ACCOUNTABILITY Plan

9/14/19

This is a living document. It will evolve with the needs of High-Fidelity Fusion and the wider fusion dance community. Notification of changes will be made on our Facebook page (here: https://www.facebook.com/highfidelityfusion)

Introduction

This document will outline expectations for anyone involved in a conflict at High-Fidelity which is brought to the attention of the Organizers. It will collate a selection of approaches which may be used in response to conflicts.

Safety

We the Organizing Team cannot promise a safe space to all people who attend our events. We wish we could. We do promise to make it as safe as we can. We will listen to you, we will take reports of unsafe behavior seriously, and we will do our best to take power dynamics into consideration when making accountability decisions. This document details how we will make those decisions, hereafter referred to as the “Accountability Process.”

This Accountability Plan may not meet the needs of all people. We will do our best, but we cannot promise to make any person(s) happy with the results of any Accountability Process we undertake. We lovingly encourage you to only attend our events if it feels safe and healthy for you to do so. We want your company, but not as much as we want you to be and feel safe.

Compassion

If you find yourself involved in an Accountability Process, as detailed by this document, please do your best to assume positive intent from others, recognize harmful actions without commenting on the character of the person(s) who took them, avoid defensiveness or blame, and make repairs wherever possible.

Responsibility

We consider our responsibilities to the community to go beyond banning people who have caused harm. We must also leave room for personal growth, personal change, repair, recovery, and nuance, while having empathy for and giving weight to the needs of those who have been hurt. We acknowledge the reality that people who exhibit unsafe behavior have often themselves been harmed by unsafe behavior; therefore, it is our responsibility to allow space for them to heal their past harm, even as we seek to address the harm they may cause in the present.

Definitions

Accountability

An obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions.

Affected Party

The individual(s) who were affected/harmed by the Named Party’s actions.

Claim

Description of an event reported to the Organizing Team.

Named Party

The individual(s) whose actions affected/harmed the Affected Party.

Organizers/Organizing Team

The Organizers of High-Fidelity Fusion who have completed intentional community vetting and actively resolve any subsequent community conflicts.

(Identified here: https://www.highfidelityfusion.com/leadership-team)

Reporting Party

The individual(s) who reported the actions of the Named Party to the Organizer(s). The Reporting Party may be same person(s) as the Affected Party or the Named Party, but is not necessarily either.

General Expectations

Assumption of Truth

Our policy is to assume all Claims were experienced by the Reporting PartyWe will act on all Claims we receive. 

On Power Dynamics

No amount of policy will change the fundamental power dynamic between organizers and attendees. As organizers who are trying to make choices as ethically as possible, our goals are to (1) make the power dynamic visible, (2) plan for it, and (3) get informed consent from the event attendees about our process in advance of conflict.

To mitigate the risk of a bad actor on the Organizing Team, High-Fidelity Fusion has taken the following steps:

  1. Decisions of the Organizing Team are made after discussions - often by consensus.

  2. Dissenting opinions and community feedback are always welcomed, even anonymously. 

  3. Each member of the Organizing Team submits themselves to the community to hear and resolve outstanding conflicts, publicly or privately.

These strategies are designed to build an event which reflects community values, create transparency around community conflict, and hold Organizers accountable to the community.

Multiple Perspectives

The Named Party does not have the right to say whether their actions caused harm to the Affected Party. Similarly, The Affected/Reporting Party does not have the right to interpret the Named Party’s intent.

Bans

The Organizers will ban people who demonstrate a pattern of behavior that we believe will cause harm at our events—but only if we think that harm would be greater than the harm done by banning them. We will allow some people who have done problematic things to attend these events. We have done things that caused harm. So have you. Our standard is not whether we believe that alleged events took place, but whether we believe a person’s presence will cause further harm.

Recognizing Healthy Conflict:

We strive to resolve conflict. Unhealthy conflict creates animosity between parties, which undermines the search for common ground, and generally leads to unresolved conflict. Therefore, we need to understand how to engage in healthy conflict if we hope to achieve resolution. 

Healthy conflict resolution boils down to 3 steps:

  1. Understand the actions and events that led to harm.

  2. Identify and eliminate the source of the harm.

  3. Make amends for the damage done by the harm.

Affected/Reporting Party Expectations

Confidentiality

The Affected/Reporting Party shall have total control over who receives any and all information they disclose, except in extreme cases where that information is immediately needed to protect the safety of others from commensurate harm. Even in that extreme scenario, Organizers will exercise their best discretion to protect the privacy of the Affected/Reporting Party and respect their wishes.

How to Initiate an Accountability Discussion

You don't have to have a fully formed request or plan when you initiate the conversation.

What to Expect from an Organizer during an Accountability Discussion

When you indicate that you want to start an accountability discussion, the Organizer will do one of the following, depending on what works best in the moment:

  • Immediately engage in the conversation

  • Immediately delegate their urgent responsibilities to make space for the conversation, then engage in it.

  • Find another Organizer who is comfortable to you and available for the conversation, such that they can engage immediately.

  • If all else fails, complete their urgent tasks, then return to the Affected/Reporting Party as soon as possible to engage in the conversation.

Expect the Organizer to:

  • Take you seriously.

  • Treat you with respect.

  • Be considerate of your needs. (Example: finding a private place to talk)

  • Listen fully to what you have to say.

  • Ask clarifying questions to grasp nuance in the details of the situation.

  • Take notes if it is necessary to the situation, and treat those notes with the highest confidentiality.

  • Ask a series of baseline questions if they were not already addressed by your narrative.

  • Set expectations about followup and further communication with you that suit the needs and urgency of the situation.

Empathy and Kindness Toward Named Party

For this paragraph, assume you are an Affected Party. Sometimes, people’s harmful actions are violent and intentional. Such actions will be dealt with swiftly and harshly by Organizers. However, most conflict is the result of ignorance of a boundary, or a misunderstanding of where the boundary lies, which leads to that boundary being crossed. Often, the Named Party never intended to cause harm and does not know that they have. When the harm they caused is brought to their attention, they may have feelings of shock or disbelief as their assumptions and perspectives are called into question. They may feel a natural urge to explain or defend their perspective. They may need some amount of time to process the new information they are receiving in the Accountability Process before they can respond with repairs and behavior changes. If you can, be patient and kind with them. It is normal and 100% valid to have strong feelings (perhaps of anger and/or resentment) in response to your boundary being crossed. You are allowed at all times to have your feelings and express them. We fully support you at all times in having strong feelings, and in expressing them. We cannot support you in using those (understandably strong) feelings to bring harm to others. Accountability Processes are for repairing harm and changing harmful behavior. Accountability Processes are not for punishing people or causing further harm.

Named Party Expectations

Participation

Organizers may engage the Named Party in conversations to discuss their actions which caused harm to others. The Named Party is expected to participate in these conversations until they are complete or to recuse themselves from the event.

Stepping Away

That said, anyone may step away from any situation which is harming them, including conversations with Organizers about their own behavior. However, a Named Party who chooses to step away from such a conversation may not be permitted to participate in the event (and may be asked to leave the event space) until they are able to return to that conversation and bring it to some kind of resolution.

Empathy and Kindness Toward Affected Party

For this paragraph, assume you are a Named Party. Realize, conflict is difficult and uncomfortable for everyone involved. The Affected Party did not want to experience harm, and does not want to be going through an Accountability Process with you. Surely, they would rather dance, socialize, and have fun. Instead, they are having difficult, emotional conversations in which they have to relive the harm that they felt in the process of explaining it to others. The only reason to do that is to try to repair the harm and/or prevent the same harm from befalling themselves or someone else in the future. They are likely feeling a mix of negative emotions such as anger, resentment, and/or despair. Nothing you say or do now can change the fact that you caused harm. However, responding in a thoughtful way now could avoid further harm and help repair the harm already done. Understanding all of this can go a long way toward responding to the conflict in a manner that is healthy for everyone. You are expected to be respectful and kind toward the Affected/Reporting Party, or excuse yourself from the premises until you are able to do so.

Organizer Expectations:

  • First and foremost, listen fully to all perspectives with the central objectives of comprehension and empathy, never judgement.

  • Act in integrity and speak the whole, transparent truth - as compassionately and humbly as possible.

