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.


Help sexual assault

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.   

sexual assault is everyones issue

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.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

10 responses to “Ban or reintegrate?”

  1. abbeeveggiesplease says :

    The homes of children should never NEVER be the “test beds” of re-integration of sex offenders. If you ever EVER plan on having children in that community, even as visitors, it needs to be free from sex offenders. Anything else would be completely irresponsible and I know that you know that.

    • paxus says :

      Dearest Abbee: You know that the definition of sexual assault is very broad. You are trying to make it simple. In this case the assault happened amongst people who were dancing. They were both drunk, they had until quite recently had a romantic relationship, they were both fully clothed. It is still considered by many, including the survivor as sexual assault. You are sure you want to start by saying this person has to leave community?
      No one thinks the perp is a danger to kids. Don’t trivialize the nature of this complexity of this issue.

  2. milo says :

    sexual assault is also a much abused accusation. the definitions of it vary. even in legal jurisdictions. the communities are particularly sensitive to sexual misconduct. to the point that ” i don’t like the way he looks at me” can get someone banned for life.
    considering all aspects of a situation before making a judgement is a basic tenet of most justice systems. few live up to it. is the community willing to put in the effort to be an alternative to main stream hypocrisy?
    in the clan/tribal tradition, when guilt is established, corrective action is the first response. the person will be embraced by the community and aided in fixing the damage done to themselves and the community. this has the added benefit of keeping them closely watched. if they are un-repentent and repetitive the most severe punishment is to be ostracized. death, on the rare occasion it is deemed necessary, is not a punishment. it is a preventative. locking some one away is neither corrective nor action.

    p.s. there is a documented case of an elderly couple in florida that were put on a child abuse watch list for seven years because the eavesdropping gossip that reported them did not listen long enough to learn they were referring to their pet raccoon.

  3. Catherine says :

    Is the issue an unwillingness to agree to ban someone for such transgressions, or an unwillingness to consider banning? I would be wary of any agreement that was a strict if this/ then banned, but I would be far more wary of a situation where my co’s were adamant that they would not even consider banning in such situations. It’s hard to tell from what you have written which is happening.

    • paxus says :

      There are several things going on. What is important, rather than the specifics of the case which sparked the discussion, is what is the group willing to consider in the future. It is easy to imagine that any group will want to ban someone. It is also certainly possible to image that circumstances can be resolved using other techniques including restorative justice. When do you use each? How do we make the process strong and supportive of all parties?

      • benji says :

        I think it makes a difference if a communard assaults a fellow communard versus someone once committed assault and now seems rehabilitated. In the first case if you agree that an assault happened, I don’t think there is a way for the victim and aggressor to cohabitate. In the second case you can agree as a group if you feel ok about the new member.

        It’s a tough subject. I saw a poly community get really torn up by this. Seems like some people felt the assault was…not 100% assault and saw opportunities for keeping the person in community. The other group (including the victim) was very successful in getting the aggressor moved out of every aspect of community. Hurt feelings all around from fairly good communicators and they did not have the additional challenge of sharing a home.

        In any case, good luck with it. I’m pretty horrified by the straight out punishment we visit on others, unwillingness to rehabilitate if we are offended enough by the crime but I see that it is complex.

        Maybe ask yourself about what circumstances you’d feel safe living with the person who committed arson. Where is the line between feeling safe (you have to stay on your meds, share a room with another person) and punishment (you aren’t allowed out after 8pm, you can’t have friends over.)

        Anyways. Good luck with it. Maybe consult the victim’s advocates in your circle for advice.

  4. Sandy H. says :

    False accusations of rape can be almost as damaging as a rape itself. The Ganas community in New York, I believe, spent years dealing with false allegations of a disgruntled former member who spent several years spreading lies and malcontent around.

    In this case, though, sounds like you are dealing with idiots who get stupid drunk, cavort with ex lovers, then spend the days following wasting everyone’s time debating what might or might not have happened. Perhaps you need to be more selective in who joins the community or in making clear what standards of behavior are. Sometimes both parties in a dispute must leave regardless of who was right or wronged. If people are magnets for trouble and constantly suck energy from the community then they shouldn’t be members.

  5. cardin says :

    you need define what sexual assault is and what it isn’t.

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