Silent no longer: confronting sexual violence in the left - Rebecca Winter

Image by Suzy X - http://seesuzysketch.blogspot.com.au

Excellent article arguing for and suggesting practical ways anarchist individuals, organisations and spaces can help support survivors of sexual violence. Trigger warning for mention of sexual violence.

In 2012, a member of the UK Socialist Workers Party (SWP) came forward saying she had been raped and sexually harassed by the former National Secretary of the organisation, Martin Smith. The internal ‘investigation’ which followed demonstrated a number of common ways in which sexual violence is ignored and those who experience it are demonised. Some of the members of the Disputes Committee chosen to investigate the claim were close friends of Smith. The woman who had come forward was questioned about her sexual history and alcohol use. She was made to feel that members of the Disputes Committee thought she was “a slut who asked for it”. The Disputes Committee concluded that the accusation that Smith had raped and harassed her was “not proven.” Four members of the SWP who discussed their misgivings about the Committee’s decision on Facebook were expelled from the group. The woman who had accused Smith was not allowed to attend the SWP’s conference to contest the Disputes Committee’s decision. The SWP’s response to this case resulted in hundreds of members resigning. Meanwhile, Solidarity (an Australian affiliate of the SWP) labelled the SWP’s investigation of the rape claim “scrupulously fair”.

While there was a significant outcry amongst people in left-wing circles about the way members of the SWP responded to sexual violence within their group, there was little reflection on the fact that many other left-wing organisations respond in a similarly toxic way. The lack of internal democracy within the SWP certainly hindered the efforts of those seeking change within the organisation, but informal social processes influenced by misogynist ideas about sexual violence can be just as destructive to the lives of sexual violence survivors.

Gendered violence is a key way in which women’s oppression is maintained in our patriarchal society. In Australia, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men over the age of 15 have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15 years (1). Violence perpetrated by men is the leading cause of preventable death, disability and illness in women aged 15-44 (2). Aboriginal women, poor women, women of differing abilities, and sex and gender diverse people are significantly more likely to experience sexual violence.

All too often, survivors of sexual violence are greeted with disbelief, anger, and defensiveness when they should be believed and supported. This happens in left-wing groups, our social movements, our friendship circles, our workplaces, and countless other places in society. While most left-wing groups and movements share a stated opposition to sexism, this does not make them immune to the misogynist assumptions which underlie victim blaming and which often come up when people are confronted by sexual violence committed by their friends or political comrades.

I was raped by someone who was involved in the Melbourne anarchist milieu in 2010. It was a horrible, frightening experience, made worse by the fact that it was someone who I had trusted as a friend and a political comrade. I was lucky, though. The friends, family members and people in the anarchist milieu I told about my experience believed me and the person who assaulted me is no longer welcome in many of Melbourne’s political spaces. I know too many people who have had similar experiences, but who have been called liars, ignored, lost friends and comrades, or been forced to remain silent. I can’t imagine how much harder it is for people who’ve survived sexual violence, and then been treated like this by those they thought they could trust, to keep on going.

When someone tells their friends or political comrades that they have experienced sexual violence, there are a number of common responses. Sometimes survivors who come forward are completely ignored. People who know the person who perpetrated sexual violence will say that they ‘don’t want to take sides’ and want to remain ‘neutral.’ Survivors are told that confronting a perpetrator of sexual violence will cause division in the movement or organisation. The personalities, political beliefs, lifestyles and appearance of survivors of sexual violence are scrutinised in minute detail. Survivors of sexual violence are called ‘crazy’ or seen as too emotional. If a survivor speaks out about violence they will often be presented as vindictively trying to wreck a perpetrator’s reputation. Perpetrators are frequently defended as being a ‘good person’ or a ‘good organiser’, as though this should excuse their violence. People attempt to justify their inaction by saying that they don’t want to act based on ‘rumours’ and that we should presume that a person accused of perpetrating sexual violence is ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ Some activists tell survivors not to go to the police, because of their role in supporting state oppression, but all too often provide no alternative forms of support.

These attitudes are used to justify a status quo within the left and within broader society in which the interests of those who perpetrate sexual violence are prioritised over those who are survivors of sexual violence. Part of the problem with many responses to sexual violence is that we have absorbed various legalistic ideas from state criminal ‘justice’ systems which are sexist and are used to justify legal inaction. For instance, the idea that we shouldn’t rush to judge a person accused of committing violence and should instead presume that they are innocent. This flawed idea is used by many to argue that we should not take the word of survivors when they tell us they have experienced sexual violence. However, as Lisbeth Latham comments in a recent piece on the SWP, “If we think of the refrain ‘people accused of rape are innocent until proven guilty’ then the opposing logic also at play is that those marking allegations of rape ‘are guilty of lying about the allegation until proven innocent.’ Defendants and their supporters (both legal and extra-legal) focus their energy not on proving innocence, but on undermining the credibility of the survivor.” We need to reject the state’s narrative about how we should deal with accusations of sexual violence.

