We, the organizers of the event titled “Patriarchy and the Movement”, have been asked to write a statement about our position on what unfolded in Portland, in the Red and Black, after the panel. We have asked for and welcome open critiques and dialogue concerning how the panel could have been done better.
Organizers of this event have received an overwhelming positive response from attendees of the event who found the panel empowering and important. Many responses are encouraging that these conversations continue, and that resistance to patriarchy in the radical community is taken seriously. We have even heard that people who have engaged in damaging patriarchal behaviors have begun to seriously acknowledge these actions following the event.
Before going on, we had heard that there were rumblings in the community ahead of the event that some folks thought we had plans to singularly call out certain guys, or to
particularly call out our ex-boyfriends. These comments are insulting, sexist, and ridiculous. It is depressing that our politics, or even our concerns, are often reduced and minimized in this way, to “personal vendettas” or “attacks”. We did not organize the event in order to call anyone out, and this event had nothing to do with anyone’s ex-partners. The fact that people were ruminating over the personal lives and past relationships of organizers in the context of this event feels like a privacy violation, it is unprincipled, and it has been triggering. We organized this event because of conversations happening up and down the west coast, and because there has obviously been a need to put forth an anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist feminist politic and to develop an anti-patriarchy praxis, and simply, because we are militant feminists.
We would like to speak directly to the events that unfolded during the discussion that took place after the panel, and after the live stream was turned off. We understand that there may be variety of experiences and perspectives in the room, and we will share ours, and also share our political positions on these discussions. We also understand that what took place during the discussion caused an uproar, and a lot of political controversy. We would like to point out that if what happened during a single public discussion in a single event caused such a political crisis, it is clear to us that issues of patriarchy needed to be addressed for a long time, and must continue to be addressed politically and in the open.
Our last panelist was a clinical psychologist from Oakland who we invited to speak on the topic of “patriarchy and trauma”. As he began his speech, he called himself out for
supporting a member of the Portland community, who we will call X, while X was enacting patriarchal and damaging behaviors while engaged with an accountability process which neither was the subject of. He also called out X for these behaviors, and connected this to the re-traumatizing of the survivor. He then went on to complete his speech.
After about 4 or 5 attendees spoke during the question and answer section of the discussion, some attendees identifying as members of a support committee of a survivor also spoke about their experiences with X in the aforementioned accountability process, and their political analysis of this experience. What we understand from what was said, the particular attendees called out X for putting the survivor in danger during an accountability process, talking in sexist ways within the community about the survivor, divulging personal information about her, and for severely discrediting the survivor and other members of her support group in the larger community.
Directly afterwards, an attendee identifying themselves as former members of an organization in which X was a member stood up with a pre-written statement in counter-response to the experience that the first group had expressed about X. This pre-written statement has been identified by the Red and Black collective as a violation of their safer space policy.
After the pre-written statement was read, a member of the Pink Tape collective stood up on behalf of another survivor, who was unaffiliated with the first group who called out X. It was then that X was called out yet again. This survivor stood up later and said that X had questioned her and doubted her when she was sexually assaulted.
Many things that were said had the potential to trigger people in the room, and it’s likely that many of those things did. However, it was our experience from our vantage point sitting facing the room, that many of the attendees became particularly triggered when the pre-written statement was read. The room seemed to fall apart in this moment. In attending discussions about the event after the event itself, and in taking care of people in the aftermath, we have heard a few different people state that they “could not bear to listen to the statement all the way through” or “began shaking during the reading of the statement” because of the triggering effect. Some of the organizers were also triggered by the statement. People have also expressed, both the night of the panel and in the aftermath, that they have serious political disagreements with the statement. This no doubt contributed to the upset in the room when it was read.
Our Political Position on the Pre-Written Statement
We as organizers would like to extend our support to all who attended and were triggered during the discussion, for whatever reason they were triggered, and we hope that everyone is taking care of themselves and each other. We would particularly like people to know that we do not politically support the statements made in the pre-written statement, nor do we think it was appropriate or necessary to come to this particular discussion with this pre-written statement. We do not support bringing the “questions” posed within the pre-written statement into that particular space.
There are a few reasons for our position:
1. The “questions” within the pre-written statement did not appear to actually be questions for discussion; rather, these were the type of “questions” which in of themselves asserted a conclusion, and a certain line. To use a question format does not excuse the political line pushed within the question.
2. The conclusions, or political lines, that these “questions” asserted are lines that are classically used by perpetrators and/or those supporting, surrounding, or backing
perpetrators or abusers, either against survivors or as a way to shield the perpetrator. This was immediately recognizable to many.
3. For us, these statements and “questions” are not a matter of “political disagreement”, and framing it as such is insincere. It is insincere because this “political disagreement” was asserted in a specific context of responding to X being called out, and was posed in the form of qualifying the validity of the actions of person X for which he had been called out on. Thus, we repeat that ironically, this same line did not appear as open political discourse or sincere questions, but rather as a way to shield the person who had been called out.
Adding irony to irony, the statements made actually discouraged open discourse, in that they minimized, silenced, and were dismissive of the reasons that X had been called out, and yet the justification for this has been in the name of open discourse. The statements also in and of themselves minimized, silenced, and were dismissive of survivors talking safely about their needs.
We also feel that framing the discourse around survivor’s needs as “political disagreements” or “political arguments” is in of itself sexist- as it pretends that this conversation should be emptied of subjective narrative, or that there is an equal playing ground in the conversation because the conversation itself isn’t about real power, or that this conversation itself isn’t already racialized and gendered. It is also problematic, in that it suggests that there is a neutral or objective rationality in this debate, rather than the possibility that the debate itself and the content of the debate is a socially contingent result of prevailing power dynamics. This isn’t qualifiably the same, nor does it have the same implications, as having a political disagreement over Trotsky for example. There are direct consequences to these “debates”, and there physical bodies involved. As survivors and feminists, we must become cautious when our bodies our safety, and our well-being, as well as our needs around our bodies, safety, and well beings, become the subject of “political debate”. We also need to have some political and real autonomy from cis men in discussions that concern our own needs and well-being.
For us, there is more at stake here than just the merits of a “debate”. Our bodies, safety, health, personal autonomy, and well-beings are at stake. We do not agree with people having a “political argument” at our expense. The outcome could be life or death for us.
4. The line offered by the pre-written statement was one that, as we quickly saw unfold, had the effect of collectively silencing, disempowering, and triggering people. As we said before, there were people in the room were not capable of listening to the whole statement. Whatever the supposed justification or intention of this statement was, this was the effect, and we cannot support it. This was the immediate consequence in terms of trauma.
5. Beyond the immediate effects, the pre- written statement has also had a lasting and awful effect on the psyche of many survivors who were present, and has embodied a lot of the trauma that survivors have suffered. While taking care of those triggered after the event, we have heard several survivors say things to the effect of “the things said in that statement were exactly why I didn’t tell anyone I was assaulted.” This also points to the political implications of the statement being silencing.
6. The pre-written statement carried a line that had the potential of emboldening or empowering abusers or perpetrators in the space.
7. The pre-written statement may have the effect of emboldening or empowering abusers in the future, as now the needs of survivors have been put out in the public as something to be questioned, a point of “tension”, or a “subject of debate”. The needs of survivors have been scandalized by this statement, and that is worrisome to us. (We encourage community members to be aware and vigilant of possibilities of this effect within the community, not only in terms of emboldening perpetrators, but also on those currently trying to identify, survive, and leave an abusive dynamic, or those wishing to speak up.)
