on accountability

jes skolnik
May 12, 2017 · 3 min read
Image for post
Image for post

You may have read the allegations against Ben/Bean of PWR BTTM today. I spent a large portion of this afternoon breaking down why the band’s statement was bad, and why it doesn’t display an actual commitment to accountability.

There is an outright lie in the statement, which they’re going to have to address; as multiple sources have confirmed now, people knew about this beforehand, including at least one member of the band. There should have been a commitment to change and accountability made at that time, even if it wasn’t public, and while the past can’t be changed, the band needs to address this in the present.

While I talked a bit about restorative justice processes in that Twitter thread, I wanted to also talk a little bit about what accountability looks like when a survivor isn’t involved. (Remember, in order for there even to be the possibility of restorative/transformative justice, the process has to be what the survivor wants and specifically initiated by them.) Survivors have the right to determine our own paths to healing, and there are a million different reasons why someone wouldn’t want to engage with either the legal system, a mediation, or an RJ/TJ process. The harmfulness of the former has been well-established, and I can personally attest to my own bad experiences with cops and mediation (that was forced on me). Sometimes, all a survivor wants is to be left alone with the resources to heal in peace. But that doesn’t mean that accountability work should stop.

There are many ways to hold yourself accountable without involving the survivor. (They can also take place in tandem with an RJ/TJ process.) These include:

  • individual and/or group therapy with a professional, including anger management
  • journaling, self-reflection/thinking about times you may have caused harm in the past
  • working on substance abuse issues (it shouldn’t come as a surprise that intimate abuse and substance abuse often go hand in hand, though straight edge abusers surely do exist)
  • removing yourself from social situations in which you have abused your power in the past (like — if you use shows to meet people you’ve violated, not playing shows until you’ve done some monitored growth here. Fans look up to performers, and there is a real power imbalance there)
  • being transparent about your process
  • asking close friends if they will hold you accountable on a day-to-day basis and check in with you to see if you’re doing work/check you if you do or say something fucked up
  • not expecting your accountability to solve the harm you’ve done in the past. Trust can only be repaired if both parties agree that it can. All you can do is go forward in the future and try not to cause more harm.
  • not asking for plaudits from the public for doing this work, not accepting speaking engagements or money for talking about how you learned not to become an abuser
  • not deleting or removing critical posts during your process

Side note: fellow music journalists, let’s talk about our own complicity. Let’s talk about what it means to support or cover an artist, and what it means to be critical. Because our trade is in both reviews/criticism and reporting, we especially cannot claim objectivity here. I constantly reflect on what it means to endorse an artist through coverage, and so do the people I talk to and work with regularly.

But I saw multiple outlets publish and retweet stories today, and lots of journalists stay silent here. I know that it’s hard to speak up, but, especially given how much cultural capital modern music journalism takes from the work of marginalized people, it is our responsibility to do so. And let’s talk about how we treat one another, too, because it’s not as if this industry has clean hands.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store