It is crucially important for us to point out that when we perpetuate these ideas about sexual violence we are making a political choice which has disastrous consequences for survivors of sexual violence. We know that false accusations of sexual violence are incredibly rare. We know that forcing survivors to jump through endless hoops by demanding they provide ‘proof’ before we listen to and believe them is incredibly harmful and makes it extremely difficult or them to speak out about sexual violence. We know that our continual inaction allows perpetrators to continue abusing people within our communities with impunity. And we know that how we respond to sexual violence currently is killing our political organisations and movements, and frustrating their capacity to challenge sexism, racism, capitalism, and other forms of oppression and exploitation.

So, here’s what I think needs to happen: We need to make a political choice to believe survivors of violence. We need to bring gendered violence out into the open by treating survivors with trust and compassion, rather than hostility. We need to take people at their word when they tell us that they have experienced violence, including gendered and sexual violence, without requiring them to tell us about every little detail of what happened. And more than this, we need to make a choice to prioritise survivors in our political work. This means that we should have survivor-centred responses to sexual violence – where the needs and desires of survivors determine our response. We need to be open to excluding people responsible for sexual violence, at the discretion of the survivor, from our political spaces, or ganisations, and movements. And we need to be prepared to support survivors in engaging with the people who harmed them through accountability processes, if that is what they’d like to do. Most of all, though, we need to make it a political priority to actively support sexual violence survivors through all of the personal and political challenges that come in the aftermath of being assaulted.

Asking a perpetrator to leave an organisation or political space on the word of a survivor is often a point which divides people within the left. We have to remember that people are not entitled to be involved in our political spaces. Many of us would accept the need to reject an active Liberal Party member who wanted to join a radical political group based on their oppressive ideology. We need to be open to taking the same approach to those whose actions are a form of violent oppression. In my experience, knowing that I am unlikely to run into the person who raped me at a political space has made a world of difference to my ongoing recovery, especially in environments where I know I would be supported by those around me if I did see him. Asking someone to leave our spaces does not deny them their freedom or safety. But if we refuse to ask perpetrators to leave our spaces we are effectively risking the safety of survivors and forcing many survivors to self-exclude. Moreover, as women are a significant majority of sexual violence survivors, not dealing with sexual violence has the effect of reinforcing women’s oppression in our movements.

Gendered violence does not occur in a social vacuum – any response we make within our organisations and movements will be limited in scope. We will never be truly safe or free from violence while we live in a society fundamentally shaped by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Excluding perpetrators from our spaces can enable survivors to feel relatively safe in our movements, but it doesn’t prevent sexual violence from being committed in the first place or in other areas of society. To create a society in which sexual violence is no longer a tool of misogynist and racist oppression we need structural systemic change – in short, a revolution.

An essential part of fighting rape culture involves identifying these structural systems of oppression and exploitation which allow people to perpetrate sexual violence with impunity. We need to fight the dominant ideologies which suggest that some people deserve to be victims of violence, and bear responsibility for the harm that is done to them – whether because of their clothes, race, gender identity; or because they are a refugee, poor, in prison, or a sex worker. Yet it is not enough to merely struggle against sexism and sexual violence at a structural or ideological level. If we are ever going to build the collective power required to challenge these systems of oppression we must make a committed effort to challenge violence and other actions which reinforce oppression within our political organisations, our social movements, our friendship groups and all other areas of life.

Why would anyone believe talk of a post-revolutionary society without sexism if we cannot support survivors of sexual violence in our midst and take a stand against those who perpetrate gendered violence among us?

There are tentative signs of a growing movement against sexual violence on the left. In 2004, three women were raped at a large punk festival in Philadelphia in the US. The concert organisers established two collectives to support the survivors and hold the rapists to account. The collectives became Philly’s Pissed and Philly Stands Up which continued this work for a period of six years. Organisers of the 2012 Toronto and New York Anarchist bookfairs asked people who had been accused of sexual violence, and who were not actively engaging in some sort of accountability process, to not attend the events. Closer to home, groups like A World Without Sexual Assault and Stepping Up in Melbourne have provided support to survivors, facilitated accountability processes, and run awareness-raising workshops.

