Addressing sexual violence in the IWW

An article by Madaline Dreyfus, replying to some of the recent discussion on instances of sexual violence within the IWW. Trigger warning for discussion of sexual violence.

Trigger warning: Discussion of sexual violence.

Recently, within our union, the issue of sexual assault and rape of women members has been proposed to be a primary cause of the women leaving the IWW. As a member of the Edmonton General Membership Branch (GMB) for nearly seven years and a survivor of sexual assault, I wanted to respond to what I perceive to be a disturbing discourse surrounding the issue of sexual violence against women.

I am doubtful that the failure to address sexual and gender-based violence is the leading or even one of the leading causes of women leaving the organization or campaigns. While I do think there are factors which contribute to women leaving that are rooted in androcentric and patriarchal practice, I would absolutely not call them violent in the vast majority of cases. Not all patriarchal acts are acts of sexual violence, and by giving disproportionate attention to assault, we render many of the everyday oppressions of female members invisible, and overlook other contributors to gender imbalances in our union.

In conversations with other sister workers, experiences which I know to have directly contributed to women leaving or reducing their involvement include: being asked out by much older men, having men enter their personal space in a way that made them feel vulnerable or unsafe, and derogatory comments made about their interests/capacity/value in the branch. Additionally, although much harder to track, there are a large number of women who leave the union due to messy personal (not political–and I do differentiate) relationships with other members. I attribute much of this messiness to immaturity, unkindness and the inherent complexity of sexual and romantic relationships. I think we need to intervene when conflict begins to affect the safety or continued involvement of members, and in these cases I think we need to act proactively as often as possible.

There is always a need to be mindful of the enormous difference between situations where we can exert personal or organizational influence and easily interrupt patriarchal behavior and cases of sexual assault. While many of us are rightfully suspicious of state structures, until we have the capacity to deal with all aspects of sexual assault appropriately, I believe the only responsible course of action in the case of a report of sexual assault is to encourage and help survivors to contact sexual assault support services in their area, such as helplines, hospitals, police, sexual assault centers or mental health care. We simply do not have the organizational resources or expertise at this point to assist survivors in the ways that are necessary to prevent awful outcomes, such as re-victimization, unwanted publicity, exposing them to further sexual or domestic violence from the same offender, drug and alcohol abuse, or suicide. Being a member of the IWW is important, but not nearly important as being healthy and safe.

Imagine if a woman reported a rape and instead of taking her (with consent) to the hospital or police station for a rape kit, we “dealt” with it ourselves first and physical evidence of the crime was lost? Or she wasn’t able to obtain an abortion and psychological counseling from a qualified health provider in a timely way? Or her attacker was a person within our community, and she was encouraged to find shelter within that community instead of at a shelter? Those are horrifying possibilities. Whenever I hear suggestions of “direct action” around issues of sexual assault, it becomes clear that the consequences of this course of action have not been fully considered— and that is a far greater danger to women in our organization than anything we are doing now. It is very important that we are honest with members about our limited capacity to address sexual assault within our organization in order to ensure that survivors make informed decisions about whether to access other forms of support and do not feel as though they are betraying the union or their community’s principles in doing so.

Sexual assault is not an issue that can be addressed by direct action for one clear reason: there is no “winnable demand,” which is the key characteristic of any direct action we engage in. The only things that we could win back for a person who has been sexually victimized—their self-worth, happiness, sense of safety, or physical health for instance—are not things that we can ever “win” for someone else. We cannot erase what has happened and therefore we can only take revenge, which puts neither the survivor nor us in a position of power. A worker runs the risk of feeling terribly betrayed if these unachievable aims are the goals of our organizing, because no matter what we win, it will never be a victory.

Additionally, it’s important to imagine the possible danger if we “lose.” Any of us who have been active organizers in the IWW know that any campaign loss can be extremely difficult emotionally, even under the very best circumstances. Can anyone take responsibility for pinning a worker’s hope for recovery from sexual assault on an organizing drive? Can we inoculate against what might happen if we lose, and the perpetrator has accomplished a second victimization of the worker? Any conscientious organizer knows that we must never raise the stakes so high.

This is not to say that a worker who has been sexually assaulted, at work or otherwise, should not be involved in an organizing campaign, if they feel able to be. It means only that the sexual assault should never be considered an organizing issue within the campaign. A worker might feel deeply empowered by successful direct action around other issues, meaningful connections with others, and solidarity, all of which may help that worker to survive an assault. We should ensure the worker guides all of their interactions with the perpetrator in order to protect their physical and emotional safety.

