Content note: sexual violence, rape, sexual assault
We would like to talk about a disclosure we received about one of the longstanding LaDIYfest Sheffield organisers, regarding a sexual assault. Our response is a work in progress and we would welcome advice from and discussion with others who have faced similar situations. This is an ongoing situation that is being shaped by the outcomes of meetings with the abuser and responses from the wider community.
It is a myth that most rapists are strangers and monsters waiting in alleyways to attack us. We are most likely to be harmed by someone we know: a friend, an acquaintance, a current or ex-partner or a family member. The people who harm us are all around us: at work, in our neighbourhood, in our family, our friendship circles and in our groups and communities. Yes, they are the people we love. Yes, they are in the groups and communities who self-define as radical, DIY, feminist, queer and anarchist. At one time or another, we are all guilty of assuming that people who play our shows, organise with us and fundraise with us cannot be abusive. But no community is immune.
Confronting abusers in our radical spaces can be especially difficult. The sense of belonging we get from being part of these communities can be a rare and hard-won thing. Many survivors fear losing or destroying their community by coming forward, and this fear has been exploited by abusers in order to shame their victims into silence. Abusers can also deny the harm they cause, for fear of being exposed and ejected from the communities to which they belong.
Several weeks ago, a survivor came forward and told one of us that they had been sexually assaulted by a longstanding LaDIYfest organiser at a queer feminist event. Since then, without the abuser present, we have been planning how to respond to the situation in a way that would be supportive of the survivor and confront the abuser.
First of all, to the person who came forward: thank you. Thank you for being brave enough to tell us what happened. We believe you. You asked us to keep you anonymous and wanted the abuser to be supported in any attempts they may make to reflect on their actions. We will do our best to honour your wishes.
We (the LaDIYfest collective) have had discussions about how to best respond to this in the short-term whilst in the long-term working to build awareness of sexual violence in our communities. As with any group of people, we have different views on what to do. For some of us it stirred up some difficult experiences and struggles in our past. We know that even though we’ve tried to put a lot of research, thought and care into this matter, some people will disagree with what we’re choosing to do. There is space to talk about your reactions, beliefs and feelings, but we ask that you please respect that our decision was not taken lightly.
For the sake of transparency, here is a short list of some of the issues we talked about:
- Even though the survivor did not request that their abuser be publicly named, do we still have a responsibility to protect the community by identifying them?
- If we choose not to name the abuser, what are the risks and consequences for the community and other survivors?
- What can we do as a small group to make our community safer and the abuser accountable?
- What do we put in place in the future to stop it happening to somebody else?
- What are the limitations of our contributions here, given that we do not have specialist training in rehabilitating abusers, and as people with a connection to the abuser?
We have decided that at this time, we’re choosing not to publicly name the abuser, but instead have challenged them in private to ask them to step back from organising with/as LaDIYfest, identify and access support and recognise the extremely serious and ongoing impacts of their abusive behaviour on others. This person will no longer have access to LaDIYfest email or social media accounts and will not be attending future LaDIYfest events in accordance with our safer spaces policy. We will also be making contact with other organisations and spaces to inform others in our community about what has happened.
We believe that creating spaces for survivors to name and disclose harm is a core responsibility of a feminist collective.
For some of us this also involves making opportunities for abusers to recognise and reflect on the harm they have caused. If there is a situation where we can offer support to abusers, it is their responsibility whether or not they choose to engage. We are not and cannot be responsible for rehabilitating and making abusers ‘safe’ again.
The rest of LaDIYfest Sheffield will pull together to host the remaining events and keep our responsibilities towards performers and those who have made plans. These events include:
- Friday 24 June: Dirty Girl, Molar, Pale Kids & Nachthexen at The Audacious Art Experiment
- Saturday 20 August: The Potentials at The Audacious Art Experiment
We will be having ongoing conversations about the future of LaDIYfest Sheffield and about setting up different projects and collectives.
It is time to discuss the truth that abuses of power occur within our activist communities and it is up to us to support survivors. We will be discussing this issue more in the months to come, but for now we want you to know that we are here, we are listening, and we will respect your needs. If you want to divulge your identity or remain anonymous; if you want to go to the police or not; if you want to publicly name your abuser or keep their name private, all of these are your decisions and we will be there in any way we can to help you.
If you have experienced sexual violence within our community and want to talk about it with us, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to talk about it with a specialist support service, please contact:
Sheffield Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (SRASAC) (All genders)
Helpline: 0808 802 0013
Monday: 10am – 12noon
Tues and Thurs: 1 – 3pm then 6 – 8pm
National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans Domestic Abuse Helpline
Phone: 0300 999 5428 or 0800 999 5428*
10am – 8pm Monday
10am – 5pm Tuesday**
10am – 5pm Wednesday
10am – 8pm Thursday
1pm – 5pm Friday
**1pm-5pm Tuesday is a trans-specific service.
If you think you may be causing or have caused harm, or you are struggling with being called out in your community, please check out this article and talk to someone. The support services for abusers and people who have caused harm are very limited, but they do exist. To talk to someone and find out about available services to help you change your abusive behaviour, please contact:
Helpline 0808 802 4040
Opening times: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm