A big part of what we have done as a collective is to create spaces for discussion, sharing skills, reflecting on experiences and raising awareness about gendered violence and the practical challenges in doing community accountability work to challenge violence, abuse and harm effectively in activist communities.
On this page you can find information about the workshops that we have facilitated.
One-day workshops 2016
During November and December 2016, a small group of us facilitated a series of workshops across the UK to help activists to identify, challenge and prevent gendered violence in their activist groups, organisations and community. These 1-day workshops took place in Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle upon Tyne, Cardiff and London and were funded by the Feminist Review Trust. Thanks to those who attended and engaged with the workshops. Below you can find the workshop presentation and some of the activities we used in these workshops.
Activity: What is abuse?
A key question that we explored in our research was what does gendered violence, abuse and harm look like in an activist context. Our research explored the experiences of 10 survivors so we were keen to help others to explore this question within their own local contexts and intersections of race, class, ability, gender, religion, immigration status and sexuality across the UK. We facilitated a carousel flipchart activity in which small groups added examples of abuse on different types of abuse including financial/material, emotional/psychological, sexual, physical, state/institutional, online spaces. We used this activity to discuss the importance of context, patterns of power and control and a need to trust survivors and accept that there can be harms that we cannot all see or understand. Where we did this activity we took pictures of these flipcharts to highlight connections, diversities and divergences across different activist scenes.
Activity: Wild card scenario
This activity involved us splitting the group up into smaller groups to work on a hypothetical scenario in which Person P had been harmed by Person Q. We changed up the gender, sexuality, race and immigration status of Person P and Person Q as well as the type of abuse and relationship.
The groups had to work together to come up with a set of actions to best address the situation and meet the stated needs of the survivor from their position in the community and their relationship to Person P and/or Person Q. Dependent on the number of people we broke the group up into:
- Friends of Person P and Person Q
- Acquaintances of Person Q
- Organisers with Person Q (e.g. social centre, campaign group, housing co-op)
- Close friends of Person P
- Close friends of Person Q
The group had person P’s (survivor) stated needs:
- Person Q to acknowledge wrongdoing
- Have some space away from Person Q
- To see positive change in Person Q’s behaviour
- To feel ok and to be able to participate in actions
During the discussion we announced a series of ‘wild cards’. Again this could vary depending on what the group stated in their aims at the beginning of the workshop or on the course of the conversations.
Wild cards included:
- The wider community insists on both parties being names and full details of what has happened. Feel under pressure Person P discloses what has happened on social media. They now regret this.
- You are accused of siding with the abuser by not publicly naming the abuser.
- Person Q highlights the role of white supremacy and racism in the process and wider activist community.
- Several members of your group need to step back from the process due to feeling burned out.
- Person Q writes a blog in which they make counter-allegations against Person P and their supporters. The community is unsure who to believe.
- Person S states that they experienced domestic violence in a long-term relation with Q that ended 5 years ago.
- Person Q becomes homeless.
- Person Q says they have attended a perpetrator programme and they are ‘cured’. However other people in your group still experience Person Q as abusive.
This produced a lot of discussion and pushed people to think practically about how to respond to ever changing situations. It also highlighted the need to have processes and knowledge in place, as well as spaces to constructively reflect on the challenges of community accountability and safer spaces.
We brought round as many books and resources as we could on the road. Many of these are listed in the further reading & resources document. We also had a support services information sheet with information about available services to support survivors and those who have harmed others.
Workshop feedback and testimonials
We gave out workshop feedback surveys at the end of each workshop. 44 people were kind enough to complete these and you can check out the results below in figure 1.
Here’s a selection of open comments from those who attended our workshops:
‘Very useful, very affirming. Thank you!’
‘Great workshop. I felt comfortable and welcomed’
‘Excellent workshop – gives hope because the issue can and must be improved upon but also is daunting because the task is monumental and plugged into big wide social factors ingrained in us. But overall, it is so important, essential even.’
‘This is really needed! I really hope that it can develop and steer the movement to get better at its approach in support when these situations arise and reduce their frequency!’
‘Very useful, challenging. I hope more people get a chance to do this.’
‘I really enjoyed today. I feel calm and relaxed. THANK YOU!’
‘The rundown of the research at start is great and really sets the context of it being a complex cultural/social issue and not only a binary good/bad individuals who can simply be punished, fixed or excluded.’
‘Really great day of discussions where really good points were raised about abuse generally. Felt like a calm space which helped my anxiety about thinking and talking about issues (because they are also issues I’ve encountered).’
‘The opening slideshow intro was amazing and encapsulated some of the issues we face.’
We found that the activists who came to the workshops had different training needs and levels of knowledge. Whilst we focused on encouraging workshop participants to continue discussions after the workshops within their local communities it was clear (and reflected in the workshop feedback) that many activists lacked confidence in their ability to make changes in their groups, organisations and communities and to support survivors. Therefore, there is a need to continue this work. We identified demand for shorter workshops (2-3 hours) as well as longer retreats (weekend-one week), workshops tailored to different levels of expertise from introductory (e.g. what is community accountability/gendered violence) to more advanced (e.g. best practice for experienced activists involved in community accountability); and workshops tailored for more specific groups (e.g. LGBTQ, those who have caused harm, survivors and supporters). Our future work will aim to meet these needs.