[Photo above is of Venetian masks — what sort of masks might we be wearing in relationship? Is it possible to safely unmask abusers in our communities?]
Sometimes in polyamory (and other forms of “ethical non-monogamy”), there are things we need to talk about that aren’t much fun. Over the past few months, there’s been a conversation going on about one such topic, that of abuse and predators within the poly community. It’s a challenging conversation in part because people have a desire to separate themselves from it (e.g., “oh that’s not [polyamory/ethical non-monogamy/whatever]; that’s just [cheating/abuse/creepy behavior]”.) All sorts of relationships can be done healthily, or unhealthily. There are abusive monogamous relationships, as well as healthy ones, and there are abusive polyamorous relationships, as well as healthy ones. No relationship style has a lock on either “healthy” or “unhealthy.”
However, in trying to distinguish that not all polyamorous relationships are abusive — which is a normal and natural desire! — we can sometimes, unwittingly, create a situation in which people who are doing these “bad behaviors” can hide out, flourish, and have a perfect place in which to prey on their victims. There are things about polyamory that make it sometimes more likely that abuse can happen, and there are other ways in which polyamory can complicate an already existing situation. So how do we talk about this sort of thing, and what sort of response should the community have, when such situations arise?
This is the topic of an upcoming discussion in our local East Bay Poly Potluck community, As background for this discussion, I’m providing some links to discussions that have been ongoing all around the US on this topic in the past few months. There’s a lot I could say about a lot of them, but I’m mostly just presenting them as a list of links. In a couple of cases there’s a tiny bit of commentary, drawn from the Poly Leadership Network list, where several lively discussions have been ongoing. Mostly, though, I’m just presenting the links for you to read, digest, and make up your own mind about.
Please be gentle with yourself as you read these. Some accounts can be triggery. Please be mindful of the trigger warnings on some pages, if that applies to you. Take time, take breaks, go for walks; whatever you need to do to keep yourself grounded and safe. It’s important reading, but equally important that you remain internally safe, as well as externally.
Links on abuse in (poly) relationships
Alan M’s excellent round-up post:
Franklin Veaux’s particularly useful blog on Community Response to abuse:
Explicit policy of support for disclosing victims, such as in this excellent analysis:
Links related to a particular situation on the US East Coast
wordpress.com/2015/02/23/abuse -exploitation-and-narrative- control-in-polyamory/
NOTE that the link above (a guest post) was published over a year ago ON THE BLOG (“Living Within Reason”) of the very person who has subsequently been accused of abuse. The PLN has opted to remove the blog owner from PLN membership, and it is in part stemming from this situation that much of the wider community discussion is happening. So if and/or when you read other entries in this blog, be aware that the blog owner has been accused of abuse — and that there is substantial evidence that he did in fact abuse others, and use his position of power as a means of control.
Just because someone is in a position of power or influence — and just because they may be speaking up about choice, the power to say ‘no’, or consent — does not mean they may not engage in “bad” or “questionable” behaviors. Even leaders have “shadow sides.”
[Notice that this otherwise good general link on verbal consent is on the blog of the person who has subsequently been accused of abuse himself.]
Sample anti-harassment policies:
document/d/ 1CM0SF8Oa9eksq2y9Uk9ku7eiEzwLx i7HzUVet4Sjfu0/edit
- [NOTE: The Poly Leadership Network is working on some guidelines for the poly community as well]
- Eve Rickert, co-author of the recent, excellent “More Than Two” book, also recommends that everyone take a look at the #TransfauxmativeJustice hashtag on Twitter for examples of some mistakes not to make as we develop community response policies.
Some BDSM consent links someone referenced:
- NCSF also has a program called Consent Counts with links to some excellent material on consent:
programs/consent-counts/ consent-counts/item/580- consent-and-bdsm-the-state-of- the-law.html
The “Missing Stair” — how we learn to “step over” abusers
Bhramari Dasi wrote:
[This article by Cliff, @Pervocracy, talks about] “… how communities can be inclined to respond to abuse accusations by stepping around or “over” (see article) the alleged threat that dwells within the community, instead of addressing it directly.
It’s prompting me to closely examine the idea that just because the abuse didn’t happen *at* or *with* someone in our group, that we don’t really have legitimate authority to take some sort of action to sanction or ban the person. I do feel there’s *something* (or a series of things) we should do.”
And lastly, in a meant-to-be-humorous (sort of) vein, here are 10 Rape Prevention Tips. Comedian Sarah Silverman popularized these earlier this year on Twitter, and got a huge backlash. How do YOU feel about them? Are they funny? Sad? Do they make you afraid, or angr? Or something else? As always, feel free to comment here in this blog, by contacting me, or in Facebook.
Remember, although there are times when it is appropriate to moderate the expression of that love,
Do you want to talk about your relationships? Is there something going on that you’re not sure is ok — or you’re sure is NOT ok? Whatever you need to talk about, I’m here to listen. Contact me for a free consultation today. You deserve to have healthy relationships! I’d be honored to help in your process.
©2015, Dawn M. Davidson