Safer Spaces Statement

Abolitionist Futures – Safer Spaces Statement

Abolitionist Futuresis a gathering for people who are interested in exploring abolitionist ideas, strategy, and struggle.  We aim to create a respectful, understanding and kind space where people feel able to express themselves and ask questions without fear of reprisal or humiliation.   We want to foster open-mindedness, respect, a willingness to learn from others, as well as physical and mental well-being.

We are mindful that people will be coming from many different communities, experiences, countries, backgrounds, educational levels and contexts and we might not always have a shared language or vocabulary.  Throughout the gathering, we aim to foster a space where we can communicate thoughtfully and respectfully of difference.

Abolitionist Futureswill address a range of difficult, complex and sometimes-emotionally charged issues. We aim to create a space that enables difficult conversations to happen and challenging topics to be addressed, but in as caring and supportive way as possible.

We live in a world where oppression is widespread and socially entrenched. Challenging and undoing that oppression, whether on an individual, community or structural level is an ongoing practice. We are committed to challenging and undoing oppression, and will support each other to do that work.

This gathering will bring together a diverse group of people, and many of us experience different kinds of oppression and violence, including racism, sexism, disableism, poverty, transphobia, transmisogyny, homophobia, islamophobia and antisemitism as well as others. These oppressions are not separate from each other, and many of us experience different types at the same time, which can be exhausting and painful. We want to create a community that recognises and challenges the oppression and exploitation that some of us are harmed by and some of us benefit from.

We are mindful that many of us at the gathering will be survivors of violence. This includes surviving domestic and sexual violence, as well as imprisonment, detention and other forms of state violence.  During the gathering, people may disclose experiences of being harmed or doing harm. We ask people to be thoughtful about the impact of such disclosures and the needs for support that may arise from these disclosures.

We encourage people to set their own boundaries and respect each other’s boundaries (i.e. if someone needs to leave the room, take a break, ask for support).  We aim to foster cultures of consent. If you are unsure of someone’s boundaries, please ask.

We all respond to harmful experiences differently, so please take care of yourself during the gathering, ask for what you need and we will do our best to support.

We will have ‘well-being volunteers’ at the conference who will be available to listen, offer one-to-one support, and talk to you about what outside organisational support might be available to you if needed.  We will also have a quiet space for people who need a break from the conference.

Some guidelines:

The following guidelines are not rules but a set of suggested commitments we can all make, in order to build a positive shared space for Abolitonist Futures.  The guidelines are meant to help build our political commitments into our relationships with each other, while recognising that challenging oppression can be hard and we all makes mistakes.

  1. Be aware of your privileges, including less obvious or invisible hierarchies. Think about how your words, opinions and feelings are influenced and who they might exclude or harm.
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  2. Respect other people’s physical and emotional boundaries. If unsure about boundaries, please ask.  Listen and change your behaviour if someone tells you that you are not respecting their boundaries.
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  3. Please be respectful of the different identities (genders, races, classes, sexualities, abilities) that people might have at the conference and try to avoid making generalisations or assumptions. Please be respectful of people’s preferred pronouns – i.e. she/he/they/ze (for more information see resources below).
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  4. Challenging oppression:  If someone has acted or spoken harmfully, we have a collective responsibility to raise it and address it. We strengthen our movements when we challenge and support each other to undo oppression.

If you have acted or spoken harmfully, even if unintentionally, someone may have a conversation with you about it.  If this happens, try not to be defensive. Listen and reflect on what they are saying even if you think they may be wrong. Be open to understanding the role your behaviour can have in other people experiences of oppression. For further guidance see ‘calling-in’ resources below.*

  1. Learning: If you don’t understand something, please ask and talk to other people at the gathering. You may be directed to a book, website or skill-share to learn more. We are each responsible for our own learning and if we feel able, for sharing it with others.
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  2. Labour:  This gathering is being organized and run by volunteers. Please show appreciation for the hard work of others and be considerate when you offer criticism. Particular oppressions rest on some groups doing more work than others and that work being unrecognized. Please also contribute whatever you can; this will be different for everyone. It’s ok to make mistakes.
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  3. Community Accountability: If incidents of harm occur, we will work collectively to support those who have been harmed, and address the issues. If you experience or are aware of harmful incidents, we encourage you to raise it as a collective issue and not feel that it is your responsibility to deal with it individually.

*Further Resources:

Calling IN: A Less Disposable Way of Holding Each Other Accountable by Ngọc Loan Trần
http://www.bgdblog.org/2013/12/calling-less-disposable-way-holding-accountable/

Calling In: A Quick Guide on When and How by Sian Ferguson
https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/01/guide-to-calling-in/

What to do if you are called out/called in: 9 Phrases Allies Can Say When Called Out Instead of Getting Defensiveby Sam Dylan Finch
https://everydayfeminism.com/2017/05/allies-say-this-instead-defensive/

Guidance on Gender Pronouns:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/ixpvasbm475wj82/Gender_pronouns.pdf?dl=0

[Many thanks to Sisters Uncut for sharing their safer spaces policy with us as a basis for developing our own.]