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Drama Mamas: How to help an abused guildie

Drama Mamas Lisa Poisso and Robin Torres are experienced gamers and real-life mamas -- and just as we don't want our precious babies to be the ones kicking and wailing on the floor of the checkout lane next to the candy, neither do we want you to become known as That Guy on your realm.

Again, we have another serious topic -- and again, we'd really love some lighthearted, fun candidates for next week, please.
I'm in a guild that is mostly comprised of married couples. I am particularly close to one woman in particular. We're the night-owls of the group, up after everyone else goes to bed, and we chat a lot.

She has recently disclosed some pretty awful marital abuse and power-and-control-gaslighting stuff as well as sexual abuse, marital rape, etc. Everyone else in the guild thinks they're together, and makes the usual references and requests that you'd make of a married couple like "hey, can you click the accept-rez thing for her?" or "do you know when he'll be back from work?" but the thing is - she's already LEFT her husband - he just won't let her TELL anyone!

He's still in guild with us, and still uses our raids as an opportunity to harass her, because he knows she'll be there, and knows she "can't" say anything.
She loves the game, enjoys the rest of the guild, and is TERRIFIED of what he'll do if he gets kicked out of the guild, or if she moves to a new guild and does not "get him in" too. He's got her on Real ID, and if she tries to take him off of that, she says "I just wouldn't feel safe. I don' t know what he'd do. I'd like to feel safer in-game, but I need to stay safe at home, too."

She does think that if she just quit the game, he'd be ok with that, because he would then feel like he had cut her off from something valuable and supportive (does this make anyone else want to vomit, or is it just me?) But then she'd be out of the game, which IS one of her main sources of support and companionship because- oh yeah - the SOB rarely if ever watches the kids, doesn't pay for squat, so she can't afford a babysitter, and if it wasn't for WoW time, she'd have no social-time at all most weeks.

I want to cry for her. But mostly I want to find a way to let her enjoy her game without losing her friends OR putting herself at risk for more abuse at home.
I was wondering if there's any way Blizzard can let her transfer toons to a new account in a DIFFERENT name so that she wouldn't have to lose all the work she's put into her toons - it's not like she has a lot of spare time to level new ones. There oughta be SOME way to make it "look like" the account is closed. She could then disclose her new persona only to those she trusts implicitly, and he'd never know that she was still playing.

Or maybe you folks have other ideas.

He's really made her feel isolated and vulnerable - she thinks that if she told the rest of the guild about the situation, they'd choose him and kick her out for being a "Drama queen". And anyway, she really doesn't want to tell all those people about the worst of the stuff that he's done to her, it's PRIVATE.

Even if they did choose to kick him and keep her, she's worried that he'd retaliate against her. Even if they were both welcome to stay in-guild, she's afraid that he'd retaliate against her just for disclosing that they're not still together in the first place, much less disclosing abuse.

So my suggestions about starting a new account, on a new server (what are the odds he'd find her?) were not really appealing to her - she's sure she'd have "no friends" and while DH and I might transfer to play with her, well... that's just us, you know? I'm just so sad to know that our game time has been a tool for this #@($er to use to terrorize a sweet person, and it's been going on right under my nose and I never knew it. :-(

The other problem is that given my own gaslight-victim-marital-abuse-survivor background, *I* now find it triggering and upsetting to play with this guy, and *I* want away from him. But I don't want to abandon my friend.

Ideas?

LisaDrama Mama Lisa: You sound like a friend worth having! The tightrope you have to walk here, of course, is whether or not it's really your place to take action at all.

On one hand, people in abusive relationships often need a hand to help climb out of the emotional pit they find themselves in. On the other hand, it's often ineffectual coming from those close to the situation -- and your friend hasn't specifically asked you for help. In fact, she's brushed aside or turned down the ideas you've already offered. It may be that your true value as a friend lies in being a shoulder to cry on -- not the answer you wanted to hear, I know, especially when you're itching to FIX ALL THE THINGS NOW!

I'm a big fan of looking for guidance in the conclusions you've actually already drawn here in your letter. It's obvious that your friend is no longer happy in this guild with her ex around. It's apparent you're not keen on it, either. Obvious conclusion: It's time for a change of scenery. Make sure your husband's really on board, then brainstorm and propose some new play concepts with your friend. You don't have to pitch it a The Final Solution; just go have some fresh fun. Ideas: a gank squad of rogues on a PVP realm, a playstyle such as RP that you've never tried, the other faction, an all-druid or all-paladin squad ...

Arm your friend with some game cards and a fresh account under a new email address, and see what develops. Don't get too upset if it doesn't work out; certainly, don't burn any bridges with your current guild. I'm betting you'll all make friends quickly in your new WoW home, and she'll realize one day with surprised pleasure how freeing it is to play without worry. ... Or she may get sucked back into more drama in the old haunts. You really can't prevent that, not without making things worse; having someone else butt in to "his territory" is almost certain to infuriate her ex. It's up to her to make the necessary changes in her real-life situation if she wants that to change.

I suspect Robin will want to say more about abusive relationships. I'd like to leave you by commending you for your sensitivity and your good intentions; tread carefully to avoid inadvertently exacerbating the situation. It's good to know you're there for your friend.

RobinDrama Mama Robin: We've talked a little bit about abusive relationships before and devoted a column to divorce drama. This is some of both. Your friend has already taken an important step in leaving her abusive spouse. Your friend is also right in not telling the entire guild. One or more of them may judge her, and that is a terrible thing to do to someone in her situation, as you probably know.

But she hasn't gotten away from his control because she is still playing WoW in the same guild and giving him non-guild access to her via Real ID. And he obviously has access to her in the physical world, else she wouldn't be afraid of repercussions for things done in game.

This access in the physical world is her biggest problem, and she needs to end that. Leaving him was only the first step. One way to help her is to strongly recommend she take legal steps via the police and to ask her local domestic abuse shelter for help and suggestions. Extensive professional help is out there for people in her situation, and hopefully she can get a restraining order and remove him from her life for good. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline is an excellent place to send her for online help and guidance.

Everyone she speaks to is going to recommend ending all contact with him, including that in WoW. Yes, she will be resistant to losing friends and giving up characters. As long as she seeks professional help, they will be the best ones to convince her of this. But, as Lisa says, your being there to support her decision and join her in her new account or server or even a different game may very well make the difference between a successful break from her abuser and her going back to contact with him in order to gain the comfort of the familiar.

She may refuse to seek help outside of Azeroth. You can't make her do it. She may also continue to refuse to sever contact with him in game by opening a new account with a different email address. Suggesting a new game for you to play together may help, or she may refuse that as well. She alone controls the amount of contact she has with him in WoW -- and if she chooses to remain in guild to be near what she considers her support group, then I'm sorry you have to witness the horror of it all. /hug

Dodge the drama and become that player everyone wants in their group with a little help and insight from the Drama Mamas. Remember, your mama wouldn't want to see your name on any drama. Play nice ... and when in doubt, ask the Drama Mamas at robin@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Guilds, Drama Mamas

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