We need to continue to build on these political gains in our organising in Melbourne. One new project that that I am excited about aims to bring together collective wisdom about how organisations can respond to sexual violence in a way which genuinely supports survivors. This website resource will also gather together ideas about how tools like grievance collectives can be used to confront other oppressive behaviour, such as racist or sexist conduct. We will be inviting anarchist, socialist, social justice, environmental and other activist groups to commit to acting in accordance with this advice. As part of this commitment, groups will need to run workshops where their members can discuss practical ways they can avoid perpetuating destructive responses to sexual violence and avoid reinforcing systemic oppression. (If you’re interested in getting involved in this project, contact Anarchist Affinity and we’ll pass your details on to the organising collective).

Conclusion

For too long sexual violence survivors have been sacrificed at the altar of ‘movement building.’ This approach has a massively destructive impact on survivors, but it also prevents us from creating the kind of movements that we need. We must create social movements which build the revolutionary collective power of the working classes to confront all systems of oppression and exploitation. But to do this we need to start practicing what we preach. We need to challenge misogynist attitudes about sexual violence within our midst and create enduring structures which allow us to support survivors and hold perpetrators to account. Only then can we genuinely claim to be fighting for anarchism and social justice.

Resources

‘What is rape apologism?’

Em BC, ‘Misogyny and the left – we need to start practicing what we preach’

‘Betrayal – a critical analysis of rape culture in anarchist subcultures’

Endnotes

(1) Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey, 2006.

(2) VicHealth (2004) ‘The Health Costs of Violence: Measuring the burden of disease caused by intimate partner violence.’

From http://www.anarchistaffinity.org/2014/03/silent-no-longer-confronting-sexual-violence-in-the-left/ Image by Suzy X

Posted By

Steven.
Mar 18 2014 11:47

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Comments

A Wotsit
Mar 26 2014 07:24

(On-topic)

In my experience there is a culture in male-dominated groups to bandy around 'jokey' allegations of their mates being pedos, rapists etc (these are not taken seriously and are often 'banter' but sometimes these 'jokes' seem to belie genuine suspicion or knowledge of actual violence or other problematic behaviour). Conversely, they fail to believe honest reports of sexual violence, and fail to help create a culture/ environment where such attacks are less frequent/ prevented.

I don't know how often false allegations (which are intended to be taken seriously) are made by women, but I doubt it is very frequent at all, I certainly think (serious) false allegations are more rare than sexual violence.

(edited for clarity)

(Off-topic).

@Croy. If you're saying I was trying too hard to be nice, I can see how it might look that way. Maybe I went slightly overboard with expressing my agreement (whiskey etc), but she said it much better than me innit.

btw I can see why my initial post might have irked you. fwiw I thought you posted thoughtfully- I had already largely made my mind up on these issues before I saw your comment. Sorry if I my post seemed like it was a rebuttal, that was not my intention, I was more just exploring some of the ideas raised by both you and the article as I saw them.

radicalgraffiti
Mar 25 2014 18:03

FFS can't people get past the notion that its all about whether or not someone accused is a bad person who should be punished and consider how we make our organizations and communities safer. Like the the whole thing of people getting beat up for things they didn't do is only really likely to be a problem when punishment/revenge is the main objective.

no1
Mar 25 2014 18:24
fleurnoire-et-rouge wrote:
no1 wrote:
How is this relevant to what happens in leftist or anarchist organisations?

Because unless you live in a compound with no contact with the outside world, this is the world we live in, in a culture where the de facto response is not to believe survivors.

Yes of course I totally agree with you. I should have been more precise - by 'this' I meant Serge's assertion that false accusations of sexual violence/child abuse are relatively common in disputes over custody/access because there is such a strong incentive. I'm far from convinced that that's the case, but even if it was, I don't really see the relevance to our discussion, which is about how to make our organisations safer.

Steven.
Mar 25 2014 19:03
no1 wrote:
Serge, a couple of thoughts about this:
(1) I can think of lots of reasons why accusations of sexual violence/abuse to be unexpectedly common in those situation - sexual violence/child abuse are pretty strong reasons to end a long-term relationship ; that kind of violence may be more common because a perpetrator is trying to dominate their partner when a relationship is falling apart ; sexual violence is generally common anyway people just keep silent about it but in disputes over kids there's obviously a good reason to speak up etc. Their frequency doesn't mean that the allegations are false, regardless of what barristers think. Do you have anything more than anecdotal evidence ?
(2) How is this relevant to what happens in leftist or anarchist organisations?

this is exactly right. Serge, this is an anecdote, not data. Also, even if it were true (which I very much doubt), this is not a comparable situation to allegation claims within anarchist movement. In a custody battle there is an incentive to make things up or exaggerate things. Which there is not in the activist milieu. Quite the opposite in fact: as others have mentioned there are huge disincentives to even revealing real assaults, let alone making them up!

