Solingen 93

Domestic Violence and Abuse

Transforming Harm: Experiments in Accountability


– So welcome to everybody
who’s joining us right now for this live webinar conversation. I’m so excited to be joined
today by Lea and Stas. They are going to be introducing
themselves in a minute. We’ve gotten a lot of
wonderful pre-questions from folks who want to talk
about transforming harm. Specifically we’re going to be talking about community accountability work and transformative justice work today. Lea and Stas both founded an
organization called, Spring Up. And they will talk a little
bit about that work as well and we’ll just kinda be engaged in a back and forth conversation. My name is Meriam Kaba, I
am the founder and director of an organization called, Project NIA. I’ve been doing work around
community accountability and transformative justice specifically for I dunno over 15 years
I guess at this point in a formal way. I know I did the work
informally before that. I am also affiliated with
several other organizations that I helped to co-found
including Survived and Punished, and that’s the most
recent of the formations. I use she/her pronouns so happy to share that with everybody. People who are watching
right now are shocked because I don’t do video ever. And so it’s been twice now
that I’ve been on video doing these conversations so you can tell that this an important topic as I see it. I also wanna give people a heads up that I have a lot of
dental problems going on. I broke my front tooth
about a month and a half ago and I’m in the process of
reconstructive dental surgery. So you will hear my voice I hope clearly and just ignore the face for now. (chuckles) So Stas and Lea welcome
and so happy to have you and please introduce
yourselves to everybody. – Thanks so much, we’re
so excited to be here. Especially with you Mariame
we’re such huge fans and so excited to have this conversations. – Yeah it’s also nice to see your face without seeing the black screen together. – You know usually on
the video it’s just black so to see your face
– Exactly! (Mariame laughs) – It’s great. So I’m Stas my full name is Nastassja but most people call me Stas so that’s what I’ll be using here. I go by they/them pronouns and I’m here with Lea my partner. – Yeah, my name is Lea, I go
by they/them pronouns as well or you can also use he/him. – And we’re the founders of
Spring Up as Mariame said. And yeah we’ve been doing
transformative justice work. I think when you ask most people who do it there’s this like, I’ve
been doing it formally for this long but kind of my whole life. I feel like every time
I talk about this work, I realize something earlier in
my past and I’m like, oh wow that was a pretty serious
community accountability situation at six years old, you know? Because I think when
you’re choosing to engage with the harm that’s happening to you and the people around you. You can’t really help but do something do whatever you can, and
I can’t necessarily say it was the most organized
or the most effective. But I feel like I came
out the womb doing TJ. You know I was like, is everybody okay? (Lea laughs) In the birth room, do we
need to talk about it? I think that that’s something that’s important to think about. Is just like I felt a
lot of imposter syndrome for awhile in the field of being like, oh, I didn’t know to call it this. I didn’t know if what I was doing was like real enough or legitimate enough. But I feel like I’ve learned so much from all of the things I did before I even knew to call it these words. – Yeah, and I think for a lot of us it is just a life practice or
how you approach the world. Which can make it very
difficult in the like, what are boundaries, what is
professional versus personal? But also I think we hear
from a lot of people who are self-conscious,
they’re like I don’t know if I’m doing it right. I don’t know if this is
the right thing to do. Can you give me some sort
of like guidebook to this? And Mariame has created
a guidebook now kind of that some of us can use. But I think like realistically it is, yeah, just about it’s
very context specific. And so I hope that some of
what we’ll get into to today, can give you all a little bit more of those like tools and
practices and tangible things that you’re looking for. But ultimately there are questions that we just can’t get to because it is so about each specific
situation that you’re in. – Excellent, maybe we can start off by just talking a little bit
about grounding ourselves in survivorship, survivor hood, survivors. I know that both of you started doing more formal community
accountability interventions and transformative justice interventions, first with people who identified
as survivors of harms. Maybe we can just kick off with that and you can tell us a little bit about that experience and what it taught you. – Yeah, I think that’s great. So you know I’m a survivor
and I think that’s important to name, I think you
know multiple experiences and so I think survivors have always been kind of a community for me. And I think that work
started more formally in college where we were pretty
intense student organizers. Ended up filing a federal
complaint against our college about not only the
handling of sexual violence but also of hate crimes
and what they were calling biased instance that were often much more severe than
they were given credit. And so that because we
filed a federal complaint at the time which a lot of students were filing federal complaints
about sexual violence, we became really connected
to this national movement of student survivors who
were advocating for change. And so it was in 2013
when we were organizing on campus we ended up leaving school and just traveling nationally
to different universities different campuses but
where people were advocating for student survivors,
and just living with them for weeks or months at a time. And just kind of dealing with what came up because I think this is
true of most activists and organizers we come to
the work from a place of pain from a place of hurt and
there’s very little space for actually working on that healing and dealing with the things
that specifically happened to us, not just these larger systems. And so I think that as we were working on coalitions around sexual violence, because as I said although we were working on other issues we felt
that sexual violence effects all out of communities and the
folks who are effected more are effected by other systems of violence. So working with queer survivors, working with survivors of color. We found that building these coalitions of different types of
people who have this pain, conflict and harm came
up between survivors. And that’s what caused us to really get into these more formal processes. Like okay, we’re trying to work together. We have the same aims,
we all are victims here, we all have experienced this harm. So somebody’s gotta talk
about how we’re gonna be accountable for the harm
we’ve done with each other. And somebody’s gotta
hold space for us to heal around what happened to us so
we’re not just regurgitating that pain and actually being strategic with the way we’re organizing. I think that’s really how
you know, I’ve been reading about this and then I’m
like you know I think that what we’re doing is kinda like this. We can incorporate some of these ideas. And so I would say that all of our work in this field came out of
our work with survivors. And really deconstructing that idea that there are survivors and
those who have done harm. Because all of the people we were working with were survivors no
matter what the role was in the process that we were holding. – Yeah I would say that for
me I didn’t necessarily claim that label of being a survivor
even though I would have said oh yeah, what happened to
me was you know was violent. I think because of how
sometimes when you have an identity that people associate with experiencing violence,
like I really did think that some of the experiences that I had were just part of the coming out process. Or part of what it’s like to sorta be in the world as a queer trans person. I think that I heard that
from a lot of people of color as well, yeah, I didn’t
think to separate that from the rest of my experiences
because it was normal to me. And I think working with a lot
of survivors who really claim that identity often its
the something that they see as being really outside
of the norm for them. Or it’s something that really
breaks their narrative of self and kind of makes you really question, like who am I, why
would this happen to me? And so we kind of started
from that framework of really understanding,
we were doing a lot of community support work prior to the student organizing
reactivism in college, where we were building
a community organization to support and educate the LGBTQ community and build branches with
other communities on campus. Going back I would absolutely say that was transformative justice work and it is in doing, or at
least community accountability, it was in doing that work that we began to hear about all these incidents that folks were experiencing. – That’s why we knew to do the activism because people had told us in spades. – Exactly, yeah, so I think
it was all just very organic like out of our experiences personally and out of our care for
our communities and values. – Yeah, but I think that when
I first started doing work with survivors, I was
really afraid to do work with folks who were identified
as having done sexual harm. I was like oh, I don’t, kind
of like an untouchable type of thing, like I don’t know
if I’m prepared for that. I don’t know if I can handle that. – And when like people when you say like, oh we shouldn’t have
prisons, people always say what about rapists and murderers? – Yeah, right. – And I’m like I ‘unno at the time and so I think that it
was only once realized that by only working with survivors, I was already working with
folks who had done harm that I started to realize this
separation is just not real. And so when I started working with folks who had done harm who maybe
didn’t identify as survivors until we started working,
and then I was like, oh, you’ve experienced some stuff too. And that allowed for us
to realize that with tools that we were using with survivors
to hold space for healing and to learn about
communication practices. It’s not like there’s
a way in which saying, if you were in this communication classes you won’t get raped, that
can be very victim-blaming. But I think there’s also
a certain level of agency to be able to learn that these are things that I can avoid that actually allow for me to recognize when
coercion is happening earlier for me to be able to know how
and when to assert myself. All of those things that we
just aren’t taught growing up especially in female bodies, we’re taught to be accommodating. And so I think having those tools that we adapted and
developed with survivors realizing that those same tools were the tools that folks
who had done harm needed. Because many of them
were never really trained to know how to communicate
about when their desires didn’t match what someone
else was interested in. Or what they were taught was normal around seducing someone or
all of those different things. And that’s not to say that
there aren’t people out there that are calculating and
trying to figure out how to hurt folks, that
definitely is the case. But I think that with a lot
of folks that we work with, especially once they’re
willing to acknowledge that something went wrong,
then they’re like okay, but there’s a failure in my imagination to be able to see a way that I could have done things differently. And I think that the
tools that we’ve developed with survivors ended up
being the perfect fit for folks that had done harm as well. I think that really broke
down those assumptions that I had around who I
could work with and why. So that’s kind of what
that transition looked like was working with survivors,
realizing that some of those survivors had done
harm or were currently doing harm or were going to
after we ended up working and then being like okay,
let’s work with folks who acknowledge that they’ve done harm and aren’t necessarily in this role of being like, I’m victim. And then that allowed for
us to actually make a lot of headway with folks and I find that to be a really powerful
and moving experience. – I’d love to also talk a little bit we’ve used the term harm. (kettle shrieks) Sorry, we have mixed signals. – [Woman Off Screen] An
important announcement about the library. – Yeah, an important
announcement about the library happening behind us. So hopefully that’ll end very soon. But the heads up is that I would love to talk a little bit about the distinction we’ve used the term harm several times at the beginning already,
maybe we can kind of try to break down some of the