If individuals within the IWW know that it is our policy not to turn over cases of sexual assault to legal authorities or outside organizations, we are creating spaces where perpetrators are protected from the consequences of these acts. Furthermore, we are putting at risk the safety of both assault survivors and other members who may become involved in a conflict with the offender. Restorative justice can be an empowering process for survivors and their political communities, providing a way to move forward from destructive sexual violence. It is important that engagement in these processes be guided by individuals who are knowledgeable, experienced, and supported by others with expertise, such as social workers, etc.

I have participated in several IWW meetings where sexual assault and policies surrounding this issue were discussed for extended periods of time. This particular practice is for me, and can be for others, enormously triggering of difficult memories, thoughts and emotions. While survivors are often very invested in the processes we use to address sexual violence within our branch, making these subjects a regular topic of public discussion is a practice that I strongly discourage. Given that nearly a quarter of all women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime, we need to be cognisant of the fact that the practice of bringing these topics up in public meetings may in fact be harmful to the very group of individuals meant to be empowered by it.

I don’t think we can underestimate the complex processes that contribute to sexual violence, in our union or in society at large. The statistical truth is that strategies which rely heavily on punitive rather than preventative strategies are unlikely to be as successful as desired, in part because punitive strategies ensure that a sexual assault must occur before we can take action. For instance, statistics indicate that the vast majority of sexual assaults occur when the perpetrator is impaired by drug or alcohol consumption.

A simple practice which has the potential to reduce the risk of sexual violence, although far less glamorous than violent retaliation, is for IWW branches to be highly aware of drug and alcohol use amongst members attending union events and socials. Having a designated pair (preferably of different genders) of sober individuals at each event allows the event organizers to keep a watchful eye on interactions that seem like they could become coercive or violent, and provides capable point-people who could handle the report of an assault reasonably and promptly. Additionally, all branch officers should be provided with a brief guide for what to do if an assault is reported to them, including numbers of hotlines, local hospitals, and sexual assault centers in the area.

Certainly, it seems clear that under no circumstances should men ever be involved in interpreting, determining priorities around, or writing legislation for women’s issues. No matter how wellmeaning, these acts always serve to silence women. While we may value male allies in our fight, the fight is our own. We do not need male “enforcers” to protect women with macho violence, nor do we need male “protectors” to publicize and act as experts on our oppressions. It is important that while men and other non-female IWW members should remain engaged in these discussions, and recognize that as union members they will have a vote on any legislative changes, women should always remain the sole representatives of their own concerns.

The first priority in all cases of sexual assault should be the physical and mental health of the survivor, second the protection of our members, followed finally by the attending to the needs of the organization. Rather than focusing on the actions of the perpetrator, we must always address physical harm to the survivor, much of which may not be immediately apparent; internal injuries, shock, sexually transmitted infections, or pregnancy, for instance.

It is AN INDIVIDUAL SURVIVOR’S RIGHT to decide how she would like others to respond to her assault, including who is made aware of it, what treatment she consents to, and the response of her organization. Policies that encourage any type of “automatic” action, such as the expulsion of members accused of sexual assault, are unhelpful and discourage reporting of sexual violence. Aside from potentially drawing attention to an issue that the survivor may wish to remain confidential, the experience of the assault belongs to the survivor, not the organization— and she should be empowered to make any decisions needed, with an understanding that her organization will provide options and support. Where a worker has had her right to consent violated, we must not repeat the same crime in addressing her assault.

Discussions about the assault should be directed by the survivor, and those confided in with these situations should be made aware of the need for confidentiality. Sexual assault is a form of disempowerment that cannot simply be reversed through collective action. We cannot undo the violence which has been done to survivors, however we can endeavour to provide as safe an environment as possible, as well promote organizational practices that allow for the long and difficult path to recovery.

Posted By

Juan Conatz
Mar 1 2014 23:40

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Hungry56
Mar 2 2014 03:00

'It is AN INDIVIDUAL SURVIVOR’S RIGHT to decide how she would like others to respond to her assault ... and the response of her organization.'

This can be problematic because all responsibility is being placed on the victim. The victim probably isn't going to say 'Expel him!!'. There was an incident in a Leninist group in my town where a member committed clearly harassing and stalker-ish behaviour to another member. A couple of leading organisers talked to the victim, told her about what a good, active, comrade the guy was, and then asked her what should be done to him. Of course she didn't say suspend or expel him. There is also the safety of other women to consider.

