It Takes More Than Sorry

By Aurora DeMarco

Sexual assault is a major component of patriarchy.

Sexual violence is often used as a tool for disempowerment.   The widespread truth telling around incidents of sexual violence, exemplified by the #metoo campaign, is finally attempting to dismantle the culture of silence and protection around rape and sexual assault.   Most of us are not surprised at the pervasiveness of the problem.  It is rare to find a woman who does not have a #metoo story of sexual violence.

We are also learning that this problem is not limited to women, but too many men as well are victims of sexual assault.  While consent culture is strongly promoted in FEC communities, within the communities movement the problem of power over sexual dynamics so ingrained in us by dominant culture sadly rears its ugly head.


What should communities do when someone abuses another? How can we live our values of restorative justice when we are faced with this issue?  How do we make our communities safe? The Federation of Egalitarian Communities uses  a method called Self-Examination RESponse (SERES).   This process is aimed at helping the perpetrated feel heard and attempts to address their concerns, so that they can feel safe once again in their community.

Ideally it is also used to help the  perpetrator understand and remedy their abusive behavior.  Part of the problem is that dominant culture does not teach us to how apologize in a way that shows true understanding of the harm that is done. Too often an apology comes off as a deflection and can further make the perpetrated feel gaslighted.  More work needs to be done to educate people on how to move beyond simply saying “I am sorry.”    We must train ourselves to make apologies that heal the situation.  Luckily there are resources available that can guide us.  See this:   How To Apologize For Sexual Harassment (Hint: It Takes More Than ‘Sorry’).  
false apologies

It is no wonder that communities have trouble navigating these waters when we rarely see good models of taking responsibility when our actions are abusive.  Commune Life Blog will be exploring these issues more in depth to encourage a discussion that goes beyond blame and punishment but holds perpetrators accountable while simultaneously helping to get to a healing place for all parties involved.


It Takes More Than Sorry

4 thoughts on “It Takes More Than Sorry

  1. Dearest Aurora:

    I looked at the SERES stuff with some interest. And i think this is dated in terms of Twin Oaks approach. There is newer policy crafted after problematic behaviors were not well delt with by outstanding policy. There is now a Sexual Assault Response Team, which has considerably more power (being executed by the Mental Health/Health Teams which are more enabled than the process team to intervene).

    There is a need for new policy in this area, where member FEC communities can have something off the shelf to reach for when these problems arise.

    Paxus at Cambia
    8 Cotyledon 2017


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