terminology that we’re using. The difference as we see
it between harms and hurts and conflict and disagreement and abuse. Because I think often times people feel as though by flattening then
we aren’t actually addressing the very intense abuse that
some people are experiencing which calls for a different
kind of intervention. So I’d love to be able to talk about that. And then after that one
of some of the questions that were sent were very
focused on actual examples that people wanted to hear from your work, and would love to get into that. So let’s just start by just laying out as you’ve seen it some
of the useful definitions for the terms that we’re
using in this conversation. – Totally and we have some
cute little Powerpoint slides of this that we’ll share
with the center folks after this, they can post it, and we’ll also post this on our website. So we’re just gonna talk through it today so apologizes to those of you
who are more visual learners but those images will be available. – Yeah, so we have
conversations about this a lot. But I think a lot of clarity came from a training that we recently attended. You know it’s a very participatory thing so some of these definitions adapted based on how we all talked about it. But we went to a training with
Impact Justice in California where they shared some definitions and then we’ve kind of adapted them. So I think those are really helpful. So the way they define disagreement is that disagreement means
there’s a lack of consensus or agreement so there’s
a difference of opinions and the way I like to think about this, I’ll have a little bit
of an example instead of sharing the whole thing. Which is like we might disagree about what the coolest color is, right? So it’s a little basic, but I
might really like this yellow you might like black. – I also obviously like yellow. (everyone chuckles) – But you know we might
get into a disagreement about what’s a cool
color, and like you know, I might be like that’s wrong,
but it’s relatively simple. Conflict is when there’s a disagreement that stemming from
opposing wants and needs or opposing interests,
values and directions. And I like to think of a conflict as what a disagreement
looks like in collaboration. So for example if you and I
were trying to design a shirt, and we had a disagreement about what the best color was that
might become a conflict. Because now we have to
do something about it. Now we need to make a decision or we need to move forward in some way that bridges or mitigates
or makes some sort of change that overcomes the
differences that we have, the disagreements that we have. So that becomes a conflict because it has more active opposing forces
that need to be acted on. So then when we get to harm, harm is when the actions of a person or a system, I think it’s important to acknowledge that harm can be done
not only by individuals, but have negative impacts that create unmet needs and obligations. And so this can often be along power lines and can be what we understand to be as like violence or coercion. So I think the use of force
is what people usually think about when they think about violence. But I think also the use
of coercion or the abuse of power to make someone do something that they otherwise wouldn’t want to do, that creates this unmet
needs and obligations. So the way that I think about that is, you know if we’re thinking of the colors, right you might like different colors and we’re trying to design something. We’re having this spirited debate about which color is
best if we were bringing it more to mean girls and I were to say, you can’t sit with us because
on Wednesdays we wear pink. I would be using my power
within this social system to say that because we have disagreements about color, now you don’t
get access to something. Now that creates these unmet
needs and these obligations for me to make up for the harm I’ve done. Because I used my power in a space to exclude you from
something or create some sort of harm is where we would think about it. Where as I think abuse
is a little bit more of an ongoing thing so harm at an instance and then abuse is a pattern of behavior. That reinforced the dynamics
of the original harm. So those are kind of the
scales I would think about. And the other thing that you
made the distinction between that we got into a really
great meaty conversation about was the difference between harm and hurt. Before I say that is there anything that you wanna add
about these definitions? – No, you’re good. – Okay, I got it. So the difference between harm and hurt. This was really an aha moment for me. Which is the way I would think about it is say someone has an open
wound on their arm. Right, they may have a big cut. Now if I were to brush against that cut, it would hurt really bad, right? It would be much more
hurtful than if I brush it against an area that didn’t have a cut. And so that would be really hurtful but it wouldn’t necessarily be harmful because I didn’t make that cut. I didn’t cut you, I
just activated something that was already there. So what that distinction
creates is more a distinction around accountability, who needs
to be accountable for what. Because the hurt is there and
it’s not to erase the hurt. Of course you’re hurt, that’s legitimate. There should be space for that, there should be space for
us to acknowledge that. But the question is
who’s responsible for it? And who needs to take accountability for the generation of that hurt, right? – [Mariame] That’s right. – And it’s actually the question would be, how did you get that cut? Because I didn’t cut you
when I brushed by you I activated the pain
that was already there. Of course, if I like scratched you and it took off a scab
that’s a different situation. But I think it becomes
it’s a challenging thing because that can really
be used argumentatively. So one could be like I
didn’t harm you, I hurt you and I don’t think that’s
a very good thing to say. I think that’s more a realization for the person who was hurt to realize. Is like really asking yourself, and I really do this, okay,
I’m feeling really hurt right now what is the source of this? What happened and how much
of it came from before? And I think the truth is we’re socialized in a world where we’re hurt all the time and we’re harmed all the time. And so there are these source wounds that get activated all the time. That there’s often this question, can we even do anything about that? Could those people even be accountable? So it’s not to totally erase that there’s accountability in this space. But is there a question of depth or of like magnitude, who
needs to be accountable this really really deep
wound versus who needs to be accountable for
activating something? And it’s also did you know
there wasn’t out there? – That’s exactly right. – Am I intentionally activating
and triggering something that I know is there for you in a way that I know I won’t have
to be accountable for? So that’s another thing to consider. – Yeah, and I think we
see that all the time around systems of harm
where like specifically if you have something
institutional and historical like racism like people
always bring this up around microaggressions. Where it’s like, but what
I said it wasn’t that big of a deal, like it seems
like you’re overreacting and like of course you have to understand that there’s a huge wound
there because there’s hundreds of years of continued
sort of harm happening. And so you may have brushed it but then I think what we
always encourage people to say in that case of
like microaggressions where you may not have caused
the full scope of the harm but you did activate
that hurt is especially if there are power dynamics involved. It’s like but what can
we be accountable for? Because you may have just said something a little oblivious or
made like a weird joke but there is a piece of that, that you can take some accountability for. – So I just wanna add in
that one of the things for me that’s always
been a good distinction between hurt and harm is the,
obviously people experience hurts and harms kind of
experience pain from that. Like there’s a real thing
that happens when that occurs. But I think for me it’s been helpful to think about harm as
something deliberately inflicted versus hurt which often
and which sometimes it’s not deliberately inflicted. It’s actually part of conflict
where we’re just disagreeing and we’re just not aligned on our values and you feel very much
pained and emotionally and maybe sometimes
physically pained from that. But that comes because we
actually just disagree. We just disagree and you’re
hurt from the disagreement and that happens, that could be kind of a natural consequence
from the conflict. And I think people need to learn how to be able to distill these things in order for us not to be collapsing everything on top of each other. But to be actually harmed by someone to feel that kind of sense
of pain and emotional and physical pain that
somebody deliberately inflicted on you is very different
than being in conflict with someone because you
honestly just don’t agree and you’re feeling hurt because of that. Because it triggered in you a memory of when somebody did something
similar to you years ago. These things have to
stop getting collapsed into one thing and I think those of us who’ve been doing work
around domestic violence and sexual assault for
me the last 30 years. I think one of the things
I’ve been most concerned about is the liberal use of the word abuse. Which is like no, actually, this is abuse is deliberately inflicted
it is inflicted repetitively it’s actually a pattern,
that is very different than one encounter and I think we have to stop conflating all these things. We have to get better understanding about the differences in order for us to even be able to deal
with accountability. Because people will rightfully feel some kind of way if you’re telling them to be accountable for hurts versus to be accountable for harms. – Yes, totally, and one
way I see this coming up is I think I’m not gonna
generalize too much outside of the United States but I’m gonna say that at least in the United States, there’s just not the level of depth in dealing with emotions
that I would like to see. And so I think that when a
difficult emotion comes up, people really jump to
being like I’m triggered, you’re abusing me, and I’m such a big fan of taking space and kind
of doing that journaling and that self care work and
doing your boundary mapping and being like you know go to therapy if that’s what supports
you, just being like where did this come from,
why did that bother me? Because of course you’re gonna be stressed when you’re in conflict with
someone, it’s stressful. But that doesn’t mean it became harmful when you entered into conflict. Conflict is actually so healthy. – Exactly. – We’re not all just
going along with whatever the first person to speak says or the person who has the power. – Conflict can be generative,
it can actually be generative for especially if you’re in
working with other people where you just don’t
agree and you’re trying to come together and your
ideas are being thrown around and you’re like nah that
yellow really sucks. We should go with taupe, you
know whatever the situation is can be actually a
generative productive thing. And I think automatically
thinking that conflict is bad is also really leading us down a road, where it becomes a thing
where anybody saying anything that disagrees with
where you’re coming from becomes something that is
not even just called hurt but called harm, you know? – I think part of it too is
that we’re living in a world where really really harmful
things are normalized and we need conflict in order to change what is considered normal,
people need to be willing to say hey, no, I don’t
wanna do this like this we should think about things differently. And I think we’ve become
so conflict avoidant that we become kind of stagnant and we’ve come stuck with how things are. And I talk about this all the time that in my ideal world there isn’t harm and abuse but there’s tons of conflict. I’ve debated in school,
I love a good argument. As long as where we know
what we’re talking about we’re on the same beat we’re
working through something. I think that you get to
a much better outcome a much better idea. And even within business
this is a big thing, right? If you have one team that all have the same ideas and then
you put a product out a lot of people are not
gonna like that product because most of the
people in your audience are not like your team. So you actually need a diverse team to be willing to name the conflicts that they have with the idea
to manage what might happen before you botch something outside. – And again you take this to an extreme and it becomes the source of a lot of discrimination and exclusion. Because I heard one of the