8. The statement carried an argument that painted men who have been called out as “victims” of feminist processes, of being called out, or of accountability processes
themselves. One of the ways in which it did this was by stating that the concerns about X were “personalized attacks”. We do not politically support this line of arguing, nor or these accusations, nor the political implications of saying that concerns over patriarchal behavior is purely “personal”. We think it is a classic line-that men are victimized when called out on patriarchal behavior, or minimizing feminist or survivor concerns, to a “personal attack” rather than these concerns being over a real embodied sexist structure in behavior that should be addressed and changed. We think this is extremely silencing, and that it also is reflective of dominant sexist paradigm, and we do not politically support it.
9. It was completely unnecessary, triggering, and inappropriate to come into a space where survivors are present (and obviously survivors would be present at an anti-patriarchy event) and actively and verbally support someone who has been called out, by two different, unaffiliated people, for damaging survivors. No matter what he was being called out on, naturally, survivors witnessing this were imagining and projecting the ways that people would support their abusers, or have supported their abusers, and this was overwhelming and traumatic.
10. Despite the fact that the person who read the pre-written statement was defending the character of the person called out, she did not come prepared whatsoever with any
commitment from person X that would reassure the community or the people in the space that his damaging behaviors have stopped or would stop. When a second survivor came forward, again, unaffiliated with the first group, she was also not met with a response committing to making sure the behaviors would change. Rather, she was asked outside of the space to have a face to face talk with person X.
11. It seemed further unnecessary to bring the pre-written statement into that space, as it became more clear that it was not directly linked to most of the debate by the panel itself (it was pre-written anyway and could not have known what would be talked about on the panel), though it ironically in of itself embodied much of the patriarchal mechanisms that were talked about during the panel. When one of the organizers asked the person who had read the statement to politically back up the statement, and to identify a “political criteria” for the statement, she was only able to respond to X’s character once again.
As we have noted, this pre-written statement violated the Red and Black safer space policy, triggered many people, may have emboldened perpetrators, was antithetical to crucial points of feminist praxis around survivor safety, was politically problematic in various ways, and did not show any commitment that X should change his behaviors, even despite another survivor coming forward. On all ends, we want to politically distance ourselves from this statement, and we were shocked and dismayed that this took place at an anti-patriarchy event.
Further Experiences and Retrospect:
The organizers would like to note that the event and the discussion afterwards were separate pieces. We organized and planned the political content of the event itself, and only planned the discussion afterwards in terms of moderation, not in terms of content.
We would like people to be aware that leading up to the event, person X questioned the event on a national listserv. This questioning appeared to be asking about the politics of the event, but person X also asked specifically who was speaking. Organizers explained that panelists would not be revealed because we wanted to avoid panelists being approached or intimidated ahead of the event, and we also wanted to avoid attempts at manipulating the content of the event, as we have had experience with this in the past. We also explained the general politics of the panelists. Even so, person X continued to question the content of the event, and said that he would not commit to supporting the event without knowing the experiences, background, and proposals of those involved, which seemed to be a lot of to ask.
On the same national listserv, person X then expressed political views over the content of the event, but without having knowledge of what the actual content of the panel was. Also, people close to X, including members of his former organization, in two different cities, expressed reservations to other comrades about the politics of the event before the event happened, stating that they would “disagree” with the content of the event or that people should be “cautious”. Person X was the only person we know of who so aggressively questioned the event. We were dumbfounded and confused about why people presumed to know what the political content of the event would be, and why that presumed content was continuously and publically questioned, by members of the same former organization, before the event even happened. While everyone else expressed excitement over the event, in the aftermath, it now seems to us that the group of people politically questioning the event were those concerned that a former member of their organization would be called out by people attending the event during the discussion, and they were also the same people who were aware that a statement was being prepared.
It seems unprincipled to us, as organizers, as people who put effort into making these conversations alive, that our political work itself should be questioned because of the possibility of certain people attending the event, or that our political work itself should be scrutinized in order to shield a single member of the community from being called out. Although we kept public anonymity, people locally knew who was organizing the event; one could see on FB who was hosting the event as well. None of the people expressing reservation came to us directly or attempted to seek us out and have open conversation, or let us know they were coming to the event with a prepared statement. Instead, from what we understand, there were rumors flying and accusations being made that the organizers themselves had underhanded motives.
For us, the course of all this has been pretty bizarre.
We would like to reflect on the space we found ourselves in during the discussion after the panel. While we have discussed what we could have done better to facilitate a discussion on the topic of patriarchy in the movement, it was extremely difficult to moderate a discussion at a certain point, as our own panelists and moderators became triggered and upset. Our own panelists and moderators had to leave the space at different points, and take care of people who had been triggered. If anyone would like to contact the organizers and give us suggestions for what we could have done better when the discussion became triggering and difficult, we welcome dialogue. However, a few of us have had experience in organizing similar debates in the past, and although we have seen people called out before, we have never seen what transpired that night.
We would like to thank the Red and Black for their impressive show of solidarity and hospitality in accommodating this event. Members of the collective stepped up, without being asked, and helped organize childcare, made extra space, and did the entire tech support for this event. They also donated a part of the profit they made to the event. We are glad that male-identified members of Red and Black helped with some of the grunt work for this event, as well as organizing childcare, as this work typically falls on women. Knowing that survivors of patriarchal violence would likely be attending and possibly speaking at this event, we decided to hold this event in the Red and Black because of their safer space policy. We would like to support the public statement that Red and Black published regarding their safer space policy in the aftermath of the event, and we also applaud their collective in the efforts that they make in their objective of holding up their safer space policy and supporting survivors. See the Red and Black statement here: http://www.redandblackcafe.com/statement-in-response-to-2-28-13-event-2/
We would also like to thank members of the Pink Tape Collective, who identified themselves as possible support people should anyone become triggered. We want to also applaud members of the Pink Tape Collective for their efforts in providing support during the discussion and in the days following. We would like to note that the work that the Pink Tape is a collective focused on survivor support, and this collective engages in often exhausting thankless work, yet work that is absolutely necessary for the safety, healing, and overall survival of members of our communities. This work is unfortunately not often regarded as political, and thus we would like to extend an invitation to the Pink Tape Collective to make a statement regarding the discussion following the event as well, not only because they were impacted in terms of survivor support in the aftermath, but also because we do see this as political and because of the nature of the discussion following the event we feel the Pink Tape Collective has a critical voice in the subsequent discussions.
We would also like to thank all of the panelists. We understand that participating in an event of this sort and speaking out against patriarchy in the movement carries a serious and real risk. We often censor ourselves on this issue, out of fear of the consequences of being directly undermined or discredited for speaking up or politicizing our experiences. We applaud the panelists for their fearlessness as well as for the work that they put into their powerful presentations.
In the aftermath of the event, and what we heard during the discussion, the following has become obvious to us, and we suggest that the community take up some considerations:
-There was a need expressed by many in the discussion that childcare has to become more paramount in our communities, that there is an extreme work burden put on parents and single mothers, but that doing childcare or other work of this sort should not excuse members of the communities from their patriarchal behaviors and filling in this work is not a source of “immunity.”
-There is a need to educate ourselves and others on trauma- to understand how people become traumatized or re-traumatized, what is triggering for people, and the harm and damage that triggering people causes. We need to understand what trauma symptoms look like, and work to create an environment that is supportive of trauma survivors. We also need to understand how to care for people who are traumatized or triggered, and deconstruct the way this care is gendered. We need to be aware and call out members of the community who attack trauma survivors or ostracize people suffering trauma from the political community.
