Statement about sexual assault within the anarchist/activist community

This statement comes from recent discussions within South London and North London Solidarity Federation locals, and in response to a recent case of sexual assault which took place in the wider activist community. Following the actions taken by North London, South London and Brighton Solidarity Federation locals, this statement was written by the South London Gender Working Group.

We want to state clearly a number of things.

We believe that in the event of sexual assault it is necessary to take action, and that it is appropriate to look towards processes of community accountability. In exploring how to deal with such situations, we have looked at the experiences of other activist and political communities, and the literature that has stemmed from these. We strongly support other groups who have initiated these processes; these enact a sense of responsibility and care we should have for and with each other.

It is entirely appropriate to exclude the perpetrator from spaces which the survivor may wish to be in, so as to avoid creating a platform for the particular abusive relationship to continue. It is clear that for many people, activism and politics are the environments in which they seek to form abusive relationships; therefore we exclude them from our spaces and events. In light of this, excluding a perpetrator from our events and meetings is a likely initial response that we will make to an account of abuse, and we defend our decision to do so.

In one particular recent case, a number of SolFed locals and members have come under attack for taking such a stance. It is our understanding that within similar situations it is fairly common for the survivor who calls someone out, or those who support them, to come under attack. It is not uncommon that this is in the form of endless questions around language and the very foundations of accountability processes.

In this statement we want to express our continued commitment to processes of community accountability. While we believe that all processes within a political community such as ours should be subjected to critique, we take seriously recent expressions of groups intent on disrupting any of these processes. We encourage those who have stated this as their intention to reconsider their position. This case of sexual assault comes out of a wider background of gendered violence, misogyny, sexism and patriarchy which are perpetuated within activist communities and often go unchallenged. As such, neither this individual case, nor our responses to it, can be seen in isolation.

At the same time we call for solidarity with all processes of community accountability. We invite the wider activist community to engage with the feminist tradition of these processes. It is of huge importance for political communities to maintain the safety of the spaces they create, and address questions of privilege.

Posted By

Anonymous
May 25 2012 13:20

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  • We believe that in the event of sexual assault it is necessary to take action, and that it is appropriate to look towards processes of community accountability.

    SLSF Gender Working Group

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Comments

tastybrain
May 25 2012 15:21

People are attacking you all for having accountability processes and banning a perpetrator from your meetings? That's fucked up. Good for the locals that have implemented these processes!

akai
May 25 2012 15:44

A lot of people who label themselves anarchists demand unlimited rights and freedoms for themselves but are more challenged when it comes to accountability for their actions. Unfortunately. There seem to be a lot of people who let these things slide so yes, good for the comrades who took a strong stand on this issue.

steve y
May 26 2012 23:42

Good akai,

Around anarchists - at meetings, socials and protests - all women should feel it in their bones that this milieu is a safe place to be. Such an atmosphere would transform our gender balance within our groups, and rightly many would join us. The same goes for developing an anti-racist atmosphere.

It should be known that if erring occurs in all this, it is in favour of specially oppressed people. Further, if we cannot create this atmosphere consciously within anarchism, how on earth are we to influence this within workplace and community accountability.

Individualists who feel their rights are being trodden on should rethink whether they are truly anarchist, a revolutionary trying to set an example of what a future human society would be like, in the here and now.

tastybrain; 'banning a perpetrator' would only take place after investigation of incidents, and repeated rehabilitation efforts if need be, by recognised and trusted comrades, as a last resort. Your attitude reflects capitalist oppression and alienation and is exactly part of the problem! This is highlighted in the Statement. Thank you for making this so obviously a widespread problem, one in which you are willing to publicly expose yourself, such is your confidence in perpetrating bourgeois individualism. Some self-learning, with a little loving help, and an anti-sexist atmosphere is what you require.

All strength to the anarcha-feminist elbow!

SEE MY CORRECTION TO tastybrain BELOW

jef costello
May 26 2012 16:29

What is this in reaction to?
I feel like this is the end of a long process that isn't mentioned. I'm not sure if this statement means anything outside of that context.

jolasmo
May 26 2012 16:51
jef costello wrote:
What is this in reaction to?
I feel like this is the end of a long process that isn't mentioned. I'm not sure if this statement means anything outside of that context.

Really? Makes perfect sense to me.

~J.

jef costello
May 26 2012 19:59
jolasmo wrote:
Really? Makes perfect sense to me.

~J.