founders of Paypal saying the other week, we didn’t let
a guy who played basketball onto our startup team because you all have to be on the same mindset
you have to be like the same because if you don’t get each other then you won’t be able to work together. That’s just so backwards to me. Because I feel like that’s
how you would come out with a product that just totally misses the perspective of your
usergroup or just to push forward with what the first idea you had was. And obviously also
excludes a lot of diversity from your team and I think
that’s definitely the source of a lot of the lack
of diversity in teams. It is an explicit strategy,
to try to keep people in a low conflict zone, but
what’s the impact of that? It’s very harmful. – And I think that, oh no, go ahead. – No, that’s okay, I was just gonna say that we could go on on this forever. ‘Cause I think all of us
have been experiencing this and have been finding people using these words in very kind of loose ways that have been very difficult
to manage and navigate. In doing TJ processes or CA processes and using the practices,
which are not the same as doing processes. So I want to move us to thinking
concretely about examples. Some folks have been talking
a lot about can you share about the distinctions
between drawing boundaries and disposal and punishment for those people who’ve caused harm. And this person says here a
friend has recently shared that they are struggling to trust me because I still have
contact with two people who have caused them harm. There are several complicated
factors influencing my ongoing relationships with them, with each of these two people, including in one case, I
did not know of the harm until this week and in the second case the last person there was an attempt to serve as a connector
for a potential TJ process at the request of the
person who was harmed. So I think this is just a broader question of about kind of the mechanics. Trying to be in relationship with people who’ve caused harm and
what that is look like in trying to navigate and mitigate those kinds of situations in your work. About boundaries and
disposal and punishment and all that stuff. – Totally yeah, there’s a lot to that. I think what I would start off by saying is just that boundaries
are a real thing, right? The people who I have boundaries
around like certain types of communication with it’s
because there’s literally a negative impact on me if
those boundaries are not met. And so that’s why I have
to exert that boundary. And if that person doesn’t
respect that boundary it means I need to move back a little bit. But I think that’s the
first thing I would say. Is like listen to your body,
listen to your emotions what comes up, it’s like your
body wants to have boundaries for a reason and that is to keep you safe. And as for when that
boundary starts extending to what someone else should do, I think that can be a little bit tricky because if that person’s body and energy is not telling them like,
maybe that person is saying, like I feel like I should move in closer to this person who’s behaving harmfully because that person is my friend too. And I think that if I like
work on their behavior with them that maybe
we could grow together. And so that’s a tiny bit
of a red flag for me. However, if that person who was harmed, genuinely does feel
really triggered and upset whenever they hear that person
person talking about them. Maybe they’re posting on social media and they’re hanging out together. That’s real too, right? And so if this person does continue to be in relationship with
the folks who cause harm that could also then cause that survivor to need to have some boundaries with them. And that’s okay, it’s
okay to have boundaries it’s okay to move apart. – Yeah, I mean I’m thinking
of a specific example. I know you wanted more examples and I’m thinking of of an example where both of the people involved were queer survivors of color on a campus with a very small community. Where folks are living together, folks are in classes together, doing lots of things together, and the person who was
harmed did feel really upset by how much the community continued to be in relationship with this person. And I think a big part
of it was an unclarity on what is happening in
private between you all? What does that look like? Are you just ignoring that this happened? Do I just not exist anymore, or are you all talking about this? And I think that just getting some clarity on like what is the nature
of this relationship when I’m not there can
give a lot of grounding. And also I think this other piece of I don’t know how to articulate it, it’s this sense of this person is much more likely to learn in community than in isolation, this
person is much more likely to be accountable if
they feel like they need to be accountable to the community, than if they feel that the
community abandoned them. And I think that this feeling,
what we were able to do was some clear lines like I would prefer if you didn’t mention them to me. Like fair, that’s okay, that’s
a very fair thing to ask. Or you know I just want you
to know how it makes me feel and what my concerns are. I’m concerned that in private
this is what it looks like and it would be really important to me that these things are covered, or even the person who
is still in relationship with the person who was harmed, just talking a little bit
about this relationship existed for a long time, the
nature of the relationship has changed, because of what happened, we’re not the same as we were before. We talk about things differently. I do look at them differently but I still love them and I still believe that they have the ability to grow. And I think that’s something
that is important to make. In the situation the
survivor did end up leaving and going to a different school. And that was just like ultimately, this is just not the space fr me. It’s too small of a community, this is not something
that can function for me. I need my own space. But that’s not on the
rest of the community that’s actually on me. I actually need to create
that space for myself because it’s not about
friends hanging out with them it’s the whole environment. – Yeah, but what I think is really key about that environment is that it was an enabling environment
and the friends were not, they were like we just
don’t wanna talk about this. Like you’re stressing us
out by bringing this up and you’re like breaking
down our community. So that I would say is
being toxic or enabling as a mutual friend whereas
you can absolutely play that role of the mutual friend
in a way that is accountable and that is centering
the needs of the survivor while also being able
to still hold the person that caused that harm as a human. – Right, and maybe the
larger community is like that but this individual
who’s friends with both is relating differently and you
don’t wanna make necessarily an assumption based on how
everyone else is acting. You need to actually have
conversations about this and really determine
what’s important to you and in this individual relationships as a host necessarily
always make everyone. I feel like that’s so common in proximate. The whole community,
everyone feels this way. That’s like well probably
people feel differently and let’s talk to the
individuals that we really upset about that are still
having this relationship and let’s figure out what that looks like and what we need from them. And get a little bit more
specific and less vague. – There’s so much you know a lot of conversations about transformative justice in the last I would say
four years in particular that I’ve seen even
though I’ve been having the conversations for much longer. I’ve seen a lot more people use terms like transformative justice processes. All this stuff, a lot
more people interested. I’m sure you all have heard the same and seen the same kind of uptick. I’m wondering what you have to share with people there’s a lot of questions here about failure, messiness,
mechanics of doing this work. How you keep yourself centered
while you’re doing this work. Should you be doing this
work with people directly in your community or should you be facilitating for people
outside your community because you know these
other people too closely? What do you all have to say
about just the general thing around kind of the mechanics of doing transformative justice
practices and processes and what you are seeing
in terms of your own work around this kind of stuff? – Yeah there are a lot
of sub points to that and I think that when it
comes to does this work? I think that you know
practices always work best in their appropriate cultural context. And so I think we really do try to look at practices that are kind of related to our cultural context. And well being very aware
when those don’t work. And for me kind of being
from a small rural community, I think there are lots of aspects of community accountability
that that are practiced in that. You know when you are
in a more isolated area there aren’t that many people around like if you need something
it’s the people around you that you need to turn to. And then also different kind of intentional communities
including religious communities that I’ve been a part of where you know Quakers sit in a circle and I think that they have a very active
social justice practice but that doesn’t just stay
within the walls of the church. And so I think looking
at communities like that particularly communities that are healthy, which you know it
depends on the community. Because you also have
to note communities can whether it’s a church community or a rural community can
become pretty insular and normalizing on violence. Because it’s what it takes
for everyone to be good and with each other and if
some people need to leave then they need to leave. So I would say that’s there
are a lot of good things to take from that and then
also some warning signs. Were a lot of religious
communities have put a lot into figuring out accountability growth. I think there’s a lot actually if you’re from a faith tradition
that disincentives divorce there’s a lot that goes into marriage and family counseling to try to be like, okay, we know we have problems but we’re gonna try to make it work. And I think clearly that
can also enable abuse and like encourage people to stay. But the flip side of that is
that there are some people I think who are able to network well and want the family to be healthy. – Some great tools yeah. – I think the other thing is that when folks think about like, I’ve done the research on this I know the different
structures and practices. I think one of the biggest things is I think you already mentioned this there’s a big difference
between the formal process and practices and I think
that it’s impossible to have researched all the practices. It’s like every community has
practices for what they do I mean I think it’s so
often in these trainings, like what did your grandma do? Like I feel like I know like
my my grandma in America and they have things that are normal in our families when something comes up that you know how to manage it and like it works you
know you figure it out and it might not be in an academic paper or it might not be the formal process of how to mitigate family harm through the eyes of a black grandmother. It’s not promised really
going to read a paper on that but there are practices that work. And so I think that’s just
really important to me as far as you know when
things become scaled up to be more formal and then get adapted into another community I think they’re much less likely to work. – That’s right, that’s
right, that’s right, I also think there’s
something can be said, I think Mia Mingus recently
was doing a training for some folks for a TJ hub that we just launched in New
York City and one of the things that I really appreciated
her talking about was, why does everybody assume
they can just do this stuff without any study without any practice? It seems strange
especially like if she gave an analogy about if you’re
trying to build a house you don’t just start
building a house you go and you find what are the materials that are gonna be needed so
that your house can stay up? You go and you look for
somebody who may be able to do the plumbing, because
that’s not the thing you’re gonna pick up, you look for
figuring out what the foundation is so they can be sturdy you
do a whole bunch of things and the notion is like I
know they’re weak for years and I remember this because
I was very much steeped in and trained by folks who are
doing restorative justice work. And it was like we don’t want
this to be an expert thing. We didn’t want to outsource the ability to immediately maybe do circle keeping. We wanted to stay in community
and anybody could do it including an eight-year-old,
that was worthy and worthwhile and that’s a good skill. Learning how to keep a