-Work around survivor support has fallen on a select few, and neither the work nor the politic behind it is appreciated enough or given enough attention. There is a need to support collectives such as the Pink Tape Collective.
-There is a need to hold more feminist meetings, a need to talk more openly about patriarchy and oppression people are dealing with currently, to make more copies of zines on these subjects, and to put out more resources in the community.(If in the aftermath of the event and seeing how serious and real these issues are, men are still unsure about what to do, one easy suggestion may be to begin by educating themselves and also taking on responsibility for printing and distributing zines on these subjects.)
-There is a need to listen to people other than cis white men.
-There is a need to question men who are discrediting women in the community
-There is a need to talk directly with other members of the community, instead of behind people’s backs
-There is a need to hold feminist reading groups- groups in which non-men can study what they want to without the presence of cis men, as well as mixed gendered groups where people can study feminism together
-There is a need to speak up and write more
-There is a need to stand up for feminists in the community who are taking risks by speaking out, and have their backs
-There is a need to eat more often and drink more coffee and beer at the Red and Black, as their space is a very important resource in Portland, and their collective are allies in feminist organizing, and they have suffered hard times financially. Also, this space is a safer space. Hold your meetings at the Red and Black!
Don’t be afraid to speak up, and resist. Every time we speak out, we empower others to do the same. Don’t be intimidated by the mechanisms which are classically used to silence and discredit us. Other feminists who have had similar experiences will have your back and be there for you. We are many more than you think. Resistance begins when fear stops.
Take care of each other,
In solidarity and struggle, the Organizers of the Patriarchy and the Movement event,
Oakland, Portland, Seattle.
Reblogged this on Shades of Silence.
could you share a link to the archived livestream?
Pingback: Building Capacity for Complexity | Black Orchid Collective
Please see our response to this statement and other content coming out of the Patriarchy and the Movement event here: http://blackorchidcollective.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/building-capacity-for-complexity/
Recently my role and participation in an accountability process has been discussed publicly-both at the February 28th, Patriarchy and the Movement (PM) event, and in various online forums. In response to specific accusations raised at PM, an audience member asked, “What would you like to see from him?”
I am told that four specific things were requested of me by those raising the issue:
1.take responsibility for the harm I have caused,
2. apologize publicly
3. stop questioning the survivor
4. have nothing to do with accountability processes from here on out.
Unfortunately, though it had apparently circulated as a possibility via the rumor mill, I was not informed that I would be discussed by name at this event, so I was not present or able to respond then. This event was also the first I had heard of the above requests. I hope to meet all of these demands in this letter.
I want to do so in a manner which best respects the privacy of the survivor, but feel compelled to issue this as a public statement as those airing their grievances have not contacted me either through intermediaries or directly, but have done so in a public forum, and have requested a public response. The reflections requested of me cannot be separated from the factors influencing my and others decisions in this accountability process.
1&2. Id like to begin with a genuine apology. It was a mistake to agree to assist with a process where the political history between myself and the survivor meant our relationship was already strained. This led to multiple instances of mistrust, misinterpretation, and engagements on my part which left the survivor feeling unheard. This is something I am truly sorry for. This strained relationship was complicated by a lack of clarity at the outset regarding whether or not we had common agreement about the process as a restorative or retributive process and how decisions would be made further exacerbated this. I see how this made the survivor feel that their needs and experiences were not being addressed.
Absent another body to answer to, and absent the involvement of the state, we were limited in our ability to enforce some of the survivor’s demands. Beyond ensuring that the survivor was safe from the abuser over a prolonged period of time, I was confronted with the real risks of what punitive measures (specifically requests for the use of violence) against the abuser would mean for the child who was emotionally and physically dependent on him. I know this situation was complicated, and I can see how not fulfilling the survivor’s request created the feeling of not respecting the survivor’s autonomy.
3. I have had no contact with either the survivor or their support committee since my withdrawal from this process and the sharing of this statement. I do not question the survivor’s telling of the events of their abuse by the person whom we were asked to intervene against. I do believe and have stated that I believe the survivor’s accusations against their abuser are credible and supported by multiple layers of evidence.
4.My experiences of accountability processes as I have seen them implemented-both in outcomes for survivors and the interests of restorative justice, have been complex and full of difficult decisions that impact multiple different people. Per the survivor’s request, I will not participate in another accountability process as they are now enacted within radical left circles. I look forward to being a part of collectives and collective processes that can continue to grapple with the important questions raised regarding how the radical left intervenes in and responds to the common and real problem of gendered violence, both within our own organizations, and within society as a whole.
Accusations against me, particularly that I am not trustworthy, or that I shouldn’t belong in left organizing circles in Portland, have been raised privately during the past 18 months and have been the focus of two investigations regarding my role: one by Bring The Ruckus of which I was a member, and one by Hella 503, of which I am a current member.
The first examination of the accusations was entered into voluntarily by those currently making accusations and members of Portland Bring The Ruckus (BTR) in 2011. Prior to the investigation both parties (BTR local and the survivors support committee) agreed on an approach based both on the nature of concerns raised and the desire to avoid a public airing of sensitive personal information relating to the survivor, and agreed that this would resolve the issue. The BTR local assigned a team to meet with multiple individuals involved in the process and relayed its reflections and criticisms to me.
Almost two years later, when I was petitioning for membership in a local collective, it was brought to my attention that people who had been involved in that process were asking that I be barred from membership because of my role within the accountability process and further, that I should not be allowed to work within the radical left because of my role within the process.. Hella503 investigated the claims and found nothing actionable.
THE ACCOUNTABILITY PROCESS
In my experience, the process fell apart due to a myriad of factors, most clearly around divisions between participants concerning the role of retaliatory violence against the perpetrator.
I was in a position where my desire to respect the survivors autonomy was in conflict with the safety of a child. Along with others in the process, I prioritized the safety of the child when we learned from the survivor that the survivor felt they were no longer physically endangered. Those of us who came to this decision made it collectively and with the direct urging of the mental health professional who was central to the process.
I will continue my commitment to a radical politic, to continuing to grow and understand how my own socialization impacts my relationships with others within the movement, and to participation in collectively confronting gendered violence. I look forward to conversing with those who are interested in addressing the questions and issues raised by our many experiences and failures in developing a model for intervening in these types of situations.
Peter Little has issued an “apology”. This effort to rewrite the entire situation, to recast himself as the noble hero protecting a child from my crazed wrath, is obviously yet another artifact of his ongoing campaign to smear me, and renounce any responsibility for his harmful choices. I am truly astounded by the lengths that he is apparently willing to go to in this effort. While I completely reject his attempt to once again put me on trial as the cruel witch, I will endeavor to outline its problematic features, factual inaccuracies, and overtly misogynistic traits. What has been illuminated by this statement from Pete is the exact narrative he has been using so effectively to gather allies to himself. I can assure you, as can many others, this is a work of complete fiction. I hope that in time, those that have taken a poor position on this subject, will rethink their allegiances and examine why it is that they were so eager to accept this classic, misogynistic narrative.
1. This “apology” is in effect blackmail and a double-bind. Pete is attempting to force me to violate security culture by speaking to some facets of this process, or I must remain silent and be painted as a monster. I will do neither.