WordShaker wrote:
EmC wrote:
Kureigo, what I'm saying is that what happens to rape survivors is much worse than what happens to victims of false accusations. Sorry but this is the truth. And it's why false accusations are incredibly rare.

Serge, ask any MRA and they'll tell you that. Any family court lawyer would not.

I don't mean to be confrontational, but I've got no idea why the rarity of men being falsely accused* means that Kureigo's experience should be dismissed out of hand with a "too bad."

sorry, but this is complete BS, and not what Em said at all. What she/he actually said to Kureigo was this:

Quote:
Kureigo-San, I feel very bad for you or anyone who goes through that. I really do.

then this:

Joseph Kay wrote:
Doesn't the fact that this FALSE ALLEGATIONS reflex only seems to apply to intimate violence make anyone take a step back and wonder why that is?

this talk about child custody battles is completely off topic. Further comments on this topic will be deleted.

Also further comments on false allegations will also be removed, as people have made their respective points on that, and we're not getting anywhere other than certain people making themselves look very bad. And importantly putting the feelings of possible abusers ahead of those who have been abused (and I say that as someone who has been subjected to a false allegation of DV in the past, which thankfully was retracted)

Further comments in this discussion on ways we can help stop sexual violence in the anarchist scene, and ways we can support survivors are welcome. Let's keep this discussion on topic.

no1
Mar 25 2014 19:20
Serge Forward wrote:
My disagreement is with notions of justice which seem to be based on little more than faith. If one's definition of justice is based on the view that 'idealised person X surely wouldn't say or do such a thing' and any disagreement makes you a 'rape apologist' so ner, then, seriously, I would say the bourgeois courts would be infinitely superior to such 'revolutionary justice' dredged from the anarcho-swamp.

I'm somewhat sympathetic to this position, though I think the dismissive way you put it isn't appropriate for the subject.
IMO this is a question of the standard of proof. Criminal trials require proof "beyond reasonable doubt" and for that reason they are generally worse than useless in cases of intimate violence, where incontrovertible evidence is inherently almost impossible to get. If our own organisations adopt the same logic as bourgeois criminal courts then this would be extremely oppressive, as well as totally unnecessary since it's not about punishing perpetrators but keeping members safe.
Instead I think the standard of proof we should apply instead is "on the balance of probabilities", which also exists in bourgeois courts. Recognising that patriarchal power differentials make sexualised violence common and false accusations extremely rare, applying this standard would result in most accusations being believed, without us having to adopt the position of blind faith you criticise. So if there's a formal process in response to an accusation of sexual violence by one member against another, and if there's no strong evidence to the contrary, then the accusation will be judged to be true on the balance of probabilities and the accused would be excluded (or whatever is appropriate).
So I'm not convinced we need to invent a fundamentally different 'revolutionary justice', we just need to apply our understanding of how patriarchy operates in our lives, and we need to apply the right standard of proof.

Serge Forward
Mar 25 2014 19:19

Thanks no1. Those are fair points and I wouldn't disagree with any of what you say there.

grumpenproletariat
Mar 25 2014 22:24

I wrote the piece that Rebecca quoted re the logic at play re the idea of perpetrators being innocent until proven guilty. Given this has been controversial I thought I should comment I am also going make a comment on the banned thread topic as I think it is relevant as it reflects the same shitty attitude at play, i.e. women as liars and vindictive individuals who are out to get men - which should be called for what it is misogyny.

On the question of what the women lawyers have told Serge I think it is believable that they said that, but it reflects their assessment of the allegations being raised and the motivations behind them being raised on this I have two things to say:
1. the comments potentially reflect a level of misogyny on the part of the lawyer(s) - the sexist hatred of women in this society doesn't just impact on the consciousness of men.
2. It possibly says a lot about the ethics of lawyers in cases and projection of what they would do to account for large numbers of women saying they experienced domestic violence rather than acknowledging that shit tons (it is a standard unit of measurement) of women experience domestic violence and that's why these women are raising these experiences in court you go "oh all these women can't possible have experienced DV so they must be making it up, because that is what I would do to win a case".

