The purpose of the framework is to define a set of behaviors that influence the way that general policy is developed for an online organization to ensure best practice in respect of online adult protection. This document is an evolution from my online Child Protection Framework in recognition that adult behaviors and in particular personal boundaries are defined and respected.
It is intended to influence the context of contact through the forums or website facility over which we have control but also includes contact such as online chat and social media sites.
The purpose of this framework is to facilitate the setting of reasonable boundaries for adult to adult communications, to minimize the risk of harm to all parties by identifying and mitigating risky behavior as soon as possible before it develops.
Abuse is in this context, when an act of a person adversely affects the wellbeing of another. Abuse often requires an establishment of trust.
2. Online Sexual Abuse
Online Sexual abuse is the use of a person for an the offender's sexual gratification and or quest for power including voyeurism, exhibitionism, suggestive behaviors or pornography. Clearly the website alone will not provide such a vehicle but would require web-cam capable or images to be exchanged. To be abuse it means that one of the parties involved is not aware or consenting of the intentions of the other party.
3. Online Emotional Abuse
Includes bullying, harassment, omission, undue criticism, oppression, acts of hate.
Corruption of an individual or encouragement to participate in antisocial, age-inappropriate, obsessive, illegal or other behaviors that a caring person would not want to see their friend involved in.
4. Power, Control and Trust
An abuser essentially wants power and control over another and to do that he (she) needs to gain trust. There are a range of tactics that they use but it may involve gifts, time together, exchange of photos, exchange of deeply personal information. The problem is, however, that these are the same things that a deep and meaningful friend might do. So seeing these things doesn't necessarily mean that there is bad intent.
5. Personal Conduct Agreement
Both parties should agree:
Not to record or capture conversations apart from a perspective of personal security.
Not to disclose or disseminate personal information of the other party.
Not to ask for absolute secrecy or confidence of anything discussed online.
Not to infer anything more than friendship at any time from any statement made online.
The policy of this clan is to produce a friendly set of procedures within the organization that encompass the principles of personal safety. Care must be taken so that the organisation itself does not become an enforcement authority. There are no enforceable rules as a result, apart from those required by law. The policy is that members found to be mildly behaving outside of the framework be educated on what is and is not appropriate. Activity that appears to be illegal will be reported to authorities.
Policy: Distribution of Power
One of the key factors in online abuse is the ability of an adult to display and execute discretionary power over another person. Policy is to distribute the power of decision making over a number of individuals. This is intended to break the chain of any member in leadership having total and discretionary control over any other member.
Policy: Decisions made in reference to the rules
Discretionary power of leadership is limited to the power entitled to them under the rules.
Policy: Use of Friendship to gain power
More astute people realize that power can be obtained through friendship: more of knowing who you know rather than what you know. Sometimes they pose as adults and sometimes not. Sometimes they pose as girls, since it can be shown in male-dominated arenas that girls get more attention.
Policy is that to achieve a higher rank in the organization(and power) the participants must pass exams and for the senior ranks get a majority vote endorsement. This breaks the chain of personal friendships to gain power.
Do not say things like "I know Glen personally and I can help you get rank" or "You need to know Glen personally". These kind of statements may get you into trouble. Consider statements instead like "I can help you with your exam. When you have finished, show it to me" or "You must pass the exams and get majority support, so be nice to everyone if you can".
Policy: Treat It Like a Workplace
If you were in an office, say a federal government agency or perhaps a bank or large company - what kind of conversation would and would not be appropriate? If you are at school, what kind of conversations would be considered appropriate by a school? If the conversation would generally be appropriate then we are on the right track.
Policy: drug references, sexual views, religion, family
Promoting views on drugs, alcohol, sex, religion, family are not encouraged. What you say can easily be mis-construed.
Policy : No private conversations or photos
Never ask for a totally private conversation. If you need to say something privately then tell them that it is okay for them to share it with one trusted friend who is looking after their interests.
Only exchange photos that you would feel comfortable sharing on a social media website. Better if you do share a photo that it is available on a social media site.
Other: Manipulation of friends
Often an abuser will try and manipulate a person's friendships. They are keen to know if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend, are sexually active, take drugs, have many friends. They want to know intimate details of their friends, who they are seeing and when. The abuser may encourage the person to be sexually active, or use drugs. They may test the person to see if they can trust them with secrets.
Have your own rules about what is and isn't appropriate to talk about online. If someone starts talking about a subject that you don't feel comfortable then gently tell them that it is outside your online rules. No doubt they will quickly change the subject and move on. You don' need to explain yourself and if a person is somewhat persistent in knowing exactly what you rules are, that would seem to me to be a warning sign and time to get someone else involved to look at what's going on.
Never agree to keep deep dark secrets. Unfortunately but true, a person may be softening you up emotionally so that they can manipulate you. Treat your conversations like it was a workplace and use the rules to depersonalize power and control.
If you believe that someone is outside of the framework then please be discrete and disclose your concerns privately. While being outside of the framework does not prove nor imply bad intent, activities that are clearly illegal will be passed on to authorities.
Sample Boundary Statements
A boundary statement is a non-confrontational limit to a flow of conversation that you feel is going down an inappropriate path.
"I'm sorry but that topic is out of bounds"
"I can't talk about that because it's outside of my rules"
"I'm sorry but my online policy is not to talk about things like that"
If a person keeps unreasonably questioning or challenging why certain boundaries are in place then this is a deal breaker as it shows disrespect of boundaries.