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Monday, October 18, 2010

pReNC Sexual Assault Policy (2008)

Following is the RNC Welcoming Committee's sexual assault policy for the
upcoming pReNC 5.3.  For more information on the event, go to
http://www.NoRNC.org

*pReNC 5.3 Sexual Assault Policy*

This sexual assault policy should be seen as a work in progress, and our
intention is to help lay the groundwork for continuing resistance to rape
culture in our community, both during the RNC and beyond.  We want this
policy
to be useful and empowering for everyone it affects, and encourage
feedback and
input to that end.  We also want to see greater participation in the work
itself, in hopes that the process of participation will be one of learning
and
developing skills that leave all involved better equipped to deal with sexual
assault and other forms of violence and coercion as they continue to manifest
themselves.

1. Terms
The definitions below are meant to provide a useful framework for
understanding
and dealing with sexual assault.  However, we recognize the limitations
inherent in trying to define complicated experiences.

Consent: Consent is actively and voluntarily expressed agreement. Doing
personal work to consistently seek consent and respect the times when it
is not
given helps to combat rape culture, and informed consent, sexual and
otherwise,
is necessary in the building of strong, healthy anti-authoritarian
communities.
The following do not qualify as consent: silence, passivity, and coerced
acquiescence.  Body movements, non-verbal responses such as moans, or the
appearance of physical arousal do not, necessarily, constitute consent.
Further, if someone is intoxicated, they may not be in a position to give you
consent.  Consent is required each and every time there is sexual activity,
regardless of the parties’ relationship, prior sexual history, or current
activity.

Sexual Assault: Sexual assault is any non-consensual sexual interaction.
Sexual
assault
happens, and it happens in activist and radical communities as
much as
anywhere else. Sexual assault can be perpetrated by a complete stranger,
but is
often perpetrated by someone known and trusted by the survivor and community.
Sexual assault is a tool of domination, of taking power, and an attempt to
rob
someone of their self respect, self worth, and autonomy. Sexual assault is
rooted in broader systems of oppression- such as patriarchy, white supremacy,
capitalism, homophobia, and colonialism- and is not separable from them in
how
and why it is perpetrated, experienced, and dealt with.

Rape Culture: Rape culture is the culture in which sexual assault and other
forms of sexual violence are condoned, excused and even encouraged.  Rape
culture
is part of a broader culture of violence, wherein people are
socialized
to inhabit different positions in hierarchical relationships, to commodify
their fellow human beings, and to relate to each other through violence and
coercion.

2. Why a sexual assault policy?
We made the decision to enact a sexual assault policy for the pReNC for
several
reasons:
  1.In planning for the last pReNC, we were confronted with an issue of
sexual
assault- specifically, of a perpetrator wanting to attend- and felt
unequipped
at that time to deal with the situation appropriately.
  2.We want to take part in setting an active precedent of combating rape
culture with all of our organizing, recognizing that one of the most
frequently-voiced concerns some folks have in anticipation of mass
mobilizations like the RNC is the extent to which they provide an arena in
which sexual assault and other coercive behaviors go unchecked.
  3.We want the pReNC to be a space where constructive, consensus processes
unfold, and we do not believe this is possible in an environment where
coercive
behaviors are not challenged and survivors are not supported.
4.We believe that failure to confront and combat sexual assault in our
communities makes us complicit in rape culture.

In establishing a specific sexual assault policy, we do not mean to suggest
that sexual assault trumps other forms of violence, nor that other acts of
oppression aren't equally important to deal with in the building of healthier
radical communities.  In fact, we see this sexual assault policy as a small
part of building a larger anti-oppression framework, and look forward to
engaging around other issues through policy and action, as well.