More broadly a lot of the hand ringing about the potential innocence of perpetrators make the process of deciding whether a rape occurred like something from a CSI episode - which isn't the case as in most instances it's not about whether sex occurred it is the context in which sex occurred and who you believe which means it is up to the survivor to prove lack of consent rather than for the perpetrator to prove consent. This not only is the wrong way around, as it reflects a really fucked attitude to right to sex that pervades many cultures, but makes it very difficult to get a "guilty" verdict when all you need to do is sully the reputation of the accuser - which is pretty easy to do if mobilise victim blaming and rape myths. A good example of this is the experience is the British SWP and fucked positions taken by Martin Smith's supporters who in response to allegations of being rape apologists one foul individual responded "we could only be that if you accept that women and children don't lie".

In terms of what we do re the problem of sexual violence in the movement and society I think we need to:
1. Take position of believing and supporting survivors
2. Seeking to actively exclude sexual predators
3. Seeking to isolate and exclude who seek to trivialise or mythologise around rape
4. Massively ramp up awareness of and support for the importance of consent.

I've written this on the train to work so apologise for any typos.

Lisbeth

EmC
Mar 26 2014 00:18

One thing that would be helpful in stopping violence in the anarchist scene would be to not publish rape apologism like this:
http://libcom.org/library/politics-denunciation

RedEd
Mar 26 2014 00:46

Whilst I think that the pro-active approach to identifying and holding to account perpetrators that many in this thread have taken is vitally important, I also think that there is another very significant consideration. People don't commit sexual violence in a vacuum. They do it within the social context in which they exist. I think it is our (men especially, people generally) duty to pick up on when we are concerned that a person, people or group may be normalising sexual violence or it precursors (objectification, gratuitous sexualisation, dehumanisation, etc.) and intervening. This should be easy to do in socialist organisations, but obviously it is not.

Hopefully pre-emtive challenges (that need not be condemnatory, but simply set firm standards of expected behavior) can go at least some some way to preventing sexual violence and preventing people from going through the pain of experiencing and dealing with it.

To this end, I think all organisations should have easily accesible ways of carefully and calmly facilitating the expression of concern and confronting behaviors that people are concerned about before they get to worst case scenarios. Women's officers, equality officers and so on in some organisations within and outside the socialist milieu have been doing exactly this for ages, but I think a greater emphasis on this sort of thing, as well as more discussions of and action on what to do after sexual violence, would be useful.

Tyrion
Mar 26 2014 02:48
Joseph Kay wrote:
Doesn't the fact that this FALSE ALLEGATIONS reflex only seems to apply to intimate violence make anyone take a step back and wonder why that is?

This is very true. I remember being very dismayed when my sister told our dad about a friend who had been raped and his immediate response was to question how she knew this was true; I can't imagine him having the same response if it was about someone being mugged or suffering any other non-sexual crime. And this seems to be the case in general, what other variety of violent crime attracts nearly as much attention on false allegations?

A Wotsit
Mar 26 2014 09:22
Quote:
grumpenproletariat

In terms of what we do re the problem of sexual violence in the movement and society I think we need to:
1. Take position of believing and supporting survivors
2. Seeking to actively exclude sexual predators
3. Seeking to isolate and exclude who seek to trivialise or mythologise around rape
4. Massively ramp up awareness of and support for the importance of consent.

I agree with this. I was going to attempt a similar numbered list. Mine was also going to include something on challenging misogyny in all forms- closely related to point 3 above but expanding it to include other behaviour not restricted to attitudes on rape. (I though RedEd made good points on 'precursors' and 'pre-emptive challenges'.)

I was also going to add.

We should not (though I can see some potential grey areas here):
1. Physically attack or condone violence against those accused/ guilty of sexual violence (except in cases of actual self-defence or defence of others from attack).
2. Do anything which the survivor would not want done (e.g. reveal their identity) unless absolutely necessary (to prevent harm to others)
3. Put the need for reforming/ rehabilitating the attacker above the needs of survivors.

I would welcome more discussion on this, prehaps refining the 'we need to, we should not' principles-- which moves on from the 'believe survivors' / 'false allegations' discussion.

EmC
Mar 26 2014 10:28

I'd like to know why people are downing my comment where I said you should not publish rape apologism. That piece basically says that we should try to include rapists in the movement and that expecting people not to rape is setting the bar too high. It just seems really hypocritical to be having this discussion supposedly wanting to do something about sexual assault in the movement while publishing something like that and most people defending it.