  • Actively recognize and make all attempts to mitigate their own implicit biases.

  • Actively recognize and make all attempts to mitigate all power dynamics at play.

  • Actively recognize their privilege, and empathize despite that privilege.

  • Recognize and recuse themselves from situations in which they have a conflict of interest.

  • Recognize and recuse themselves from situations toward which they are explicitly biased.

  • Be free of the influence of substances and of clear mind, or recuse themselves.

  • Use their best judgement.

  • Have working knowledge of this policy in its entirety.

  • Take reports seriously.

  • Treat everyone with respect.

  • Be considerate of the needs of others.

  • Ask clarifying questions to understand the nuances of the situation.

  • Take notes if it is necessary to the situation, and treat those notes as highly confidential.

  • Ask the baseline questions (listed in the next section) if they were not already answered by the Reporting Party’s narrative.

  • Set expectations about followup and further communication that suit the needs and urgency of the situation.

Accountability Processes

This Organizing Team is critical of attempts to create cut-and-dried accountability procedures because they lack the nuance which is pivotal in resolving conflict. Such procedures limit the options available to the Organizers, and may preclude approaches which would ultimately have been more helpful to all parties. However, the Team also acknowledges that the lack of procedures and structure has itself caused harm.

All Accountability Processes undertaken by High-Fidelity Fusion seek to resolve conflict and prevent future harm. We are far less interested in the form of the process than the result. In general, we will seek forms of accountability other than community exclusion. We are open to:

  • Person-specific codes of conduct that require individuals to refrain from or engage in specific behaviors

  • Requiring individuals to be in good standing with external accountability processes

  • Requiring engagement in some form of reparations

  • Earnest Apology

  • Reading/education for the Named Party to understand the impact of their actions

  • Third-party mediation

We will seriously consider any form of accountability that is suggested by a community member.

Third-Party Mediator

High-Fidelity Fusion has retained a third-party mediator who is available to assist in resolving conflicts which come up at the event.

Baseline Questions to Ask During Accountability Processes

  1. What happened?

  2. Who was involved?

  3. Where did it happen?

  4. When did it happen?

  5. What does the Affected/Reporting Party want to happen as a result of disclosure of this information?

  6. Is there anything the Named Party could do to make the event safe for the Affected/Reporting party and/or others?

  7. What can the Organizing Team do to make the event safe for the Affected/Reporting Party and/or others?

  8. What information can be shared with the Named Party?

  9. What information cannot be shared with the Named Party?

  10. With whom can information be shared (within the Organizing Team, with the mediator, etc.)?

  11. Does any further action need to be anonymous?

  12. Is it okay to contact the Affected Party? If yes:

    1. What method is preferred?

    2. What things can we contact them about?

    3. What things can we not contact them about?

  13. Is it okay to contact the Reporting Party? If yes:

    1. What method is preferred?

    2. What things can we contact them about?

    3. What things can we not contact them about?

A hypothetical Accountability Process may look like:

  1. Gather information from the Reporting Party.

  2. Gather information from the Affected Party (if relevant/acceptable).

  3. Convene a group of Organizers (and possibly other community members, if applicable to the situation) to address this conflict.

  4. Inform the Named Party of the harm done/Accountability Process to the extent permissible by the Affected/Reporting Party.

  5. Gather information from the Named Party.

  6. Create a specific and realistic timeline of the progression of the Accountability Process. Communicate that timeline to everyone involved.

  7. Organizers review gathered information.

  8. Organizers draw conclusions about:

    1. The extent of harm caused.

    2. The likelihood of further harm.

    3. Whether or not to ban the Named Party for the safety of others at this and future events.

    4. Assuming they are not banned, what repairs need to be made by the Named Party prior to their participation in High-Fidelity events.

    5. What changes are expected of the Named Party’s future behavior.

    6. The consequences of the Named Party’s actions.

    7. The consequences if the Named Party fails to change their behavior.

  9. Organizers communicate decisions to all parties (in accordance with confidentiality), and hear all outstanding grievances (if applicable).