Thus far Pete has used this similar tactic with great success. If my comrades and myself take our grievances to a public forum, we are snitch-jacketed as “political liabilities” and “state assets”. We have even been met by retaliatory doxing efforts by those closest to him. If we continue to remain quiet about this, it continues to dog our organizing efforts. This story has spread diffusely in our social and political spheres. People that I had never met before had already heard about what an unprincipled maniac I am from Pete. Complete strangers knew about the personal details of a very painful part my life, distorted in a way to malign me. Imagine how violating that feels. The tales of my instability and trustworthiness were extended to those around me (mostly women), so much so that it became crippling to our organizing. What are we to do when we have tried the same tactic numerous times to no avail? We met privately in good faith with trusted allies, and each time they were swayed by Pete. Not only was he not held accountable, but he was able to more thoroughly dispense his narrative, thus bringing further damage to us. What do we do when we are faced with challenging someone that is so powerful and charismatic? Do we simply let other survivors be harmed? Do we abandon our political work because we have been so defamed and discredited?
I think not.
2. This has never been a political dispute. My support team and myself on numerous occasions invited dialogue to clarify what people’s ideas were coming into the process. We asked practical questions about the structure, tactics, and goals of the process. There was a complete lack of transparency and a disregard for our efforts to have these important conversations. I felt no particular pre-existing political or personal tension with Pete. I would not have reached out to him at such a vulnerable time if I had. I genuinely thought the best of Pete and was entirely blind-sided when he turned on me so dramatically. Pete has raised this issue of the pre-existing political strife before. What he usually brings up is an email I sent to a very small, internal listserve about 2 years prior to this process. In it I did make a snarky and unprincipled joke about him. I regret having not apologized for that thoughtless comment. However that he would swoop in at the worst moment of my life to completely destroy me personally and politically as retribution, seems a grossly exaggerated response.
3. The entire framing of my supposed “demands” is problematic:
“Unfortunately, though it had apparently circulated as a possibility via the rumor mill, I was not informed that I would be discussed by name at this event, so I was not present or able to respond then. This event was also the first I had heard of the above requests. I hope to meet all of these demands in this letter.”
This is the tried and true method of thrusting the ball back in my lap for his refusal to be accountable prior. It is also jam-packed with lies.
A) If he was not anticipating this coming up at the event, why did he vehemently attack the organizers online prior to it? Why did his allies bring a prepared statement that specifically defended him and their (failed) process around our request to hold him accountable?
B) Continually referring to the means of women communicating as “ the rumor-mill” or “gossip”, while not characterizing his own behavior this way.
C) These “demands” are entirely manufactured by his PR department to put this issue to bed as quickly as possible without Pete really having to do anything to change or repair harm. No, a letter will not suffice, particularly a letter whose conciliatory message is,”I am very sorry that I ever tried to help such an evil woman as Caroline.”
I did not consent to these demands. Pete’s ally, in the midst of a highly chaotic and emotionally-charged moment at the event, shut me down and derailed me by yelling, “WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM HIM?” My immediate response in that moment is now being crafted as “demands” that I somehow was keeping secret. After the event I felt really annoyed that I had allowed her to derail me in this manner, though I responded calmly to her. Too often the failure of accountability processes is blamed on the survivor’s lack of clarity. I refuse to be responsible for Pete’s poor behavior. That he has no idea how to apologize is not my fault. I am not interested in conducting a How to Be a Human Being 101 class with Pete. This is my contribution for home study. This is paraphrased from what I said to Pete’s allies at the event:
I, being a fallible human being, have made mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes were very serious and caused harm. It is what we do with these mistakes that matters. Yes, we are all acculturated in a white supremacist, Capitalist, hetereopatriarchal society. We are broken by this in different ways and we are bound to fuck up. As revolutionaries, we know that the decisions we make either uphold or erode white hetereopatriarchy. Not making decisions will, by default, uphold white hetereopatriarchy. I know how devastating it can be to be the person who fucked up: it’s humiliating, it calls into question your integrity (as it should), and while all those things are true, we know that actions either uphold or erode patriarchy. So, when I fuck up, I sit with that humiliation, I examine how my fucked-up actions are out of alignment with my principles, and I work to figure out what it will take to bring them back into alignment, and then I DO IT. I identify the harm my actions caused, and work to address that harm.
D) Even though these demands were somewhat falsely thrust upon me, I will use them as a vehicle to demonstrate what it would look like if Pete was actually interested accountability:
1.Take responsibility for the harm I have caused
2. Apologize publicly
3. Stop questioning the survivor
4. Have nothing to do with accountability processes from here on out.
1. Taking responsibility for the harm caused- This would mean admitting that he replicated misogynistic narratives, which severed relationships, and exponentially increased the trauma from my abuse. He propped up my abuser at all costs, prioritized his rehabilitation to such a degree that he was willing to distort his progress, and was manipulated by him. Furthermore this would mean telling the *numerous* people that he has cast myself and my comrades in such a negative light to, that he was wrong and that they should not believe his previous characterizations. After this, he would rigorously examine his own misogyny, and his motivations in this process, and would work hard to ensure he would not do this to anyone else. He would research how this is a common occurrence in accountability processes (perhaps read: Betrayal), and take ownership of the ways he participated in that pattern. He would work to understand how trauma impacts survivors’ behavior. He would recognize their humanity and subjectivity. He would attempt to develop some compassion and understanding for survivors, which he so readily extends to abusers.
2. Apologize publicly- This would be an unmitigated recognition of the trauma that I have suffered due to him, and what his smear campaign has cost me. It would look like a real apology, wherein he would accept responsibility. He would not play the victim or character assassinate me.
3. Stop demonizing the survivor- He would no longer frame this as merely “questioning” me, but rather as his systematic disempowerment and subsequent demonization of me. He would completely stop shit-talking me (see 1). He would cease pretending that this was a political disagreement. He would stop portraying me as crazy, blood-thirsty, vindictive, unprincipled, unstable, and so forth.
4. Have nothing to do with accountability processes from here on out- He would accept that perhaps he is not an appropriate candidate for this type of work. Efficacy in most things does not equal efficacy in all things. He would acknowledge that despite his good intentions, political sophistication, and intelligence, he has failed repeatedly at this work. He would not scapegoat “radical left circles” or blame the type of process. He would recognize that the risk of retraumatizing survivors was too great a cost for him to engage in this work again.
We are responding as members of the support team for the survivor. We acknowledge that Little’s choice of the Patriarchy and the Movement blog as a public venue to make a response throws the organizers of the event even further into the center of this matter. We hope that all of the poignant, pertinent, incredible political content of the Patriarchy and the Movement event is not lost in the shuffle. We nonetheless feel obligated to respond to Little and to set the factual record straight.
Allies of the abuse survivor in question witnessed Peter Little co-opting an accountability process while belittling, degrading and maligning the survivor. He amplified the damage done by the original abuser, and ensured that the survivor was denied power and agency throughout the hijacked process.
At four junctures, Peter Little had opportunities to reconsider his behavior and to cease his harmful activity. Firstly, Little was contacted directly when it became clear that his behavior was becoming problematic. He was very gently asked to reflect on what he was doing. In response, Little was visibly hostile and spent his time telling the person who brought forward these concerns about how deeply unprincipled the survivor was. When he was subsequently asked to step away from the process, Little sent an email to others involved in the accountability process, attempting to tarnish the survivor’s reputation.
Peter Little’s behavior so troubled the survivor’s support team that they brought it to the attention of Peter Little’s organization, Bring the Ruckus. (Peter Little had consistently stated that if there were concerns about his behavior, Bring the Ruckus was the organization to which he was accountable.) Allies of the survivor stressed that Peter Little needed to apologize to the survivor and to others he had hurt in the process, as well as to cease engaging in the harming behaviors. Instead, Peter Little escalated his attacks on the survivor’s reputation. This continued up to the point of Peter Little’s membership in Hella 503, approximately a year later. Members of the survivor’s support team again expressed concern about Peter Little’s behavior to his new organization. Peter Little again had an opportunity to address the damage he had caused and he chose, again, not to do so.
