Ban or reintegrate?
Building community is tough. Founding residential, income-sharing urban communities edges up against impossible. Nonetheless, we feel it is important, so we try to do it anyway.
Most communities never make it. The bonds between the prospective members are not strong enough, the money does not come together, ideals get lost in policy design or in-fighting and the group never coalesces. There are a dozen reasons that great plans for communities don’t make it. Group discussions about difficult policies are particularly ripe for potentially sinking a group.
Recently, Point A’s discussion about its expulsion policy took a more negative turn. The community does not even exist yet, and who the members are, or will be, is still unclear. We’re still getting to know one another, and forming those community bonds. And in the middle of this, a member of the community took other members to task for being unwilling to ban people accused of sexual assault, based upon a past experience in another context.
The details are hella messy, but it does not matter. Sexual assault is an oft silenced and systemic problem that progressive organizations need to be sure they are not supporting. I care deeply about this issue, intimates in my life work on this full time. My most recent arrest was around raising consciousness on this issue. I write and do workshops on building good consent culture including what bystanders can do.
In the context of Point A, it makes sense to look at this issue in our expulsion policy. You would just expel someone for sexual assault. It is that simple: this type of behavior is unacceptable, so we need to protect ourselves and our loved ones from it. Right?
Perhaps. But wouldn’t it be better if the community could reintegrate perpetrators and survivors? Wouldn’t we prefer to figure out how everyone can get what they want and need and still live together? Shouldn’t community be the test bed for restorative justice solutions, rather than simple exile?
Clearly this type of work is generally crazy difficult. But since building community in the first place is crazy difficult, shouldn’t we be striving to craft our beautifully robust model in hopes that its good design will increase its chance of support and replication?
Without a residence and even a fully specified group, it makes no sense to ban someone who is accused of sexual misconduct. Rather, it makes all the sense in the world to look at a vexing example of this type of behavior and challenge the group to be open to more holistic solutions rather than simply throwing out the trash.