The same problem happens with other forms of assault committed towards members outside the organisation. The group will phone the victims outside the group, who always say they don't care what happens, and why would they? It is the responsibility of the organisation to discipline it's own members.

How have groups gotten around this problem?

EmC
Mar 21 2014 01:09

So a couple of years back a friend of mine in the IWW was sexually assaulted. Related to this another member began harassing me and her. So this is what I have to say about this IWW's process..
By far the worst thing about it is that it silences the victim. It requires everyone to not talk about what happened and not even inform IWW members in other branches that a complaints process is going on. At the same time it provides no way to enforce terms of relief. What this meant was that - despite agreeing to terms of relief that he not contact us, not be involved in union stuff while the complaint was happening etc, - the harasser basically just did whatever he liked, lied to people about it, contacted people all over the country to get them on side, got others to help bully and harass us. We couldn't do anything about this. When I finally tried to tell people there was a complaints procedure going on in response to him sending emails to a national list claiming that he was being persecuted, I ended up with a complaint against me and terms of relief that I wasn't allowed to be involved in the union.
It's legalistic. It doesn't work on any basis of believing the victim. It has a complaints committee that decides on the issue on the basis of "evidence". Fortunately in my case there was a huge amount of evidence because it was harassment not sexual assault. The process took way too long. I think a total of 3 months, during which the harassment just got worse and worse.
Leading IWW members and bodies were very slow to do anything. In my opinion quite passive aggressive in the case of members of the Australian ROC. We, along with other members and ex members, were harassed for a year after this person was expelled (actually it's still going on). Not just by him but by other IWW members who'd been his friends. Stuff was posted using the Perth IWW Facebook page attacking my mental health and also attacking another woman who was also harassed by a different IWW member in Perth. The members in control of this page weren't even in good standing. Yet it took literally months for the ROC to do anything at all. And they never issued any kind of public comment or retraction. The only people who did anything were Melbourne branch.
The culture in the IWW is horribly misogynist. I've been involved in the left for almost 2 decades and have never come across a group as unsafe for women as the IWW. I don't think this is just a problem in Australia. From what I've been told by women IWW members in other places it's exactly the same.
Also these problems with the complaints process aren't new. They've been brought up many times before and the IWW has refused to act.

Regarding this article, it's pretty frustrating. I don't even know where to start. I feel like you are well meaning but then you end up downplaying the problem in the IWW. Claiming that focusing on sexual assault somehow detracts from other issues about sexism (how?). Talking about how the IWW doesn't have the resources to help survivors - how about holding the perpetrators to account? Also of course relationships are political. Everything is political. It's not immaturity that causes women to be pushed out of groups after break ups, it's patriarchy. Men use their social power. And the thing about having 2 people designated not to drink... Seriously? Rapes aren't caused by men getting drunk. From my experience in the IWW in Australia sexual harassment and assault was used deliberately as a tool to keep women out of the IWW so it could remain a boys club with a cool name that never does anything.

bounce
Mar 21 2014 03:27

I'm the former iww member mentioned above who was sexually assaulted and harassed by two separate members. I'm writing this on my phone, so won't be going into as much detail as I would like regarding the problems with this article but I wanted to say something.

If immaturity was the main cause behind women leaving radical groups after relationship breakups, then men and women would leave in roughly equal numbers. Women are pushed out of groups because of sexist attitudes and social structures that place more value on the work of men than of women.

I had an intimate relationship with my rapist and not only did I stay with him after he raped me but I went back to him after he ended the relationship. This isn't unusual at all, any research into rape within intimate relationships shows that its quite normal for a survivor to stay with their rapist, and to be in denial, for some time (even years) afterwards. What it did mean though, was my actions were used as an excuse to not believe me and to call me an immature and unstable liar. Basically my leaving the union was seen by many as caused by immaturity and not as the direct result of bullying, victim blaming and rape culture. Other members, some who I hadn't even met or I'd only met once, even unofficially discussed the merit of my allegations, decided I was lying and rang or emailed my rapist to offer him their solidarity. I became aware if this and even came into possession of an email. This is when I resigned, I saw no point in staying in a union so hostile towards me. I emailed the roc with my resignation, explaining that there as a smear campaign happening labelling me as having lied about the assault. The only roc member who responded was the treasurer, though they made no mention of the smear campaign. The national secretary did not respond at all. I did not ask that the iww provide me with anything that was outside of their capacity, all I asked was to be believed and to be safe. If keeping good organisers on board even if they have committed abuses, then the iww is not a union for all workers, but a boys club.

