By Julia Bossmann
Event organizers and community builders inevitably come across experiences of harm at their events. The risk increases with events of higher levels of vulnerability, such as altered states or overnight stays. Questionable incidents often don't get reported out of fear and uncertainty about the consequences. It is helpful for communities to identify one or several people willing to receive reports and outline their commitments to safe reporting. I have first shared these principles listed below for Light House, a former community house and event space in Palo Alto, CA.
Navigating the aftermath of questionable experiences, such as inappropriate or harmful behavior, can be a minefield when it's unclear what reactions to expect. I'm honored by my community's trust in me to receive reports of bad experiences. To be a safe ally, I'm making these commitments to any community member or event participant who wishes to come forward about potential harm they've experienced.
What I will do
- I will make time to listen to your report of what you experienced.
- I will share the appropriate approaches known to me to seek safety, healing, and justice.
- Depending on your needs and desires, I will recommend trained professionals who can help.
- If another report has been made about the same person, I will offer an optional mutual introduction to the parties who reported. The introduction will only happen if everyone opts in. Otherwise, your identities remain anonymous.
- I will consider your requests for safety, healing, and justice in my capacity as a community leader and event organizer.
What I will not do
- I won't blame or shame you for what happened; nobody ever asks to be abused.
- I won't dig for detailed memories; you choose what you want to share and when you want to share it.
- I won't pressure you on what to do, say, or think; I will respect your autonomy and agency.
- I won't disclose your identity in connection to this report to anyone, or that you've made a report at all, unless you ask me to do so.
- I won't push any quick fixes; I understand that trauma is complex, and you move through it in your own time.
- I won't bring this report into any other topics we share. Instead, I will keep a separate mental container for it so that you can interact with me as usual. What you experienced doesn't define you.
As community leaders, lip service to being against abuse isn't enough. We have to show up in a consistent and principled way. You can hold me accountable that I will do these things whenever somebody desires to come forward about a harmful experience.