[Breakingthesilence] sexual harrasment action plan

kevin at eyfa.org kevin at eyfa.org
Sam 3 Avr 12:40:33 CEST 2004

hello gender people
i wrote another emial to this list explaining who i am and my vague
proposal for some sort of gender publication for the belgrade meeting but
i am waitin for it to be moderated and sent on to the list.

In the meantime, I am going to send a few things onto this list that
people might find useful or interesting, starting with this sexual
harrassment action plan. some of these articles i am using in translated
spanish form for a magazine that i am currently making in the spanish
state on gender.

more to follow..... please tell me if anyone wants me to send them any of
these articles to them personally as attachments
cheers now

(This document was developed from a working group at the gender seminar in
Escanda. Many participants had been in situations where they thought that
such a specific framework would have been very useful, so these guidelines
were collectively developed based on peoples past experiences of what has
and hasn’t worked well in constructively confronting incidents of sexual
harassment and rape within our spaces.)

How to deal with sexual harassment and rape within our 'liberated' spaces
- a process proposal

We would not work with a racist - why work with a rapist? The struggle
against sexism is no less important than that against racism and other
forms of violating people for who they are. But even in 'our' spaces
sexism and sexist behaviour are accepted too easily, and the anti-sexist
struggle has not been a political priority. We must change this!

This anti-harassment process can be one part of a broader attempt to make
the creation of non-sexist environments a priority: developing clear
anti-Sexist principles and procedures which would form an explicit and
specifically highlighted part of the organising platforms of events and
spaces would show that the matter of sexist behaviour and sexual
harassment is being taken seriously. It would also allow other important
work to continue during the process of dealing with such events, and cut
out a lot of the confusion, fears, and anger that always follow when cases
of sexual harassment or rape become public in our spaces. This will make
our spaces more open and safe.

The responsibility to create non-Sexist spaces is shared by the whole
collective. We want to create an environment where everyone who
experiences cases of sexist behaviour or sexual harassment feels empowered
to come forward and tell someone about what happened to them – and they
will always be taken seriously.

Our aim with this proposal is to find ways to deal with sexual harassment
and rape in all our spaces. However, the opportunities to have a real
process will be different if a case happens within a local
scene/subculture, where people know each other and there is time to deal
with the questions, or when it happens at a gathering lasting only some
days. People will have to adapt this proposal to changing circumstances,
but it might be a good idea, at larger gatherings within our spaces, to
designate a person or group that anyone can turn to with concerns of
sexist behaviour and in case of sexual harassment or rape. It is their
responsibility to set these procedures in motion as quickly as possible,
and feeding back information about the process to the plenary. This is in
order to minimise gossip and misunderstandings about these very emotional

We recognise that it is important to have an open and transparent process
so that gendered conflicts are not dealt with behind closed doors, like
they have been for so long - however, we must respect the privacy and
confidentiality of the victim and find a balance between these two goals.

We have chosen to use gender-neutral language in this proposal, as we
realise that anyone can become the victim of sexual harassment (which has
led to occasionally awkward language). However, we are fully aware of the
fact that the vast majority of victims of harassment are women, and the
even greater majority of perpetrators are men.

The proposal below is largely inspired by, and in large parts copied from,
the suggestion for an anti-harassment/rape action plan developed by people
within the Anti-Fascist Action in Stockholm, Sweden. We have made a few
changes, but most of the real work was done in Stockholm – and we want to
acknowledge that. Here, then, is a suggestion to use a process for how to
deal with cases of sexual harassment or rape in our subculture and spaces
- it is a set of suggested tools, not a dogma, it is not the only way to
deal with harassment and rape, and others avenues should be explored as
well, also outside our spaces. Also, no process for dealing with such
issues can be perfect: each way will be a compromise between important
ideals such as justice, autonomy, or fairness - this is the balance we

Here are some suggested steps for us to take in case of sexual harassment
and rape without involving state authorities. It is based on the premise
that the victim always defines what counts as sexual harassment or rape -
and will always be believed.

1) When a person talks about/reports an assault committed against her or
him, or when rumours begin spreading that something has happened, the work
of putting together groups should start as quickly as possible. A group
can consist of two or more persons. While this is process is under way,
the perpetrator is not welcome to the organisation’s activities and
spaces, or, alternatively, the gathering at which the event occurred.

2) Arrange a general meeting/plenary, if the victim wants this. Spread the
information and select the groups there. Otherwise, do this in an informal

3) Set up a group who talk to the victim. It’s good if these are people
the victim trusts and who are close to him or her. The goal is to:
a) Hear what he or she has to say.
b) Give him or her support.
c) See whether he or she has any opinions on how the question is being
dealt with, or if he or she has any demands.

4) Set up a group of people who talk to the perpetrator. It’s good if
these are people who know and are trusted by him or her, but who can deal
with criticising him or her. The goal is to:
a) Hear his or her version.
b) Confront the victim with what he or she has said. Get the perpetrator
to try to do a ‘rôle-swap’, to go beyond him-/herself and try to
understand why the victim experienced it in the way she or he did.
c) Remember that it may be difficult for someone in our political spaces
to publicly admit acts of sexual harassment, so some degree of
confidentiality is important here to allow the aggressor to deal with his
or her actions. However, in order to limit rumours, it is important to
feed information about the process back to the larger collective.

5) The victim’s support group and the perpetrator’s contact group (and the
victim, if he or she wants to be involved) develop a working plan. Should
the aggressor be excluded; will the aggressor be allowed to work in
fora/contexts outside of the groups where the victim is involved; should
the aggressor be allowed to rejoin if he or she works with the problem?
The point is to create a basis for the aggressor to understand what has
happened, and the goal is that he or she should not do it again. During
the process, the support group stays in contact with the victim and tells
her or him about what is happening, and follows up on how (s)he is
feeling. When the problem is made visible and brought out in the open, the
pain can often return, and (s)he needs even more support. The goal is to
help the victim to put into words what has happened, and strengthen her or
his self-confidence.

6) The support group and the contact group (and the victim, if she or he
wants to be involved) decide whether the aggressor is welcome back into
the group, or whether the contact with him or her has not produced any
results. If it is the case that the aggressor does not want to participate
in any process and acts arrogantly, then there is of course no point in
keeping it up. It is pointless to take away all energy from a political
group in order to figure out the attitudes of a sexist if he or she is not
willing to cooperate. Then it’s better to exclude the perpetrator and
rather concentrate on the victim who has been assaulted.

First, one principle of this process should be the recognition that most
people can change their sexist behaviour and sexist attitudes, that
immediate and final exclusion ("one strike you're out") is not the perfect
solution. Reintegration and rehabilitation of the aggressor into our
spaces should be the goal.
Second, remember that few of us actually have the skills necessary to
counsel a rape victim or a rapist. Professional counselling may be a very
important route to take.

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