Focussing on sexual assault does not take away from attention that should be given to other forms of sexism and harassment. Sexual assault doesn't happen in a vaccuum, both assaults and the attitudes that enable them are part of a wider culture of sexism and devaluation of women. It is not a case of fighting one or another but of fighting that whole culture and if the iww wants to be a union for all workers than it needs to do just that. You cannot expect members to put their other oppressions aside and work with their oppressors because you've decided focussing on more than one acid of oppression, in this case class, is too hard.

Juan Conatz
Mar 21 2014 18:38

I'm not going to speak for the author, but I'm assuming this was written with North America in mind, specifically the recent Portland statement. I know technically Australia ROC is part of the IWW, but I don't think most of us here know anything about what's going on there, unless we're on libcom a lot.

EmC
Mar 22 2014 02:24

I've talked to plenty of women in the US IWW and the situation seems exactly the same. Also are you an international organisation or are you not? This was printed in your international paper. The Portland statement was written partly by people involved in the complaints committee hearing about what happened here. Just washing your hands of anything that happens overseas is disgusting. And the fact that most of you don't know anything about it is a fucking problem, because the IWW was supposed to have released the a statement internally about what happened. But hey, someone just got raped and at least half a dozen people harassed and stalked by multiple IWW members. Who cares?

And all that aside, the article is still full of victim blaming, whitewashing garbage.

bounce
Mar 22 2014 03:24

I'm not sure why what continent an abuse happened on matters, the structures and attitudes that enabled the harassment and bullying to continue are not isolated to Australia. I gave an example of what happened to me not because I thought the article was referring to any of what happened in Australia but because people should learn from what was done wrong here, rather than ignore it because it happened somewhere else.

Juan Conatz
Mar 22 2014 03:33

There's nowhere in what I wrote that excuses, justifies or downplays what has happened in Australia. But a great amount of the information on it has been put out online, where not everyone spends a lot of time following. I don't remember seeing anything internally except information on the expelled harasser, nothing much on reflections on the process or stuff like that, although I could be mistaken, I don't catch everything.

bounce
Mar 22 2014 03:43

Sorry, I wasn't aware that I couldn't talk about how the IWW failed me as a rape survivor, unless the author already knew about it. I was under the impression that it made it more important to discuss how attitudes within the IWW enabled victim blaming and to point out that some of those same beliefs, such as that sexism isn't the main cause for women being pushed out of the union after a breakup, were reproduced in this article.

Juan Conatz
Mar 22 2014 04:03

Nah I didn't say all that. I was more attempting to clarify who the author was probably responding to, but as I'm not the author, I'll bow out of this.

EmC
Mar 22 2014 15:21

Why are people downing the comments of a rape survivor in a discussion about dealing with sexual violence?

EmC
Mar 22 2014 15:26

"I don't remember seeing anything internally except information on the expelled harasser, nothing much on reflections on the process or stuff like that,"

I wrote a comment above giving my "reflections" on why the official process (one which is the same internationally) failed. You just wrote it off as irrelevant because what happened was in Australia, even though most of the process happened internationally. And as I said, I've talked to a few members in the US who had pretty similar issues with the complaints process. This wasn't an anomaly.

Why the hell for once can't a group respond to these kind of issues by saying "this was wrong, we should make sure it doesn't happen again?". No group would look bad for doing that. But instead every group on the left responds the same by minimising and distancing itself from stuff that's happened in the group. And frankly the lack of acknowledgment of what happened fucking hurts.

Nate
Mar 22 2014 16:45

I'm not at my best right now because I got very little sleep because of my kids but I just saw this and I want to respond now because this important. In light of what EmC and Bounce said, I want to say, what happened to you was wrong, that's awful, it shouldn't have happened and it shouldn't happen again. I also agree with you about the problems with the IWW's complaint process. I've got experience with that process for stuff nowhere near as serious or intense as sexual assault and the process was bad, so it could only be worse for issues of sexual assault. For whatever it's worth I read this piece as agreeing with that. I read the piece as calling for alternatives to the current complaint process and also saying that some of the other alternatives proposed by some people in the US, alternatives borrowed from other parts of the left, are inadequate too. I also read the piece as calling for implying that there's a need for a lot more feminist work in the IWW. I know the author thinks that because we've emailed about it, I may be reading that into the article here, if it's not totally clear in the piece. (I'm not the author of this article though and I don't want to put words in her mouth.)

