This safer spaces policy has been drawn up for the forthcoming 'Gendered harms in activist communities' on 21 September, 2016.
This public event aims to be a space for the Salvage research collective to present and discuss key findings with a panel of academics and activists. The event is open to the public and we expect a diverse audience to attend including: academics, researchers, practitioners, activists and community members and survivors. We want this event to be a space where everyone can feel safe sharing their thoughts and ideas and ask questions about our research findings without fear of reprisal or humiliation.
The following ground rules aim to help us to be mindful of the different backgrounds and perspectives of attendees and have a discussion about harm, abuse and violence in activist groups and communities within an ethos of care and transformative justice.
- Please keep your language clear so the discussion can be understood by everyone. If you are using words that are specific to your academic, activist or professional world then please explain them for those who are unfamiliar with them. We will try to pick up on any unfamiliar terminology and ask for explanations so the discussion is understandable to the whole audience.
- Please don’t make assumptions about people. People at the event will have diverse genders, sexualities, relationship styles, nationalities, ages, disabilities, class and cultural backgrounds, and political and religious beliefs. Please try not to make assumptions about these, and to take somebody’s self-identity at face value. For instance, it is helpful to avoid making assumptions about a person’s gender based on their appearance or name. Please ask about a person’s pronoun (e.g. she/her or they/them) rather than guessing.
- Please treat all speakers with respect. It can be very daunting to talk in front of a group, especially about your own work and ideas. Also please bear in mind that people may make errors in their language under pressure and do check out whether that might have happened before criticising them. It is important to create a supportive space that is open and ready for us to blunder in: where mistakes are made and challenged in a way that does not contribute to the shaming, shunning or punishment of an individual. The dynamics of harm, abuse and violence often lead to social isolation, self-blame and low self-worth. We recognise the structural oppressions that shape our individual lives. Personal comments that hurt, shame and shun others should be avoided.
- Please try to frame questions and discussion points in a way which leaves room for other people to contribute. It is common at events to get excited about what people are presenting and to want to join the discussion. We really hope that you feel this way! However, it is easy for discussions to become dominated by certain individuals or views. Please keep your contributions brief enough that everybody present has the possibility of taking part. Remember that some people need a period of silence to consider what to say before contributing or putting their hand up, so don’t rush to fill the space. If you’ve already contributed, or tend to do so a lot, consider stepping back to give others space. If you don’t often contribute, think about stepping forward.
- When you speak, please be mindful that there are survivors in the room. We take a believing stance to sexual violence survivor. However please be mindful that each person’s process of naming sexual violence is different and it is common for survivors and others to engage in processes of minimisation, blame and denial. We want to be brave in the creation of a space where we can connect with each other through discussing the unspeakable. This means being mindful of the complexities of trauma, how people respond to us and how we cope in diverse ways (e.g. disassociation, anger, a ‘brave face’, crying and humour). This might require you to be open in sitting with disagreements, personal judgements and responses you did not expect.
- Please use content warnings. Our presentation will discuss experiences of sexual abuse, violence, trauma, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. We will use content warnings before talking about specific examples of sexual violence to help people to make a decision about whether they feel ok to hear about a particular experience. In the open discussion please think first about whether your comment or disclosure might feel too personally exposing for you afterwards, or upsetting for others. Please provide content warnings if what you want to share is a specific example of sexual violence. There is no need to ‘out’ yourself as a survivor or disclose your experiences if you do not want to. If you need to leave the room at any point please feel free to do so without any apology or explanation.
- Keep what people share confidential after the event. The salvage research collective has a confidentiality agreement in place. This means that we will not reveal the names, groups or locations of interview participants. If people discuss personal experiences, or if practitioners mention people they work with, remember not to discuss these outside of the event. Also please be very careful only to talk about other people who have given you explicit permission to do so. It is really important that any disclosures that may happen within the discussion are kept confidential. We do not want to exacerbate any on-going harms that are currently experienced in activist communities and groups.
- Be mindful of your privilege. We are aware that gendered harms, abuse and violence intersect with a variety of different oppressions that some of us experience at the same time, such as; sexism, racism, transphobia, biphobia, fatphobia, ableism, classism, whorephobia and homophobia as well as others. We all need to be aware of our privileges, which also include less obvious and sometimes invisible hierarchies that can affect the whole group. This requires us to be mindful of how our own language and behaviour may be affecting others in the room.
- Dealing with problems. If you have any problems at or with the event, please talk to the organisers individually. We’ll do our very best but there will inevitably be some mistakes and imperfections and we’re very keen to address those and to keep improving. It can be helpful to put yourself in the shoes of the organisers, recognising the pressures that they are under. For example, you might consider whether your query or point is urgent – in which case we want to hear it right away – or whether it might be one that is okay to feedback after the event, when people have had time to recover.
- Whilst this policy provides a grounding for our discussion we will be flexible and dynamic to respond to each other when we need support. This is an open document and you are encouraged to give feedback on it and contribute to its development.
Acknowledgements: Sisters Uncut – Safer Spaces Policy, Guidelines for Academic/Activist Spaces - 1st NMCI Conference