Now, Peter Little is issuing a nominal “apology” which further spreads lies about the survivor and again attempts to damage her reputation.
The accountability demands for the original abuser were set out during an initial meeting. The demands may be found at: http://chadwalterinfo.wordpress.com/accountability-process-demands-and-response/
As the above link shows, none of the survivor’s demands involved violence against the abuser. The survivor’s support team never asked Peter Little to commit or instigate acts of violence. The implication that the survivor was so reckless as to ignore the safety of the abuser’s child in her demands is yet another attempt by Little to vilify the survivor using misogynistic narratives (in this case, the survivor as not displaying the proper amount of compassion and concern). The situation itself held the potential for violence due to the abuser’s nature. What the survivor’s support team considered to be essential was that Peter Little transparently present both the survivor’s experience of abuse and the demands of the accountability process. The survivor’s support team consistently asked Peter Little to step back from any roles or situations he did not feel comfortable with. Peter Little never stepped back; instead, he insisted that the survivor must not be allowed to have control, and dishonestly circulated that the abuser was in compliance with the demands set forth in the accountability process. Peter Little then went on a campaign of attacking the abuse survivor as “unprincipled.”
The survivor’s support team sees that Peter Little’s letter continues to attack and lie about the survivor. When Peter Little apologizes for having engaged in an accountability process, because it was a mistake to get involved with a survivor so (allegedly) unprincipled, that is not Peter Little recognizing his own destructive behavior. It is an attempt to switch blame. It is dishonest to maintain that political differences surrounding accountability are the main issue. Little refused to discuss with the survivor’s support team the existence of what he is now portraying as an insurmountable political difference, and refused to sort out the implications of divergent views on what accountability processes look like. The demands made by the survivor require a certain sort of process. If Peter Little was uncomfortable with the survivor’s basic accountability demands, then he should have stepped back rather than seizing power and pursuing his own agenda in ways that lacked transparency. What the survivor’s support team experienced as a denial of the survivor’s agency is now being portrayed by Peter Little as a difference over political principles. This is completely alien to the support team’s understanding of Peter Little’s behavior as it occurred at the time.
We thank Peter Little for clarifying Hella 503’s position that they found “nothing actionable” in his behavior. We note that the central motif of Little’s “apology” letter is attacks on the survivor. It is unfortunate that Little has chosen to continue to escalate an already harmful situation, rather than making an attempt to de-escalate with a sincere apology to those he harmed and a real commitment to changing his own behavior.
–Support Team for the Survivor
Since the Patriarchy in the Movement event at the Red and Black Café on February 28th, 2013 there have been several statements made about the events of the Q&A after the live stream ended. There have been accusations made that people in the room that night attempted to silence women who were speaking. It is true that women were silenced at that event, but not in the way that some former members of the Portland chapter of Bring the Ruckus and some of their close political allies are saying it happened.
At the event, a member of the support team for a politically active survivor (of which I was also a member) spoke out about what she had witnessed when the survivor’s accountability process two years prior was co-opted by a well-known revolutionary man by the name of Peter Little.
The woman spoke about what she had seen happen in the aftermath of the Pete’s involvement in the process, and the tremendous harm caused to the survivor by his actions. She spoke also about the failure of two separate organizations of which Peter Little has been a member in that two-year period to effectively hold Peter Little to account for his behavior. Since the Patriarchy in the Movement event was centered around the ways that patriarchy plays out in radical political communities, and after the panel presentations so eloquently and boldly described many of our own experiences as women organizers, it felt like the appropriate place to start a community conversation about the political implications of what Pete did to this survivor.
After this woman (my friend and comrade) spoke, another female-assigned person (a former member of Portland Bring the Ruckus) stood up to read a prepared statement as a rebuttal to what my comrade said. This rebuttal statement is what the Red and Black Café identified as being in conflict with its safer space policy, in a statement made by the café after the event. Why a former member of Bring the Ruckus thought to bring a prepared statement defending the organization’s actions around Pete and this survivor’s accountability process to this event is really beyond me, since up until the end of the panel presentation, neither the survivor nor members of the survivor’s support team knew whether or not the event would even prove an appropriate venue to open up such a conversation. Notably, at no point in the entire two years between the actual accountability process and the event that night, did either the person who read that statement, or her male-assigned comrades who were not present that night, think to bring up any of the “important political questions” outlined in the statement directly with the survivor or her support team. Additionally, missing from the copies of this statement that I’m seeing in hard copy were the silencing words “we think it’s important to be critical of survivors.” I cannot think of another way to interpret that statement than “to not believe everything they say about their abuse.”
Since there are abounding questions being raised about what transpired at the Patriarchy and the Movement Q&A, and the events leading up to what happened in that room, with the permission of the survivor and with her name and identifying details redacted from the statement, I will now share my account of some of the specific behavior from Peter Little that the survivor and her support team took issue with. This is a redacted version of exactly the same information I sent to Paul Messersmith-Glavin pursuant to his inquiries about Peter Little’s co-opting of the initial accountability process. Messersmith-Glavin began looking into this issue after another member of the survivor’s support team raised concerns to Paul about working with Pete in Hella 503, then a new Portland-based organization. (Messersmith-Glavin has since framed his inquiries as an “investigation,” and framed the survivor as a “person making accusations against Pete.”)
My role in the accountability process was primarily as a member of a Survivor’s support team.
The first thing I remember about that is that when she was trying to leave the relationship and find a safe way to move out of her house, she had her own plan and timeline that she was already comfortable with. As soon as Pete’s help was enlisted, he started making decisions for her about getting her out, including arranging a date a couple of days earlier than the survivor’s projected date, based on his own perception of her risk and safety.
He also invited folks to help with the move that the survivor had specifically expressed discomfort about knowing what was going on, because PETE trusted them, with no regard for the survivor’s trust as the person actually experiencing abuse.
The next day, there was a meeting of people at Pete’s house called by Pete to discuss how things would move forward. Pete facilitated the meeting, and introduced us all to a person who also became involved in the accountability process, who he invited because he felt like she had some useful skills. He did ask if that was okay with the survivor.
That was the last time that I saw Pete- which, I think, is a problem in and of itself. Folks at the meeting took on tasks. There was a phone conference with someone in the abuser’s circles, and it was decided (although I cannot remember exactly how it was decided) that there would be two accountability teams: one for supporting and advocating with the survivor (which ended up being entirely women) and one for holding the abuser accountable to meeting the demands of the accountability process (which ended up being entirely men). Pete positioned himself and the person he brought into the process as the intermediaries between the two groups. He was in regular contact with the survivor after that for several weeks.
Over those next several weeks, I saw the survivor become more and more frustrated with those conversations. She reported that she did not feel like Pete was listening to her, and that she felt dismissed and condescended to. She also asked for information about what was happening in terms of the abuser’s actual progress in the accountability process and was continually told vaguely that he was “making progress” and “adhering to his process,” although there was never any indication that he was actually doing anything he was asked to do outside of not actively stalking or being physically violent against the survivor. She asked over and over for there to be clear benchmarks of what compliance would look like and outlined, with help from her team, what that progress would look like and some consequences we all thought were reasonable consequences (based in part on our understanding of the culture of the abuser’s social group), including asking Pete to take back the DJ coffin that he’d given the abuser (which lends him status and credibility in his scene and which he uses to meet women and then abuse them) so that the abuser would not have that symbolic legitimacy within his social scene if he refused to comply. Never were those benchmarks met, nor were any consequences carried out as a result of his failure to meet them.
