I’M JUST A 😐 GOIN’ NOWHERE!
1) my intention is to answer all of my serious asks, but lately i’ve had a lot more than i have time to answer in a substantive way. i’ll prioritize asks if they seem time sensitive (like this one), but otherwise i just go through them when i have time and choose depending on what i feel like writing about. sorry to everyone who’s waiting for an answer! i’m a slow writer.
2) trigger warning: discussion of sexual assault
this question is in reference to something erica freas said at a RVIVR show in boston recently. it’s re-capped here and elaborated on in the subsequent reblogs. i thought about weighing in on that discussion but was really busy at the time and felt like other people were making some of the same points i would have made so i wasn’t sure if it made sense to add to what was already an intense discussion.
to be clear, erica and RVIVR are very close friends of mine and we work on projects and bands together. it’s easy for me to read and understand the intentions behind her words because i know her well. one of the drawbacks of having difficult conversations online is that peoples’ words can be interpreted in starkly different ways. in reading over some of the reactions to what she wrote i could see ways in which people were hurt by things she said that i personally understood to have a completely different meaning. i don’t know how to fix that.
what i saw happening in the conversation seemed to be centered around a conflict of opinion around the role of transformative justice models in response to sexual assault and abuse, i.e. accountability processes. people were upset with erica for promoting a zine article that was written by a perpetrator of sexual assault who had gone through an accountability process. the article was an account of his experience trying to find therapy, written with the intention of encouraging other perpetrators to seek therapy. someone at the show was triggered by her publicly promoting the writing of a perpetrator and others felt that this was an example of someone validating an abuser’s narrative. she and RVIVR were called rape apologists and worse.
(if you’re reading this and are unfamiliar with any of the terminology i’m using, here is a good primer from the now defunct organization philly’s pissed.)
i was talking to a friend about this situation and she pointed out that there are three things that people are upset about in this situation:
a) erica’s choice to talk about the zine on stage / her choice of words.
b) the particular content of this zine.
c) the role of transformative justice models of accountability, specifically perpetrator support.
erica apologized quickly for her choice of words and their triggering effect, so i don’t have much to comment on there. i also don’t feel compelled to comment on this particular zine. but i would weigh in on the discussion around transformative justice models of accountability.
i have experience supporting survivors through accountability processes and have in the past mediated conversations between survivors and perpetrators. it’s always really really hard. i’ve seen it go horribly and i’ve cut people out of my life for that reason. i’ve also seen people grow and change and come to new self-understandings through accountability processes. it’s never easy, but i do believe that in some circumstances these models can have constructive outcomes.
it’s striking to me how in some of the conversation around erica’s comments accountability processes have been characterized as nothing but tools for perpetrators to manipulate. certainly there are too many examples of accountability processes that have been hijacked and misused to the benefit of a perpetrator, but those are examples of accountability processes gone WRONG. when the model is followed correctly, transformative justice based accountability processes have always been survivor led. here’s an excerpt from the philly’s pissed primer:"The concept of accountability is something that is often used in reference to individuals, specifically perpetrators. It refers to the behavior of someone who is responsible to a survivor for what they did. To be accountable is to do what the survivor needs to feel as okay as possible. In the bigger picture, accountability can apply to communities or groups of people, in terms of making sure that communities are responsible to a survivor as well.”
it’s ahistorical to characterize accountability processes as tools for perpetrators. the entire framework of accountability processes is meant to center the survivor’s experience and create an alternative to the criminal justice system’s non-functional punitive model. the goal is to prioritize healing for the survivor primarily, and also to take steps to prevent the perpetrator from repeating their abusive behaviors.
