First of all, we're speaking publicly about this mainly because people are expecting us to. We usually do not make a spectacle of bannings, we do not like drama, but, given the circumstances, we do not have a choice at this point.
There has never been a plan to maliciously conceal information. We haven't publicly spoken about the whole thing because we generally don't make any public announcements regarding accusations and disciplinary actions. We also have to admit that we were holding out a belief that the accusations against Marisa would prove to be untrue and the whole thing would be resolved without scandals or ruined lives and reputations. These hopes proved to be naive.
We say these things here, now, because if we do not, they will be said by other people who do not have all the facts and choose to interpret those facts in the least charitable way possible.
Before we continue to the main statement, I - wildweasel - feel a need to say my piece about how this has gone down.
Those who know me and how I operate as an administrator, may know that my main concern is for the community. I have always striven to make sure that my people are welcomed and safe. I have always given the benefit of the doubt, first and foremost, and chosen only to act once all the cards are on the table. It is not my style to act on incomplete information and hearsay. Above all else, I am upset that I felt forced to do so regardless. I've been hoping and praying that something would come to light that'd maybe help things turn out for the better, but the more information that comes up, the worse this whole thing gets. I am hoping that by being as clear as we can about what happened and what we've done about it, it can maybe be put to bed, at last, after two entire months of putting out fires about it.
What follows is a collective statement on part of the entire ZDoom Staff.
Before we get into the specifics about this situation in particular, we need to explain to everybody what Funpolice is.
Sometime back when ZDoom still had an official IRC channel, the idea was pitched that, as moderators of one of Doom's bigger userbases, we should be pooling information about known troublemakers. #funpolice (hereafter known as FP) was born. The intent behind FP was not that we'd be some all-governing council of admins, or that a decision made by one Doom sub-community would be made the same by all others. Instead, we would use FP to ask questions about cross-community drama, or to share information about harassers, channel raiders, and other sorts of really bad people. The priority was always to protect the community, make it a safe and welcoming environment, free from abuse and drama.
How the information posted in FP would get used by other moderators has always been up to them. When ZDoom made its shift to Discord away from IRC, FP moved with it, and still exists today. We've gone out of our way to make sure that anyone that becomes a member of staff among the communities represented in FP either gets access to FP or is made aware of it. At its peak, FP had representatives from ZDoom, Zandronum, /r/Doom, and TSPG, among others.
In the interests of full disclosure, Marisa used to a member of FP, at first because she had been a staff member at ZDoom for a while some years ago, and later, after she resigned, she remained in FP because she ran her own server and still had information to share. It is within FP that we, the ZDoom staff, first received word about the accusations against Marisa the Magician. At the time it was posted, many had doubts about the veracity of the claims being raised against her — there were a lot of holes in the information given, for one. But even if she were innocent, these things have ways of tumbling down hill and getting worse — and they absolutely did, as previously stated.
We wish to make abundantly clear that, when the decision was made to ban Marisa, this ban was unilateral. She's gone from the forums, from the ZDoom Discord, and from FP, as of the 11th of March.
Now, about what happened with Marisa.
Marisa the Magician was accused of being a child groomer and pedophile in /r/DoomMods (the thread has since been deleted). The accusation came with a number of screenshots that displayed clearly sexual interactions between Marisa and a person who at some point claimed they were 17 years old. Among other things, the screenshots contained a message from Marisa where she said that her own first relationship was at the age of 18 when her partner was 14 years old.
When we were made aware of that thread, we didn't go for a ban right away, because it went completely contrary to the character we knew her for up to that point. We struggled to believe that an author of many popular projects, somebody who did a lot of good for the community, somebody we knew well and many of us considered a friend, could be capable of this kind of terrible thing. Marisa had been a frequent target of harassment before as well. We did not want to act before all cards were on the table. It was not clear to us if the accuser was trustworthy or if the screenshots were real, and we did not exclude the possibility of a smear campaign. At that point there was nothing to discuss publicly and there were no clear grounds to take any sort of disciplinary action, so we started investigating.
As mentioned, it was Marisa herself who brought the post to our attention, so we proceeded to discuss it with her, trying to find out as much as possible. We found out the following:
• The screenshots were real, but presented in an incomplete and non-chronological manner (possibly on purpose).
• The accuser had approached Marisa first and was aggressively flirtatious. Multiple logs and screenshots showed them being the proactive party.
• At some point the accuser also claimed that they solicited erotic images with other users, including a 12-year-old boy, and shared those images with Marisa, unprompted. (Marisa presented us with logs of that interaction, images edited out.)