I was present for a phone conversation that the survivor had with Pete asking that he not be the contact person for the accountability process anymore, and I was present for the meeting in which the survivor asked the other contact point person to please ask Pete to step back from the process.
After that meeting, Pete sent an e-mail to everyone involved on both teams of the process accusing the survivor of being unreasonable and “spreading gossip” (for letting other women know that the perpetrator abused her, which was something she was clear that she wanted for other women’s safety from the outset), and called her unprincipled, citing a comment that she’d made in an internal email to 7 people about his political organization years prior.
This narrative about the survivor spread through the abuser’s accountability team (which was mainly comprised of his friends) and seriously damaged the survivor’s reputation within that circle. That caused the survivor to actually be in INCREASED danger of physical harm from not just the abuser, but other people close to the abuser. By that virtue and also by virtue of his position in the radical community, Pete’s actions damaged the survivor’s organizing, and the organizing of her political organization.
When I met Pete before all of this happened, he had really good things to say and I was really looking forward to organizing with him in the future. The way he handled the DV accountability process made it impossible for me to trust him to uphold the feminist politic that he gives lip service to.
I hope this is helpful.
In October 2012, Paul Messersmith-Glavin, as part of his work with Hella 503, and after being alerted to Pete’s patriarchal and problematic behavior as a facilitator of an accountability process around intimate partner violence, contacted me to discuss what I witnessed of Peter Little’s role and behavior in that process. Below are Paul’s questions and my responses. Though some sensitive information has been redacted from the document for security purposes, it nonetheless conveys the general sense of what I shared with Messersmith-Glavin.
What role did you play in the accountability process involving Chad?
I became involved in the accountability process because the survivor is my best friend. She asked me to be the main liaision with Pete shortly after the initial meeting about the process, a meeting for which I was present and that took place the morning after the survivor’s extraction from Chad’s house. She asked me to be the liaision because she found talking to Pete difficult–she felt he wasn’t listening, or answering questions. She wanted me to talk about the concerns she was having about the process with Pete, and to find out from him what was happening with the process.
Where you present when Pete described his role in this process? If so, what was your understanding of this role?
This is tricky to answer–I don’t think Pete was explicit about what his role in the process was to be, at least not to begin with. Indeed, I remember that being one of the early alarm bells for me: Pete said that the survivor wasn’t running the accountability process that very first meeting, which made me wonder if perhaps he was running the process, and certainly made me think that he knew *who* was running it, but despite repeated direct questions from certainly me, and I think other people, Pete never once said who was running the process, or even who was involved. Pete did end up saying that he wasn’t there to be in a support role for the survivor, but to keep Chad invested in and compliant with the process–in my estimation, he did the former (for a very short while) by not doing the latter.
What did you directly observe of the role Pete played?
I observed Pete take in information and give none back. I observed Pete listen to the concerns of the survivor and her team, as relayed by me, acknowledge the validity of the concerns, express the value he perceived in my suggestion about how to best address those concerns (which was to get the survivor’s team together with whoever was running the process so that we could all talk about and understand the structure of the process, the objectives that each stakeholders/group of stakeholders had, and what tactics each stakeholder/group of stakeholders thought would best accomplish those objectives), and say that he would take that suggestion back to his team and see what they thought. I never heard anything about it from him again.
I observed Pete put it about that Chad was in compliance with his accountability process when he wasn’t; I saw an email in which Pete described the survivor’s outing Chad to the Little Birdie list as ‘unnecessary’, ‘dangerous’, and ‘spreading rumours’; I saw an email in which he somehow intimated that the survivor was enacting lateral violence against [redacted, abuser’s child]. I saw Pete behave in a manner that further traumatized the survivor, and go on to be unwilling to acknowledge even the *possibility* that his behavior had that effect. I saw Pete vilify the survivor utilizing misogynistic narratives, ultimately putting her in a more, not less, dangerous position. I saw Pete buffer Chad from the consequences he would naturally be subject to as a member of the scene he ran in, thereby enabling the abuser to maintain some clout and power in that scene, and to build power and clout in scenes adjacent to that one. [This next portion includes a particularly egregious example of how Pete helped Chad to maintain and amass power; I’ve cut it for security reasons.]
I saw Pete behave in a wildly unprincipled manner, make the survivor’s life, and the life of her support team (one of whom was still dealing with the death of her brother, another of whom was attempting to heal from breast cancer treatment, BOTH of whom were watching another, close friend die of breast cancer, not to mention supporting the survivor as she began dealing with the abuse she’d just experienced) both more dangerous *and* more difficult, and then go *clean off* at the idea that maybe he wasn’t infallible, and that his actions were causing problems, and that he was fucking up, in misogynistic ways, no matter how good his intentions may have been. I put this last part in here on purpose: Pete made people’s lives more difficult. Pete made a fucking hellish time for the survivor, and her support team, EVEN MORE HELLISH. Setting aside issues of revolutionary or feminist praxis (or lack thereof) for a second, Pete made a shitty situation a fuckload shittier…
[The remainder of this email includes some basic housekeeping: my apologies for missing a meeting, encouragement to contact me for further questions, and information that I thought would be helpful to Paul, including alerting him to the statement the survivor’s support team gave to Portland BTR]
Mickey, how are you able to disclose these facts under HIPAA? Don’t know any of the parties involved but just picked up on the story today off indybay
I agree with the post by Phil. While HIPPA may not technically apply here, it certainly serves as an ethical guide in such a situation for a mental health professional. It exists to provide protection for both the professional and the client. I showed this thread to colleagues in my office and they agree your comments suggest you played the role of a mental health professional during this ‘intervention process.’ If this indeed transpired, you may have not violated HIPPA but you certainly crossed a professional ethical line by disclosing some of these facts. Particularly in your public listing of individual names. There’s a thin line between “professional insight” and “professional relationship.” You allude to this boundary by highlighting Doctor of Psychology within your signature and I would encourage you to confer closely with a colleague on this matter before you accidentally cause harm to your own career.
To Nar- if we are assuming that Mickey played a role as a mental health professional in this process, then can we talk about others who have been involved in the aftermath, their professions, and their relationships to the process, to see if there has been an ethical line crossed there as well? The person called out, Peter Little, is also a health professional. Part of what he has been called out for is violating several boundaries of someone escaping a physical ly abusive relationship- the very least which was disclosing personal and private information about the survivor to a wider community, in fact divulging details of the abuse itself. Surely this would be an ethical violation as well, especially for a health professional trained in confidentiality. As well, yet another health professional -named in previous comments-who was in charge of investigating Peter Little’s role in the accountability process for his collective, recently published the survivor’s name and her political group on a heavy traffic comment thread on Face Book. This isn’t only dangerous, but probably also an ethical violation that someone engaged in a profession that requires confidentiality should be aware of. Mickey has obviously made himself vulnerable and run risks in order to do something he felt was ethically important in of itself, which was attempting to speak to ongoing behaviors that have put survivors in danger and re-traumatized them. In this case those behaviors have been enacted by a known member of a specific community. It seems that in reality he has taken an ethical high ground many others are scared to take.
Since my name has been directly and indirectly placed into this debate i feel i should comment and will attempt to keep it short.There will be references to previous statements throughout.
