I started Safer Spaces Solidarity in the hope that we would have somewhere private to talk about the things that concern us, the things we’re taught to bury deep because that’s just the way the world is. Many of the people who joined are vulnerable in some way, survivors, people who can be triggered, who suffer with mental health problems, myself being one of them. It was in response to an incident where it came to light that one of our ‘comrades’ was actually someone nobody knew, we’d all assumed he was so and so’s friend. This person attempted to sexually assault various people within the group and was pretty much stalking me at one point.
Fembloc, Safer Spaces, this concept was about providing a neutral ground where we could be heard and crucially, we would believe each other. The only reason this serial abuser was able to carry on with his invasion of other people’s spaces was because we were too afraid to call it. Sometimes you even convince yourself you’ve got it wrong because on some level you know you won’t be believed. I was lucky; I had a group of like-minded individuals I could rely on. It was never intended to serve as judge and jury. It was about making informed choices regarding people who for whatever reason, believed they were entitled to something; people who don’t understand consent or structural power and control and perpetrate these things, all the while maintaining their commitment to ending patriarchy. It was to expose the inconsistencies. It was supposed to empower survivors to make personal decisions about the company they choose to keep. There were just a few basic rules we had to respect.
It was meant to be survivor led. All too often survivors are disempowered by accountability processes. I made the mistake of believing that people would understand what this meant. As a result there are many people who have been traumatised by the events of the past week. These feelings have been magnified by the reactions of certain people to these disclosures. Are people really surprised that survivors have withdrawn from this situation when people we TRUSTED are preaching from the perpetrators bible? Word for word, you think we haven’t heard opinions like yours before? It’s true, I am a survivor also and you can convince yourself my actions have been emotional and therefore irrational but when I left my abusive situation I went on to really learn about what had happened to me. I chose a career where I could help women in similar situations leave their living hell. I listened carefully when they spoke about their perpetrators and I believed every single one. Of course I took notes. Perpetrators are not all the same, relationships don’t always come with the same patterns. Some abusers are alcoholics or suicidal and their victims just want them to get help, they don’t necessarily want to leave. To judge the victim and/or expect them to comply by a set of rules in order to confirm their victimhood is not solidarity, it is in itself abusive.
Now, solidarity, that is something I like to pride myself on. Admittedly I wish I was strong enough to provide more solidarity than I currently do but you have to be aware of your own limitations and healthy if you are going to be of any use to anyone. Without solidarity, what are we? I’m not saying solidarity regardless of bigotry; I’m talking about the driving force behind internet feminism of all shades and persuasions when we said we would believe them. That broke down for me in less than 24hrs. I could fight the other stuff IF I believed the people I trusted had my back. I can’t say that anymore. I have spent a year fighting power without a thought for who I am fighting; I was not going to let that intimidate me. The majority of them were men. I’ve been threatened with rape, violence, been called every gendered/racial/ableist slur; I could cope with that. I can’t handle this. There is nothing more I can say or do on Twitter. I won’t be coming back.
Those of you who are on my Facebook, you’re there for a reason. Some of you have my email address and I will probably keep on blogging but my time is not best spent going over the same things over and over again with each wave revealing the apologists within our midst with evermore hurtful consequences.