Child abuse in regards to Dungeons and Dragons IRL, how should such things be handled.

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GreyLord

Adventurer
I feel this is a FAR more serious topic than what we normally discuss, but is directly pertinent to D&D (which made me wonder whether to post it here or elsewhere).

This is about what I feel is actual child abuse, and from some of the things I've heard from older D&D players, there are many here who suffered from what I think might be severe child abuse.

Today I found out about some (what I would classify) fanatically religious parents. The Satanic panic was decades ago, but apparently some still believe this way.

I occasionally host a game for kids and others at a public place. There were two brothers that came. One is around 12 and the other probably around 16. Today, I found out that the twelve year old had snuck out of the house to meet with us, simply to tell us that his parents had forbidden him from coming to play D&D anymore.

Now, this kid had seemed to love the game. This game was 5th edition and he had actually spent his money to buy the PHB and one of the Monster books (I believe it was Mordekainen's). His parents had saw him toting the books, and took them and threw them away (I imagine there was more after our experience today, but as I was not there, it is conjecture to know what they went through). No reason, no cause, except that they told him it was devil worship and he was worshipping the Devil from doing so.

He had come to our group (against his parent's wishes) to tell us that he was not able to come anymore after this. We are in the middle of talking when his parents come by. They are furious. They tell him to go to the car and then spot his older brother. They tell him that he has a lot of explaining to do and that if he doesn't stop being with devil worshippers (us...yeah...us) they are going to kick him out of the house.

I did not know what to do, except sit in stunned silence. However, it struck me that this was a situation of extreme child abuse. All of us at the venue were stunned though. I didn't quite know what to do. I don't think any of us did. Later I thought perhaps I should call the police, but what could I say? Would they actually categorize it as abuse?

It SOUNDS as extreme abuse to me. Now, I'm not entirely innocent in some matters. A while ago I wanted my kid to convert over to playing D&D 5e from 4e. I was tired of DMing 4e (I was the sole DM for his group, it was always I who had to DM). I took his 4e books off the shelf and replaced them with 5e books. I did it partly as a prank (for his reaction when he saw that they were gone, though I promptly told him where they actually were after that) but also partly because I was trying to get him to switch over to 5e (of which he had been highly resistant to up until that point). Now, I did NOT toss his books, I actually got a black file box (I believe it is a Standford plastic filebox) which fit his books almost perfectly and put them carefully into one of those. I then put them next to his bedroom door where they have sat for the past few months untouched (his choice, he can put them wherever he wants or get them out anytime he wants, they are his to do with what he wants). He did get into 5e and actually is DMing one or two groups on his own now. However, I DID take them off the shelf initially, which may be my bad.

I got a lot of flack when I mentioned it here, and probably rightfully so. Looking back on it, I might have done things somewhat differently. However, unlike the situation today, I did not actually toss anything. I probably would have not done it so much as a prank either if I had a do over.

That said, this seems FAR worse. They actually tossed something he had saved up his money for and bought. The threatened to toss his brother out on his own (16 years of age, there has to be something against that), simply for playing this game.

This also made me think. There are others here that have had similar, if not the exact same type of experience. I do not remember who they were exactly, but there are stories people have told (that I've read) about their parents or others taking their books and throwing them away (or one I remember, of someone having their books burned). After what happened today, I would absolutely categorize that as abuse...and not just abuse but severe abuse. To me, that indicates that this community may have had many who had severe child abuse done to them while they were young.

Just thoughts and questions I had about it...

First, as you are here still, it obviously did NOT work to stop you from playing D&D.

Second, do you see it as abuse (as I obviously now think it was)?

If you see it as abuse, how severe do you consider it on a severity scale. Was it extreme abuse, light abuse...how severe would you consider it?

Third, how has it affected you from then until now?

With those, the final thing I am wondering if we can do is to highlight this. There has to be a way to show that this WAS abuse and to somehow help those who suffered from this type of child abuse to have a safe haven and a safe place to hear others who had stories like this. There could be a place that they can hear the stories, how it affected people and how they healed from this type of abuse.

After the intial reaction and the parents left, we were stunned for quite a while. I do not know how it has affected the other children and adults that were there today, but after the session I've grown more and more angry about it. The more I think about it, the more I think this was pure child abuse. This was not just a punishment, it was taking a child's books/toys/possessions that they had personally bought themselves and throwing it away for no good reason. It was pure spite. I'm pretty outraged.

Even if it is not classified as abuse, after seeing it done, I think it should be somehow considered as such. This kid had played with us for a little bit on Sundays and had saved up their money/allowance for months to buy these books (I think they got around $5 a week, and they got it at a Barnes & Nobles right close to where we had the sessions). It FEELS wrong to me.

