The first salvage collective forum

We are looking for volunteers to host the next three forum events. Tentative areas for the next forums to focus on include (1) survivors of colour (2) disabled survivors (3) social capital/power in DIY/punk cultures. Forums can take place in any town/city in the country with good public transport links and an accessible venue. There is support from experienced organisers and finances available. If you are interested in hosting a forum please get in touch:

Below are some notes and reflections from our first forum. About 15 of us gathered in Sheffield on Saturday 23 September coming from places like Leeds, Brighton, Lancaster, Hull, Manchester, London and Nottingham. JJ and Gabby, who hosted this forum, welcomed everyone.

Julia gave a short presentation about what the salvage collective had done so far and outlined some of the main lessons learned, challenges faced and opened up what it could be in the future.

After check ins and a break JJ facilitated the first session on ‘Supporting survivors’ mental and physical wellbeing’.

In groups we talked through the questions:

  • What challenges do survivors face? (Talk through any specific examples)
  • What can be done to support survivors? (Talk through any good positive scenarios, if you cannot think of any, what support would have been the dream)

Then we fed back to the whole group and had a wider discussion that covered talking points that included:

  • The role of social capital (popularity) in terms of who vouches for a survivors, who the survivor is and what they do within a community. How can those of us with capital use this positively?
  • The belief that we are all capable of oppression and that there is no such thing as a safe community.
  • How the language of disposability can be used as an excuse to push victims and survivors aside.
  • How feminist language/tactics can be turned around and labelled as oppressive. Or else abuse is dismissed as drama, troublemaking or gossip.
  • The challenges of persuading others to take on the labour of calling people out and supporting survivors. How to make it easy for people to stand up for survivors by offering practical options/actions.
  • What are possible limits to a survivor-centred approach?
  • Ideas on how to approach survivors e.g. ‘Can I talk to you about X?’, using content notes, saying that there is no pressure to respond.
  • Ideas on how to support survivors e.g. Have a list of concrete things you could do and give it to the survivor and ask them ‘let me know if there is anything I can do’. This helped one survivor to ask for things that they didn’t even know they could ask for.

After lunch, Hannah facilitated a session on ‘Creating our Infrastructure’. We spent some time in small groups discussing what accountability could look like in the salvage collective. Here are some of the talking points that were raised:

  • Complexities when both people in process identify themselves as survivors.
  • The need to talk about how experiences are different for survivors of colour.
  • The need for white people in the collective to have an active and ongoing commitment to challenge and dismantle white supremacy.
  • Have collective awareness (that is reflected in collective practice) of how social differences (e.g. in race, class, gender, sexuality, age, disability) can affect your experience of abuse, being accused of abuse and how your behaviours are read or perceived by those around us. The need to challenge stereotypes of ‘ideal victims’.
  • Practice proactive accountability – to self-disclose and acknowledge ignorance/harm caused in the past, uphold a continuous practice of reflection, be open to critique and suggestions.
  • Be clear about our work, our roles, our values and our limitations. Acknowledge difficult conversations, unresolved questions and tensions. Be aware that there may not be one right way, answer or solution.
  • Make sure our structure is as horizontal as possible, that there are multiple people able to do many roles to create a more sustainable way of working.
  • The potential to develop a steering committee to ensure the salvage collective stays on track/has outside mediation available.

From this collective work has started to update our mission statement, points of unity, membership policy and collective accountability agreement.