This past weekend, several community members took action to make public Deaf events safe for survivors to attend. Both Joel Barish of DeafNation and Seth Gerlis of iDeafNews responded to community’s concerns immediately and took steps to show their commitment to end violence. We thank them for supporting survivors in our community.
DeafHope believes in community accountability and supports community members taking action for safe spaces. Being survivor-centered is the core of our organization and our work. We recognize that there is a long history of consistent failure on the part of law enforcement and the criminal justice system to hold perpetrators accountable for their violent behavior. For this reason, we cannot rely on evidence from the system to validate the survivor’s experience.
DeafHope also recognizes that many Deaf survivors face additional barriers to feeling safe and supported in part due to the Deaf community’s close-knit nature which often results in survivors and their abusers being in the same space. For a long time it was the norm for survivors to be ostracized when going public with their stories.
As a response to these serious issues, we support survivors in sharing their stories and naming their abusers. We also support survivors who choose not to share their stories or name their abusers. We believe each survivor knows what is best for themselves. We support creating healthy communities with positive “possibility” models for all.
To clarify, we cannot confirm or deny who has received services from us or who has a history of violence due to confidentiality and safety issues. We will not give out this kind information to anyone, including other organizations. Confidentiality is our first priority and we will always honor survivors’ right to privacy and safety.
We don’t believe it is threatening for community members to bring light to people’s abusive histories if it affects public spaces. We believe we should have a show of support for those who make requests for people with abusive histories to be removed because we know how difficult it is to come forward with stories of violence. It shows that our community members care about our Deaf community events and organizations.
Community accountability is a complicated concept that is not “one size fits all”. Too often survivors seek private or systematic means of justice and are threatened or ignored. If there is a statement of abuse against someone, a healthy response is to honor that person’s experience, identify and stop violent behaviors, and to respect the survivor’s boundaries. When this doesn’t happen in a healthy and safe manner, survivors and allies are forced to turn to public interventions. When survivors reach out, organizations should have an open dialogue with them about how to create a safe space. This new approach to dialogue is vital for us to achieve nonviolence and social justice. Together we can create space for survivors to guide this important conversation in our community.
If you are interested in continuing the dialogue about domestic violence, sexual violence, and transformative justice, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join our future trainings and events. We are all in this together.