Actually pretty much all of it does. I think I was just ignoring the parts about community accountability that probably shouldn't need saying but actually dp.

steve y
May 26 2012 22:38

SORRY TASTY

http://libcom.org/blog/safer-spaces-false-allegations-nyc-anarchist-bookfair-26042012

This is a very informative and interesting blog/discussion on libcom.org initiated by Romona (one of libcom’s admins) from Edinburgh about sexual assault and the need to not fear false allegations. It is about what happened around the NY Anarchist Bookfair last month.

Romona is very descriptive with deep understanding of the problems, and in accord with our Statement above.

However, paradoxically, the first response in the discussion to Romona’s blog is from the same first response to the Statement above, namely ‘tastybrain’.

Except in response to Romona, tastybrain seems to take the completely opposite response than he does to our Statement – one that I would strongly endorse. I have just re-read tastybrain’s comment above, 3 times more, and understand that both akai and myself have understandably misunderstood his flippant and unclear use of language. Maybe a glass too much on all sides?

Further, it seems to me that this incident re NY Anarchist Bookfair seems to involve the same guy we in Britain are talking about?

Sorry tasty.

ps - but then again, maybe this misunderstanding has added some spice to the type of anti-sexist atmosphere we need to create.

Arbeiten
May 27 2012 00:12
jef costello wrote:
What is this in reaction to?
I feel like this is the end of a long process that isn't mentioned. I'm not sure if this statement means anything outside of that context.

TBH I think it makes perfect sense without a 'context'. Any questions of 'context' I consider the lowest common denominator nosy parker-ism. Why can't you accept that those who have written the statement have got the context down? What more details do you possibly, possibly want to know?

N.B. Though this statement makes fleeting reference to a specific case, I get the impression it was meant to speak to a wider audience (inside and outside of 'the community'*) and should be read as such.

The point is pretty clear, shitty behaviour is not going to be tolerated and won't be brushed under the carpet like it is in so many other situations.

*whatever this may be...

tastybrain
May 27 2012 02:42
steve y wrote:
SORRY TASTY

http://libcom.org/blog/safer-spaces-false-allegations-nyc-anarchist-bookfair-26042012

This is a very informative and interesting blog/discussion on libcom.org initiated by Romona (one of libcom’s admins) from Edinburgh about sexual assault and the need to not fear false allegations. It is about what happened around the NY Anarchist Bookfair last month.

Romona is very descriptive with deep understanding of the problems, and in accord with our Statement above.

However, paradoxically, the first response in the discussion to Romona’s blog is from the same first response to the Statement above, namely ‘tastybrain’.

Except in response to Romona, tastybrain seems to take the completely opposite response than he does to our Statement – one that I would strongly endorse. I have just re-read tastybrain’s comment above, 3 times more, and understand that both akai and myself have understandably misunderstood his flippant and unclear use of language. Maybe a glass too much on all sides?

Further, it seems to me that this incident re NY Anarchist Bookfair seems to involve the same guy we in Britain are talking about?

Sorry tasty.

ps - but then again, maybe this misunderstanding has added some spice to the type of anti-sexist atmosphere we need to create.

Uhhh it's ok. Could you explain what was wrong with my first comment though? I'm a bit confused, I meant to basically just agree with the statement.

steve y
May 27 2012 08:06

Yeh tasty.

I have been involved in the meetings of the South London Solfed Gender Working Group that drew up this Statement – and so I feel very defensive against the many attacks on the survivor and friends, and have seen this as a pattern on the left over decades (just a reflection of alienation and oppression in the outside world). When the accusation is thrown up, and the accuser and friends then get roundly and regularly attacked, “there’s no proof you dickhead”, is something I have heard a few times.

When you wrote, ‘you all’, in the first line I thought you were defending these sexist non-thinkers. When you finish off with, “That’s fucked up. Good for the locals that have implemented these processes!” The language say’s much and I thought you finished up with a bit of sarcasm.

And then I read the second response by akai, who talks about this problem of individualism in anarchism demanding all freedoms but no responsibility, and that he was replying to you as the second Comment in the thread. So I jumped the gun and didn’t try to read the opposite in what you wrote – and I responded. Soz again.

jef costello
May 27 2012 12:47
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
In one particular recent case, a number of SolFed locals and members have come under attack for taking such a stance. It is our understanding that within similar situations it is fairly common for the survivor who calls someone out, or those who support them, to come under attack. It is not uncommon that this is in the form of endless questions around language and the very foundations of accountability processes.
Arbeiten wrote:
TBH I think it makes perfect sense without a 'context'. Any questions of 'context' I consider the lowest common denominator nosy parker-ism. Why can't you accept that those who have written the statement have got the context down? What more details do you possibly, possibly want to know?