  10. Repeat any steps if necessary.

Resources:

  • Emergency Services (Fire/Medical/Police): 911

  • King County Sexual Assault Resource Center Crisis Line: 888-99-VOICE (888.998.6423)

  • Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR): 206-233-7100

  • Seattle Police (Non-emergency Number): 206-625-5011

Appendix i: Recognizing Conflict/Accountability Avoidance Behaviors

The following responses to conflict are unhelpful or outright harmful to its resolution. When mediating or involved in community conflict, it is important to understand what each of these behaviors are and how to recognize them, so that they can be stopped, or avoided entirely. Someone engaging in these behaviors may not know that they are doing them or understand the harm that their behavior is causing, so it is important to point out each behavior and its consequences as soon as it is observed.

Denial

Denial is a direct contradiction of the claims made by the Affected/Reporting Party. It is harmful because it invalidates their experience. It takes many forms, some of which are insidiously subtle. The Named Party may claim:

  • The events described by the Affected/Reporting Party did not happen at all, or “did not happen like that.”

  • The Affected/Reporting party “twisted the truth.”

  • The Affected/Reporting party did not tell the “full” story.

  • They do not remember the events described by the Affected/Reporting Party.

They may also:

  • Minimize the event by admitting to some, but not all of the behavior.

  • Minimize the harm that their actions caused.

For as long as the Named Party stays in denial, they will neither address the harm their actions have caused, nor change their behavior. The logic is simple: if they’ve done nothing wrong, then they do not need to apologize for their behavior, and do not need to change their actions going forward. Denial is not an acceptable response to conflict because something about the Named Party’s actions (or the way the Affected/Reporting Party interpreted them) caused harm. It is not for the Named Party to decide whether (or how much) harm was experienced by the Affected Party. Instead, the first response to hearing that someone was harmed should be to help, not deny that it happened.

Attack

Attacks on the Affected/Reporting Party are often used to derail accountability conversations. The Named Party’s attacks may take numerous forms, including:

  • Questioning the credibility of the Affected/Reporting Party’s story.

  • Claims that the Affected Party’s own actions are responsible for the harm they experienced, such as accusing the Affected Party of seducing them.

  • Claims that the Affected Party deserved the harm they experienced.

  • Claims that the Affected/Reporting Party is crazy.

  • Direct insults.

Such attacks are harmful for a myriad of reasons:

  • The attacks change the topic of the conversation away from the harm done to the Affected Party. Therefore, they are a distraction from the point of the conversation, which is repairing the harm and preventing future harm. With enough attacks, the accountability conversation may get lost in the noise.

  • The attacks are directly harmful by insulting or adding emotional distress to the Affected/Reporting Party.

  • The Affected/Reporting Party unexpectedly has to defend their character or credibility, which may interrupt their train of thought and prevent their point from being made.

Reverse victim and offender

The Named Party may claim to be the actual (only) harmed party. This can look like:

  • Claiming the Affected/Reporting Party is vindictive or has a grudge against them.

  • Minimizing the harm they caused to make their discomfort with the Accountability Conversation appear more important/relevant

This tactic casts doubt. It plays on the idea that people are innocent until proven guilty in order to get sympathy from third-parties (such as Organizers), while encouraging the Affected Party to blame themselves for the harm they experienced.

Note: the Named Party may also have been harmed. That does not mean that their behavior did not cause harm. It is important

defensiveness

Everyone has a reason for their actions, and in general, we do not try to hurt each other. If someone claims your actions were harmful to them, it might call into question the reasons that you took those actions. The brain does not like to admit that it made a mistake. It may naturally offer several explanations for why those actions did not generate the harm. The problem is, defending your actions and the reasons for them necessarily implies that the Reporting/Affected Party is wrong, which invalidates their experience. Further, as long as you hold to your defensiveness, you will be unwilling to acknowledge the harm, take responsibility, make repairs, or change your behavior. Defensiveness only delays the Accountability Process and drains the energy of everyone involved.