Chilli Sauce
Mar 22 2014 17:17

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bounce
Mar 23 2014 01:00

1, blaming rape on alcohol consumption of either the rapist or victim, enables rapists. If you think you might rape someone if you've had too much to drink, don't drink ever. Rape isn't something that people accidentally do when they've had one too many.

2, plenty of predatory behaviour committed by iww members against other members happens outside of official iww events. Addressing this shouldn't be seen as outside if the iww's capacity. It shouldn't be hard to believe someone who has been abused or harassed and to undertake measures to make their continued involvement in the iww safer.

3, Everything is political. The dynamics that underscore our public lives do not dissapear behind closed doors. Men hold social and political power over women, this leads to the vast majority of rape and dv survivors being women. Safety and bodily autonomy are political, to advocate that they are any less than that is to support the patriarchy.

4, If someone in the organisation you are in says they were abused by another member your first response should be asking what can be done to make things safer for them (if they are still a member) and what can be done differently in the future. Your first response should not be to try and distance yourself, your branch or the whole organisation from what happened.

5, if you down vote someone talking about how they were raped, you're an ass.

Lugius
Mar 23 2014 03:10

A series of discussions about these issue have been going on (and continue to be on-going) in Melbourne since 2010.

There was a recognition that the processes are often inadequate and incomplete. The capacity of small groups to meaningfully deal with serious issues was questioned. It was acknowledged that these serious issues need continuing attention.

http://mac.anarchobase.com/2013/10/joint-statement-by-mac-and-asf-melbourne-regarding-sexual-assault-within-melbourne-anarchist-milieu/

This statement was arrived at after some time and its controversy is acknowledged.

Completely agree with bounce about voting comments down - it's mean-spirited.

Fleur
Mar 23 2014 04:01
Quote:
if you down vote someone talking about how they were raped, you're an ass.

Seconded.

And then there would be the perennial question "I wonder why there are so few women posters here?"

Steven.
Mar 23 2014 13:08
fleurnoire-et-rouge wrote:
Quote:
if you down vote someone talking about how they were raped, you're an ass.

Seconded.

Thirded. We brought in the up/down voting specifically to try to challenge prejudiced/bullying posts. And it does seem to have helped.

However it is completely unacceptable to use it in this way. People who misuse the up/down votes can be banned so consider this a warning.

If you disagree with what someone says, don't just down-vote it, if you have a point to make make it. Down votes should be used to indicate disapproval of discriminatory, macho/aggressive, or otherwise out of order posts.

EmC
Mar 25 2014 05:16

Maybe you should get rid of anonymous voting. If someone is so reprehensible as to vote down a rape survivor then I think they should at least have the guts to do it publicly. I want to know who they are.

Juan Conatz
Mar 26 2014 18:04

The up/down votes are sort of a side issue here. In any case, while you lament the fact survivors expressing political opinions on the subject are being down voted, you engage in the disgusting and appalling labeling of survivors expressing their political opinion (such as the author of this article) with weaponized rhetoric like 'victim blaming' and 'whitewashing'. When the gauntlet is thrown down like that, I imagine many people would rather express agreement/disagreement passively, with up/down votes, rather than engage in the discussion where survivors have already been subjected to insults such as that.

On the article itself, I think it has a couple points, the first being that sexual assualt is not the primary reason women leave the IWW. I think this is probably true, although obviously I have nothing but personal experience and connections in the union to back this up. And a major oversight here is the experience of the Australian ROC, which, according to what I remember about what has happened there, I imagine sexual assualt is a major reason if not the major reason. Looking back at what was published about the situation, there probably should have been multiple people expelled for their conduct, and maybe even the ROC itself should have been dechartered pending investigation by the international administration. I don't know if that's even a thing that can be done or how it could be done, but that's my kneejerk reaction. So this point is subject to regional situations. In North America, it may be true, in Australia it is not. I don't think this point is meant to downplay sexual assualt either, but with Portland's statement, which was put on the frontpage of the website and spread around the union, it gives the impression that this is a topic of major concentration, while other things that may be larger factors are either subsumed into the sexual violence category or ignored altogether.