EmC
Mar 26 2014 10:32

Re not condoning violence against perpetrators... I don't think organisations should be doing that because it makes policies that give survivors the benefit of the doubt impossible. BUT I think it's important that isn't taken to the point of condemning it in principle or condemning people (usually women) who commit acts of violence against rapists. I think sometimes violence is the only way to get justice or to stop someone from committing more abuse.

libcom
Mar 26 2014 11:21
EmC wrote:
I'd like to know why people are downing my comment where I said you should not publish rape apologism. That piece basically says that we should try to include rapists in the movement and that expecting people not to rape is setting the bar too high. It just seems really hypocritical to be having this discussion supposedly wanting to do something about sexual assault in the movement while publishing something like that and most people defending it.

to let you know, that article has been unpublished pending admin discussion. Please can this discussion stay on topic about the article above, rather than the Williams piece, below which there is a separate discussion (or a new thread can be started)

commieprincess
Mar 26 2014 11:38

Edit - never mind, I misread

A Wotsit
Mar 26 2014 19:36
EmC wrote:
Re not condoning violence against perpetrators... I don't think organisations should be doing that because it makes policies that give survivors the benefit of the doubt impossible. BUT I think it's important that isn't taken to the point of condemning it in principle or condemning people (usually women) who commit acts of violence against rapists. I think sometimes violence is the only way to get justice or to stop someone from committing more abuse.

Sorry but I don't understand the first bit- are you saying organisations 'should not condone' or organisations 'should not state that they don't condone'.

When I said 'should not condone' or 'should not attack' I meant I would not want any organisation saying 'so and so should be beaten up' or anything like 'beatings are the best way to deal with rapists', I would have problems with an anarchist organisation organising or condoning beatings. I'd agree that retaliatory/ preventative violence doesn't need to be condemned in cases of sexual violence (I think any democratically agreed policy/ practice on violence in-response-to or to-protect-from other violence should be very carefully considered).

I'm talking about organisations rather than individuals. (sorry if you get this already- I often struggle to explain myself/ understand others).

I would not have any problem with a survivor and their personal supporters who wanted their attacker to be physically harmed (whether in self-defence or in revenge). When I first found out people close to me have been raped, violence was the first response which I considered appropriate (although the survivors themselves did not, in the cases where they knew how to find the perpetrators). If a perpetrator is harmed at the hands of a survivor or on the wishes of the survivor then I see that as better than no action at all being taken tbh (of course respecting survivors own wishes), but I don't think this is something which should be the 'official policy' of an anarchist organisation. I don't know if I am being reactionary in condoning violence as an individual or being contradictory saying organisations should not be the ones organising/ engaging in the violence.

I would still welcome further discussion on this...

(edited a bit, still a mess, soz)

Croy
Mar 26 2014 19:44

As soon as we start getting into "preventative" or "pre emptive", or revenge violence then we are in fucking cop territory, fuck that, How would it even be preventative? You can't patriarchy out of a man just like you can't bomb a social relationship. Plus, if we are to abandon innocent till proven guilty at the same time as beating up the accused solely due to the wishes of the survivor, then you could actually end up with a situation where, in the case of a false accusation, however rare they are, some one could essentially get people to unquestioningly beat the shit out of an innocent person. This would be a lot more than just excluding some one from political spaces, which is what is being cited as the minor thing we should not put in front of caring for survivors.

Croy
Mar 26 2014 19:45

Regardless of how likely the above situation would be, I would still strive to make it an impossibility on principle.

A Wotsit
Mar 26 2014 19:58

I totally see why my post might seem batshit. Just to repeat, I don't think an anarchist organisation should condone or participate in violence against perpetrators. Partly this is because of the problems you outline. I would not just beat up any person (accused) on the say so of another person (survivor) just because I happened to be in the same organisation as the survivor.

I am trying to separate an organisational response to a personal one. I don't know if that is stupid but it makes sense to me. I hope the following isn't off topic but to illustrate the difference between a personal and an organisational response.

(Trigger Warning: distressing rape story)
The reason I can't rid myself of the idea that I can't condemn retaliatory violence of this kind on a personal level (and I don't think organisations should condemn this either, nor should they necessarily condone) is that a very close friend of mine was repeatedly raped by a family member she lived with as a child and I would do anything to help her deal with how this still affects her. She does not want anyone to do anything to him (except she would rather the rest of her family disowned him, alas they won't), and would rather just never see him again (she did consider the possibility of some form of revenge attack but decided against it). Personally I would happily beat the crap out of him (he is the epitome of a patriarch with no chance of redemption/ reform afaict- he still tries to contact her and guilt her into seeing the family). In this circumstance I am absolutely certain he did it as I trust her absolutely without the slightest shadow of doubt. I am also certain the perpetrator is irredeemable and that nothing that the cops could do would be of any use to her or others...