i absolutely think critiquing how transformative justice models play out in practice is extremely important. critique is how we grow stronger in our practices. (i recently read a good critique of accountability processes here.) in some cases though, anti-accountability rhetoric can be really invalidating to survivors who have found accountability processes to be important tools in their healing from abuse. you’re bound to hear more about accountability processes that go wrong than you will about accountability processes that have constructive outcomes. that makes sense. most survivors don’t want to broadcast what a great job their perpetrator has done changing their abusive patterns. and it’s definitely not a good sign if a perpetrator is bragging about what a better person they are now. but examples of positive outcomes do exist and they shouldn’t be ignored as a part of the conversation.
we have to allow for a diversity of beliefs in any effort to combat rape culture. believing that there should be resources for perpetrators to help prevent abusive behavior is explicitly different from rape apology. if accountability is a dirty word to you and you don’t believe that perpetrators can change, that’s fine, but that attitude can coexist with a belief in transformative justice models and still work towards a common goal.
i’d like to signal boost a couple of posts from the referenced conversation that made some of these points more succinctly.
from me-raja:"Erica is not saying you have to baby step your abuser through accountability nor is Erica being an apologist. Nowhere does this say that rapists deserve second chances in survivor’s lives or that you have to be their friend. Among other awesome points, the main thing is that nothing will ever be solved if there are not resources for them to actually address what they did and that these issues are actually a whole hell of a lot more complicated. This is the beginning of a possible conversation about transformative justice rather than internet justice. This is a conversation about stopping abuse before it ever happens and calling for perpetrators to be responsible for their actions and the ways they fucked up.
Your response to your abuser can be whatever you so choose and there can be different responses to abuse. Erica’s dialogue makes me feel more comfortable with my own personal approach to my abuser which was not posting their name all over town and the internet and requesting him being outcasted, alienated, and abused (which if that was your response, that was yours and your own personal mode of healing), but not every response is the same and I’m tired of this monolithic tale of accountability and this response makes me feel less alone and I’m sure many others.”
from xkimberlyx:"I think it’s really important to respect and support survivors in the ways that they respond to their experiences. If they want to hold their rapist accountable, awesome, how can I help? If they want the rapist to fall off the face of the earth or at least not be at shows for an indefinite amount of time, I will respect that just as much.
But don’t tell another survivor that they are fucked up for thinking that there is a possibility for change. That no matter how much time they spend at meetings, reading literature, printing zines, hosting workshops, organizing benefits, and calling their friends and family out for problematic shit — that none of that fucking matters.
It’s not like I always have hope. But I wouldn’t be alive right now, there wouldn’t be any point in me typing this, if I didn’t believe that people were capable of changing their behavior and ending cycles of abuse in (and beyond) my community.”
ok, i know this is really long, but a couple more quick points:
1. on historicism - the proliferation of transformative justice models in the punk scene in the early 2000’s through workshops and local organizations like philly’s pissed was a huge step forward for radical punk communities. before that there were rarely organized responses to sexual assault. there wasn’t a framework for it. ideas like believing the survivor’s experience were rarely present in the punk scene. the relatively widespread use of terms like survivor and trigger warning are due in large part to the efforts of transformative justice based workshops and organizations. these models were brought into the punk scene as tools to amplify the voices of survivors in a scene that had by and large ignored them before. i wonder about that history being lost when we talk about transformative justice in punk.
2. on perpetrator support - as i said before, survivor support is, always has been, and always should be priority #1. additionally, we need to acknowledge that we are raised in a culture that embeds fucked up patriarchal attitudes into all of us. culturally, there’s a HUGE deficit in educational resources available around consent and conflict resolution. while some perpetrators are sociopaths who couldn’t give a fuck about the way their actions effect others, many simply do not understand the ways in which their behaviors are abusive. it’s crucial to make resources available to people who might be willing to change their behaviors once they’ve been called out. it’s crucial so that they don’t repeat these behaviors and create more trauma for others. it’s crucial because we need to encourage and allow for people’s ability to change. that doesn’t mean that that responsibility should fall on the survivor and it shouldn’t ever in any way come at the expense of prioritizing the survivor’s healing and it also doesn’t mean that it will work 100% of the time. but i personally believe that it’s worth an effort.