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FRONTBURNR | September 22, 2014

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Sexual and Physical Violence: Are Video Games to Blame?

| On 13, May 2013

My family and I lived on the third floor of an apartment building. With only one parent working, times were tough. It’s not as if we were facing some of the economic troubles lots of families see today but we were on a tight budget. At six years old, I didn’t know any of that but one thing I did know was I wanted a Nintendo Entertainment System and we didn’t have one…but our neighbor did.

Nintendo was the tool he used to lure me in and sexually abuse me.

Warning: The following recaps a personal experience with child sexual abuse.

I spent a lot of time with the neighborhood kids and one of them was the son of my attacker. We were sitting around watching the two eldest boys take turns playing Kung Fu. The younger ones of us were getting antsy to try the game. My attacker asked me into his bedroom so we “could play a game.” Already going out of my mind to get an opportunity for some 8-bit action, I eagerly agreed, thinking another console was in the other room. As we entered, I was old enough to know we weren’t going to be playing a video game but a very different type of game.

It didn’t escalate too far thankfully because I felt uncomfortable and really had to pee, putting a halt to all of his disgusting acts. I remember walking out of the room, him close behind me, on my way to the bathroom. As we exited, someone who I assumed was the mother of my attacker’s son walked into the apartment. I can still see the look of confusion and accusation on her face. It struck me as odd, even as a six year old.

I remember next to nothing about any of the boys. I only vaguely remember the attacker but the details of the event are as vivid today, 25 years later, as they were when the event occurred.

“Mom,” I said, as she made my sister and me our dinner, “I have to tell you something and I don’t want you to get mad at me.” I was ashamed and I was worried my mother would be upset at me. Like I had done something wrong. She assured me, as any parent should, I could tell her anything.

“Our neighbor had S-E-X with me,” I said.

Mom was floored.

Of course, the man didn’t actually have intercourse with me but as a child who barely understood his own anatomy, being forced to look at and touch another person’s was essentially S-E-X. That was the one and only time it happened to me but unfortunately for the other boys they weren’t as lucky. It became known that the three others were routinely abused by this predator, with photos of most instances being kept by the man.

The three other boys were afraid to testify against him, leaving only me. He ended up being put in prison for his acts and, some years later, when I was a senior in high school, my father called me into the living room to explain the predator was getting out. I remember him asking me, “Does that make you feel scared?” It didn’t. I had only recently begun talking about it to some of my friends who, to their credit, acted as if it didn’t matter. And honestly, it didn’t matter, not to them. The abuse didn’t shape me as an individual, nor did it deter me from pursuing my love of video games. It was an event that happened, one I can’t change, but one that has stuck with me for my entire life.

The answer is staring us in the face: society is messed up.
Shooting in the Dark

Image by Jimmy Turrell (featured in NY Times “Shooting in the Dark”)

Right now you’re probably asking yourself, “What does this have to do with video games?” My love of video games is what this sexual deviant used to lure me in. It was his trap to get children into his den of evil. I sit here, a member of the media who has specialized in video games, and I see a constant barrage of negativity from those who don’t understand games. Some politicians want to regulate them and some parents want to ban them but the majority of people simply don’t understand a simple fact: It’s not video games that are shaping society, it’s society that shapes video games.

If anyone could make an argument that video games engender sexual assault, it would be me. It was my love of the pixels which caused me to run blindly into a dark bedroom of a disgusting individual. I don’t blame Nintendo. How could I? I’m a rational individual who understands video games are a form of entertainment not a cog that turns the wheel of society.

There are people who want to see the world suffer; it’s that simple. Sexual assault, gun violence, spousal abuse…none of it is caused by one specific thing and by placing blame on one thing, we’re putting a band-aid on a bullet-wound. As soon as another incident pops up, the blame gets moved to another subject. Some might think it’s a stretch to go from my own sexual abuse to the violence vs. video games debate. It is. It’s as ridiculous as assuming video games are the cause of violence.

If you take one thing away from this article, don’t let it be that I’m a survivor of sexual abuse.

Instead, understand that there is no one thing that has caused the issues we’re seeing in the media on a constant basis. It’s not Call of Duty that is poisoning our children’s  minds. It’s not the second amendment that is causing gun violence. It’s us — all of us. We can’t change society in one fell swoop, a fact our government, regardless of party, would do well to note. I’m not saying I forgive the man who perpetrated the crime against me. But I hope he received some sort of help because if not, if he ends up assaulting another innocent little boy, that boy may not be as stable as I am — and the circle starts anew.


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Joshua. Brave of you then and now to step forward. Wish more victims knew there was no shame in talking about what happened and helping others learn from their experience.

  2. Brave article man

  3. You know you and I are on the same page 100% on both of these topics.

    I just wanted to publicly state how damn proud of you I am for writing this.

    There aren’t a lot of people who are willing (or are at a place in their lives where they can) to write about this-especially in the gaming community.

    Whether you ever know it or not, you’ve helped a lot of people with this post.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Very impactful Mr. Smith.

  4. Great post. Had to be hard to write, but you make a wonderful point that I believe many can identify with. I’m so so so tired of people blaming games and guns and TV shows… you’re right. Society shapes those things. Not the other way around. If we didn’t want and buy the violent media, it wouldn’t be so prevalent.

  5. What an amazing story and brave thing to share. I agree with your perspective a lot – violent people will choose violence. It’s easy to want something concrete to blame evil on but some people are evil, period. They do bad things. It’s not easy to understand why so we look for an easy excuse. Thank you for this really well-written and honest look at the subject.