Related: you will likely want to explain the reasons why you took the actions that caused harm. While it feels cathartic to be understood by the Affected Party, it is usually unhelpful to addressing their needs. Generally speaking, get consent to explain your reasons before you begin your explanation, or wait until the Affected Party asks you about them. Otherwise, keep them to yourself.

stonewalling

Stonewalling is simply not responding. It is a refusal to engage with the information that is presented, to participate in the Accountability Process, to acknowledge the harm that was caused, to make repairs, to change behavior, etc. This behavior prevents progress of the Accountability Process while taxing the emotional resources of everyone involved.

gaslighting

Gaslighting is a group of long-term emotional abuse tactics in which the abuser manipulates the victim into questioning their own reality. Some of the hallmarks of gaslighting are:

  • The abuser tells blatant, verifiable lies. The brashness of the lies make it difficult to trust anything they say.

  • The abuser withholds information from the victim to put themselves in a position of power over the victim.

  • The abuser denies that they said or did something, even when there is proof that it happened. It becomes difficult to hold them accountable for their actions when they refuse to engage in good faith, and it can cause the victim to question their memory of the events, or even their sanity.

  • The abuser discounts information from the victim or other sources.

  • The abuser intentionally uses the things that matter most to the victim against them. For example, if the victim has children, then the children might be made into the source of all problems in the relationship. Things would be great, if only the victim didn’t have those children.

  • The abuser verbally criticizes or insults the victim, often using “humor” to shield themselves from taking responsibility for the harmful effects of their words. Common phrases here are along these lines: “I was just joking!” “Couldn’t you tell I was just trying to be funny?” or, “Oh, come on, you didn’t think I was serious there, did you?”

  • The abuser blocks or diverts the victim’s attention from sources of information other than the abuser.

  • The abuser trivializes the victim’s worth.

  • The abuser wears the victim down over time. Every lie enables the next lie. When the abuser doesn’t have to take responsibility for their actions, it enables them to act incrementally worse the next time.

  • The abuser uses positive reinforcement selectively to manipulate the victim. For example, the abuser might praise something specific the victim did shortly after attacking their worth. This invites the victim to question whether the abuser is really as bad as the attack they just leveled. Further, the action that the abuser praises may have directly benefited them. This can groom the victim to repeat that behavior to “earn” similar praise in the future, despite the abuse.

  • The abuser projects their own flaws onto the victim. Perhaps the abuser uses drugs in an unhealthy way. They accuse the victim of doing the same (or worse). The victim’s focus may shift to defending themselves, which distracts from the abuser’s behavior.

  • The abuser aligns others against the victim. The abuser might claim that their friends agree with their criticism of the victim. This is used as evidence that the victim’s perspective is invalid.

  • The abuser questions the victim’s cognitive function or sanity —  to the victim, and/or to others. If the victim concludes that they are crazy (or others will think them crazy), they are unlikely to share their experience outside the relationship. Further, those outside the relationship who were told that the victim is crazy might find it easy to disbelieve any experiences they do share.

Gaslighting is particularly hard to identify for victims because the behaviors develop in small, incremental changes over a long time. It is difficult to spot from outside the relationship because the abuser does not show those behaviors to anyone except the victim. Many of the tactics above lead to isolation of the victim from others, so there may not be any external indication of the problems within the relationship. When the victim is groomed to question their own value as a witness, it is easy to dismiss claims that they make about the abuser’s behavior - especially given how starkly their account differs from other people’s experience of the abuser. However, gaslighting is exceptionally damaging, so it is critically important to recognize the signs and actively look for them.

appendix ii: Recognizing Problematic (and Generally Unsuccessful) Approaches Conflict Resolution

criticism

Criticism is an attack on someone’s character or personality, rather than a behavior which is causing harm. “You’re a creep,” is a criticism, and is likely to make someone defensive, whereas, “You hugged me for a duration that felt  uncomfortable to me, and in a way that crossed my boundary,” addresses the behavior without applying judgement.

contempt

Contempt is a show of blatant disrespect. Sneering, eye rolls, passive-aggressive comments, sarcasm, or use of “humor” to veil insults are all demonstrations of contempt. A much less harmful (and thereby more effective) way to convey hurt feelings is to identify their root cause, then explain the feelings with the cause. For example, when interrupted, one might say, “Can you let me get a word in?” or “Do you mind? I’m trying to talk.” To express the same point without showing contempt, one could instead say, “I would like to finish my point before you jump in, and I feel frustrated when you interrupt me.”