The #MeToo movement has been a game changer, empowering many victims of sexual harassment and assault to step forward with their stories, raising the social consciousness of how utterly pervasive rape and sexual assault are in our culture. But for a victim to come forward is only the first step. Next, it is the responsibility of the community to act. Here are some tips to help your community support the victims of sexual misconduct:
- Be sure to have a community process decided on to address sexual misconduct figured out a head of time. Having a process ready will help victims feel confident in stepping up.
- One great community practice is if you have 3 people who are designated Consent Counselors in your community, and at every meeting, set aside 1-2 minutes to have those people raise their hands, and let everyone know that if anyone experiences behavior that makes them feel uncomfortable from within the community, they should talk to one of those 3 people.
- Believe victims. Always. No questioning. No second-guessing.
- Avoid punishment-based language. If someone is running around saying things like, “If I find out someone has been raped, I will break the rapists’ legs!” that is no good. Often victims are scared to speak up because they don’t want their rapist to get hurt. By avoiding talking about punishing, you can make it easier for victims to step up.
- Once a victim has stepped forward, always immediately remove the person who hurt them from their community spaces. This isn’t a punishment thing, but rather about letting the victim have their community spaces be a safe place for them to heal.
- It can be good to have some bouncer-types who are prepared to help if a perpetrator doesn’t want to leave.
- Allow the victim to decide i/when it is time to let the perpetrator back into community. Let them do this on their own timeline. It may take months, years, or a lifetime for them to heal, so don’t rush them.
- Do not ever force the victim into a confrontation with the perpetrator–the perpetrator already took the victim’s power, and to have to face someone after they’ve hurt you like that is crazy-making.
- If the victim has come forward and would like to do a Restorative Justice process, allow the victim to set the terms they need to feel safe with idea of the perpetrator re-entering community. This might mean the perpetrator writing an apology letter, going to trainings, or listening to stories of other victims.
- PRO TIP: Be wary of “NVC” (NonViolent Communication) systems set up to protect the emotional safety of abusers. Often when victims step forward, they are in a state of trauma, which means they will have hard time controlling the tone of their voice. We’ve seen NVC used by people who commit sexual and race-based violence to over and over claim that their victims are “the real bad guys” cuz they shouted after being attacked. Avoid systems that emotionally police victims.When there is no process to handle sexual misconduct, women are often the ones who get hurt–cis and trans alike–so having a great community process in place is the best way to help your community be safer and more inviting to women!Consent culture is the solution to leaving behind the capitalist rape culture that harms so many victims–women, people of color, the poor, and the ecology.Compost capitalism and may consent culture bloom!
#CultivateConsentCultureSpecial thanks to everyone at the Omni Commons, Nobolom Cooperative Bakery, Hellarity House, The Living Games Conference, and the L.A. Freeform and Theatre Larp Collective who have developed and tested different parts of the community processes featured above! We know these processes are working because there’s a higher percentage of women in these spaces than in other community spaces similar to them. Bringing in this type of intentionality *is* the revolution!