A friend and community member was in need of and asked for support. It was given in a manner agreed upon by all parties involved. As to my role i was part of “Pete’s team” also referred to as “abusers friends” – important to note that we were also survivors friends before during and after this process and no longer “friends” of the abuser. This was a very difficult situation and we attempted to move forward with genuinely good intentions toward a positive outcome. When concerns arose about this process there was much debate – 18 months ago. That debate was very critical of many aspects and seemed to have come to some conclusions. The process of accountability attempted to continue and Pete maintained pressure to that end as did we all.
Now these issues have been reopened in a much different forum. I feel this change of venue has created more hostility and distrust. I wish that the parties involved had been able to renew this discussion in the previous manner as a community with open dialog. I don’t see this happening in a healthy way.
I also feel it necessary to comment on a couple items. This process has been called a complete and utter failure but i would like to point out that the survivor was successfully removed from the situation without incident and the abuser has been removed from all the survivors circles. This unfortunately has also removed him from any sense of accountability.
I do not believe that Pete attempted to derail, undermine or demonize the survivor or frame the debate away from the survivor wishes except where violence towards the abuser and collateral violence towards the abusers young child was involved. Nor have i witnessed the survivor bad mouthed by Pete behind the scenes as suggested.
This feels a bit incomplete but again i don’t see this being an appropriate forum for the intimate details of this discussion. If transparency becomes the norm then maybe it will be.
Hope to see this resolved as best it can be.
While I believe that your intentions in the process were at the time good, your comment makes several misrepresentations. I do not know whether this is simply due to having partial information, or whether the misrepresentations are made on purpose. Of course, I would prefer to assume the former. I am not aware of your name actually being “directly […] placed into this debate” before this point — I do not believe that anyone had publicly mentioned you.
It is simply not true that the “support” given to the survivor was “given in a manner agreed upon by all parties involved.” Peter Little, from the very beginning, went against explicit requests from the survivor (such as who to involve and not involve in the process of extracting her from her living situation.) Furthermore, the lynchpin of all agreements made between the various parties in the process was that everybody involved in the process accurately represent both the nature of the abuser’s abuse, as well as the progress (or lack of progress) made by the abuser towards the accountability demands. This basic precept of honesty and transparency was just not kept by Peter Little.
You tacitly admit such a thing when you write “I do not believe that Pete attempted to […] frame the debate away from the survivor wishes except where violence towards the abuser and collateral violence towards the abusers young child was involved.” What you are stating, it seems to me, is that truthfulness about the abuser’s history of abuse, or his non-compliance with the accountability demands, was to either be misrepresented or at least diverted away from when such truth-telling could potentially lead to some form of violence. Such violence could take two forms: (1) violence by another party towards the abuser as a result of displeasure when hearing of the abuser’s history; and (2) violence by the abuser towards his child.
The first thing to say about this is that it was never agreed that truth-telling regarding the abuser was optional, or was a requirement that various parties could waive. It was also never agreed that the survivor was required to shield the abuser from truthful accounts of what happened. It is incorrect that Peter Little actually held the abuser accountable in any way; what Little did was encourage the abuser not to physically attack the survivor or myself (and possibly other parties, I don’t know.) That in itself would have been a very good thing, had it not been that Peter Little believed it was appropriate for him to bargain away all other interests of the survivor if in fact the abuser did not commit an assault. This was never agreed upon, and it was not Peter Little’s place to make such a deal. Even looking charitably on Little’s actions, it was a severe abuse of power for him to go around the Portland community telling everyone that the abuser was in compliance with his accountability process, whereas the main genuine compliance that took place was the abuser not engaging in a retaliatory physical assault against the survivor.
The idea that the survivor was trying to have the abuser’s child hurt by his father is simply so offensive that I don’t know where to begin. As someone who was threatened by the abuser, and was told by the abuser that he would hurt his then-girlfriend (the survivor) if I ever told him again that bullying was inappropriate, it is clear to me that the abuser always threatens violence when challenged about his behavior. It is obvious, however, that no accountability process can take place without raising in a meaningful manner the issue of the abuser’s abuse. It is unfortunate that having a real desire for accountability and wanting some closure on an experience of protracted abuse, is now portrayed as wishing violence on a child. This is simply putting forward the abuser’s narrative and threats as one’s own.
It is not actually true that the “abuser has been removed from all the survivors circles.” In fact, the abuser may have been removed from some circles, but the *survivor* as a result of pressure from Pete and others has also been removed from many circles. It is also false that the abuser was removed from any “sense of accountability” as an eventual result of the process that occurred. Peter Little resisted any concrete steps towards accountability for the abuser, and lied about the abuser’s lack of progress – no “sense of accountability” existed to begin with. Peter Little believed that it was appropriate to seize power and to misrepresent the process, pursuing whatever course he felt like whether or not it aligned with the survivor’s interests and clearly-expressed demands. Given Peter Little’s contempt for the survivor, the course adopted generally further hurt the survivor. At every stage Peter Little was also adamant that the abuser lose no privileges, and that the abuser not be confronted about his behavior in any meaningful way.
I would hope that your comment will encourage to those who have witnessed Peter Little’s campaign of hostility towards the survivor to come forward. It’s possible that you have not witnessed (or chose not to pay attention to) Little’s “bad mouth[ing of the survivor] behind the scenes” but I can assure you that this has been a common occurrence over the past two years. I hope that others will chime in and verify this here.
When I met with Peter Little about his involvement in the process, Little was clearly hostile towards me for wishing to discuss his activities, despite a friendship (and occasional political association) between us that had at the time gone back a dozen years. Peter Little’s main narrative when I talked with him was the following: (1) although Peter Little “did not doubt” (proximate wording) that the abuser had indeed been abusive, the abuser was now behaving excellently; (2) the survivor was unprincipled, cutthroat and deeply out of control; (3) Peter Little was actually now being abused by the survivor, and was the true victim in this situation. Peter Little was perfectly clear that he would be setting the terms of what happened in the accountability process, and that the survivor was so corrupt that her concerns were at most secondary. In fact, the survivor affirming her existence and interests in the process in any way was the central form of “abuse” in the situation – the abuse towards Peter Little!
I also want to be clear that Peter Little also completely denied me any agency in terms of how I wished to deal with my own experience of being threatened by the abuser (and then blackmailed with the threat of the abuser hurting my friend.) Peter Little made an unsolicited attempt to patch things up between myself and the abuser, and then expressed clear disappointment in me for being uninterested in such an insincere apology. The proposed apology was offered as an attempt to divide and conquer, and to buttress the abuser from further pressure to meet the survivor’s accountability demands. Peter Little spent his time going out of his way for the abuser, and then suggested that anybody who did not hold the abuser in similarly high esteem – the survivor or someone else maltreated by the abuser – was the true problem in the situation. I have avoided discussing this issue publicly because the true issue is not how Peter Little or the abuser treated me, but rather how they behaved towards the survivor. Nonetheless, Peter Little’s behavior was nothing but spitting in my own face, as well.
The reason this issue has resurfaced now is that not only has Peter Little refused to make a sincere apology, but he continues to attack the character of the survivor and escalates his attacks whenever his behavior is raised or criticized. While it is indeed sad that things have come to this, the responsibility is on the Pete’s shoulders, as well as the political organizations who have actively sided with Peter Little against the survivor.
