A Statement on Abuse and Accountability

The now well-documented failings at Commune magazine are not Commune's failings alone. Out of the Woods stands in solidarity with the survivor, but understands this solidarity to extend to an examination of our own structures. This statement addresses theses issues and commits to further actions.

UPDATE 30/06/2020. We have now published our accountability procedure, which is available in this document: Accountability Procedure

Content note: rape, failures of accountability

In December 2019 we became aware that a founding editor of Commune magazine, in which we have published, is a rapist. In addition to writing for Commune in late 2018, some of us have personal connections with people who have been involved in Commune’s editorial team. For one OotW member these are close ties of friendship.

We were encouraged by Commune's initial response, which included the rapist stepping down from involvement, a restructuring of their editorial collective and a commitment to an overhaul of accountability processes. We also resolved to keep an eye on developments. We should have made this resolve public. We are now saddened and angered to learn of significant and persistent failings by Commune, which contributed to: 1) the breakdown of the rapist’s accountability process; and 2) a failure for Commune to make itself accountable.

These failings have been carefully detailed by the survivor, Leila Raven, here. We offer our unstinting solidarity to Raven, and reiterate her demand for Commune to cease operations and distribute any remaining funds to Black-led survivor movements. We also note that Raven and one of her supporters in the accountability process have expressed disappointment at the uneven distribution of the labour of accountability within Commune. This corresponds with our understanding: that it was disproportionately undertaken by female survivors within the Commune collective, and was hindered by the disengagement and poor communication of others.

Further, we fully agree with Leila Raven: this is not Commune's failure alone, but is part of a much broader and persistent failure on the left – and in particular on the white left – to develop an adequate, sustainable approach to accountability. We are part of this left. Further, we are acutely aware of the similarities between Commune and ourselves: namely, that we are a geographically disparate collective, many of whom have not met each other; that we are too white; and that we have no accountability procedures in place. We are also overwhelmingly male. We thus hear Raven’s call for further accountability to be addressing us, and to provide clarity, urgency and additional requirements to changes to our collective to which we had already committed. We are hugely grateful for this, and for the labour of abolitionist accountability movements more broadly.

We believe it is incumbent on us to create these processes now, before they are called upon. Measures for transparency and accountability must be in place before an episode of violence or abuse is brought to light, not after. This is a clear lesson from the failures at Commune.

We are thus committed to developing a procedure through which people can raise concerns about either the collective as a whole or individual members thereof, with clear expectations for how this information will be acted upon. We will ensure this statement is easily accessible. This will be complicated by the fact that some of our members maintain a degree of anonymity for security/employment reasons, but such an issue should not be an excuse for us collectively. We will be publishing more on this as soon as we can, and no later than the end of June 2020.

We have already committed to expanding core membership of Out of the Woods to address the disproportionate number of white men involved. Leila’s post reminds us of the importance of this task. It also leads us to commit to new members: 1) being empowered to determine Out of the Woods’ direction of travel, in all senses; 2) not being burdened with the labour of making us accountable. Accordingly, we will be putting in place onboarding procedures.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact any, some or all of the below. Not everyone currently active in the collective is listed as some members wish to remain completely anonymous.

Out of the Woods Collective: @out_woods / outofthewoodscollective@gmail.com

Automnia (he/him): @aut_omnia / automnia@riseup.net

David Bell (he/him): @dmbutopia / dmbell85@gmail.com

Kai Bosworth (he/him): @kaibosworth / kai.bosworth@gmail.com

Sophie Lewis (she/her): @reproutopia / lasophielle@gmail.com

Without Pity (he/him): @without_pity

We have uploaded our Commune article, ‘The Uses of Disaster’, as a viewable google document should anyone wish to read it but not visit Commune's website.

We want to close by reiterating our support for Leila Raven’s demands, stating our admiration for her resolve; and making clear that we are committed to doing what we can to ensure that, as people looking forward to world of accountability, we prefigure this to the best of our ability in the here-and-now.

In solidarity,

Out of the Woods

11th May 2020

Posted By

Out of the Woods
May 11 2020 19:40

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Spikymike
May 12 2020 12:06

Refers to the USA 'Commune' journal not the now defunct UK 'The Commune' journal and group which has been popping up for some odd reason on the recent posts list.