Charm City Art Space advertises itself as socially conscientious. Today, it issued a draft statement with the goal of ending debate over claims of sexual misconduct on the part of one of its members. Five women accused one guy of sexually harassing them in separate incidents, including one woman who accused him of having sex with her against her will. Unfortunately for the women, members publicly vetted the question of what happened to them for over six months with several members essentially calling the women liars. As a result, friends of the victims and the victims left the space. The remaining members agreed that, in essence, nothing should happen to the guy. A few people did talk to him about boundary issues.
After the draft of the statement was circulated, members responded with questions about whether the person who was accused of the harassment felt comfortable with the statement's wording and protested against the women being called "victims," requesting that they be instead called "survivors" or "accusers." No one asked how the women themselves felt about the statement's wording. I do appreciate calling women who are raped "survivors," but not in the context of discussing how to handle rapes. At the point of the rape, you aren't looking at the woman's future ability to move past the attack and gain strength,. You are looking at the wrong as she is being attacked and dominated. If I suffer through adversity, don't use my ability to heal to justify ignoring the evil of what happened.
I don't feel comfortable calling Charm City Art Space a "safe space." I am concerned that if one of its popular members sexually assaulted me, that I would be more stigmatized for bringing it up than he would be for violating me. Plus, I don't want to be a double victim - once as an individual being sexually harassed and then again as a person being alienated by those who fail to listen or, even worse, try to discredit me for refusing to silently be abused.
August 21, 2010 - Charm City Art Space posted their final statement this week. Backlash - a flurry of e-mails from people who've gone to shows at and supported CCAS; someone painted "rapist" on the CCAS door. The statement reduced the other four women from CCAS who were attacked to "a history of problematic sexual conduct," only mentioning the rape of a woman the guy met at CCAS. The statement called the woman the "accuser."
People protested and lots of women complained that CCAS has made excuses and is ignoring the security and well-being of its female members. As written by a woman I've known for five years:
"Saying that you can't take a side in a situation like this IS taking the side of the accused person because he is still allowed to operate in a 'safe' space... Also, creating and maintaining a safe space is not as easy as just saying you have a safe space; it's not just shit like walking women to their cars at night and saying 'racism sucks.' It's believing marginalized people... It's about support, even when it means questioning what you think you know about a friend."
Another women I know responded with an e-mail to CCAS in which she pointed out that picking apart the words of the women for months signals disbelief. CCAS reinforced this message of denial by trying to harbor the accused and by disseminating an answer to the accusations that amounts to: whatever.
Almost 3 years later. A lot of new people are involved in Charm City Art Space. They and long-term members insist that they are committed to providing a "safe space." They can't change the past, but insist that they learned from everything that happened in 2010.