Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Stories of Sexual Violence: We Will Not Remain Silent

From NotRemainSilent:
In recent months, survivors of sexual assault and harassment have come forward to share their stories with various groups on the left, including activist networks, trade unions, reform caucuses, and socialist parties. They have stepped forward to share these stories in search of active support and accountability. Overwhelmingly, the responses they’ve received from members of these groups have been inadequate; often, the responses have been damaging and re-traumatizing as well. This damage affects both the people coming forward to share their experiences of abuse, as well as others within our organizing bodies—particularly survivors of trauma and members of groups routinely exposed to gendered violence such as women and LGBT people. Rather than offering support for survivors, respecting their articulated needs and demands, or undertaking real accountability processes, groups on the left have tended to shield those who are said to have perpetrated sexual assault or harassment, while isolating those coming forward to share stories of abuse.
While each situation is different, and while we aren’t necessarily unanimous about the particular steps that should be taken when someone comes forward with a story of sexual assault or harassment, we think it is necessary at this time to reiterate what we consider to be some basic truths about these situations. We are making this statement in part because we find ourselves navigating a situation of this sort.
When groups shield those who are called out this sends a message to all people in the group that perpetrators of sexual violence will face no consequences and that they will be able to freely continue their lives without interruption. This message makes the group especially hostile to women, LGBT people, and survivors, who will likely be more afraid of coming forward with their own stories. When groups shield those called out it also signals to perpetrators of sexual violence that their actions are tacitly endorsed by the group, which normalizes and promotes further sexual violence. When groups protect those called out, they prioritize the comfort, freedom, and work of the perpetrator over all others’. In doing so, they act in contradiction with their stated commitment to justice and liberation. We do not see any possibility of building labor movements or movements for social emancipation with groups that refuse to fully address and respond to accusations of sexual violence; that do not actively oppose gender and sexual oppression; and that push to the margins women, LGBT people, and survivors of sexual violence. The stakes are too high; we will not remain silent.
To read the full statement or to sign your name to the statement, visit NotRemainSilent.