Just a couple comments in reply. In regards to comments on violence I NEVER suggested that the survivor was trying to have the abusers child hurt by his father. where the hell did that come from. My point is that these where major factors in our decision making process. Nor do i state that there was any opposition to truth telling. In regards to accountability many demands were made of him by myself and others. At the beginning most of those demands where met. Yes this quickly deteriorated but i disagree with much of that argument. You weren’t in the room on that. Lastly I am not aware of any circles of the survivors that the abuser still resides nor am I aware of circles where she is not welcome.
Jason, I’m not going to be able to write a long reply right now due to other obligations, but a few brief words… Firstly, you did write “I do not believe that Pete attempted to derail, undermine or demonize the survivor or frame the debate away from the survivor wishes except where violence towards the abuser and collateral violence towards the abusers young child was involved.” This could, when read in combination with Peter Little’s comments, be taken at a minimum as a statement that the survivor did not have the interests of the abuser’s child at heart (because the framing appears to be “survivor’s wishes” versus interests of the young child.) If that is not what you were attempting to imply, that is good to know.
It is absolutely true that I was not “in the room on” every aspect of the process. I got involved late — when Pete’s behavior was already highly troubling to the survivor’s close friends and support team — and I was not privy to everything. I can only write about what I saw and experienced. But as you know, a number of other people involved in the process also noted similar behavior from Pete. It is possible that some good things happened that I never learned about; certainly by the time I sat down with Peter Little, however, he treating the survivor, the survivor’s support team and myself with disregard.
Finally, the statement that “I am not aware of any circles of the survivors […] where she is not welcome” is trivially true, because those places where the survivor is not welcome are almost by definition no longer part of her circles. But I disagree with you, if what you mean is that the survivor has not suffered severe social (and political) repercussions as a result of Pete’s efforts against her.
We would like to apologize for the pain caused by our actions at the Patriarchy and the Movement event. We understand that the decision to read a letter outlining our involvement in a process of bringing critiques to our comrade and posing questions about how such work is done was hurtful to many people. We can see how this was interpreted as an attempt to shield an individual and felt silencing. We wish to let people know this was not our intention. Our intention was largely of sharing our experience and taking responsibility for our role in the situation. Our intention was to try to ask principled political questions that arose out of our experience with this and other situations. However, we should all know by now that good intentions are not enough for good practice. We still believe that there are important political questions involved that we look forward to discussing. We do feel it is important that we find, together as a movement, respectful ways to work through hard questions around emotional issues. We are interested in ways that we could have (and can in the future) raise these and other questions in a way that is less hurtful.We are aware that reading this letter in the context of the event was hurtful and triggered people. We are sorry about this and offer our genuine and sincere apologies for the effect of our actions. We are still engaging in self-criticism and learning from this experience, and we hope that we will transform ourselves into better fighters for revolutionary feminism as a result.
-Eleanor and Geoff
Eleanor and Geoff,
Several people remember Eleanor saying something to the effect of “should we be critical of survivors needs” while reading the letter. Has this been edited from the letter since, in order to trigger people less? Or was she ad-libbing?
Also, in the beginning of the letter, it essentially says that they which has been said about Pete are “personalized attacks”. This would be hard to know when writing the letter ahead of time, whether or not those raising concerns about Pete were engaging in “personalized attacks” or raising real, political concerns about the patriarchal nature of his behavior. So, how did the decision come forth to call what was said about Pete personalized attacks? Do you see that this is silencing as well and makes it seem as though you didnt listen to or take in to consideration people’s problems with Pete, much less the content of the panel where is was said again and again that those who speak out are accused of such things?
There are a lot of good questions being raised here, many of which Geoff and have already been considering and we will continue to do so. I don’t feel capable of trying to answer them all here, but I am open to having conversations in person, and I am sure most people reading this know how to get a hold of me.
I do want to make it clear that the statement has not been altered. I did skip most of the opening paragraph, partly because of the concerns you mention. In terms of what I might have said that was not included in the statement, I was asked a question and did try to clarify, and though I could not be certain of what exactly I did say in that tense moment, the quote being attributed to me does not sound like something I would have said.
Thank you for your thoughtful response.
Geoff and Eleanor,
Was the process of bringing critiques to your comrade successful in changing your comrade’s behavior? What criteria did you use to put a measure on what success looked like in that situation? Did he stop badmouthing survivors, stop involving himself in other accountability processes to the detriment of the process, stop marginalizing survivors? If not, what kind of changes in behavior has he made?
Eleanor and Geoff,
One suggestion I have after reading all of this about how you could have raised those questions more appropriately would be to have reached out to the survivor mentioned in the process, tell them that some questions arose during the critiquing of your comrade, and ask for their take on the theroetical questions. It seems from reading through the statement and the comments like a lot of the problems arose because people didn’t feel like it was important to listen directly to the suvivor and the people close to them. Timing is important too. So if your comrade was just called on some patriarchal behavior, and you didn’t mean to look like you were shielding him, maybe it would have been a better idea to hold off on asking your questions until a later time, or ask the questions only without making it about the situation with the same person who just was called out. That definitely would look like shielding behavior to me. I’m sure your comrade can speak for himself, so if he couldn’t be at that event, maybe it wasn’t a good time to bring him up. I’m glad you’re reflecting and committed to becoming better revolutionary feminists. For me, I think it would be extremely hard to keep working with that person in good conscience though unless I saw real positive change in him. I’m curious about what curious is curious about. What changes has he made? Has he stopped doing those things?
*This statement was saved under the name “BTR_p2″*
A lot has been said this evening regarding our comrade Peter Little and his behavior. We were anticipating that this might come up. This statement was written by two former members of Portland Bring the Ruckus, who are long-time comrades of Pete’s and who have been involved with the situation alluded to. Unfortunately Geoff was unable to make it to tonight’s event as a result of wage labor. However he bears his share of the responsibility for this statement.
During the summer of 2011 concerns about Pete’s involvement in an accountability process (which he was not the subject of) were brought to the attention of Portland Bring the Ruckus. BTR took these concerns extremely seriously and conducted an investigation. We met with the survivor’s support team (along with others) and listened to their experiences and concerns. Everyone agreed that BTR would handle the matter internally, which we did. The survivor support team informed us that handling it this way was satisfactory and that they considered the matter closed.
We did, and still do, consider the process BTR conducted around Pete to be internal. We do not consider a public forum to be a space where it makes sense to report our findings. We will say that we concluded that in many ways the initial accountability process stalled and failed. Folks involved, including Pete, made mistakes.
We believe that tonight’s event is extremely important and that these conversations are essential to building movements capable of winning freedom. We are interested in moving away from personalized attacks on comrades and toward more general political lessons that can serve as weapons in our struggles for gender liberation. Toward that end we offer the following questions:
-Why have the forms of accountability processes that we’ve seen in radical subcultures so regularly failed?
– Is there a tension between supporting a survivor’s healing and holding perpetrators accountable? Should survivors be in charge of the entirety of both such processes?
-How should accountability processes or other forms of grassroots justice differ from the punitive models of state-enforced “justice”? What does this look like in practice?
– How can we develop feminist anti-violence politics that undermines rather than reinforces the gender binary system? If abuse is not always a matter of men abusing women, does a feminist politics around this look like?
-Is there room for people to make mistakes and be supported in learning from them in the movements we are building? Should we ostracize comrades who fuck up?
-Is it possible or desirable to purify a righteous scene or movement? How does fighting patriarchy look in the context of millions of people, damaged products of this system, making history together?
We are extremely interested in people’s perspectives on these questions, which we ourselves are still attempting to answer.
Yours in Struggle,
-Eleanor and Geoff (former members of Portland Bring the Ruckus)
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