For those of you who grew up dealing with this in your life, how did you deal with this as you grew up and later as you became adults, how has it affected you today?

I think it is far more rare today, but when it pops up like this, how can we combat such things? Is there anything WE can do to stop (at least this is what I consider) this type of child abuse? Is there a way to make a safe space for those who suffered (or are suffering) from things like this on this forum or another one? Is there something legal one can do?

It deeply bothered me if you cannot tell. I feel for ALL of you who had to or went through such things as children and am sorry that you had such a thing to deal with in your life.
 

Twiggly the Gnome

Adventurer
I may not agree with them, but it's their prerogative as custodians of a minor to restrict their activities to things that align with their values.

To put it another way, would it be abuse if the parents were observant jews and were mad that you served their kids bacon cheeseburgers without their knowledge?
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Yeah, not abuse. Not the behavior witnessed that is. Preventing a child from partaking in an activity the kid wants is not abuse. Regardless how we feel as gamers, or even if the parents are factually incorrect about what gaming is (devil worship), is not sufficient to fall under child abuse. That’s just parenting. Even if the parents threw out what the kid bought. Happens all the time. If the kid is told not to buy something, and does anyway, don’t be surprised if the parents get rid of it. That’s not abuse either.

I’m sure calling them police and telling them that they need to come because the parents won’t let the kid play D&D will result in a less than positive reaction from the police. Directed at you.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I feel this is a FAR more serious topic than what we normally discuss, but is directly pertinent to D&D (which made me wonder whether to post it here or elsewhere).
And, how about we start with the statement that anyone who involves themselves in this thread should recognize that the topic is serious, and folks may have some very strident opinions on it, and everyone should carry themselves with some tact and understanding.

I am not a lawyer with relevant experience, or a social worker. I have some experience with close friends who came from abusive households. So, a grain of salt with my words.

One is around 12 and the other probably around 16.
For the scene you note, the exact age of the older boy is relevant.

He had come to our group (against his parent's wishes) to tell us that he was not able to come anymore after this. We are in the middle of talking when his parents come by. They are furious. They tell him to go to the car and then spot his older brother. They tell him that he has a lot of explaining to do and that if he doesn't stop being with devil worshippers (us...yeah...us) they are going to kick him out of the house.
Later I thought perhaps I should call the police, but what could I say? Would they actually categorize it as abuse?
A single instance of a parent shouting at kid when they'd disobeyed would probably not be considered abuse by the authorities. Someone would probably have to establish a repeated pattern of such shouting and threatening and browbeating to establish it as abuse. The fact that some might expect that the one instance suggests a pattern does not mean much to the law. The law needs evidence, especially before you get between a parent and child.

If that elder boy is 16, and they actually kick him out of the house (specifically, if they deny him basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing, etc) that would be abuse. If he's 18, well, then he's an adult, and while it may be an abusive relationship, he'd no longer be considered a child.

It SOUNDS as extreme abuse to me.
That said, this seems FAR worse. They actually tossed something he had saved up his money for and bought. The threatened to toss his brother out on his own (16 years of age, there has to be something against that), simply for playing this game.
Throwing out a few books is not much, as far as abuse goes. I mean, a parent could take away a smartphone, or tablet, or videogame which costs far, far more than a D&D book. Revoking privileges to an entertainment isn't going to register much.

Threatening to eject one from the home is far, far worse. The books are things - the home is home - shelter, food, life.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
This is NOT abuse, the mere restricting of a game the parents feel is inappropriate for their children. When I was growing up, my parents, my Mom especially, hated D&D partly because it was during the Satanic Panic and also the early DnD books showed a nipple of a sylph or two and the occasional Dragon magazine had a raunchy cover (one in particular, I have to admit, was in excess even by my young senses; what the F TSR?)

They loosened the reins later, but it took a while.

 

Zardnaar

Hero
This is NOT abuse, the mere restricting of a game the parents feel is inappropriate for their children. When I was growing up, my parents, my Mom especially, hated D&D partly because it was during the Satanic Panic and also the early DnD books showed a nipple of a sylph or two and the occasional Dragon magazine had a raunchy cover (one in particular, I have to admit, was in excess even by my young senses; what the F TSR?)

They loosened the reins later, but it took a while.

Beautiful cover. Tasteful IMHO.
 

Wiseblood

Adventurer
That was tl,dr but what I did read wasn’t abuse. Odd that someone is so late to the satanic panic. I grew up listening to that devil music ( Iron Maiden and such) and rolling the heathen dice. My parents drug me to church until I moved out. Then I didn’t go to church voluntarily until my late twenties. Now I play D&D with the preacher’s kids for about seven years now and they are in their early twenties. The world is weird.
 

