How To Hold People Accountable in 3 Simple Steps

pods

The F12 Network is getting a lot of calls about specific situations of sexual violence. While we support a diversity of tactics, F12 leadership does not directly respond to violence ourselves or provide resources for outside mediation.

Our mission is to transform our community into a place where victims and perpetrators alike can be heard, understood, and loved when they need it most. We have done our best to make this website easy to navigate but decided to write this post so folks in crisis don’t have to go clicking through a long library of articles.

STEP 1: PODS

The picture at the top of this article is a concept developed by the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (BATJC) in their work responding to child abuse.

The BATJC writes:

Your pod is made up of the people that you would call on if violence, harm or abuse happened to you; or the people that you would call on if you wanted support in taking accountability for violence, harm or abuse that you’ve done; or if you witnessed violence or if someone you care about was being violent or being abused.

People can have multiple pods. The people you call to support you when you are being harmed may not be the same people you call on to support you when you have done harm, and vice versa. In general, pod people are often those you have relationship and trust with, though everyone has different criteria for their pods.

Once we started using the term “pods,” we realized a bunch of things:

Most people have few solid, dependable relationships in their lives. Much of this is from the breaking of relationships, isolation, fear and criminalization that capitalism requires. We found that for many people, mapping their pod was a sobering process, as many thought their pod would be larger than it actually was. It is not uncommon for most people to have 1 or 2 people in their pod. We reassure people this is not a popularity contest, but rather a chance to reflect on why we have so few relationships with the kind of deep trust, reliability and groundedness we need to be able to respond well to violence.

Many people have less people they could call on to take accountability for harm they’ve done than harm that happened to them. Though competent support for surviving violence is few and far between, we have found that accountable support for someone taking accountability for harm they have done is even harder to find. More often than not, people end up colluding with abusers or reinforcing the shaming and blaming of survivors in their attempt to support someone in taking accountability for harm, if they stay in relationship with people who have harmed or been violent at all.

Asking people to organize their pod was much more concrete than asking people to organize their “community.” Once we had the shared language and concept of “pod,” it allowed transformative justice to be more accessible. Gone were the fantasies of a giant, magical “community response,” filled with people we only had surface relationships with; and instead we challenged ourselves and others to build solid pods of people through relationship and trust. In doing so, we are pushed to get specific about what those relationships look like and how they are built. It places relationship-building at the very center of transformative justice and community accountability work.

“Pod people” don’t fall neatly along traditional lines, especially in situations of intimate and sexual violence. People don’t necessarily turn to their closest relationships (e.g. partner, family, best friends), especially because this is often where the violence is coming from, but also because the criteria we would use for our pod people is not necessarily the same as what we use (or get taught to use) for our general intimate relationships. We have different and specific kinds of relationships with our pod people, often in addition to relationship and trust, they involve a combination of characteristics such as, but not limited to: a track record of generative conflict; boundaries; being able to give and receive feedback; reliability. These are characteristics and skills that we are not readily taught to value in U.S. society and don’t usually have the skillset to support in even our closest relationships.

Building analysis was much easier than building the relationship and trust required for one’s pod. Once people started to identify their pod, it became clear that most of the people they would call on were not necessarily political organizers or activists and usually didn’t have political analysis. This was true, even for political organizers and activists who were mapping their pods. Using the language of “pods” was a way to meet people where they were and reveal what was already working in their intimate networks. People already had individuals in their lives they would turn to when violence happened (even if it was just one person). So this is where we needed to focus our work, instead of trying to build new relationships with strangers who might share a political analysis, but had no relationship to each other, let alone trust. We set out to build through our relationships and trust.

STEP 2: DEFINE WHAT HAPPENED

 

You’re probably thinking that naming the problem is the first step, but establishing a support group can help afford the time and space needed to really unpack and understand what happened. This chart provided in the Creative Interventions Toolkit is a useful reference:

Emotional Physical Sexual Economic Other
Prevented me from spending time with friends, family & community Pushed, slapped, hit, punched, kicked or choked me Unwanted & inappropriate sexual attention, communication, or looks Withheld or controlled access to money Threatened to have me arrested or deported
Humiliated me with insults, disdainful looks or public denigration Threatened to physically harm me Forced me to have sex when I didn’t consent, through coercion or violence (i.e. rape) Spent my money or took my money from me Threatened to out me for being a sex worker, being a drug user, being LGBT, selling drugs, being HIV+ etc.
Lied about other people to me or lied about me to other people to isolate me Threw objects, punched walls, or slammed doors in a threatening way Made me have sex in ways that I didn’t want through coercion or violence Prevented me from working, forced me to miss work, or got me fired Forced me to engage in acts I didn’t want to, like stealing or hurting someone
Threatened suicide or self-harm Hurt or threatened me with weapons Made me have unprotected sex through coercion, violence, or deceit (e.g. taking the condom off) Threatened to get me fired from my job Called the cops on me or had me arrested to make himself look like the victim
Said degrading and hurtful things to damage my self-esteem Prevented me from sleeping, drove recklessly, or left me in dangerous situations Unsuccessful attempt to sexually assault or rape me Forced me to work unfairly (e.g. take on multiple jobs to support both of us)
Used coercion & manipulation to control my thoughts and movements Had someone else physically hurt me Forced me to have sex with someone I didn’t want to have sex with, or watch him having sex with someone
Stalked me by showing up at my home, work, or social events Threatened or interfered with my health (e.g. took my medication or made me miss appointments) Took consensual S&M too far, ignored my safe word, or seriously hurt me during sex
Threatened to damage my reputation Threatened to hurt someone I care about
Stalked or harassed me through excessive calls, emails, or text messages Physically hurt someone I care about
Controlled who I could be friends with or who I could talk to

3. FOLLOW THROUGH

The person who perpetrated harm is being asked to take accountability in the following ways:

 

Tip: Use PODS to think about who is best to see each stage of accountability through.

*Visit our 101s section for more info on accountability processes and what they can look like. You can also take a look at our Accountability Process Primer and/or book a workshop.

4 thoughts on “How To Hold People Accountable in 3 Simple Steps

  1. youngwoe says:

    Hi! Thank you for this great resource. A question: I’m assuming the “Accountability” Section is left blank intentionally, and we should use resources like the Accountability Process Primer to fill that in?

    • youngwoe says:

      Assuming the accountability process is the same as the one outlined in “Portrait of Praxis”:

      1. Recognize the harm they have done, even if it wasn’t intentional.
      2. Acknowledge that harm’s impact on individuals and the community.
      3. Make appropriate restitution to the individual and community.
      4. Develop solid skills towards transforming attitudes and behavior to prevent further harm and make contributions toward liberation.”

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