enough already

TW: (sexual) assault
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard some things about assault within the radical communities I have been a part of over the last few years. Watching from the sidelines makes it difficult to make the right choices about how to react to these situations, and the cliquish nature of rad friendship groups doesn’t help, either. This brief piece is not meant to be an act of finger pointing at anybody or any group in particular, because from past experience I know that the cases I’ve come across recently are far too common in radical circles.

I write this as someone who doesn’t know a lot about what’s happened, but in all cases, I’ve noticed a real lack of effective accountability structures, coupled with the expectation that organizations/collectives/cliques are capable of handling these challenges on their own when they clearly aren't.

Having good politics and radical vision doesn’t remove you and yours from the very systems of violence and repression that permeate our imperfect world. In fact, it means that radical groups need to prepare to be scrutinized at a more intricate and intimate level. Safer spaces policies should not be self-policing, nor should they rely on time to heal all things (it won’t). And for all the talk about “rehabilitation” of offenders, the existing infrastructure for that (which is often little more than a few ideas shared between friends) doesn’t seem like much of an improvement over the broken criminal justice system that is offered by the state. And it shouldn’t be surprising when people start lashing out in ways that aren’t very helpful to anyone if you haven’t bothered to set up a decent accountability structure.

As I said before, I (usually) know very little about what actually happened. Having said that, I’m really unimpressed with the way that these conflicts have been handled. I’m saying this as someone who carries a deep respect for people on all sides, with a very firm belief that not choosing sides means being a bad friend to everyone involved. Not choosing sides means that this can (and will) happen again. It means that nothing can be learned and no improvements can be made. And at the end of the day, I’m getting the feeling that it’s not about what happened so much as who you know and who your friends are. This makes me feel unsafe in spaces where I should feel safe, and it significantly narrows the list of people who I will be comfortable organizing with in the future. And this is also the umpteenth time that the cliquishness of core organizers has made them unapproachable. I don't think I've ever felt comfortable approaching core organizers over these issues. This should not be the case.

If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that the shittiness of this shitty world means that ALL of us have to deal with this shit at some point or another. If the group you organize with doesn’t have access to an independent mechanism for resolving allegations of assault or abuse, you need to get working on that pronto. Because I’m sick and tired of seeing people I love who are doing really great work respond so abysmally to something so predictable.

To repeat from before: this is not an act of finger pointing at anybody or any group in particular, because from past experience I know that the cases I’ve come across recently are far too common in radical circles. And if you're still convinced that this really is about you (it isn't), please don’t contact me in defense of your people with an explanation of “your side” unless you also have the contact information for reliable person(s) outside of your organization who are part of a decent accountability process. If you don’t have that because it doesn’t exist, you know what to do.


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