There have been two separate instances of sexual assault, committed by two of our now former members. The first was expelled by vote at our April meeting. This was after he had being found guilty in an IWW charges process by an impartial committee of his peers, and after refusing to make good on the terms laid out by the survivor and the committee. The second was asked to resign in June after we received testimony from the survivor, this was done by the Branch Secretary in accordance with the Sexual Assault Policy detailed below. In addition, due to the connections of the second perpetrator with the property at 375 Smith St, the members of the Providence Branch of the IWW have decided that it will no longer serve as our Union Hall.
In an effort to prevent similar things from happening again and in order to be better prepared to handle such matters in the future we have drafted new polices. In March the IWW dedicated time to investigate preventative practices such as consent & anti-harassment training. We welcome any feedback on trainings your group is aware of.
In lieu of such training in April for Sexual Assault Awareness month we paid for multiple men in our organization to attend this educational symposium on April 11th by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
“Changing the Culture, Stopping the Violence: A CALL TO MEN Symposium”. http://www.ricadv.org/en/what-we-do/training-ricadv/training-calendar/event/77-changing-the-culture-stopping-the-violence-a-call-to-men-symposium
These same men and other members did personal study of the series “Patriarchy on the Left” written by women members of the group Unity & Struggle to advance their analysis of patriarchy. http://unityandstruggle.org/2016/12/26/patriarchyontheleftpart3/
At our March meeting we also formed a local iteration of the IWW’s Gender Equity Committee. Our local GEC is composed of a super majority survivors, women, LGBTQ, and non-binary folks with participation of only one male ally. This is not just happenstance but a requirement of the committee’s founding, so policy can be formed by listening to those most directly affected.
Members of this committee prior to it’s founding started working on collecting resources from other organizations as well as harassment and sexual assault policies used by our union in other regions. Together in April they spent the time to further develop clear steps for our union to act for community safety in a sensitive, swift, and survivor-focused manner, by writing and passing at our April meeting these policies which are all easily accessible to the public via a link on our website:
Interpersonal Violence Policy
Sexual Assault Policy
All members and organizers involved in union activity have been made aware of these policy, and we have welcomed internal and external feedback for their continued improvement. The policies also govern the IWW‘s General Defense Committee and Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee. You will notice they allow for any member or non-member to submit complaints of interpersonal violence, harassment, or sexual assault.
“In the case of sexual assault there needs to be a complainant who is willing to discuss their knowledge and/or experiences in a safe, supportive setting. There is no need to show that sexual assault was the intended effect. A person can commit sexual assault without intending to do so. The deciding factor in initiating a review process is that the survivor perceives sexual assault to (have) be(en) taking place. The survivor is to be presumed innocent and should be presumed to be a reliable witness of their own account. Therefore, beyond testimony, no further evidence of sexual assault or rape has to be provided.”
We consider transformative justice incredibly important as opposed to carceral, state based, and vigilante approaches to accountability. In fact we offered such a process as detailed in a previous letter to the former member expelled from IWW membership for refusing to participate in such a process at our April meeting. The transformative justice approach we aspire to follow going forward is based on the Community Accountability Creative Intervention’s Toolkit. https://communityaccountability.wordpress.com/creative-interventions-toolkit/
If you or your group has any feedback we welcome it.