The main point I think though, is the sentiment that we can handle these things punitively in-house, everytime. Like Nate, I've also been on a complaints committee that wasn't about sexual assualt. In many ways it was inadequte. I imagine there's a better way, but I don't know it. I think there should be a larger conversation in the union about these things, but I don't think the conversation should primarily be on sexual assualt, for the reasons already stated. Also, there is a real sentiment, mostly that comes out of activist culture, of setting up basically the anarchist equivelent of a justice system when it comes to accountability. For many of us who have been involved in these efforts, either directly or indirectly, they have been also woefully inadequte, and have often turned into the types of shitshows they were intended to avoid. I think a lot of people, including survivors, are genuinely passionate about and interested in combating sexism and sexual violence within the organizations and/or movements of the far left, but are suspicious of the viability of these sorts of in-house accountability processes and have seen them fail as much as more formal types of processes such as what the IWW has (in North America, I don't know about Australia's process).

MadalineDreyfus
Mar 26 2014 22:10

I am the author of this article. I have never posted on Libcom before, so please understand that I do not know the protocols around things like up/down voting and will not be commenting on those. I joined this site temporarily in order to share my thoughts about what has been written on this thread.

First, I really appreciate that people are engaging with my article even if there is disagreement with my points, because I do feel very strongly that the IWW has an enormous amount of work to do before we can truly call ourselves a feminist organisation. The first step in that direction is openly, publicly discussing these issues without silencing anyone. We need to make sure that these concerns are not kept quiet; for the convenience of the organisation, for the shame often unjustly felt by survivors, for the discomfort of change, or because the nature of the discussion inherently silences survivors at their own expense.

I am a ciswoman, and a survivor of violent rape and domestic abuse. While I do not wish to discuss the details here, and I did not in my article, I did clearly mention that I had survived a sexual assault. I have a right to an opinion without being subjected to hurtful and disgusting allegations that I am “victim-blaming” and “whitewashing”, and implications that I am sympathetic to sexism and rapists simply by disagreeing about an approach to sexual violence. NO person should make such damaging comments about someone who has survived a rape, regardless of how deeply you disagree with them. Quite frankly, you should probably operate on the assumption a woman has experienced this until told otherwise, given the prevalence of this violence.

It was difficult for me to write this article, and I wrote it with the support of allies and my sexual assault counselor, as an empowering choice in my recovery. I anticipated that there would be debate around this issue – never did I anticipate that I would be treated as a rape apologist. This kind of rhetoric can only serve to silence women, limiting their ability to engage in these discussions and damaging their confidence to speak up. If you are a man or someone who has not survived a rape, and you engage in this tactic, you are abusive and your actions are disgusting. Period. I am appalled at any community which would tolerate this.

That said, I am deeply sorry for the experiences of bounce and EmC. I understand you must be angry. I can only imagine how traumatic your experience was, and I am shocked that I heard nothing about this situation in North America. Thank you for being willing to post your story in the hopes that the IWW can support and protect sexual assault survivors. I have the same hope and goal.

To respond to a few points of concern which were indicated…

- Never did I state that all drunken men commit rapes. If I felt this, surely I would suggest that IWW events should be dry? I suggested that two sober individuals be designated in order to ensure that there were two people (with unimpaired judgement) who could proactively deal with individuals who appeared to be behaving in an oppressive/violent manner, and to ensure that sexual assault survivors were able to report their assault to someone sober. Additionally, these individuals could be available to drive women to support services, hospitals, or even simply to escort them safely home, as requested. While it is not true that alcohol causes rape, it is statistically true that it is involved to some degree in the majority of sexual assaults (for either the perpetrator or the victim) so we must use added caution to protect our members at events where there is drinking.

-It is true that it is possible to focus on both sexual assault and sexism. It is also true that one is related to the other, and very often is the cause. The problem I see is that focusing on sexual assault to the exclusion of other forms of sexist oppression prevents us from addressing those very real concerns, which so often lead to violent escalation. And yes, I do think this goes on in the IWW. In my experience, whenever women’s issues are brought up, our members tend to focus completely on sexual violence and do so in such a way that lacks nuance and an informed understanding of the issue. For example, there is room for women to disagree about the approach that should be taken to these issues, without anyone being accused of making excuses for rapists.

-Women in an organisation have a right to be safe and protected, but not at the expense of an individual woman who has experienced sexual violence. If a woman chooses to keep her rape private, she most likely has excellent reasons for not wanting her rape to be public information - regardless, they are HER reasons which no one has the right to question. There is a big difference between “what do you want us to do?” (as one commenter suggested) which would doubtless elicit a confused and disempowered reply, and “here are some things we can do, here are some thing we can help you with, you have the choice, and we’ll support you.” The latter approach is what I advocate.

-Of course those who make sexual assault reports should be believed. Nowhere did I - or ever would I - state otherwise.