It is important to note that we do not have the capacity to create spaces
free
of perpetrators, but only to create spaces free of known
perpetrators.    Neither
of these is our goal at the pReNC. Exiling only those who choose to out
themselves, or who are compelled to do so by an accountability process,
without
creating spaces and processes for accountability, merely discourages honesty.
Simultaneously, we have to acknowledge that those perpetrators turned out
from
our communities will only find new ones, and while it is not our primary
responsibility to create spaces for perpetrators, it would be
irresponsible and
reprehensible of us to force them into other communities instead of doing
the
hard work of dealing with them ourselves. Knowing this, we feel that focusing
on accountability instead of punishment better serves our goal of
understanding, addressing, and stopping sexual assault in our communities.

It would be dishonest to suggest that anyone can provide an entirely
“safe”
space for radical organizing. This is true because we cannot identify and
exclude all perpetrators but, more to the point, because the presence of
perpetrators isn't the only, or even the primary, thing that makes a space
“unsafe.”  However, we are committed to always seeking and creating safer
spaces in which to organize.

3.  Prevention Plan
All participants attending the pReNC are being asked the following questions:
  1.Have you ever committed sexual assault?
  2.If yes to #1: Are you, or have you ever been, part of an accountability
process in relation to that/those assault/s? If no, why not?
  3.If yes to #2: Who can we talk to about your accountability process?

Members of the WC who were a part of developing this policy are receiving the
answers to these questions and evaluating them using these guidelines for
non-attendance:
  1.If attendance is not in keeping with the will of the survivor, or the
accountability process
  2.If a perpetrator is currently out of compliance with an accountability
process
  3.If a perpetrator has made no attempt to be accountable, or has rejected a
survivor’s request for an accountability process
  4.If a person refuses to engage with our process
  5.If a person is dismissive of the need for such a process

First, they will identify those individuals who we do not feel able to hold
accountable while still maintaining a safer space for survivors.  These
individuals will not be allowed to attend the pReNC.  Second, they will
follow
up with perpetrators who may be allowed to attend to determine if attendance
fits with our policy. Third, they will compile a list of self-identified
perpetrators in attendance and an explanation of the reasons they’re being
allowed to attend, to be available upon request to all pReNC attendees.

In having a sexual assault policy for this convergence, we hope to normalize
talking about and dealing with sexual assault within radical communities and
spaces. We believe that this helps to combat rape culture and replace it
with a
culture of transparency, accountability, and non-coercive ways of relating
with
eachother.

4. Response Plan
Sexual assault will not be tolerated at the pReNC, and our policy in dealing
with sexual assault will be one of deference to the requests, needs and
desires
of the survivor.  Because of the short-term nature of the pReNC and our
limited
capacity for fully addressing rape culture over the course of one weekend, we
cannot create a space for third party accusations and interventions. Only the
requests of the survivor or someone empowered to act on their behalf will be
considered.

We want to encourage survivors to seek out whatever support they need, and
acknowledge how enormously difficult- even impossible- this can be. We
recognize this policy as one small step in creating spaces and infrastructure
that make that possible.

At the pReNC, we will have a mediation team ready to deal with any
instances of
sexual assault, as well as other situations that arise and require mediation.
The team of four to six individuals may consist of locals- some of them
members
of the Welcoming Committee- as well as trusted attendees from out of town.
The
team will be on call from Friday, May 2nd through Sunday, May 4th, and
will be
present throughout the strategizing session.  Direct contact information for
the mediation team will be made available to pReNC attendees prior to
arrival.
The mediation team’s primary purpose is to support and assist survivors of
sexual assault during the pReNC, and will do so only according to the
wishes of
the survivor.  The mediation team will attempt, as much as possible, to
provide
resources for people to continue the process of healing, but will not have
the
capacity to provide follow-up services and accountability beyond the confines
of the weekend.

We are in the final stages of assembling the mediation team, and between now
and the pReNC, those on the team and those who drafted this policy will
meet to
further develop and flesh out this response plan.

If you want to learn more and/or have resources available about dealing with
sexual assault, let us know, as we would like to facilitate a radical
exchange
of information on the topic. Lastly, if you have specific questions about
aspects of this policy, how it's being implemented, or the process that
led us
to it, don't hesitate to ask.

-the RNC Welcoming Committee

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