Croy
Mar 26 2014 20:06

So you would be ok with it so long as it wasn't technically the 'party line' as it were. So long as the people act outside of the org (fuck knows what that means, so they can do it BUT NOT IF THEY ARE WAVING A RED AND BLACK ABOUT) then it would be ok? Being devils advocate here.

A Wotsit
Mar 26 2014 20:22

Also the 'pre-emptive' comment from earlier was to say to 'pre-empt' a rape culture/ rape enabling environment by directly and robustly challenging any misogynistic attitudes which rear their head, rather than anything about undertaking pre-emptive violence.

(edit) however, when I said 'preventative' that was more about preventing a re-occurance of similar violence. I do think that is generally a problematic concept to think violence against ant-social behaviour will prevent further anti-social behaviour. But in the here-and-now where rape so often happens with the only painful consequences being felt by the survivor and the perpetrator more often than not gets off scott-free. Some retaliation (as well attempts at rehab) may be necessary in some cases. (edit end)

I feel like I'm posting badly on this thread so am going to try and stop and apologise if I have said anything harmful or stupid. I am not approaching this with a calm and level head.

A Wotsit
Mar 26 2014 21:55

I don't know. I am now feeling conflicted about it.

edit: After receiving a really helpful DM I feel like I've got lots to learn on this and will read more and post less. Admins please delete anything I've said which may be bad.

EmC
Mar 26 2014 22:13

Met people here would not have a problem with violence against cops or nazis but as soon as it's people who commit violent hate crimes against women suddenly physical violence is somehow like being a cop and "not under my flag".

BTW you boys don't own the red and black flag, so fuck you, if I ever get a chance to do what I want to the guy who raped me I'm going to leave a red and black flag skewered in his dead corpse.

EmC
Mar 26 2014 22:08

Also Wotsit, I'm sad you've decided to post less as you're one of the few people who's made this discussion bearable.

A Wotsit
Mar 26 2014 22:26

Thank you EmC. I would gladly read more from you if you feel inclined to keep discussing. I often say I'm leaving threads alone but I rarely stick to it. I think you just made another good point in relation to possible double standards on retaliatory violence. I need to clarify my own thinking a bit... After some sleep

EmC
Mar 26 2014 23:55

To be clear, I'm saying that an anarchist organisation should NOT be involved in any attacks on a perpetrator. This isn't for some moral reason. It's because practically I think it would make it impossible to implement a system where survivors are believed. I don't think anarchist groups have the capacity to run trials of any kind or make decisions about punishing perpetrators.

But I also in think that it would be an attack on survivors and women's rights for an anarchist organisation to condemn survivors or others (with the survivors permission) engaging in violence against perpetrators. This would be like an anarchist group condemning violence against people who had committed racist hate crimes.

EDIT: I think if a group were to state "we do not condone violence against perpetrators" that could be interpreted to mean that they condemn it. I think it would be important to make it clear that it was only referring to how the organisation itself functions.

For example, I wonder if an anarchist group would condemn the women? TW rape:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2005/sep/16/india.gender

Anyway something I've been noticing in this discussion... I think a lot if men just don't have much empathy with women. A lot of people here seem horrified by the idea of violence against an innocent man but the most awful stories of rape against children which have been told on this thread don't even merit an "I'm sorry that happened" from the same posters. Maybe you just think that it goes without saying that such stories are terrible, I don't know. But something I've noticed over the years is that people don't like survivors, especially ones who speak out. People are often disgusted by them in fact. I think part of this is that men - and women, but especially men - are taught not to empathize with women. And I think they have material incentive of male privalidge not to empathize too. I think this silence is both a product of that and helps reinforce it.

Steven.
Mar 26 2014 23:09
the croydonian anarchist wrote:
As soon as we start getting into "preventative" or "pre emptive", or revenge violence then we are in fucking cop territory, fuck that, How would it even be preventative? You can't patriarchy out of a man just like you can't bomb a social relationship. Plus, if we are to abandon innocent till proven guilty at the same time as beating up the accused solely due to the wishes of the survivor, then you could actually end up with a situation where, in the case of a false accusation, however rare they are, some one could essentially get people to unquestioningly beat the shit out of an innocent person. This would be a lot more than just excluding some one from political spaces, which is what is being cited as the minor thing we should not put in front of caring for survivors.

firstly, I've already said that this talk of "false accusations" is a red herring, and off topic so please desist from bringing it up.

Secondly, em and others specifically said anarchist organisations shouldn't do this - a point I agree with, broadly, especially in cases within the anarchist scene.

Thirdly, as em rightly points out, most anarchists (I don't know about you personally) have no problem with supporting anarchist organisations engaging in violence against fascists (and possibly scabs in some circumstances). With no moral concerns around "innocent till proven guilty" or getting into "cop territory".