• The accuser's age was not mentioned until several months into their relationship. Marisa, in a display of obviously very poor judgement, apparenty hadn't thought to ask about their age earlier.
• Arguably the most damning fact was a message by Marisa saying she used to have a relationship with a 14-year-old while she herself was 18. Marisa's reaction to that was that she simply could not remember who she was talking about in that message, and in fact could not remember having any relationship at the age of 18.
Obviously, that explanation was not satisfactory. There was a discussion regarding this among the staff, as well as a number of people who knew Marisa closely. Most of those people claimed that she had problems remembering things, resulting from or exacerbated by the fact that she went through a number traumatic experiences that are known to cause memory issues.
The human factor was, naturally, also at play here. Several people who were participating in the conversation were close to Marisa and, shocked at the accusations, were hoping that they would somehow turn out to be untrue. The fact that she was a prominent person in the community played a part as well — however, at no point were we considering dismissing the accusations simply based on her prominence. We were willing to give her the benefit of the doubt — like we always try to do, especially with people who had previously seemed so trustworthy.
There was a lot of stress, emotions and a lot of fluctuation. Some people were willing to judge her, others believed it was a smear campaign and she was being entrapped. There were some harsh words and exclamations thrown around from either side, and a lot of venting. Despite that, we tried to stay objective and figure out the truth.
At that point the results of the investigation seemed unsatisfactory. The one undisputable fact was that Marisa displayed extremely poor judgement, but in the light of her supposed memory issues (corroborated by several people), it was unclear how much we could trust her claims, including the claims she made in those screenshots. We still didn't feel like the full truth has been clearly established.
Despite the investigation feeling incomplete, we decided to ban Marisa. It seemed like the best course of action for two reasons:
1. If the accusations were true, we obviously couldn't keep an individual like that around. ZDoom community is not a place for pedophilia and sexual abuse.
2. If the accusations were false, she would become a target anyway, and by proxy the ZDoom community would become a target as well.
Our expectation at that point was for Marisa to make some kind of a public statement of her own regarding the accusations. We assumed that she would have *something* to say, hopefully with receipts, that would at least make things *clearer*, even if not exonerate her. We decided that if we were to make any sort of public statement, we would at least wait for her to make hers.
At that point we did believe (however naive this may seem) that there was a *slim* chance of Marisa coming back, if (and that was a big 'if') she managed to somehow explain the situation and prove that she was not, in fact, a conscious pedophile/child groomer. Some of us, still willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and not satisfied with the incompleteness of the available information (or just hoping against hope that things could somehow be resolved), were even offering her help in creating said statement — mainly because we were aware that Marisa had trouble expressing herself.
That belief soon dwindled. Marisa replied to the original subreddit thread, which did not make the situation any clearer and did not make her look any better. She did not release a public statement, but later she did act out on her Twitter, going as far as stating that her boyfriend was "willing to track every single one of them down" (referring to the people who started targetting her by that point).
She displayed disregard for the safety of the ZDoom community and for all the benefit of the doubt extended to her. She also suspected that some of the people who were willing to assist her were, in fact, trying to sabotage her. Marisa did not care about the people she put in front of her to shield herself from accusations, she cared about herself.
The situation right now that Marisa is gone and not coming back. It might've taken a while for an action to be taken, but there was a lot to unpack (a lot more than the people who prefer swift judgment might assume). And yes, there was also our hope that the accusations would prove to be false, that Marisa would provide a satisfactory explanation, and that *perhaps* this would blow over. We were willing to have some faith in a person who was respected and considered a friend by many, because it's natural to try and protect somebody you care about, especially when you think accusations against them are false or overblown.
In hindsight, that was probably naive of us, but hindsight is 20/20.
This has been an extremely stressful situation for us. We've spent the last few weeks trying to put out fires — only for some people to create more. The "go for the throat" mentality is nothing to be proud of, but we feel like that has been the general mood for decades now, especially in this moment. Not once has it ever been considered whether "I might be going overboard" or "there may be more to this than I think". People make gross assumptions about people who they perceive to be in the wrong and then just run with it — and then the mob mentality takes over, destroying any last bit of goodwill involved in the process and devolving the discourse into a chaotic and incomprehensible mess.
We are done with Marisa, and we would like to be done with this situation as well. Fanning the flames further will not make anything better, and some of our more recent bans are due to people fanning the flames. We're done with this, we're moving on.