For that quote, yes, I can see why specifics don't need to be published.

Quote:
we take seriously recent expressions of groups intent on disrupting any of these processes. We encourage those who have stated this as their intention to reconsider their position.

In this case though I think that it makes sense to either name the groups or contact them privately.

Joseph Kay
May 27 2012 13:17
jef costello wrote:
In this case though I think that it makes sense to either name the groups or contact them privately.

why assume there's been no contact? why call for name-and-shame when the statement is urging people to reconsider their stance? why assume that discussions between three locals with a combined membership of 60 or so haven't thought this through in some depth before drafting and publishing a statement?

akai
May 27 2012 15:21
Quote:
and understand that both akai and myself have understandably misunderstood his flippant and unclear use of language

Just to clarify, my comment was not at all related to the comment above it, just to the text.

klas batalo
May 27 2012 15:41

knowing tasty, i am pretty sure he is not being flippant, and you are reading sarcasm into it, cause this is the internet.

tastybrain
May 27 2012 18:15

Yeah, "you all" was the Sol Fed locals. As in "good for you all for doing what you are doing." I don't know how that has been misconstrued as criticism of SolFed or accountability processes. But anyway, apology accepted.

jef costello
May 27 2012 21:47
Joseph Kay wrote:
why assume there's been no contact? why call for name-and-shame when the statement is urging people to reconsider their stance? why assume that discussions between three locals with a combined membership of 60 or so haven't thought this through in some depth before drafting and publishing a statement?

I am not calling for naming and shaming. I just don't see the point in making such a call if you're not going to name the group. Seems like either it's private, in which case why mention it, or it isn't, in which case why not.
I'm not assuming there hasn't been contact, I just don't see the point in putting that part in, which is why I said it should either be public or private and a mixture as in the statement seemed unnecessary.
I also don't see the point in telling me how many people worked on it. Either what I've said is valid or it isn't, how hard you worked on it isn't really relevant.
My first post was admittedly poorly expressed.

Joseph Kay
May 27 2012 22:16

tbh, I'm still not sure what point you're trying to make.

a non-exhaustive list of possible reasons not to name names (not specific to any particular case): not burning bridges, giving people a chance to reconsider, they know who they are and nobody else needs to, avoiding prejudicing ongoing legal proceedings, avoiding libel proceedings, avoiding retaliation (e.g. naming the survivor), avoiding escalation, not knowing their identity, revealing their identity being beneficial to a mutual foe...

And a non-exhaustive list of possible reasons to mention it (again, not specific to any particular case): to support the survivor, to support those supporting the survivor, to politically support the process while establishing SF as an interested party, to support SF members who have been singled out...

Given as there's loads of permutations why this statement reads as it does (multiply any number of the above by each other), and it is pretty clearly written and speaks for itself regardless of the details of a particular case, the criticism does sound a lot like

Arbeiten wrote:
lowest common denominator nosy parker-ism.

But isn't this exactly the point the statement makes, that someone is sexually assaulted, and we invariably end up arguing, from a position of complete ignorance, over why the fine details of a statement don't satisfy random uninvolved critics?

jef costello
May 30 2012 19:47
Joseph Kay wrote:
the criticism does sound a lot like
Arbeiten wrote:
lowest common denominator nosy parker-ism.

But isn't this exactly the point the statement makes, that someone is sexually assaulted, and we invariably end up arguing, from a position of complete ignorance, over why the fine details of a statement don't satisfy random uninvolved critics?

Given that I haven't asked for details and don't want any I don't see the need for the defensiveness. No point repeating what I'm said as I intended it in a comradely way and it obviously hasn't had that effect. If you don't want comments from people on the internet then don't post on it. OR leave comments closed.

Arbeiten
May 31 2012 01:04

'don't post it on the internet'. I'm sorry. I know this is harsh. But is that the best you got? fair enough, disagree* with what me and JK have said, but really? thats it? Rather than bunfight about this, i think we should let it drop, but jesus.....

* I'm still struggling to see how your comment is not just being nosey and instead is being comradely.

Joseph Kay
May 31 2012 08:51

jef, in that case I'm confused about what you are asking for, if not details, or context, or names. in any case i've tried to give some reasons why such information might not be included in the statement.

Ramona
May 31 2012 14:55

I think this is a brilliant statement from Sol Fed locals, who've come under much criticism for their stance. I'm massively encouraged to see these issues being addressed head on.

Battlescarred
May 31 2012 21:49

Yes, these issues need to be confronted and we will be discussing this at next group meeting of London AF