Croy
Mar 27 2014 00:28

With regards to violence against rapists, I wasn't saying all of that was cop territory, I was referring specifically to the suggestion of preemptive violence but it appears A Wotsit actually saying we should do that, which I am glad for. I still don't think preventative violence can be justified, however bad the here and now is.

About the flag thing I think EmC has mis interpeted what I was saying. I was talking about the weird distinction between the violence taking place personally via as an organisation and trying to illustrate the absurdity of the supposed difference? How would members of an organisation beating the shit out of some one accused of rape on the information of/directive of some one also in the organisation accusing said person be doing it personally rather than an as organisation? How does it it, and at what point, does it become violence perpetrated as an organisation? Surely the organisation is just a sum of the collective will of its members?

To be honest I think it's way easy to try and palm these questions off by endlessly asserting the red herringness of false accusations but I don't actually think that is helpful or an argument. It's also really easy to automatically assume anyone who is questioning things or playing devils advocate to try and get some clarity is doing so not because they care, but because they lack empathy for women. And yes, I could very well say sorry that happened for a case of rape against children? But I don't because A why wouldn't I be, B I don't think it's really that meaningful being on the internet far removed from the situation not knowing the people involved and effected, C I can't apolagise for everything shit that happened ever because I wouldn't have time to live otherwise.

Fleur
Mar 27 2014 03:03

Croy:
This is in no way a personal attack, just a few thoughts.

Quote:
Quote:
Being devils advocate here.

Tread carefully. Playing devil's advocate for the purpose of provoking a good debate is all well and good, but use it sparingly when you are dealing with subjects which cause actual trauma to real people. Some things, sexual assault included, are not debate-worthy hypotheticals which are really good to have a great argument over. The whole subject is triggering. Survivors of sexual violence are often highly sensitized to the subject as a consequence of the mountains of bullshit which gets trotted out around the subject. Just go and read a newspaper, a few victim-blaming op-eds, listen to people telling rape jokes. No shit people get emotional around the subject. This is not a nit-picking argument about theory, it's something which affects a lot of people in a negative way. 1 in 3 women will experience sexual or physical violence over their lives and I expect that the figure for men is actually higher than it is thought to be because it's so taboo. So next time you're in a room and wish to play devil's advocate on this subject, try to bear in mind that there's probably someone there getting highly stressed about it.

Quote:
To be honest I think it's way easy to try and palm these questions off by endlessly asserting the red herringness of false accusations but I don't actually think that is helpful or an argument

Compared to the 1 in 3 statistic, the tiny minority of allegations which turn out to be false is a bit of a red herring. As I have said before, I am genuinely sorry that anyone has to go through being falsely accused, but when in a discussion about dealing with sexual violence, a disproportionate amount of time is spent on discussing these false allegations comes across, at the very least, exceptionally insensitive.

Quote:
It's also really easy to automatically assume anyone who is questioning things or playing devils advocate to try and get some clarity is doing so not because they care, but because they lack empathy for women.

Yeah, it does come across that way, even if you don't mean it to.

Quote:
And yes, I could very well say sorry that happened for a case of rape against children? But I don't because A why wouldn't I be

No reason to assume you wouldn't be. Except there is a general feeling that society doesn't really care that much, so it doesn't actually hurt for individuals to affirm that they actually do.

Quote:
B I don't think it's really that meaningful being on the internet far removed from the situation not knowing the people involved and effected

It really doesn't matter if it's on the internet. It's about real people and given the nature of this site, it's not entirely unlikely that they may be looking in. Have a little heart.

Quote:
C I can't apolagise for everything shit that happened ever because I wouldn't have time to live otherwise.

No-one's asking you to.

Steven.
Mar 27 2014 20:31

Croydonian, Fleur's post above has many excellent points. Particularly on whether a discussion about sexual violence with survivors of said violence is the best place to play "devil's advocate". One other thing:

the croydonian anarchist wrote:
To be honest I think it's way easy to try and palm these questions off by endlessly asserting the red herringness of false accusations but I don't actually think that is helpful or an argument.

I haven't done this "endlessly", I stated it first as an admin note, and have had to restate it as people have continued to discuss it. Further posts mentioning it we're going to start unpublishing.

And it is a red herring, as Joseph correctly identified. In how many discussions about even physical violence against fascists has anyone questioned if you can be sure someone is a fascist, how can you prove it, or what if someone has falsely accused them of being a fascist? Not a single one. This only ever comes up with regard to domestic and sexual violence against women.