Celebrim

Legend
This is not abuse. This might not be appropriate parenting, but parents ought to be given wide latitude to set guidelines for their children's behavior and what sort of media content that they consume. I don't always agree with it, parents have that latitude for a reason.

If you think that is severe abuse or even abuse at all, I'm afraid that you are really sheltered.

I can go into my background if you want to prove my credentials with respect to this topic, but I would consider any attempt to act on your impulse to consider this abuse to itself be child endangerment and I would ask you to calm down.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
I agree. This is overprotective parenting considering something they barely understand due to their own personal religious beliefs. Is it hard for the kids to deal with? Sure! But everybody deals with bullshit growing up. Everyone. This is not any different.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Speaking conservativrly, as an adult (legally) I would not entertain under-age minors in my home without explicit parental consent. It's just too problematic on nu eros levrls.

When I run one-shots at flgs, I try and make sure it goes thru the store.

The situations described here are some examples as to why.

My suggestion to the OP and/or the host/owner is to discuss this issue with an attorney. Follow their advice.
 

Celebrim

Legend
My suggestion to the OP and/or the host/owner is to discuss this issue with an attorney. Follow their advice.
I would strongly suggest not gunning up like that. Not only is it highly unfriendly, you could end up with a counter accusation of kidnapping - which is one of the reasons you should not entertain minors in your home without having spoken with their parents directly - and this whole thing can escalate in a hurry.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
I would strongly suggest not gunning up like that. Not only is it highly unfriendly, you could end up with a counter accusation of kidnapping - which is one of the reasons you should not entertain minors in your home without having spoken with their parents directly - and this whole thing can escalate in a hurry.
I think he did say it was in a public venue, some hobby shop, not his home
 

Zardnaar

Hero
I think he did say it was in a public venue, some hobby shop, not his home
I still wouldn't do it. I'm 41 why would I want to hang around with 10 and 12 year olds. It's a bad look.

I do entertain my nieces and nephews, babysit sometimes and the neighbours kids loves our cats. I always make sure the parents know if they're here or they can see the kids if they have followed my mooch of a cat and are patting him in the front yard.

For example I had a friend's kids go shopping with me. Baby sit type situation. They're Muslim so I made sure the snacks I bought were halal, and one asked me about what a rainbow flag flying was. I told her ask your parents, the 12 year old said he thought he knew and I just said Haram? He nodded at that.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Disclosures:

1) I lived & gamed through the satanic panic...in Texas.
2) Mom & my godmother (and others) thought I was in danger of going down the path of satanism for a variety of reasons, including gaming and a love of Heavy Metal. (FWIW, I’m still a practicing Catholic- in fact, the only one remaining in my generation in the family.)
3) I actually started a gaming club at my private Catholic HS. The priests were clearly OK with it.
4) Mom eventually realized gaming was harmless, and let me help a family friend initiate her oldest and his buddies into gaming at our house. A good time was had by all.
5) I am a lawyer, but not a Family lawyer.

I’m another in the “not abuse” camp, given what you’ve described. Restrictions on fun is something parents are supposed to do. Having some possessions tossed in the trash hurts- been there- but it doesn’t automatically rise to the level of abuse.

And barring actual abuse, the boys will have other opportunities to game in the future, because the hobby isn’t going away anytime soon.

I will say this: in the event of another interaction with the boys’ parents, keep your cool. It is possible- as it was in my case- that they will be open to a frank and honest discussion. If so, point out that the main objective in most game scenarios is to DEFEAT evil, not praise it; to protect the innocent and helpless, not victimize them. Or that most players are closer to acting out made up stories about Arthurian knights, crusaders and tales of Christian warrior-saints (St. George, St. Joan of Arc, etc.) than anything else.

If you are a religious person, let them know.
 

Celebrim

Legend
So sense Danny has been open, I'll talk about this as best as I can.

I come from a background most of you would identify as very conservative, although those terms are in my opinion increasingly meaningless except as slurs and are not very descriptive. My parents had introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons because they perceived, quite rightly, that from what they understood of the game that I was just the sort of highly precocious youth that would take to it like an otter to water. For a few years, things were fine and I was left to my own devices. On my own initiative there were things in the game that I felt rather unwholesome and tended to stay clear of as I could, which was rather easy since by 12 I was the DM for a bunch of 'Stranger Things' type nerds - many of whom had deeply troubled backgrounds of the like that makes the actual 'Stranger Things' show seem a light hearted fairy tale and which I won't go into here.