circle is a technical skill that could be built by
anyone and anybody can do, but running a process is
not a technical skill. It’s a blueprint where
you have to go through a whole set of things and figure out what your team is and get a
bunch of folks working together. That takes work and study. And so when somebody will say to me, oh, community accountability doesn’t work. And I say, what have you tried? And they say, well, I
talked to somebody once, and I’m like how often have you shifted and changed major behavioral actions based on one conversation? What if you actually already immediately when somebody told you,
you did something wrong right away say yes in
fact I did do this wrong and this is how I’m going to repair it? When has that happened in your life? I’ve been feeling a lot of concern that a lot of folks who
aren’t actually practicing these processes that don’t
actually haven’t actually even done one or been part of one are reading on somebody’s
Facebook post somewhere, taking that on and saying
like nothing works. When you really haven’t tried anything. So I think that’s a real concern and the second concern I’ve been having and I don’t know what
you all have been seeing in your work is this notion
that transformative justice is the alternative to incarceration. People have been taking that
and and holding on to it so tightly when no it’s not the
alternative to incarceration is its own framework focused
on preventing intervening and transforming some kinds
of harms at some period of time not a catch-all for
everything in the same way that prisons have been set up
as a catch-all for all things and that’s why they don’t work. Why would we want to
create a new framework that does the exact same thing? So it’s why I keep telling people, I’m like no we’re not gonna dismantle the carceral State simply
by transformative justice or processes and practices we’re going to need livable wages for everybody. Universal health care, we’re going to need a clean environment there’s a lot to this that’s gonna start where the
practices and processes we run to transform the relationships
we have with each other. So I keep saying I’m threatening to write a piece like calm the fuck down is like the title of this piece because I feel like
what’s ending up happening is there’s a lot of kind of
pressure being put to come up with the one way of ending
generations and millennia of it. We can’t do that and I
think that’s where a lot of the pressure is coming in some ways. I don’t know what you’ve
all been experiencing but that’s definitely something that’s been coming up for
me over and over again. – Yes there’s so much
in what you just said. I feel like yes, to so much of that. A couple of things that
I wanted to pull out from the first point and then
I’ll get to the second point. The first one I love that you named that the circle is not the process. That like circles are a
specific tool that you can use in a whole toolbox and other
things that you can do as well. And I think that you you don’t just throw a circle on it and it goes away. And like yes, many different
people of different ages can hold circles and that’s
beautiful and I love that. But that’s not necessarily
what the process is and you can definitely
integrate circles they can be a huge component of the process. But one circle especially is not what an accountability process is. And then the other thing is time. I think that people really
really really underestimate how much time it takes, and how core time is to the whole process. People need time to
digest things to transform like exactly what you said
like you don’t just transform a behavioral norm overnight
because someone told you that there was even, even if
I psychologically was like you know what you’re
right I shouldn’t do that. That is not actually
enough for me to shift that behavior the next day I
know I’ve been that person. I’ve been that person I’m like
oh, wow I really shouldn’t do that and then two days later
I do the same thing again. And I’m like, oh my gosh. You know what it takes
time it takes practice just like any other thing
that you do in the world. And you can’t expect people to do that in a completely unreasonable
way just because you’re like, well we had a conversation you know? – Yeah and I think that
you know like an iceberg like people see like what happens publicly and what happens kind of
when people come together but I just feel like 80% of
the work is personal work and so when you’re like helping someone hold themselves accountable
when you’re supporting someone in their healing journey. You can’t do that work for them you know. And I think there are really helpful tools and I know like we’ve been making tools, you’ve been making tools. There are some good
things that people can use to support themselves
in that kind of process. Like questions you can
ask but realistically it’s like there’s no
shortcut to just months of personal introspection
and value setting and just identifying what
are your needs really? – That’s right, another
reason for why this can’t be and I’ll quote the alternative
to the carceral State is that what we’re doing
is consensual work. – Yes. – Right, it’s consenual work you have to choose to do it so it’s not going to be a one-to-one it isn’t going to be something that replaces the current involuntary coercive State and I think that that’s something that, people want that even when
they say they don’t want it. They want the involuntary punishing State because something harmful
happened with good reason. It’s like this person
hurt me, I want a response and that response has to be at this time, at this moment in this way. And my thing is transformative
justice can’t do that. It never will and so
maybe it isn’t the thing that you want to use for
this particular thing that you’re trying to address. It could be the thing that you use for other kinds of things
that you do want to address. And I feel like we have to make that much more palatable for people in the sense that they have to understand what we’re talking about. When we talk about these
concepts and words, it has to be much better understood. And I think that would
also take the pressure off folks who are trying
these things from feeling like they have to have the perfect answer, no mistakes, no failures, no nothing. In fact what you will
have is a ton of failures, a lot of messiness, a
lot of fits and starts and that will be normal
because that is life. Okay, like that’s how we
operate in life things are messy we have stops and starts, we don’t do everything perfectly. Sometimes we cause harm we
figure out what our responses to that are going to be,
and are those healthy and do we have real? So I really feel like
that’s so important for us to be thinking about
there’s a lot of questions that came up for folks around,
how do you know for sure that someone’s not just performing? Well, how do you know? In any time, about anything,
that people are telling the truth, how do you know? – I think one of the things
that’s really important is like there are always
gonna be mistakes. You just hope that the
mistakes are different that there’s a different
mistake the next time. And I think that you know in business, people are getting really into mistakes. Like yeah, sails forward because some of the biggest ideas came out of failures. And I think that it’s absurd that we think that we have to be perfect
in everything that we do, compared to these environments
that have so much money so much support they fail all the time, and they’re like I love that fail! Come on, let’s embrace
that, let’s’ grow a mindset, fail forward you know,
I think that’s awesome. But the other thing is that we’re working with folks who have made mistakes and so the idea that
we can’t make mistakes it feels hypocritical it feels to say, like oh well, you know you made a mistake and so we’re going to help
you process the mistake that you made but we’re not
going to make any mistakes. Of course we all make mistakes. I’m gonna make mistakes in this process and I’m gonna be accountable,
we’re gonna work through it and we’re all going to be
human together in this process and I think it makes it a lot
easier for folks to own up to things that they’ve done as well. If you’re willing to
acknowledge that you will too. – Yeah and I think that what is out there and what we do draw on quite a bit, is there is this work by Paul Ekman around you know like micro-expressions and I think that some folks use that. Particularly they do use it
in law enforcement to be like is someone lying, like can
we be human truths detectors? And I think that that’s an
interesting was of using it because you can’t really
tell if they’re lying. You can tell what’s the
underlying emotion, right? I could be feeling an underlying emotion of sadness or anger or anything
for a variety of reasons and so that’s more how
we use that is like we do kind of like think
about micro-expressions, and what are the things
that someone is telling you with their face and body language and affect and all of that. And for one that can be a sort of flag, I don’t think any of us are
mental health practitioners but like you can sort of
tell some warning signs of if someone has an affect disorder. Something that’s causing them
to just process information and feelings in a like
really different way. That can be a sign of that
and then also if someone is coming to you with a lot
of bravado and a lot of like oh, yeah, I don’t know
what they’re talking about, I didn’t do that but underneath
you see that they’re sad. That just helps you
understand I shouldn’t raise the anger against this person I should try to like help them feel comfortable. Like where is this coming from? Like why why are you showing up like this? – Just like you already
talked about is folks are not really trained very much to be attuned to their emotions. We’re often trained to mask our emotions and I think that we focus a
lot on gender socialization and how that fits into it. Where often folks who were socialized as male mask a lot of
their emotions with anger because that’s the emotion
that they’re allowed to show. And so sometimes you’re
perceiving anger in their voice in what they’re saying but
you can see other things in their face that
they’re not able to mask like sadness like fear
that aren’t considered as appropriate to express or
they might not even really be able to tell that
they’re feeling that way because they’re so used
to immediately shifting that towards anger and
it’s different for folks who were socialized as female. Often actually you’re
socialized to understand sadness as the most appropriate feeling and so you may actually be really angry but it comes across as sadness because that’s what you’re trained to understand that people respond positively to. And so creating space
is a lot of what we do in our process is outside
of the folks coming together is creating spaces for
people to really connect with their authentic emotions and not police what that looks like. You might hear some things
you don’t like to hear but letting them connect with
the organic authentic emotions is kind of the first step to getting out what we really feel and then from there you can talk through it. Because I think that’s where some of the performativity comes in. Is that you want me to say this. You don’t want me to be angry and so I’m just gonna
say what you wanna hear. And we don’t get to that
real life that moment of like oh, like I just
really thought this was okay. Or you know someone like I
thought that this was what it would take for someone to love me. Like a sadness that comes
when someone admits that. You actually need to
have that breakthrough before they’re able to
shift into communicating in the way that the person who experienced the harm is what read it here right? That’s why it’s important
that the survivor isn’t the one running the process. Because you actually
need things to come out that would be very difficult
to hear in the time before they’re coming
together in order for it to be authentic when they come together. – Yeah and that’s why we’re so in favor of pre-conferencing you know. And I think that it’s
more of an RJ department Very useful for teaching things it’s like before you
throw everyone together you could meet with each party for months. To really understand what’s going on and you know if you’re getting from that that the survivor is not
ready to see that person and that the person who did
the harm is still really in their like angry like defensive place. Like don’t put them in circle together. – Slow down! And I think that’s why at
the very very beginning one of the things that
we do is just everybody do a safety plan and that should set up those boundaries and communication. Those don’t come hang out in my apartment until we’ve resolved this. Those things that are so urgent and sensitive
