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Have you caused harm to someone else? Has someone told you that you violated their boundaries or hurt them? Have you reflected on your actions and realized that you may have been violent towards someone?
It can be very difficult to confront the truth about hurting someone, or to begin to do the work of looking within oneself at the ways in which you’ve caused harm. But this is very important work, for if sexualized violence is going to end, we need to find ways to look at the harm that we’ve done and support this kind of work to happen.
At the Anti.Violence.Project, we work with people who have caused harm, as well as experienced it. Our support for people who have caused harm is based on a few things:
Is the person willing to look at their own behaviour and take accountability?
We are not currently supporting the person that this person has harmed
We feel that one-on-one counselling would be useful in this situation
If you have caused harm and would like to speak with us about taking responsibility, accountability and action, you are welcome to contact us. We also have resources available about support if you have caused harm.
We will not shame or judge you for not knowing about consent, as judgment, shame, and stigma do not foster conditions for learning and unlearning.
We affirm that everyone has inherent worth and dignity, and do not dispose of anyone for not knowing about consent.
We believe that everyone accessing AVP can learn, unlearn, and improve. We will work with you to understand what led to causing harm, develop constructive strategies and solutions, practice everyday acts of consent, and celebrate positive shifts and successes.
Support and accountability go together. As part of supporting you, we will work with you to identify ways you can be accountable for the harms you have caused. You will be expected to take action and to commit time and energy in both support and accountability work.
If we are also supporting the person / people who you have harmed, we will be creative in finding a way to do that which works for everyone, for example arranging for support sessions outside the AVP office or having different staff/volunteers do support.
Often when people have caused harm, they are afraid that if they’re honest about it they’ll be shunned by the people around them. In some instances disclosing that you have caused harm does mean losing relationships, work, power, etc. Additionally in some instances the person / people who you’ve harmed may ask you to stay away from them and that may mean dealing with a lot of complexities if you are in school together, work together, socialize in the same circles, etc.
As part of accountability you may need to shift how you participate in community. But we still highly encourage community connection, as isolation, secrecy, and marginalization are not conducive to learning, unlearning, and getting to practice consent — after all, consent is relational. We can work with people who are committed to supporting you in your healing (a circle of friends, fraternity or club you’re part of, etc.,) to also learn about consent, help you practice, and be there for you as you work through feelings that come up around having caused harm. If you are a man/masculine-identified, AVP is involved in a Men’s Circle on campus that aims to challenge gender-based violence and dominant constructions of masculinity, and that also provides a positive space for connecting with other men/masculine people who are committed to consent culture.