Red Braid Alliance is committed to ending oppressive and dominating forms of power in the world, in our communities, and in our group. We recognize that each of us may behave in ways that undermine our organizing and harm our comrades. We consider responding to and learning from instances of harm a collective responsibility.
Living in a violent and oppressive society
We live in a society that teaches us to compete with each other to meet our basic needs. We learn to find our own power by taking it away from others, and to carry out oppressive behaviour to maintain our individual sense of control. As survivors, we learn to accept abuse in our own lives because it can be harder – and at times, more dangerous – to speak out than to remain silent. We experience oppressive power in our daily interactions with police, government officials, our bosses and managers, our teachers and the school system, and within our own families.
Oppressive behavior ranges from words that are spoken (or left unspoken) to physical acts of violence. All forms of abuse are real, including those that are not physical. Oppression and violence are often expressed along the lines of colonization, race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability. Red Braid recognizes that these forms of oppression are reproduced within ourselves, in our group, and in society at large.
Transforming ourselves and transforming the world
Red Braid maintains that we cannot transform the world outside without also transforming ourselves. All too often abuse committed by one person against another person is seen as a personal conflict. This is a mistake. Personalizing abuse makes it harder for survivors to speak out and allows abusers to hold onto their power over others. Red Braid understands individual acts as signals of the beliefs and values held by the collective. This means they must be dealt with collectively.
As a group we can challenge oppressive power relations by:
- Supporting and trusting survivors’ experiences and accounts;
- Addressing concerns as collective problems and not individual ones; and
- Challenging ourselves to break from the abusive behaviours, beliefs, and values we have learned. We practice self-reflexivity and are willing to give up oppressive power and instead work to develop and exercise our collective, resistant, and transformative power.
Committing to accountability principles is a condition of participation in Red Braid
Our principles of accountability require us to be open to criticism and to take responsibility for acts of oppression and harm that we commit as individuals and as a group. Committing to accountability principles means actively and consistently working to uphold them.
Confidentiality and who can access the process
When a person who has experienced harm initiates an accountability process, we place their safety and confidentiality first. We support them to take an active role in determining how information about the accountability process is shared within Red Braid, and if necessary, beyond. The name of the person who has experienced harm, and the nature or specifics of their experiences, will not be shared outside of the Support & Accountability Committee (SAC) and Coordinating Committee (CC) unless permission is given to do so.
The accountability process can be used to address conflicts that extend outside of Red Braid if those conflicts affect current or potential members’ ability to participate in our organizing.
The accountability process provides a broad framework that can be adapted for different situations. These guidelines are a work in progress and will change as we advance our struggle, deepen our consciousness, and gain new insights.
Accountability processes are stewarded by the Support & Accountability Committee (SAC). SAC members are elected once a year by the general membership and may not sit on the Coordinating Committee during their SAC tenure. The steps are as follows:
Request an accountability process
Members, supporting members, and individuals involved in our campaigns are welcome to approach the SAC to request that an accountability process is initiated. Requests may be made by contacting individual SAC members or emailing the SAC as a group (firstname.lastname@example.org). All concerns, whether they seem big or small, will be treated with respect and confidentiality.
Decide to begin the process
The SAC will decide if an accountability process is appropriate or if there are better ways to address the concerns. This decision should take into account the desires of the person who experienced harm. The person/s who the concern is about are not part of the discussion at this stage. If the SAC needs more information, they may perform an initial investigation and report back. During this initial investigation, Point 3 (Mandatory Leave) will apply.
Red Braid members against whom a complaint is brought forward will be asked to step back from organizing for a minimum of two weeks. They will not return to organizing until an ad hoc committee is established and Steps 4 and 5 are complete. Mandatory leave will apply in all situations.
Strike an ad hoc committee
The SAC will establish an ad hoc committee within one week of the complaint. While the composition of the ad hoc committee will vary from case to case, it should consist of at least three people. At least one ad hoc committee member should be a member of the SAC. In most cases, someone who is not involved in Red Braid should sit on the ad hoc committee. If possible, at least one ad hoc committee member should have previous experience with an accountability process. Those involved in the complaint, especially the person who brought the concerns forward, should be comfortable with the ad hoc committee members.
Meet with the complainant
Within two weeks, the ad hoc committee should have an initial conversation with the person bringing the concerns forward. The goal of the initial conversation should be to: 1) Establish an understanding of the concerns; 2) Determine any immediate supports the complainant needs and, if possible, how to make those supports available; and 2) Establish on what terms accused members can participate in Red Braid after the period of mandatory leave (e.g. should they withdraw from organizing for the duration of the accountability process or can they participate on certain conditions?).
Report back to the SAC
The ad hoc committee will report back to the SAC within two weeks of being struck. It will give a brief update on the process even if the committee is still working on Step 5. During the process, the ad hoc committee will give reports to the SAC at least every two weeks to receive outside support and guidance.
From this point on, the ad hoc committee will decide how to best carry out the accountability process in consultation with the SAC. In most cases, this will entail multiple meetings with all affected parties. For the duration of the process the ad hoc committee, as a group, will be in regular (at least weekly) communication with key parties involved.
Final report to the SAC
When the ad hoc committee has determined that the process is complete, it will report back to the SAC. The final report will map key concerns identified through the process, and include recommendations for how to respond. For example: membership education, awareness raising, collaboration with other groups, creating stronger structures and policies within Red Braid, etc. Recommendations should always aim to politicize conflicts, rather than focus on strictly personal aspects, and frame harms as the responsibility of the group as a whole. Generally, it is up to the SAC to accept, reject, or alter the ad hoc committee’s recommendations. However, in cases where a SAC decision would involuntarily alter or end someone’s status as a member of Red Braid, the decision must be referred to the general membership.
Report to the general membership
As part of its report to the SAC, the ad hoc committee will recommend how (or if) the accountability process should be reported to the general membership. If the SAC is recommending that Red Braid end or alter a member’s status, notice of motion and a backgrounder will be included in the announcement for the members meeting. Members facing disciplinary action will receive no less than one week’s notice of motion, including the details of the recommendation. At the meeting, the motion will be introduced by the SAC or someone they delegate to present. Members facing disciplinary action will have time to respond. The membership will then have an opportunity to ask questions and discuss the ad hoc committee/SAC recommendations. The power to involuntarily expel, suspend, or modify the status of an Red Braid member rests with the general membership, but recommendations from the SAC must be carefully considered as they carry significant weight.
Evaluate the accountability process
The final report by the ad hoc committee should be followed by an evaluation of the accountability process. Participants in the process as well as SAC and general members should identify weaknesses in the current process and consider any changes to the accountability guidelines. The accountability process document is a living document and will be revised as it is put into practice.