Statement on Disclosure of Sexual Assault by LaDIYfest Sheffield Organiser

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:

  1. 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?
  2. If we choose not to name the abuser, what are the risks and consequences for the community and other survivors?
  3. What can we do as a small group to make our community safer and the abuser accountable?
  4. What do we put in place in the future to stop it happening to somebody else?
  5. 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 ladiyfestsheff@gmail.com.

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
Opening times:
Monday: 10am – 12noon
Tues and Thurs: 1 – 3pm then 6 – 8pm
Web: http://www.sheffieldrapecrisis.org.uk

Ashiana (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic & Refugee-specific)
Helpline: 0114 255 5740 (24 hours)
Email: info@ashianasheffield.org
Web: http://www.ashianasheffield.org

National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans Domestic Abuse Helpline

Phone: 0300 999 5428 or 0800 999 5428*
Opening times:

10am – 8pm Monday
10am – 5pm Tuesday**
10am – 5pm Wednesday
10am – 8pm Thursday
1pm   – 5pm  Friday
**1pm-5pm Tuesday is a trans-specific service.

Email: help@galop.org.uk
Web: http://www.galop.org.uk

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:

Respect
Helpline 0808 802 4040
Opening times: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm
Email:info@respecthelpline.org.uk
Web: http://respectphoneline.org.uk

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2 Responses to Statement on Disclosure of Sexual Assault by LaDIYfest Sheffield Organiser

  1. MB says:

    I’ve seen a few reposts of this on Facebook and I think this is so wrong. The victim has been completely divested of any control over their own story and it has been appropriated as an easy ‘fix’ for others. People with no link to the victim have reposted this and commented on it on Facebook, purely as a means of furthering their own image as feminists, to reaffirm their own position, to be seen to be doing the ‘right thing’ but at a total remove from the reality of this situation. These are people who, when faced with this situation in their own friendship groups, continue to harbor rapists. And I know this for a fact because I was raped by someone in my social/professional group, and those I told have continued to maintain links with this man. So reposting someone else’s trauma, commodifying it for an easy conscience salve, is pretty deplorable to me.

    Deciding to name the rapist, (seemingly against the wishes of the victim??) is just…abhorrent. You’re attempting to set a precedent that simply is not sustainable and that only serves to create a facile, counterproductive dialogue about what it means for a rape victim to be ‘brave’. I don’t see how it is brave for someone other than the victim to speak. It’s a hell of a lot easier for you (not as easy as saying nothing, but still easier than being the victim). You’re setting a precedent for overtaking a victim’s own narrative, one of the few means of control the individual has over their own trauma. You are taking away her voice, the only grasp of autonomy she may have – and you normalise this behaviour and set it on a moral pedestal. You perpetuate the notion that it is only ‘brave’ to speak, that it isn’t brave to choose to take control of your own trauma, your own life, and your own reaction to rape by whatever means makes your life more bearable.

    What you are doing here is little better than the ‘popular press’ style of justice. There are clear parallels: the story is all about the rapist, while the reality of dealing with rape remains unspoken, obscured, invisible. Yes, fine, challenge the deeply flawed legal system that does not act in the interests of victims – but know also that your means of pursuing this is no better than a newspaper pointing a finger and starting a public trial by opinion rather than fact and due process. You will doubtless disagree, but I do not think this is the most effective means of bringing about change – it is partisan, incoherent, and too small-scale. What are you hoping to achieve here? A conviction? A fundamental shift in this man’s personality? To suggest that calling out the rapist publicly will prompt some psychological readjustment is breathtakingly naive and really betrays a total ignorance about the psychology of rapists. Just as it is not in your power to meter out justice, it is not within your capabilities to address the psychology of a rapist.

    Yes, I applaud your commitment to keeping women safe. But the result of this is to immediately place a degree of responsibility upon women to protect others by speaking up: to counter rape, we need to emphasise that the responsibility is upon men not to rape! Your decision curtails the victim’s own narrative, it cuts short the healing of the individual by invoking a pressure for the victim to protect other women. After I was raped I saw a doctor who asked me if I had told the police, and when I said ‘no’, he replied: ‘well you know what will happen then…’. This was echoed among ‘friends’ who began to express concern for other women who come into contact with my rapist, but who simply could not stomach supporting someone who had been raped. What you are doing is no better. Yes, it is right and it is justified to protect a community, but too often this concern is raised at the expense of supporting the individual – it is seldom handled in a way that does not place pressure upon victims to ensure the safety of others, something that is simply not their responsibility when processing the incomprehensible trauma of rape.

    I wonder if you truly think this is the best course of action for the victim. At best, what you are doing creates the impression of a kind of half-baked, sanctimonious, social experiment within your clique – I hope deeply that this does not create any further trauma for the victim.

  2. hejyork says:

    Such a difficult situation and I applaud you for openly talking about it

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