Other than these points, I am unsure about where others are disagreeing with me. Do you disagree that women should be helped to access outside services, if they wish? Do you disagree that a woman has a right to confidentiality around a sexual assault disclosure? Do you feel we currently have the capacity to offer full medical, protective, and psychological support services to survivors? I am concerned that most of this discussion seems to be focused on responding to sexual assault, rather than on PREVENTING sexual assault before our members are victimised.

I am willing to continue to discuss my position, with the caveat that I will not tolerate any abusive allegations which jeopardise my recovery.

EmC
Mar 27 2014 01:15

These discussions in libcom have jeapordised my recovery. I had some lovely dreams about when I was raped last night. Thanks to the IWW I had a nervous breakdown, my relationship with my partner was nearly destroyed, I failed uni and had to drop out of the course I was doing. And I'm not able to be involved in activism any more after almost 20 years. Which really sucks because before this it was my life. Reading these kind of discussions is extremely triggering. Both from when I was raped repeatedly by another activist and the shit I went through for 2 years in the IWW. The way I was bullied out and then the whole thing ignored. And now people have these discussions where it's like "oh that's irrelevant". There has never been any acknowledgment of what either Bounce or me went through. And it's pretty clear Juan doesn't give a flying fuck how his comments have affected me. So I'm not going to accept being guilt tripped or people minimizing how bounce has been treated.

Writing that I realised how fucking pointless and stupid subjecting myself to more of this shit is. Especially when I'm then blamed for jeapordising other people's recovery by even stating my views. You lot win. I'm done commenting on Libcom.

EmC
Mar 27 2014 00:32

One last thing I will say though. I am sick of being treated like I can just take this kind of shit. It's like if you're the right kind of victim then everyone treats you like some kind of precious flower who needs protecting. But if you are not feminine enough, too much of a loudmouth or don't just slink off and die after being abused then you're a legitimate target.

MadalineDreyfus
Mar 27 2014 01:24

No one wins when survivors leave these discussions because of conflict. No one is a legitimate target. We need to be supported by each other and by the IWW. I hear your anger and frustration, but I am not sure how my comments or article have made you feel dismissed? Sexual assault and our organisational response to it is critically important, and I am deeply invested in these issues. Please help me to understand where I can clarify my position or attitudes to help resolve this - I would like to be able to respectfully continue the conversation. (I also understand if you are not able to while honouring your well-being as a survivor.)

I think Juan makes a good point that I wrote my statement about the majority of women not leaving the IWW due to sexual assaults with a North American context in mind. I was unaware of what happened in Australia and I would not have made that statement otherwise. I apologise for making a blanket statement without checking with sisters in other ROCs, as clearly the situation has been very different in other parts of the union. My main point is that I feel the organisation has not taken sexual assault nearly seriously enough, and that we need more coordinated, thoughtful, and proactive strategies to protect the rights of survivors.

bounce
Mar 27 2014 02:06

Down voting comments that say little other than that I was raped in the IWW is not a side issue, unless you are going to prioritize the wellbeing of some survivors over others. This article, this thread and pretty much all attempts to get any acknowledgement from the IWW jeopordise my recovery. I have had to withdraw entirely from activism because even if I don't run into my rapist, I will still run into his supporters. But I guess that doesn't matter because the it was the Australian IWW, even though the IWW internationally only seems interested in distancing itself, rather than acknowledging what happened. Discussion isn't possible where we have to tip toe around what is wrong with the article but the same accommodations are not made for survivors who disagree with what was written.

MadalineDreyfus
Mar 27 2014 03:10

I am extremely angry and upset that I would be called "the right kind of victim," no person is the "right kind" of victim of a rape.

This discussion does not seem to be productive. I have not asked anyone to tip toe, I have only asked that we stick to the points of my perspective rather than making personal attacks.

EmC
Mar 28 2014 04:23

Ok so I've been looking back at this conversation for a long time. I think I have said 2 things which were out of line:

1. "And all that aside, the article is still full of victim blaming, whitewashing garbage."

I'm sorry for saying this. I said it out of anger over our experiences in the IWW being dismissed. However it was not a fair assessment of the original article. I did feel that it was a "white wash" to some degree, because you played down the role of women leaving the IWW due to sexual assault and harassment. However, I realise now that you are only speaking from your own experience and you were unaware of most of the situations I know of where women have left the IWW because of gender based violence.

2. "One last thing I will say though. I am sick of being treated like I can just take this kind of shit. It's like if you're the right kind of victim then everyone treats you like some kind of precious flower who needs protecting. But if you are not feminine enough, too much of a loudmouth or don't just slink off and die after being abused then you're a legitimate target."

That was really out of line. I can imagine it would have been very hurtful and I'm really sorry I said that to you. There is no such thing as "the right kind of victim". The whole point about rape culture is that every woman who is assaulted is not the "right kind of victim". We are all portrayed as not being real victims, not being worthy of support, somehow being responsible for our own rapes etc. I think I've been treated this way by the IWW as an organisation in a really aggressive way, but that really has nothing to do with you as an individual.

Finally, neither me nor Bounce EVER said anything about "rape apologism". Juan quoted me or bounce as having said that when neither of us did. I think from the beginning of this discussion, and on two other related threads, he's been extremely aggressive. Now he seems to be trying to say that all this was in defense of Madaline. I think that's BS.

He's also gone and justified the silent down votes against Bounce by people being intimidated by our anger at what happened to us. Sorry but that's a lame excuse. Talking about your extremely traumatic personal experiences and then having a bunch of people silently attacking you is intimidating. Dealing with the emotions that survivors face is something people should face up to like adults.

Also I might remind people of what kind of comments Bounce was being voted down for making:

Quote:
I'm not sure why what continent an abuse happened on matters, the structures and attitudes that enabled the harassment and bullying to continue are not isolated to Australia. I gave an example of what happened to me not because I thought the article was referring to any of what happened in Australia but because people should learn from what was done wrong here, rather than ignore it because it happened somewhere else.

How is this aggressive? Why do people feel the need to silently down vote it?

The silent down votes are triggering because it's reminiscent of the way survivors are always treated. People silently stop being your friends. Talk behind your back. Form this wall of support for the perpetrator without ever talking to you or asking your side.

Looking back I don't think that either me nor Bounce's posts were that aggressive. They were very critical. I think people are re-writing what happened in the exchanges above so they can dismiss what we have to say and paint us as aggressive and crazy. Which is exactly how the people who bullied us in the IWW have portrayed us all along.

I think Juan basically just let a lot of people know that it's open season to rip us to shreds on some of the most painful experiences of our lives, because we are "throwing down the gauntlet". And then he played the victim about it. That is not ok. It's why I don't want to participate in this discussion unless some kind of respect goes BOTH ways.

bounce
Mar 28 2014 04:32

I agree with EmC's above comment.

I still don't agree with quite a few points of the article and maybe if I had just stuck to that instead of using my experience in the IWW as an example, I wouldn't have been seen as so aggressive. Just as survivors have a right to not talk about their experience, they have a right to talk about it, and to name the people involved. Some people have taken the view that because Em and I used the internet as a tool to share what happened to us and to name some of the people involved, that we are aggressive and therefore fair game. I don't talk openly about what happened to me because it isn't triggering, I do so because the person who raped me had a long history of violent and intimidating behaviour towards other activists, and the person who harassed both EmC and me had a very long history of harassing other activists, primarily women, and it was the silence of the community that enabled these men to continue their predatory behaviour for so long. Yet, this is seen by some as petty or aggressive.

I too found anonymous down votes of comments that were not abusive to be triggering, like EmC said, it brings back that I have faced far more criticism for naming my abuser than I have support. I don't expect this to change, but I would still rather not be reminded of the fact that society doesn't like it when survivors point fingers.

I don't know at what point I "threw down the gauntlet". Maybe someone could enlighten me. What I did do was criticise what I saw, and still see, as issues in this article.

bounce
Mar 28 2014 04:53

"Not all patriarchal acts are acts of sexual violence, and by giving disproportionate attention to assault, we render many of the everyday oppressions of female members invisible, and overlook other contributors to gender imbalances in our union. "

"My main point is that I feel the organisation has not taken sexual assault nearly seriously enough"

Wouldn't taking sexual assault more seriously mean giving more attention to it?

kingzog
Mar 28 2014 08:32

emc wrote:

Quote:

I'd like to know why people are downing my comment where I said you should not publish rape apologism.

Quote:

This was indeed said by Emc, HOWEVER, it was not regarding this essay, it was on the other thread concerning a different article-one by Rebecca Winter. Perhaps ppl are confusing the two?http://libcom.org/library/silent-no-longer-confronting-sexual-violence-left-anarchist-affinity?page=1

Edit: and I believe it is in reference to an article which was taken down, not the one by Winter?

bounce
Mar 28 2014 09:16

Yep, it was in reference to "politics of denunciation" which was taken down.