By Aurora DeMarco
Sexual assault is a major component of patriarchy.
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’).
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.