A lot of people lately have been asking me what I think accountability is. I have recently been trying to demand accountability from two people who are assaulters. One of them is an ex-good friend of mine, who was totally clueless about the fact that he assaulted someone - he thought it was consentual but was totally willing to accept the survivors experience. I don't think that in his heart he really sees himself as a perpetraitor though.
I think everyone needs to hold perpetraitors accountable, and that if the person isn't doing serious, ongoing work to learn and change, that they need to go to counciling. Friends who are trying to help rehabilitate the perpetraitor need to consistantly demand that they go to counciling.
In a couple instances lately, perpatrators I have known have gone to counciling that was specifically for rehabiliting perpatrators, and these councilors usually deal with people who have been court ordered to go there. I wish these worked, but I feel like these councilors have downplayed the importance of more subtle forms of abuse and consent, and have made the perpatrators feel like what they did was no big deal.
I have gotten a lot of criticism about the tactic of ostricizing perpetraitors from communities, and a lot of talk about how the perpetraitor is not going to change if people aren't staying friends with them. I believe that ostricization is a powerful tool. I believe that people are capable of making fundamental changes in themselves, but I have seen over and over again that many people are not willing to make these changes until their lives become too fucking uncompfortable for them to avoid dealing with it. Ostricization makes people uncomfortable. Friends of the perpetrator who believe that they can help the perpetraitor change need to be consist and active in pushing for accountability and change. there is a fine line between being an enabler and helping someone change.
I expect friends to make demands on the perpetraitor, to talk to the people in the larger community about what they are doing, what progress is being made, and to ask the larger community what expectations and demands they have.
I have also heard a lot of talk about "what is community", and how we don't really have one so how can anyone be held accountable. I think this is bullshit. Community doesn't have to be super tangeble to be real. If you work with someone, if you go to the same places as them (shows, coffee shops), if you live in the same neighborhood or town or even city, all those things count. Community accountability is about breaking out of the "none of my business" mentality that has allowed abuse to happen and contiuing happening. It is all of our responsibilities to speak out and stop abuse.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
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it's amazing that you wrote this today...i had a break down tonight regarding my friends going over to my perp's house and how this made me feel. riding the fine line between feeling crazy yet validated, wanting to ostracize him forever but not wanting to limit my friends' actions, just wanting him to feel the full repercussions of his violations instead of being the social focal point of the punk scene where i live. i've actually wanted to talk to you about this but know that you've been sought out for that type of help for a long time and how exhausting that must feel. well, it's me, emmylou from the ghost story zine, columbia, mo. hope you are well and that you respond if you want.
Hi Emmylou! I totally know what you are taking about and how painful it is. If you are ever feeling crazy, know that I have felt that crazy feeling too. Same with so many of us. It's so unfair. I want so badly to create ways to deal with this all, and I feel like I am so bad at it! And I just don't understand why people don't understand about assault and accountability. I'm thinking of trying to do a zine about accountability after I'm done working on the new "learning good conset" zine I'm helping with. It is all so painful. I do get overwhelmed sometimes, but also do really want to talk about this stuff, and I am totally here for you - I definatly do better by mail. so write me, pob 29 athens oh 45701!
ps. I was trying to find your address the other day because someone else asked me for a ghost story for thier ghost zine, and I didn't know if yours was still going to come out. My sense of time is really warped right now. Anyway, I sent them the comic, which I hope is ok. it's a west coast zine so maybe there won't be much crossover in readers.
Amen. I had a really weird experience this past year with asking for community support to let a perpetrator know that his behavior wasn't acceptable. I printed a letter and distributed it. i still don't really know what happened, or if it was effective, but I think it's important to feel that it's out there and set the example. thanks for writing this.
this is really great. if you do end up doing the accountability zine and want other people to write some things. i would really like to help. i think you raised some really good points about accountability and community.
i also feel that accountability on friendship levels is incredibly important and often times, working on ourselves for change and apologizing are some of the hardest things to do.
i have been held accountable for racist actions and i have also held people accountable for sexual assault and just for fucking my shit up. being on both ends really makes you do a head spin. makes you rethink a lot of tactics that people do use and how it could be done better. but how no one is going to be accountable unless they actually CARE to be. Thats the biggest thing.
i hope that things are good where you are!! let me know.
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