– Logistical – Right, where it’s just like, look I just don’t want
you to be calling me until we’ve figured this out. And you can figure out,
I think people think that they need to figure
that out in circle and that’s not a great thing to do. Come up with your communication plan, come up with sort of your plan
for what you’re going to do. And then the facilitator
or the support people can sort of do that ongoing like you know whether it’s just like support
meetings, pre-conferencing, whatever you wanna call it,
just the prep work that it takes for people to be ready
to speak with each other. And you know they could
decide by the end of it. Like the survivor could be like, you know I don’t actually want to see them I just want us to like try to move in our separate spheres and
that’s still an okay outcome. And so I think when we’re
thinking success versus failure like if people have gained
more self-awareness, if the community is more involved, if there’s like some incremental
growth towards respect for boundaries and healing. Like the person who did
the harm of just respecting that person’s boundaries is a success. – Yeah, totally and I think
I wanted to make a note on the other point that
you made around abolition and around TJ being like
the replacement for that. And I think one thing that
I also want to note in terms of definitions and the way
that I think about things is there’s an accountability process and that’s a very specific thing. But I do think that transformative justice does include a lot of stuff
and I’m think that a lot of organizing to shift the
root causes of violence whether we’re talking
about you know raising the minimum wage whether we’re talking about just shifting the conditions that people are living in. That sort of organizing to me is transformative justice as well. To me it’s not just the the
literal formal processes that we do once violence happens but also anything that we can do to shift the normalization of violence
to make it less likely that police and prisons can
gobble up our communities. The more that we can do
for us to be resilient for us to be responsive to each other for us to be able to meet our needs and prevent the things that
cause us to harm each other or to be perceived as the
criminalization of poverty, right? Like we’re not gonna replace
that with TJ of course not. But we can use transformative organizing, transformative justice
to shift the conditions of poverty in our communities. That to me is a part of
transformative justice. It’s a part of what it means. – Absolutely absolutely and I think the differences that we’re talking about here is about TJ processes and practices versus TJ organizing. – Exactly – That transformative
justice has a large framework that includes an organizing aspect to it which is what we wanna do is
uproot and shift conditions. So absolutely and I
think if we can all get some better clarity about all
this in terms of language even I think we’ll be further along. There’s a question here about when it comes to domestic
and sexual violence and many other types of violence, patriarchal values are always
at the root of the harm. Groups want to do accountability work but when they realize how much work is required especially around education they fall back to exile punishment or attempting to address
the immediate impact without peeling back the layers of the intent that caused the impact. So how do we build infrastructure for feminist education that is not just reactive to instances
of harm but proactive? – I totally love this and this is kind of what I wanted
to get into a little bit so I’m happy you brought that up. Because I think that one
of the most empowering and rewarding things that
we do is our prevention work and that really came from
you know we were just talking to a lot like survivor after survivor. They’re all very young all like kind of traumatizing experiences
and we were just like, oh man, like I don’t know it’s
just so it gets kind of heavy and so I think you think could any portion of this be prevented right? And this is that point at
which like our organizing work fits in with our community
accountability work and I think it is hard
when you’re literally at that section where it’s
like let’s say you are in a organizing community
and then the harm happens. I think that’s one of the
toughest situations for people and what comes up constantly right and maybe we’ll get more into that later but I think that what we did realize is everyone needs this
preventative education. When you’re talking about
sexual and gender-based violence fortunately I think there are some things that you can really teach to young adolescents, older children, really people of any age. But that’s where we developed our, so this is our cute little
cultivate consent workbook. And we’re mailing those
to anyone who signs up on our patreon, so I think that’s patreon cultivate consent? – Yeah – Yeah I think a couple people. – Send a link, yes. – [Lea] Try to get that. – Add one in. – From this but yeah we do that with folks in schools we do that with
folks in organizations and it’s just so rewarding and awesome to see people of all genders, all ages just being like oh, I
thought this was normal. And like I can communicate clearly it’s okay that I want
the things that I want. I like can have a healthy
relationship with my partner. And I think doing that outside of a specific case of
harm that’s happened. And you know whenever you’re doing that you always have survivors no
matter how young people are, no matter how woke people are. Like we did a community consent summit and did a circle of kind
of people like processing the information I think
you know let’s say more than two people were
like yeah I’ve done this and I didn’t know what to do and I think it’s just so empowering for everyone to sort of realize that there are ways that you can behave that are not going to be causing so much harm to people and doing as much of that
as you can preventively. I definitely believe there’s a lot of like racial healing work and
like anti-racist education stuff like spaces that
people can participate in and of course there’s
like an understanding. But like we can all be complicit in some of these things but hopefully by being in these like empowering education spaces that are preventative it can help people just not get into that
space of defensiveness but instead feel more empowered
and like they have tools that they can share with
the people around them. – I mean the issue is
like this is the water that we’re swimming in right? Like you don’t need a case to tell you that we’re swimming in this problem and I think that we were
doing this work before there was like the big social media MeToo. And I think it was a lot
harder to convince people to do this I think that
we did need more people to be like this specifically went wrong in our organization or in
our school in order for us to be willing to do this education. But I think that there is more awareness. That like everyone’s dealing with this and so we have gotten a lot more folks who are interested in
managing it preventively. I will say also we’ve
gotten a bunch of folks who are like how we’re
doing this preventively and then we show up and we’re like I mean your people have
been reporting this. So I don’t know exactly
what you mean by that but I think that just if all of us could become more advocates of doing this in a preventative way. I feel like it’s just a
much much easier thing for people to talk about
it’s much less hurtful as we were talking about. It brings up a lot less of those really really charged moments,
forced charged moments up. But a lot less come up if
you’re not responding to it a specific case and instead
doing that work beforehand. So you have a shared language
so when it does come up you’re like, oh, that’s the
thing that we talked about we know what what to do now. – And we do that with organizations too not just around like you know gender and like intimacy issues but also just like conflict communication right? Like especially if you have
a very diverse organization or working in a high-stress environment – Or a lot of hierarchy
within the organization. – We just come to it with different ways of communicating and
so I think that’s where so much of the like kind of
hurt and misunderstanding often happens in the
workplace and in organizing is just people being like
how do we talk to each other? And it’s like what are
your communication styles and then how does that change
when you’re in conflict? That’s been really impactful for people. ‘Cause the same tools that
you would need to have a consensual intimate
experience you would also need to have a consensual organizing experience or even consensual like
collaborative work environment. – Can we talk a little bit about here’s another question we’re
in a difficult conversation between two people where
harm has been caused by one person or to both persons. How does the harm doer
acknowledge and apologize for the harm they have
caused without minimizing their own needs and humanity? Can you give examples
and specific language? – Something that I’m always in favor of is taking space and I think that for folks who maybe someone comes up
and they’re alleging something or they’re bringing up
something to your attention. If that really does blindside you and you go into a panic
and you’re like ahh, like I was always worried
someone would say to this and now it’s happening and
I don’t know what to do. I would say the best thing in that case to do is just to like really validate what that person is saying
and just to be like, thank you for bringing
this to my attention. And if you’re not ready to
like apologize or make amends I’m gonna need to think
about this really seriously. I’m going to need to take some time. I will check back in with you on this. How would you like me
to follow up with you? I think it’s such a good way of because when people are put
on the spot they just start going in spirals and
say things that are not that intentional and I think that not everyone feels this way
some people definitely think that the best way to handle a conflict is just to have it out. But I think that with the self-awareness and like kind of emotional intelligence like validating taking space and then kind of doing your journaling doing whatever your self
awareness practices are to be like how am I
going to deal with this? And then depending on
your communication style it could be better to
write that person a letter that could allow you to
kind of be more intentional. I think that again some
people don’t feel this way but I feel like taking things into email you know we’d be like let’s get off text but let’s like send some really
thoughtfully worded emails that everyone can kind of take their space it really depends on
your communication style and some people are definitely better at just having it out face to face. – I think the other thing
is that the survivor isn’t necessarily the
audience for everything that needs to be said. Like you may need to really
talk about why this happened in order for you to like digest it and that person might not be the
person who needs to hear that. And so like as far as like
how do you actually give a good apology you know I think there, we have a handout
actually that’s about how to give a good apology. So maybe I can share that as well. But I think like really thinking about I think we had a workshop about this when we talked a lot about like what does remorse actually mean? Where it’s like I understand
the impact of what I did and I genuinely feel like
I wish I hadn’t done that like yeah sure but like
I want to be the kind of person who understands
this enough to not do this moving forward and I
want to be the kind of person who’s able to repair this
and whatever it takes. And I think that that
might be with that person they might be like oh, why? And then there’s space to explain why but I think focusing less on the why and a little bit more on
like you know I validate that that happened I genuinely don’t want to do this moving forward what
can I do to repair this with you this is some of
the things I’m planning on doing moving forward so
that it doesn’t happen again. That’s kind of you know the
quick and dirty of it to me it was just like those main pieces and then it really depends
on what that person is looking for from you
what else gets included. – And then I think where that
would become performative is when people are like
kind of implicitly like I’m not going to do it again so please don’t bring
this up again, right? Because I think also if
there’s like this big apology instance, oh I’d never wanna do that. It can be really tough then
to bring it up next week where it’s like you’re
doing that again you know and so I think there’s also some part because like please continue to tell me if I keep doing this or what would be the most comfortable way
