At the time of this writing, I’ve been in an accountability process for approximately five months. I haven’t been posting public updates as much as I thought I’d be due to having a lot of feelings and new information to process, not knowing what to say about it, and the “human pace,” as my pod put it, of a process like this.
Several weeks ago, my Pod shared the anonymous reporting data with me. This information was crucial in helping me find words to write a cogent update. Many thanks to the survivor’s pod for collecting and aggregating the anonymous reporting link data, to those who shared their experiences via the link and/or through verbal stories and FB comments, and to Kelly for bravely starting this all.
Receiving the data from the anonymous reporting helped me see harmful patterns I wasn’t aware of. The data helped point me towards what I needed to unlearn and the upgrades I could put into practice. The patience, support, and guidance of my accountability pod and my therapist were instrumental throughout.
What’s been happening for the past five months
A few weeks ago, the anonymous reporting data collected by the survivor’s pod was shared with my pod, who then relayed it to me on May 10th. From that shared data, with my pod’s help, I deepened my understanding of my harmful patterns. My pod and therapist helped me focus on feeling my feelings rather than immediately intellectualizing everything. I was able to access greater empathy and compassion for the harms I was creating. I was asked by my pod to share my feelings and thoughts around what I thought I needed to unlearn and to come up with upgrades to my behavior that would reduce the risk of harm and give me better tools to deal with causing harm and to be ongoingly accountable.
Since February, I’ve been working with a therapist weekly. With them, I’ve been getting additional support and clarity around lenses of restorative justice, privilege and oppression, as well as my thoughts and feelings along this journey.
I drafted a set of upgrades and harm reduction strategies that would address the harmful patterns. From that, I created a new set of commitments and protocols that I will institute moving forward. I discussed my thoughts and feelings and shared how I came to them with my pod, my therapist, and my primary partner.
During the time it took for the anonymous data to be collected and aggregated, I had one-on-one calls with my pod where we discussed what my patterns might be. We used the information that had been shared in my FB apology comments as a foundation.
Throughout the last five months, I’ve had a steady stream of conversations with friends and peers when they reached out to me about past experiences and harms and restorative justice. I used these community member conversations to gather more information on harmful patterns.
In addition to these sets of conversations, I read, watched, and listened to a vast amount of information on systemic oppression, intersectionality, restorative justice approaches, harm reduction approaches and consent.
What I’m learning in this accountability process
I’m learning that I’ve been negotiating consent with an incomplete understanding of how power dynamics, privilege, intersectionality, socialization and systemic oppression affect why and how people give and gain consent.
I’m learning that my focus on verbal communication (for navigating social, professional and sexual situations) did not take into adequate consideration how people use non-verbal communication, code-switching, and soft-nos to communicate their wants as well as avoid negative outcomes.
I’m learning how in the face of power differentials, many people fear saying what’s real for them and use coded language and non-verbal communication to navigate situations, avoid violence, get out of situations, etc.
I’m learning that I was severely lacking in a deeper understanding of how success and visibility in my career is its own type of power differential. This differential, when added to the already existing dynamics of privilege and oppression, creates a very complicated “soup” that I was not taking into account.
I’m learning that my best efforts to not coerce or pressure people didn’t mean that the power and privilege magically vanished from the interactions. My power and privilege are always affecting those more marginalized than me. And even me pointing it out that such dynamics existed would only show that I knew they were there, it wouldn’t keep them from being in effect.
I’m learning that my attempts to make communication easier by taking the lead and sharing what I was up for could put the burden on those with less power and privilege to navigate situations that they hadn’t asked for. Thus, it was not consensual and, therefore, inappropriate.
I’m learning the value of keeping requests for business advice strictly business focused and not to include flirtation or solicitation for social or sexual engagement.
What I’m feeling now (and through this process)
Mostly, I feel…deeply confused. Confused at how I could have missed some of the things I’m learning that seem SO BLATANTLY OBVIOUS now. That my attempts at being honest and transparent are really unwanted sexual advances. And also missing something less obvious but RIGHT THERE that I should have been on top of: 1) how power differentials/dynamics impact consent and 2) tracking for soft-nos/subtle cues.
I continue to feel a deep sense of remorse that I was putting people into harmful or uncomfortable situations they did not ask for.
I feel embarrassed and ashamed that I didn’t see sooner the gaps in my understanding of how power dynamics affect consent, and how my lack of understanding created harmful, non-consensual interactions.
I feel a deep sense of gratitude to Kelly for her bravery in coming forward and for those who shared their experiences online, in person, and in the anonymous reporting so I could learn how to do better.
I am deeply appreciative to my accountability pod and the survivor’s pod for the support, insight, hard work and guidance they’ve been able to contribute with very little compensation on my part.
I am slowly feeling hopeful that I’ll be able to integrate what I’ve learned and more consciously interact with people such that these harms won’t be replicated and so that when I cause harm in the future I can be accountable in ways that reflect my ethics and values.
More details on where I’m at
I am grateful and remorseful for the feedback and stories that showed up on my initial FB apology and Kelly’s Daily Beast article. My lack of understanding was having a direct impact on those around me, and I’m grateful to be able to see things differently now.
My therapist and pod helped me stick with feeling my confusion and anger when they surfaced. I was also able to identify and stay grounded in the relief coming from knowing people were telling me their truth. I knew their truth and lived experience was going to help me see harmful behaviors. My childhood and teen years were filled with an enormous amount of lying and emotional abuse. Thus, anyone sharing their truth, even when it’s hard to accept, lands on me as a gift. I am all too familiar with what happens in a family where people withhold from you what’s going on. Because of my family history, I had many moments of deep relief in response to my peers telling me their truth. For this, I am grateful, even when things were incredibly difficult for me to hear.
I’ve gone through a huge, humbling journey of self-doubt, shame and embarrassment. Second-guessing myself and every interaction I’ve had for the last 10+ years is not fun. However, it is a VERY worthwhile process to look back on your life through the lenses of power, oppression, and harm. It is not a journey one should do alone. I am grateful for my pod and my therapist. They helped me avoid the all too common tricks my privilege and ego would have pulled to keep insights invisible to me.
I can grasp more concretely how privilege, for those who have it, makes one feel comfortable. I understand more deeply how my many forms of privilege strengthen those warm and comfy feelings, and how wanting to stay in my comfort zone is a form of avoidance. I can see how culture and it’s systems of oppression show up to keep a cis, white, extroverted man like me protected from seeing the harms I can be causing. I can see now how that comfort and lack of perception comes at the price of someone else’s harm. While I cannot undo the systems of oppression, I can more mindfully navigate the world in ways that reduce harm and risk for others.
I would like to thank the members of both pods and the individuals who shared their stories for making the invisible visible to me. Your contributions, support and guidance weren’t always easy to receive, but I am eternally grateful.
I’m feeling very certain about how uncertain I am in regards to navigating the rest of this accountability process. I have come to learn that uncertainty is a great, if uncomfortable, gift. Feeling less certain, for me, is the key to upgrading how I am paying attention throughout my interactions.
In my next update, I’ll share my new commitments moving forward.