This statement is in response to the publication of details pertaining to the actions of a member of the Solidarity Federation which has disrupted an ongoing internal process. This statement should not be seen as a defence of the person or actions in question but an examination of the impact that acting outside process has on survivors and the community as a whole. This statement comes from discussions within the gender working group of the Brighton local of the Solidarity Federation and is supported by the National Women’s Officer and the survivor involved.
We reiterate our previous commitment to accountability processes made here and strongly challenge actions made outside of collective process and against the wishes of the survivor.
The aim of processes of community accountability are to empower survivors, eliminate abusive relationships and engage the wider community in actively dealing with unacceptable patterns of behaviour. They are collective processes that are democratic and accountable to the community involved in the way they consider most appropriate.
We feel that the following fundamental principles have been breached in this case:
1) We are committed to a survivor-led process.
We absolutely assert the right and indeed necessity of survivors to be believed.
The survivor’s needs and wishes are paramount in any accountability process. Only the survivor can determine their needs in relation to their experiences. They need to feel empowered to make decisions and supported in those by community.
One individual denouncing another, unless at the express wish of the survivor, both disempowers the survivor and creates a confrontation which may silence others.
2) We are committed to collective process.
This is necessary both to enable the survivor to feel supported by their community and also for other survivors to feel comfortable coming forward. Collective action is the basis of our practice as libertarian communists. It ensures that one person cannot become too powerful and that those with power can be successfully challenged. Individuals acting on behalf of a community without a mandate from that community assume power that is not theirs, and this is abusive both of process and to individuals.
3) We are committed to a transparent, accountable process.
We believe that when a survivor comes forward, the process for supporting them and dealing with the perpetrator should be known and understood by all involved. We can do this by establishing agreed procedures, to ensure that everyone knows the expectations placed on them.
We also believe that any accountability process, whilst being survivor-led, should make the perpetrator aware of the allegations and the process and give them a chance to respond. This does not preclude any course of action, such as expulsion or public statements made about their behaviour. It does, however, enable them to engage with any process and reflect on their own behaviour even if the survivor and community later agree to exclude them.
4) We are committed to maintaining the process and agreements made within it.
Even if as individuals we disagree with decisions made as part of any accountability process, as long as they are survivor-led, we are committed to abiding by them. Going against collective agreement both assumes power we have no right to and disempowers those around us, most importantly the survivor.
In recent months various groups and communities have begun to develop their responses to incidents of sexual violence and harassment. However, when individuals involved in these processes go on to act in ways that contradict these principles, they not only undermine ongoing processes but corrupt processes that have already happened. Taking individual action without going through a collective process can destroy the trust of survivors and seriously affect the work we have already done towards creating a supportive and empowering environment for them. It is difficult enough creating a successful, positive, survivor-led process in a patriarchal world without those professing to be ‘on side’ acting in ways that so totally undermine them.
It is a vital necessity to remain survivor-led in our actions and to be aware of the repercussions of our actions not just on the survivors we know but those we don’t. People acting outside of community accountability processes and against the wishes of survivors need to examine their motivations for doing so. Ignoring the wishes of survivors, acting on their behalf and talking for them is antithetical to everything we believe. Acting in this way is the opposite of self-emancipation. It goes against the anarchist principles we organise upon. By their actions, such people automatically lose our trust.
National Women’s Officer, Solidarity Federation.
Gender Working Group, Brighton Solidarity Federation
Other signatories to this statement can be added