for you to like let me know if I’m still doing this? – Those are those are very helpful and thank you for those
specific specific language that people can think about using. I think it’s all in practice,
practice practice practice so you have to keep saying those things, you have to keep doing that work of taking accountability
over and over again and do it for small things. So that you’re ready for
the big things, right? Keep on doing it. There’s a lot of questions
about specific nuts and bolts of running processes etc
and I would just suggest to those folks who are interested go to creative interventions
download the 700 pages of the toolkit don’t try
to read it all together in one swoop it’s not a book
it’s a practice so you need to maybe do a study group
using the various sections week by week with a group of other people. I keep trying to explain to people that transformative justice work, community accountability work shouldn’t just be done personally by yourself. It is always better to
find a team of other folks that you can work with
and that team can be one or two people but it’s better
to work with other people in this and not just
be isolated on your own trying to figure all this stuff out. It’s too much to do especially if you’re trying to do a formal process. So I really want to encourage people to go and download that particular
piece if you’re someone who’s already facilitating
processes and you want to just have a way to you know Lea has mentioned several times journaling if you want to find a way to be able to keep your practice going,
ask yourself some questions, think about assessments,
think about the questions that keep coming up in
accountability processes. We have a new book share on myself called a workbook called, Fumbling Towards Repair that we really created as an outgrowth of creative interventions. We assume that everybody will start there and then once you’re facilitating that this workbook could be of use to you to have conversations
to have some language it’s written by two people
who are survivors themselves. We root it in survivorship being centered I don’t necessarily think about community accountability
process being survivor led. I think about it needing
to be survivors centered. I also think the pressure
of survivors having to lead their own stuff is just
unfair on so many levels. So we end up doing it anyway. And so I just think that folks
can go to those resources and we’ll put links to those
resources on the bottom of this conversation so
that folks can go to it and again I’m just going to
say you don’t just know how to build a house you don’t
just know how to build an accountability process
you have to study. You have to practice
you have to do it over and over and over again in order to be feeling like you have just even a modicum of understanding. And I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve done many
processes and I every time I start again I feel like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. It feels brand new because
I’m working with new people in a new circumstance that I
probably never faced before. And so we just have to keep doing that and that’s why we created a
container called, Just Practice both just practice, but also just practice do the work do it do it do it yeah. – So one thing about that house example because that is so good I
love that show grand designs where they show these
people who have never built a house before trying to
build their dream home and well all the things that
go into like the uniqueness of the environment and the materials and like ordinances by the
government of what you can and can’t do, and like the contractor. There’s just like so
much that goes into it. After I watch that show I’m
like, I am very clear on that I need to prepare for ten years if (laughter drowns out speaker) I’ve got some really really good examples. – Mia Mingus, yes. – And then do we have
our teaching tool kit posted anywhere right now? We don’t but I think we’re
gonna put it for our patrons. Well so Stas I’ve heard parts of it but I wasn’t there for
the the entire thing. Stas read the entire
creative endurance there and distilled some of
that down into our little kind of 10 page, 15 page? – Yeah, it’s like 15 pages.
Love it. – Little ragdoll but people have found the five dollars one and
that is a little bit more, I know some of you are looking
for what are the steps? And so no one model is gonna
be perfect for your situation. There are a lot of really
great resources out there but this is just kind of like a packet of like what roles can people play? How can people participate in this? – Because what I love about the creative interventions toolkit
is that it has the answer to most questions that you have. It’s like oh, this happened. It’s like there’s a worksheet
just ask these five questions. And you’re like oh, great thank you Ginny and live up to you ya know. But I think that what I
found after reading it and being like okay but
I don’t know which page to go to or whatever. So I made something that
was a little bit shorter and a little bit more like
with each process that we do we just fill it out and it
has like a communication plan step by step what you’d like
kind of us fill in the blank confidentiality agreement
and like just stuff like that that’s just like you know
you’re gonna need this for every process and then
you go to the other tool kits to pull in based on what
comes up in the process. But just a starting point of
like who’s gonna play this role and like you know that sort
of thing I know we made something that’s a bit shorter
and easier to digest for. – That’s great, everybody
should be signing up for Spring Ups patreon to
get that that’s awesome. We need more and more and
more tools so, so excited. I want to talk before we
have only a few more minutes but either a couple of
things I want to bring up. The stages of institutional
accountability question which was what does accountability mean? That was a question that somebody sent in when in conversation with
members of law enforcement? Particularly within the
living memory of the epidemic of state sanctioned violence is this type of accountability possible? Are there any models in any
neighborhoods or cities? – Totally, yeah, so that’s a big question but I’m really excited to
talk about it a little bit – And I think I wonder too if
you might have more examples of any models of like
where this has been done with law enforcement? Because we have been doing more institutional accountability
with organizations, – Universities. – With large institutions. – I don’t think you can
hold the police accountable so I yeah like Bureau say on that I don’t think we can
hold the people who have the legitimate use of power and force by the State’s quote. You know remember that we can’t hold anybody accountable anyway people have to take accountability so
how are you gonna do that with the police? Funding can be really
difficult it’s different than you know a museum or a university or some other places where
you can kind of do work I’m sure that you’re going to talk about institutional
accountability in a minute I just think policing is very different. – Yeah totally yeah and I
think that like you know we do have particularly
like I think women of color who are in law enforcement
who come to us sometimes and they’re like I got into
this because I saw violence in my community like
not being investigated and like I do want to change the culture. And so I think that you
know when we’re thinking of these stages that Stas
is gonna walk us through I think there is a potential
of folks who are like within the culture but I know
that the culture the issues that they run into are like. There is a lot of pushback and
how much power do they have? – That’s right I mean
I don’t think we talk about individuals within
police though we talk about individual cops as
like the bad apple people when the issue is the policing
institution and structure and its system and so
I think the individuals within there are almost to
me immaterial to the system. I will I will say there’s
some really really good stuff on this in Fania Davis’s book about race and restorative justice yeah it’s one of those little book of
restorative justice ones – I did read that – It’s super good – I think it came out this year last year but there’s a whole section on that that talks about like
what it would look like to have a truth and reconciliation process in the United States and stuff like that. So that’s something that
I would suggest folks read if they’re interested in that. But what we did develop is
we were seeing this pattern within universities specifically
of kind of the stages and I think similar to in
the Creative Interventions will get that’s like the
staircase of accountability. It’s very similar to that but
it’s more what institutional I would say responsibility
I think looks like or that taking responsibility. Because they think that that’s
a whole other conversation. But it’s for within
institutions where there’s normalized harm and so what
we found is that there’s kind of this consistent kind of
scale that orgs go through or that institutions go through. And that it’s very common
for them to get stuck at a specific stage and and
not want to move forward and feel like they’ve done enough and that that’s the role
of activists and organizers is to spark the incentive for
things to continue moving. And so I think that’s important to name is like often the thing that triggers the shift from this
stage to the next stage is the continued kind
of push of a community that this is not enough
this is still happening. – So we’re in an institution
let’s you know imagine an institution in your mind
there is normalized harm in that institutions right,
and then what happens? – So some sort of
whistleblower something happens that it comes to people’s awareness and that’s that’s the
courage of an individual or a group of people will
be like, this is not okay. This can’t keep happening. – Or just a specific
really egregious incident that causes people to like shocked. – Like whoa, this can’t happen. And then usually the
response to that is denial there’s usually like no I didn’t abuse, whatever maybe this happened one time, I don’t know what you’re talking about. But that’s normal and then there’s usually like an escalation from the
community of saying like no, you need to take this seriously. And then that’s when you
get your first concession which is usually a performative apology which doesn’t come with any
actual shifts in behavior it’s just like you know we’re sorry. – We’ve all seen the emails,
the tweets, wow, you know. – Exactly, so if things continue to go and so this is making the assumption that there’s continued
pressure that brings us to the next stage on which would be that a committee is formed,
some sort of usually a group of whistleblowers or
organizers are brought in. Ideally with some sort of group of people, often you don’t have that much
power within an institution to have some sort of
committee to investigate it and come up with you know suggestions. And then there’s usually
the next stage is assessing the problem so there’s some
sort of audit, or a survey, or an investigation, a working group, maybe you bring in consultants. Often there’s a question
of what happened with the findings in that survey or that audit. But they’ll say they
hired someone to do it. – The might not be pubically released. – Right often a finding of that or they’re like the one
thing that will take from that you know investigation
is the hiring of a representative of the
community in some sort of support role often
a very tokenizing role that doesn’t have very much power. So it’s like now we had a Dean of whatever or we have like a student
leader who will whatever. And you know they can’t really do much but it’s bigger than the assessment now there’s some sort of
action that’s been taken. The next thing is that there may be a shifting in programming
or of community norms. They’ll be like we added this new value or we have this new thing in
our different organizations – Or like we’re gonna do
our on board differently and I think that this is the point at which you’re starting to actually see some institutional changes. And I think this is the
point where you can start to see some real cultural change. Like the new folks that are
coming in are being on board in a different way and I think that this is where it stops being
as performative starts to be like a real transformation. – Right, so it’s gonna
be the implementation of new curriculum, on boarding practices. You know a new recording mechanism. New webinars that are offered regularly, some sort of thing that’s
actually consistent and ongoing that’s shifted
based on the findings of these audits. The next one is usually the
