The #MeToo movement has been a game changer, empowering many people affected by 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 coming forward with stories of abuse is only the first step. Next, it is important for community organizations to respond effectively. Here are some tips that may help organizations you are involved in support the victims of sexual misconduct:
• Decide on a community process to address sexual misconduct in advance. This will give organizations an opportunity to begin larger conversations about misogynist culture with an eye for prevention as well as response after the fact.
• One practice is to have designated consent counselors in your organization: several people who are generally trusted and are willing to listen to people who have experiences or concerns they want to share.
• Believe victims. Our society is deeply misogynist and tends to discount narratives that attack men. The fact that accusers have often become the subjects of scrutiny and attack themselves also makes coming forward a very difficult thing to do. For this reason it is very important to treat any accusation seriously.
• Avoid punishment-based language. Threats of violence in defense of accusers is not necessarily helpful or desired and can actually perpetuate a kind of sexist paternalism.
• Once someone has stepped forward with accusations, its important to take steps to make sure that they continue to feel safe in community spaces. This may mean banning someone for a time or removing someone from a position of power while the accusations are addressed.
• Having a process for addressing accusations that respects the accuser and echoes the values of the organization is crucial. There are several models for Restorative Justice processes that are available online. Talk about the pro’s and cons of different systems and decide ahead of time what works for your specific community/organization.
• 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 people of all genders!
• 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!