Sometime in this period, the Occult Scare got going full swing, and various media personalities and various figures within the religious community began to voice skepticism regarding Dungeons & Dragons. Some of that skepticism was in my judgement as a young teenager reasonably well founded. Much of that skepticism on the other hand was in my opinion based on gross misconceptions, superstition, bad theology, and what I refer to as "giving glory to Satan". Eventually, totally unrelated to my gaming, my parents happened on some art work produced by my younger brother which excited in them much alarm, and unable to explain the source of his inspiration, hit upon his sometimes association with my gaming as the likely culprit. Combined with there increasing misgivings about Dungeons and Dragons, they decided it was time to confront me about my game with the end of forbidding me to continue playing and with the specific strategy of confronting me about the spiritual damage that I was inflicting on my younger brother.

Now, there is one thing that is absolutely critical to understand about this story and that my family raised me to place a very high value in Reason, and that as a 13 year old with above normal adult cognitive ability and knowledge (if not experience), they were not going to just simply order me not to play D&D. I always get a bit of a laugh out of people who aren't part of a religious background claiming Faith is the opposite of Reason. In my house, they were treated as more or less the exact same thing and inseparable. So while they unquestioningly had the authority to just tell me to stop, they weren't going to do so without acquiring my agreement in the matter.

Unlike pretty much everything they'd ever told me to do before, this did not go very well. The result was the first real fight I can ever remember having with my parents, and four hours of rational debate that became increasingly emotional on all sides as my parents pitted their formidable intellects against a 13 year old that had decided not to budge and was prepared to argue the point. There was shouting. There was tears. There was some really underhanded emotional appeals. In the end, I had to give - a child is ultimately not in an equal contest with his parents, but in my mind I had yielded only on one point - that my younger brother was obviously not intellectually and emotionally equipped to process this content.

As a result my gaming material was burned. This despite the fact that they had had a very hard time proving from my trove that the artwork was demonic, because I had very pointedly not bought anything that I thought had problematic artwork. And as a result, I began a very prolonged campaign of disobeying my parents in a very calculated manner, which is as far as I can remember the first I disobeyed my parents over anything since being a toddler and the only thing of any gravity that I disobeyed them over. The exact methodology in question was to immediately switch to Gamma World, and then introduce them to the fact that I was playing Gamma World sometime later as a fait accompli. Then, a bit later I went back to D&D, and could always say I was playing Gamma World if questioned (which my mother, being no fool, pointedly never asked). Larcenous, yes, but while I'm not proud at having deceived and disobeyed my parents, I've never conceded that I lost the argument regarding the spiritual merits and dangers of RPGs. (Although, the fact that I was disobeying them does sort of complicate that discussion.)

Was any of this abuse?

Not in the slightest. This was highly concerned and involved parenting that if it can be faulted at all, was not involved enough. Had my parents been more engaged in my gaming, this probably would have never happened. But that's not abuse, nor is a parent being seriously concerned for a child's well being abuse.

And in particular, even if I obviously disagreed, I was also highly sympathetic to their fears and concerns. Because I had an older cousin who was far more troubled than I was and he was obviously in danger. I maintain that for him gaming had been one of his lifelines, and when that weak reed failed him at the same time a lot of other things were failing him, he took his own life. When that happened, they burned his books as well. And while I disagree, I can hardly fault the family for seeing the gaming as being related to his death in the middle of their grief and in the context.

So again, the situation here you describe is one I recognize, and I don't agree with the parents handling of the situation, and it's entirely possible that the parents involved aren't as wise as mine.

BUT THIS IS NOT ABUSE.

The abusive thing here would be to call up a social worker or the police and allow your anger to escalate this situation into a place that has absolutely no good outcomes for anyone.
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I always get a bit of a laugh out of people who aren't part of a religious background claiming Faith is the opposite of Reason.
Ditto. But just as commonly, I encounter religious folk who assert likewise.

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, both Faith and Reason are gifts from God. So if Reason has revealed something contrary to one’s Faith, it is one’s Faith that must be re-examined.

Of course, not everyone is a fan of Aquinas...
 

Parmandur

Legend
Ditto. But just as commonly, I encounter religious folk who assert likewise.

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, both Faith and Reason are gifts from God. So if Reason has revealed something contrary to one’s Faith, it is one’s Faith that must be re-examined.

Of course, not everyone is a fan of Aquinas...

Proof of the effects of Original Sin, right there.

As someone who also is coming from what one might call a conservative religous point of view, and who also has similar experiences with my parents (couldn't read Harry Potter, couldn't watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles because it was "mystical", and so on) I have to say this is not abuse. It is flawed parents under stress doing what they think is right. Real abuse is much, much different from this.
 
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