farthest that we usually see which is an institutionalization
of these changes which is high level
administrators trustees, people on the board
going through some sort of training process and
or like review processes this may include firing and hiring, shifting and regulations,
shifting in not only what the lowest level may be the new students onboarding process but it
would be literally a shift in what the administrators
the board are going through to be able to understand this issue. – The executives. – The executives and
then finally this would be a systemic leadership change to reflect their community an apology for complicity in ongoing normalized
harm and reparations. And that can look really
different depending on what the norm of harm is
but that would be just like a complete reconfiguration of the way the organization or
institution is structured who has power within it and
really putting some sort of resources with the apology. – And I think that is possible. – We have seen some examples of this. – A couple orgs, especially
if they are admission driven may go so far as to do this. – And but I think that one thing to keep in mind is that I don’t actually think it’s not very possible to skip stages. I think that you do
actually need to take each of those steps in order
to get to that overhaul. You don’t actually know who
should be in power or what that recreation should look
like unless you’ve tried some of the earlier stages. And so you know we also
work with organizations to actually go through those stages and we’ll do the audit
and we’ll support them in hiring and we’ll support
them in shifting their policies and shifting what the the leadership of the organization goes through. And so I did want to
share that because I think that people often don’t
have a good example of what would it look
like for an institution and an abstract system to
actually take this seriously and do something about it
and when we’ve done this in training this is why
I can’t even imagine the organization doing this. And since we have this
model for a few years we have found orgs that have done it and we’ve facilitated orgs in doing that. And I think it’s just
really helpful to know that it is possible for an institution to be accountable and then it allows us to see more clearly what
kinds of institutions are unwilling to do that. – Yeah and I think a
lot of us are concerned with you know there are
different scales, right? There’s like the jewel level,
the interpersonal level, there’s like ideology way
up here it’s very hard to make changes in ideology and
it’s actually very very hard to like make changes
personally and interpersonally although you have a lot
more control over that. Right now I am kind of
optimistic about this idea of creating more
accountable organizations. I think especially values based or mission driven organizations
I think are you know let’s say schools, let’s say nonprofits, are certainly constrained by like laws and funding and stuff but
are full of a lot of people who really do want to optimize outcomes for the people they’re
serving and so I think that is where we’re putting a little
bit of our energy right now. Like what would it look like to have more accountable organizations? And it’s a more formalized
version of a community because I think that’s a big big challenge that we have doing transformative justice, just in communities like
who’s in the community? Who has time who cares? And if we’re talking about
folks that like this is your job you know you have the ability
to leave if you don’t want to be in this organization
so there’s like you know a clear yes or no are you in
this, or are you not in this? And you can hold people
to a higher standard within that closed community
or porous community because of course there are contractors, there are guest speakers stuff like that. But I think within a more formal community there’s a lot more space to put in place structures to make this
more normal and make this expected in a way that
I think is much much harder to do in the community
that’s more informal and very very difficult to do in families. Which I would say for
me is the hardest work that I’ve done is with my
family and within families that are having things. There’s not really the
same type of opting out. There’s not really the same
means of course you can but I’ve found it to be
a lot harder personally. But that was my facilitation style. – Thank you for that so
helpful so illuminating. I’m wondering we have
just a couple minutes to wrap-up and wondering
what you both want to share that we didn’t hit on there’s so many questions that
we could not get to. What I do want to lift up for the people who are paying attention and watching this is we would love to do another couple of these webinars next year in 2020 and very interested in
hearing back from folks as to the topics that are
really burning for you around transformative justice,
community accountability, transforming harm work in your communities that we can bring more
experts and not even experts, people who are just
practitioners who keep practicing keep trying together to
answer some of those questions and also give their
insight so definitely get in touch with BRCW let us know more about what other things you
want to be talking about beyond this opportunity that
we got with Lea and Stas. So Lea and Stas, what would
you like to kind of end with? – I would say my final thought is just I would encourage folks to
be visionary like really go deep into your imagination
of like you know do a 20-year vision for yourself like and do a 20-year vision maybe
for like the society that you would like to
be living in you know. Like get really transformative
with your imagination and then find small tangible
accomplishable things that you can do sort of
within your locus of control and Mariame I see you
encouraging folks to do this on social media a lot where
you get a lot of who are new to organizing and they’re like, how can I like live in this world? And then you’re like there are
like fine small local things that you can plug into
and do and I think it is also very important to balance that with a very liberated imagination
and really not getting so caught up into just like reacting to the latest like egregious
thing that some politician or executive did but instead like I think the shifting things into
the small the local the like what can I do in my day-to-day life, and what practices can I shift? I know a lot people are
struggling with their wellness and mental health in the current context and I think that for me would
be the most helpful thing that I’ve found is like imagine
the world you wanna live in and then like do small things in the world that we currently live in to
like make your peace with that. – Yeah and I’ll be as quick as I can there are two points that I wanna make. One is based on what Lea was just saying. If you want to practice this practice this and in your own life first
so like we went through a multi-year process in
our relationship just because you know you you
inevitably harm the people that you love and so I think
especially if you love them you know you’re committed to them, you might not even bring up all the ways that they’ve harmed you
and I think that one of the most illuminating
things for me was us going through an accountability process within our relationship where
both of us played both roles. So there was a stage where
I really talked about all the ways that I had been
harmed and we worked through that for I think like ten
months and then we switched and it became more about the
ways that I have been harmful to Lea and then that took a long time too. And so I think like being
able to have the person that I love like look me
in the eyes and say like this is how you’ve harmed me
and like see how hard it was to shift those behaviors in my own life. I’d be like, I don’t
want to do that anymore, and then I do it the next
day, and I’m like ugh! Being in that position is such a deep and intimate way I think
completely transformed my practice and made me
so much more empathetic towards people on all sides
but also not making assumptions about like you know you can do this. There are some times where
people are like, no, I can’t. And I’m like no, you
can, let’s sit through. We’re gonna be there we’re
gonna stuck through it. And I think that you
know being able to play those roles myself made
it much easier for me to empathize with folks
in those positions when I was facilitating for
them so that’s one thing that I would really recommend. – And then I think also like having some of these conversations with my friends too is something that we’ve normalized more. – Yeah, we have at least
one conflict per day. We are always always in
conflict with each other the people around us I think
that we’re being harmful and abusive less frequently
I’m not going to say that never happens I’m sure
it does we all make mistakes, but I think because we catch
those conflicts quicker and we’re having conflict so frequently. People often laugh at us, they’re like man,
they’re always bickering. And I’m like I know but it’s kind of fun. – We’ve been in a relationship
for almost eight years now and we’ve been running
this organization together for five years and I
think getting to a place where we can be honest with each other and have these conflicts – And we don’t have to hide our arguments. – Right, I do think like
gets to a better quality of work and like a better offerings that we can present to people. – Yeah and then one other
quick thing that I wanted to mention there was a
question about if you’re in academics and how to
theorize or reference the work that folks are doing, this
is really like personal and sensitive to me I think. It’s happened very very frequently
that people use our work in their academic theorization
and then don’t cite us or do it only anonymously and I think that or say like wow, you
went too into this stuff that’s actually happening in the academy. And it feels like this
is one of the main ways that organizers and practitioners
are taking advantage of and extracted by the academy. And I think that you know
I’m someone who plans on getting my PhD without
being pushed out of school because I was doing this work, I’m still reading journal
articles regularly that does shape the work that I do and it’s really offensive when people are like wow, you’re naturally intuitive that this alliance is what’s
happening in sociology and then don’t cite us in the work that they’re doing within the academy. I think it would just make
a world of a difference to me if I felt like the
work that I was doing in practice outside of
education was translating into the theories that were
being done in academics without it being without
permit and I think that that’s a big thing for me. So I think like being willing
to cite the practitioners, being willing to
incorporate us let us know if you’re citing us in
your academic research. I would love to hear that
I’d love to get feedback and input I would love
to you know collaborate or partner on things that would make such a big difference considering
the life path that I thought I was going to take I love that I can take these theories
and practice them and see what works and get
input and I have so much that I could contribute
and support academics on and I think it’s just so harmful
that they can take credit for things and just not
even ask followup questions and assume that we didn’t
know where those ideas or theories came from. So I felt like with this audience and with this opportunity with Barnard
I did want to take the time to mention that because
it happened so frequently. – Thank you thank you for doing that and yes to everything you said. Absolutely, I’ve experienced the same. So I do want to end with two things there. More questions came in as we were talking and because we had so many
questions that came pre, we didn’t get to address them. But there were two I
wanted to pull up quickly if that’s okay it’ll take five minutes. One was and I want to speak
to these two briefly myself and then have you also
added if you can one was what happens when the
community itself is harmful? I think that’s one and
the other one that one of the top two can you
speak about how to work through understanding harm on a spectrum in a community and I want to speak about the spectrum issue
because yes, not all harms are the same and frankly
not all harm should be held in process you know like that
I think this is important to keep in mind everything
is not everything okay. And if everything is everything
then nothing is anything and I think people have to really discern. And I think part of that we talked about at the beginning when we
were trying to talk about the difference between disagreement
