Sexual misconduct happens everywhere also within social justice movements and animal rights organisations. Sexual misconduct is a legal term encompassing a range of unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature committed by intimidation, coercion, manipulation, or force. It includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, and any conduct of a sexual nature without consent. The affected person may choose to use another term, in that case the preferred term will be used.
We will use the terms survivors / affected persons and violators / accused persons; in case needed these terms can be adapted.
Sexual misconduct can include:
- Unwelcome physical contact including patting, pinching, stroking, kissing, hugging, fondling, or inappropriate touching
- Unsolicited sexual comments, stories or jokes
- Sexual advances
- Repeated and unwanted social invitations for dates or physical intimacy
- Sending sexually explicit messages (by phone or by email) without prior consent
- Non-verbal conduct including leering, whistling
- Display of sexually explicit or suggestive material
- Sexually-suggestive gestures
- Sexual assault and rape
- Sexual relations that give rise to concern about the ability to consent e.g.: steep power steps, such as some facilitation and leadership roles; age; or intersectionality factors that may increase vulnerability and risk
These acts may intersect with bullying, humiliation, intimidation or coercion. They are often linked with systems of oppression such as sexism, racism, ableism and other.
The opposite of sexual harassment is a consent-based practice – the cornerstone of a healthy culture.
Consent is an active collaboration for the benefit, well-being, and pleasure of all persons concerned. If someone is being coerced, bullied, blackmailed, manipulated, lied to, or ignored, what is happening is not consensual. If you are not free to say "no," you can't really say "yes."
Consent is affirmative and can be withdrawn at any time. Whether it’s a potential sexual encounter, physical touch of any kind, you are responsible for getting verbal consent before engaging. It is neither ethical nor acceptable to proceed without that person’s awareness and clear consent. An impaired person cannot give consent. “Silence is not consent.”
In an informal activist environment, certain acts such as patting or hugging, can and do happen quite regularly and may be perfectly fine by anyone involved. However, the only way to know if the other is really consenting is to ask before acting. Invisible (gender) power relations may make it very difficult for people to speak out.
There are many other forms of discriminatory behaviour, bullying and harassment, that are not sexual in nature. We have a zero tolerance to these forms of harassment as well.
Where a concern is raised regarding a sexual misconduct, the Consent Awareness Team will aim to act immediately to address that concern.
The emphasis at all times will be on the safety and well-being of the individuals involved, with specific care taken, in the first instance, to address the needs of, and support the person reporting the incident.
Ordinarily, a concern should be raised in writing to sluitvion(at)protonmail.com. Otherwise, it may be raised orally or in any other way with any member of the Consent Awareness Team (els_holland(at)hotmail.com or or ravotrinfo(at)protonmail.com). This may also be done by witnesses.
Given the range of situations which may occur, there will be no fixed process for dealing with matters raised. The Team will speak with the affected and accused person(s) separately and assess the situation. The team will adopt whatever process the team members involved decide is proportionate and appropriate to the circumstances.
So far as possible the Team will deal with concerns confidentially. In some cases, however, it may be necessary to discuss the matters raised with others for a broader understanding of the context. The consent of the person(s) reporting the incident will be required in such situations.
If necessary, the Team will request that a member leave the organisation and all its activities including (online) communication for a limited or unlimited period of time.
The Team may disclose information if it is legally required to do so, or where disclosure can be justified for another purpose, usually protection of possible others or prevention of serious harm.
In certain circumstances and as last resort, the persons harmed will be supported to report the incident to the police, taken into consideration that the police itself is a violent and oppressive institution.
This process will attempt to be appropriately transparent (though confidential), and accountable.
Picture by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals.