April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so RAGE (Resistance & Action for Gender Equity) would like to encourage a time of reflection and evaluation. We are calling on our fellow local organizers, activists, and concerned Rhode Islanders to check that your community group or workplace has an adequate policy in place, both for sexual assault prevention and response. In an effort to foster community safety we are asking that groups embrace transparency by informing members and the public of their sexual assault policies.
Even with increased public scrutiny against sexual assault and harassment, most people have either experienced an incident directly or know someone who has, so this is clearly still an issue that needs attention. Whether co-workers or comrades, priests or presidents, television celebrities or teachers, bosses or band-mates, family members or friends, sexual assault is unfortunately usually committed by someone we know. It crosses geography, class, race and politics. No group is inherently immune, and those that think they are may be the ones left most shocked and scrambling from lack of prevention or substantive policy.
While it is encouraging to see awareness grow, it is crucial that practices go beyond discussion and idealism, to ensure concrete policies that will heal our communities. Often, as we see play out on the national stage, sexual assault policies are hastily formed or ad hoc at best, in some cases even seeming to reward those who commit assault with golden parachutes or continued positions of power. Other reactions to sexual assault regressively rely on bullying, coercing or rewarding silence from those who have been harmed. Furthermore, it is impossible to quantify the negative effects of inadequate policy & practice when the vast majority of cases are never reported. Informal methods of dealing with sexual assault, even when well-intentioned, may fall short of fairness and effectiveness. Policies developed in reaction to crises can be clouded by relationships and biases within organizations. Rather than address sexual assault policy after the fact, by setting policies beforehand groups will be better equipped for prevention and response.
RAGE has been sending a call to action around the importance of implementing or updating such policies. Maybe your group has recently received a message from us. If so, we hope to hear back from you soon! We are also asking people to spread the word within your organizations and networks. Now is a chance for all of us to make improvements on how we address this issue. While we are in no way experts, we do offer some suggestions for proactive policy and practice (as illustrated in our info-graphic we hope you will use and share):
- Form policy by listening to those most directly affected (survivors, women, LGBTQ & non-binary folks)
- Dedicate time to preventative practices such as consent and anti-harassment training
- Have clear steps to act for community safety in a sensitive, swift and survivor-focused manner
- Make staff and others involved aware of your policy and welcome feedback for continued improvement
- Have your policy easily accessible to the public via a link on your homepage
- Consider transformative justice if your group has the capacity to do so
- If you don’t know where to start, please seek resources to guide you!
In the coming weeks RAGE will be following up, compiling a list of groups that have a sexual assault prevention/response policy and encouraging those that do not to continue to work toward that goal. As a group of all-volunteer organizers ourselves, we understand local initiatives and unexpected events can often seem more urgent than doing internal upkeep of our own groups. We also know this can be some of the most important work if we want our groups to reflect the values we push society to prioritize.
In the near future we hope to help convene a broader discussion around this issue that affects the whole community. As a newly formed group, RAGE will also be working to formulate our own policy. Please be in touch, to let us know your organization’s policy or policy in-the-works, for any other concerns, or to get involved in our efforts. We look forward to hearing back from you as soon as possible, either through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Facebook (RAGE).
Thank you, we appreciate your time and attention.
Please feel free to share this message and call to action!