Concerning FV Survivor Pod Boundaries
”There’s no right answer to the wrong question.”
— Ursula K. le Guin
When we posted our first announcement, we explained our goal: To amplify the voices of the women harmed by the Author and keep them safe in the process. Everything we do is planned with this goal in mind. To assuage some confusion, we would like to be clear in reiterating that none of our goals or plans depend in any way on the Author having his own pod or accountability process.
In our initial public post, we stated that we’d be willing to assist an accountability pod, should the Author form one. It’s common in processes like these for accountability pods to work with survivor pods to ensure any accountability process is responsive to survivor needs. We recruited Reid Mihalko to act as a liaison with the Author until he set up a pod, specifically to advise the Author on how to do so, and so that no one from our team had to perform the labor of communicating with the Author. Reid has remained in an intermediary role even after the Author formed a pod, as we have not yet found a common ground where survivor pod members feel it is safe and productive to engage directly.
Unfortunately, we’ve not yet seen evidence that the Author has assembled a pod that is, as a whole, truly interested in creating or running an accountability process for him, but they have shown a great deal of interest in investigating and critiquing our process. Though the tone has varied widely between the various public and private communications, every statement from the Author’s pod has centered his needs and experiences, uncritically accepted his claims while applying a separate standard to the women, and assumed a type of relationship between our two groups that we rejected in our first public statement and subsequent private communications. The benefits to the survivors of our engaging under such circumstances are minimal, and the cost in time and labor to the survivor advocacy team is prohibitive.
Over the past three months, the survivor pod has invested a great deal of effort and goodwill in communicating with the Author’s pod. Our liaison Reid has offered resources and repeatedly advised them to seek help from someone with experience in accountability processes. We realize that this kind of capacity-building takes time, but to our knowledge, they have not yet even begun seeking training or assistance. None of the asks in the original call-in letter surrounding the Author’s accountability have been honored. the Author’s pod has no members with experience in accountability, and only one of its members has even acknowledged that he has done harm. They have not asked for our input on an accountability plan. Their approach to the story collection process has ranged from dismissive and critical to actively hostile. We refer you to the accountability pod’s first and second public statements for context. Our consultant has responded to the first, and Louisa Leontiades and Samantha Manewitz have both responded to the second.
The crux of much of the Author’s harmful behavior (and his defense of it) is that he doesn’t believe women about their own experiences. We have no desire to reinforce this pattern by allowing his pod, or anyone else, to set terms for the women’s disclosures.
We look at transformative justice (TJ) not as a tool for punishing the Author (or anyone), but as an investment in safety for ourselves, our relationships and our communities. the Author doesn’t have to participate in accountability — we said at the beginning that we had neither the means nor the desire to force the Author into a process. Our offer to support a pod in such work was just that: an offer. But if we’re to further engage with anyone supporting the Author in accountability, we’ll need some tangible evidence that we’re operating within the same framework — which is to say, TJ. The concept of an accountability pod comes from this framework, and if it’s going to have any meaning, that’s what must guide it.
Here’s what that would look like for us:
- Accountability pod members must be identified in public and provide background for their participation similar to the bios our members published.
- All accountability pod members must clearly demonstrate a commitment to engaging within a TJ framework and to learning skills in TJ, as well as learning about abuse from credible sources. This is part of building a safer community: we pass these skills around, building capacity and resilience.
- The accountability pod must involve at least one member, trainer or consultant with experience in TJ.
- All the pod members must acknowledge, at a minimum, that the Author has caused harm.
These are all steps we have taken ourselves, and we do not feel they are unreasonable asks from an accountability pod. The Author and the people supporting him are, of course, free to do their own work in whatever framework they choose, and we hope they accomplish some good. But if they prefer to opt out of TJ frameworks of accountability and healing, our energy is best put towards our own goals of survivor support. So until we see evidence that the above steps have been taken, we won’t be responding to further communications from the Author’s pod in the context of their pod work. We are happy to maintain our direct relationships with those pod members with whom we are in community.
In the meantime, our work will continue right here, where you can see it.