forget it.

As for the original comment, I am afraid that this kind of “whataboutism” is sadly quite common even here. It shouldn’t really need to be said that “This thread is not about litigating the veracity of the allegations; we believe the accuser” but I fear that such a warning, even at the top of the post, would still not be heeded…

It is best to simply ignore such boneheaded comments. They feed on oxygen, and every reply that they receive (good or bad) keeps them in the spotlight. (Not to blame you for responding; nothing that you did was wrong in any way.) I would perhaps urge flagging such topics as “Off Topic,” if only because the topic was clearly not a “Hey, who wants to defend Woody Allen?” type of deal.

I am very sorry that this happened to you and I want you to know that the community is fully on your side here. Please don’t be afraid to speak up when you feel a need to. And also, please don’t feel like you need to explain yourself when it is painful for you to do so. If somebody doesn’t want to listen when you say, “It’s painful for me to discuss this,” then that’s what the mods are for.


I’d start with being honest and stating I would not want to moderate a forum like this, not even for a big clock, and that I would be horrible at it if I tried…

There is a way to work out when and where and by whom certain things can be joked about: Punching up OK, punching down not OK.

The problem is that without knowing all the background and intentions of the speaker it is almost impossible to be certain how to judge them. And on a forum like this you’ll hear many anonymous voices. How to solve that? Create some fields in your personal forum where you tick off what subjects you are allowed to joke about?(*)

Imagine hearing a joke about race without knowing if it is Richard Pryor or John C. Calhoun speaking. Better not laugh then…

There is another defense: Some people use dark and nasty humour to deal with a world they experience as dark and nasty. This humour is never intended to attack anybody but can be experienced as such. A good example of this is Frankie Boyle…be careful doing that on a forum like this.

(For me: Autism, fat blokes, cyclists, the Dutch, and lazy a-holes.)


Thank you so much for the thoughtful and positive way you brought this up. I love this sentiment:

You’re absolutely right – we all should be mindful of what energy we are choosing to bring into the world.

As for minds being changed… it’s a process. Can take years, decades. We should shine a light when we can to guide others, but it is collective work we do together, with hope and patience… and strong community moderation policies.


Hello all - I am really grateful for all the positive and supportive comments from everyone. I think you can see from my original email I wasn’t really seeking an answer, I just needed to express myself and work out what was going on for me. I feel heard and it feels nice. Thanks everyone for taking time out to respond.


That’s part of the purpose of boingboing! I too found some of the comments on that thread distressing. Do you know how to mute a thread? It can be a useful tool if you really just need to not see a particular thread anymore. I should have used it on that one myself.


This topic was automatically closed 30 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.