Person gets publicly called out with an accusation of sexual coercion, harassment, abuse, assault.
Person knows they needs to make a public reply to the accusation.
Person turns to the femmes in their life: what should I say?
More often than not, I’m reading accountability statements that sound nothing like the voice of the called-out person.
Those of us who hold space for those who must be accountable are doing more than emotional labor: we’re coaching and even guiding people on what to say. We’re pulling from our own painful experiences. Are we asking the accused people to feel and say what we would want the people who have hurt us to say? Are we projecting our pain in an attempt to heal? Possibly.
What’s worse is that we’re enabling the accused people by providing words with which to placate the public. We’re helping to obscure the truth of their actions and reactions by aiding in the creation of their public presentations of apology and accountability.
I know that I’ve mistakenly done this and I’m willing to bet that I’m not alone in that.
We need to stop holding the hands of the accused while they craft their response. They’re not learning true accountability or providing actual restorative justice if we’re feeding the words to them.
Let the accused respond in their own words, with their own ideas. Observe their true character.
Observe their initial reactions. Observe them during the period before, during, and after publicly responding. Observe what they are saying and what they leave unsaid.
Observe the depth of their understanding of consent, accountability and justice without us giving them prompts. Observe them without our direct influence, guidance, and suggestions.
Observe if they’re ready to do the work, or if they are just spouting lip service and meaningless promises. Their fully individual response will yield if they are ready or not.
There are those accused who truly want to be held accountable and to assist with the process of restorative justice. We have to remember that people can “do better,” but we aren’t helping in that process by assisting with their public relations. We need to let go of their hands and allow them to make the first moves on their own. It’s those moves that demonstrate if the person is truly ready to “do better.”