and conflict, hurt, harm you know abuse but I have been working on for the past several years an activity that I’ve been doing with certain groups around having them
identify spectrums of harm within their organizations. Their own definitions
of what counts as harm and what everybody always
sees in that activity is how disparate it is
how what we think is harm is not the same for everybody
and what triggers us is not the same across the board. So to think that we are
going to be able to quote to address all of that
is kind of foolishness. And that the spectrum
of harm is wide and vast and so I’m working on making
that activity more available to more people to use in their own spaces and on sites to have conversations
so I want to put that out there but that should be
coming early next year and then what happens when
the community itself is hurt? Yes, and again the
community as a term often is meaningless for folks
because people don’t really live in the community in that same
way we use the term community as a catch-all but I love what the Bay Area transformative
justice collective are doing about pod mapping
because that is a way to talk in a concrete way to think
about what your community for the time that you’re living in, and the space that you’re
living in looks like. And doesn’t just look
like it in context right? It looks like your
community looks different when you cause harm than
when you are harmed. Your community looks different you know, it’s like these things are contextual. And so sometimes you need
to build a new community for yourself when the
community you’ve been part of are harming you and are harmful. So I just want to put
those two out there and ask if you have any response
to one or two or either of the questions. – In briefly yes, briefly
yeah, I think that what you got to at the end there is very relevant both in the you know for
folks who have immigrated or have like move to different places I think that’s especially
relevant where you look around and you’re like, I don’t have family here. I don’t have a long-standing
relationships here. And that’s where like just
being very intentional and I would say specific
about the types of communities that you seek out where it’s like I want to have a community that is a
feminist knitting club right? And I want to have like
three specific people within that that I like could
call if I were having like a mental health crisis right? So like making that very
specific and I think you know there are groups like meetup
or like we just moved to a new city so we’re kind of in that space where we’re lik looking around like where do we want to plug in? Like and I think also absolutely
I think most communities have some unhealthy
behaviors and practices. I think that’s absolutely
normal and so it really is a sense of what can
you live with you know? Of like just really taking
stock of like and is it reciprocal right like is
what I’m giving equivalent to what I’m getting? It’s okay if that fluctuates at times. It’s okay if you are giving more at times. Hopefully you’re also
getting more at times but I think that if you
find yourself in a in a community that is
very toxic or extractive or not accountable or it’s
just really normalizing of harm and violence and very
trivializing of that. Like you realistically can’t
change all those people and you probably have tried to
bring some of these things up and so I definitely think
it can be healthy at times to cut ties and like build
new healthy relationships with what you’re looking for in your life. – Yeah, I think at a certain
point you have to ask like what’s best for me and I
think that that’s not all I wouldn’t tell people
to always jump to that but I think like at a certain
point if the community is not there with you there’s
such a martyrdom like attitude in so many activist and
organizer environments and like we need y’all we
need you to still be doing this work so like you need
to find the space where the amount of input that
you can put in is gonna have the outcome that you’re looking for without draining everything that you need to be able to take care of yourself. And I think that’s just
important to keep in mind. The other thing is like
yes, there’s this like what looks like harm is
so different depending on the person but also like
I can’t handle every type of harm as a facilitator either, there are only some types of
harm that I feel most able and equipped and like it
in my body that I can hold and then there are some
that I’m like I can’t. Like yes, that’s bad yes, this is serious yes, someone should handle
this but that is not me. Okay, like there comes a
point where like you have to be willing to say no to things and that can be really really hard especially when you’re in you care about and you feel like someone
needs to do something for these individuals
but if it’s gonna end up being detrimental to you
and you’re gonna not be able to do it with focus and
effectiveness that it needs because of the way that relates to
yourself then like you have to be able to say no and
help folks find other ways to manage things – Yeah and I think this
collapsing of the spectrum of harm is one of the side effects
of criminalization that is very harmful because
you know if we just look at what’s considered a
felony if we look at some of the things that R. Kelly
or Harvey Weinstein have done and then we look at the
case of like a teen sending a nude photo to the person
that they’re intimate with like but all of those
people could be considered sex offenders right,
and that’s where I think we really like to talk
about what is harmful, what is consensual and then yeah it’s just it’s really important
to see each situation and understand the context
because when you use words like rapist or sex offender people do jump and that’s because of how
it’s depicted in the media they jump to what they
see on Law and Order S.V.U they jump to like thinking that
someone you know didn’t like whatever not getting into specifics. But I think that it’s
just really important to understand each situation
as it is and I think that when you look at things
like when you impose this fits under this
little category of law then it can kind of collapse the uniqueness of each situation – And that’s what I would
warn people about too is if you’re trying to
maintain confidentiality be thoughtful about
what you do tell people because if you’re like well
I’m not going to tell you the specifics but it has
to do with sexual violence like people do make really
specific assumptions about what that means that
will stick with someone for a very long time and I
think that you know we manage a lot of cases and things
that if you actually knew the specifics of it most
people will be like, well, I’ve done that, like
most people around me have experienced something like that but like in this community this is
something that we want to talk about we want to take seriously
and that’s really important. But once other people are
hearing we’re managing sexual violence cases they’re like
oh, there’s a serious rapist in this community and it’s
like you know not to say that they aren’t real but like. – Each thing is important but
we do try to use more specific things like you know coercive
dating behavior, right? Or unwanted advances right like things that are specific like that. – Yeah and then the one
other thing that I wanted to mention about communities
is we usually like to think about what do people
what gives people power in a community not just
what’s like an unhealthy or toxic environment but like for example in some communities someone
being very stylish gives them a lot of power or in
another community being a highly intellectual
gives them a lot of power there’s always a dark side to that. There’s always like okay so if
you’re not that put together then what how does that
show up what are the ways that people enforce that
you are less powerful right? And I think that one
thing that I want to flag around social justice
communities is that there’s a lot of power that comes
with being in the role of a victim being in the
role of someone who’s experienced violence and I think that I would challenge us to think about how we can create environments where you also get not power but you also get appreciation for the ways you respect for the ways that you’re
healing for the ways that you’re accountable
for having done harm not just for the ways that
you’ve experienced harm because I think we create
some incentives for people to really focus on certain
identities more than others or focus on certain
experiences and not be willing to go through the healing
process and kind of step outside of that role because it
means the loss of power. And so that’s something
that I wanted to name that I think comes up a lot
and how we in social justice can also create a power and
an incentive towards healing and working through that
pain and not just always kind of sitting in that this
happened to me role. – Thank you and so we’re
gonna end there was a question around is it a fair
burden to put on survivors to be the impetus for community change and I’ll just say it is the
reality of where we are and it comes from the fact that most of us who’ve survived any
sort of harm whatsoever are incredibly pragmatic
people and we have been trying to find a way to heal
from that to move forward to you know invite people
to take accountability for the harms they’ve caused us Shera and I very clearly say in our
workbook that we’re coming from this from perspectives
of survivors knowing full well we’ve also harmed people clearly. We’ve had enormous harm
done to us over the years various forms of violence
I’m a survivor of rape. You know these are real
things and I just want to say that part of what we hope
we’re doing and I know this is uncomfortable for people it often is and I’m not talking
about in cases of abuse here I’m talking about all
the other spectrum areas that we talked about that
we do harm people too. We survive things and
we do harm people too. We have to be able to hold
both things in tension with each other in order for us to be able to actually figure out how
we’re going to make a culture where it becomes the norm
to take accountability when you harm people. Because right now the
incentive is to deny, to lie, to gaslight, to do all
that other kind of thing. And until we are at a point
where it’s just the norm to be like I hurt this
person I’m gonna work on how I take accountability
responsibility for that. I’m gonna try to figure out
how I can repair whether or not that person asks me, right. I’m just going to do that
until we are in that space I don’t see any way
for us to end violence. And so I just think that
these are the things we’re trying to bring up you
know it sits uncomfortably for various people based
on your own experience and where you’ve landed
and your own things that have happened to you
but we believe at least here at the building accountable
community project that we have to have these conversations because there’s so few places
that are really having them intentionally so I’m really
excited that you both took the time to be with us today. I really appreciate you,
value you, value your work and really encourage people to continue to have these conversations
in your communities. If this video is something
that you want to share with other people and
watch together and critique the hell out of. Great, you know we’re pro to
that we’re pro like conflict and disagreement be
generative so like do that. You know use it and be like
these things are bullshit for us and these things are
real for us I always say I always offer things to
people I say take what you need and leave the rest behind so
that’s where this is offered in the same spirit of that
and we if we had figured out how to solve all this we
would have done it already. So we’re all working to
try to come to some way of being able to manage to transform harms in our communities in
ways that don’t reproduce the thing we’re trying to dismantle. So thank you both – Thank you so much Mariam. – So lovely to be in
space with you as always – Always – We encourage anyone
to reach out, watch this as much as you need to, share it, ask your questions our website. – What’s you’re website? – time to spring up.org All spelled out so not
a number two but t-o. – Yeah and we have a
form on there where you can submit things or
you can ask us questions on social media just @ time
to spring up all spelled out – On Instagram on Twitter,
Lea’s more on Twitter and I’m more on Instagram. Yeah we’re we’re happy to
continue this conversation with you and with anyone who was watching so thank you so much for this time and you know we could talk
all day so that’s gotta go. – Yes we can, bye everybody
thank you all right cool Are we turning off? Okay.

Cesar Sullivan

2 thoughts on “Transforming Harm: Experiments in Accountability

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