August / September 2020 Update
Over the challenging past few months, the pod and our consultant have continued our work together with Charlie, taking care to honor the needs of those who have been harmed while accommodating our individual capacities. This post includes a summary of our work from late May 2020 to early September 2020, picking up where our previous update left off. As always, we welcome any comments, clarifying questions, and feedback you may have about our work and Charlie’s accountability process.
Full pod meetings. We have held 3 meetings with all pod members, our consultant, and Charlie present. These meetings have allowed us to check in with each other, provide progress updates, and further coordinate our work with Charlie. We have also used these meetings as spaces to validate the progress Charlie has made while challenging him to continue examining and transforming concerning behavioral patterns.
Narrative collection and reporting meetings. There have been 6 smaller meetings between our narrative collection team.
Smaller meetings with Charlie. Pod members in groups of two have also conducted 2 smaller meetings with Charlie to address and explore specific topics. (Detailed summaries of these meetings will be included in the Pod Work and Charlie’s Work sections below.)
Narrative Collection and Reporting
Rachel and Bee, the two members of our narrative collection and survivor support team, have continued to provide support and resources to those who have come forward with reports of harm inflicted by Charlie. Over the past year, this work has at times required balancing the conflicting needs and confidentiality requests of our respondents. Given the emotional impact of our mid-pandemic reality, multiple natural disasters, and ongoing protests for racial justice, navigating our respondents’ specific needs and requests with the care and consideration they deserve has taken time. Still, the team recognizes that, for some people, waiting over a year to see public disclosure of action taken on specific requests may feel like a frustrating delay.
In addition to compiling information to include in public reporting, the narrative collection team has spent the last several weeks creating a check-in survey to send to individuals who have contributed narratives of harm. The survey is part of our effort to keep our process anchored in the needs of those who have been harmed, knowing that people’s needs may change over time. This survey seeks to provide respondents the opportunity to:
- Receive direct progress updates on requests made of Charlie and of the pod
- Update their confidentiality requests and their wishes for how we should handle any identifying narrative details
- Adjust their private communication preferences
- Request a review of our public narrative reporting and Charlie’s list of harmful behaviors before it is published, and
- Submit feedback on our process
The team plans to send this check-in survey to individuals starting the week of September 21. And we plan to solicit feedback from others who have shared narratives outside of our formal narrative collection process with a separate survey sometime in October. We also wish to give these informal respondents the opportunity to review documents related to collected narratives and harms before they are published.
Mid-process evaluation. Under the guidance of our consultant, Aida Manduley, the pod has used the Staircase of Accountability (Creative Interventions Toolkit) and a series of community strengthening questions by Kay Pranis to initiate a mid-process evaluation. We published these helpful tools here and plan to publish our own responses to the questions at a later date. In the meantime, these questions have served as important guides in our ongoing assessment of our priorities, collaborative decision-making, and pod roles.
Scheduling the publication of our Narrative Summary and Charlie’s “Naming My Harms.” The pod has spent time during our last few meetings discussing a possible publication schedule for two important documents. While drafts of these and other documents were completed months ago, we have wanted to be sure we were first sharing more of the voices of people who have reported harm before publishing content written by Charlie.
The first of these documents, our Narrative Summary, is a collection of themes and details from the narratives of harm that have been shared with us. As mentioned previously, our wish is to first share this document with any respondent who wishes to review and provide feedback before publication. The document, written by the narrative collection and survivor support team, will be published after we’ve gathered this feedback and made any necessary revisions. After releasing the narrative summary report, we then plan to publish the second document titled “Naming my Harms.” This document, written by Charlie, with significant feedback and input from the team, is intended to be a public owning of his harmful behaviors and their impact. We have also discussed sharing this document with interested respondents and invested community members to gather feedback before publication.
While we do not yet have a firm timeline for publication, our hope is to publish these documents on Medium within the next few months. Much effort has gone into drafting both of these documents, as the pod and Charlie have a desire to honor each nuanced confidentiality request and accurately represent Charlie’s behaviors and people’s experiences of harm. At the same time, these documents and the experiences and effort they represent are essential steps in Charlie’s public accountability. And, for many of those harmed by Charlie, a public acknowledgment of specific harms caused has been a long time coming. So we are tasked with balancing that urgency with a conscientious drafting process and publication schedule, one that carefully moves at a pace responsive to the needs of harmed parties and invested community members.
Conversations about complicity and collusion. The pod has asked Charlie to reflect on the harm he’s done and consider the individuals and institutions that may have enabled his behavior or participated in the harm. The purpose of this particular task is two-fold:
- To help Charlie identify the systemic, cultural and interpersonal dynamics that enabled his harmful behaviors, and
- To eventually empower Charlie to engage those who enabled his harmful behavior in a dialogue about examining those dynamics with a goal of enacting new behaviors and practices.
This has led to many conversations about the nature of collusion and complicity and the role certain community members and institutions may play in Charlie’s own accountability work. During both our pod meetings and smaller meetings with Charlie, we’ve discussed the fears and challenges of both identifying and calling in other individuals and organizations as part of this process. Pod members invited Charlie to consider if a fear of punitively labelling someone as being “complicit,” “colluding,” or even “harmful” was part of the resistance we were noticing. This led to a helpful discussion about the complex nature of collusion and the, therefore, nuanced approach required to help those who have enabled harm to reflect on their motivations and change their own behaviors. We have shared our “Collusion and Complicity Processing Questions for Charlie” in a separate Medium post which you can find here.
Challenging Charlie’s harmful patterns and supporting growth. The pod endeavors to be vigilant in naming and addressing the ingrained beliefs, maladaptive patterns, and sources of resistance that prevent Charlie from living up to his commitment to take responsibility for his actions. When these harmful interpersonal dynamics show up within our members’ interactions with Charlie, we often consult with each other and invite Charlie to dialogue with us about it. Ensuring that most communications with Charlie involve multiple pod-members gives an added layer of safety against gaslighting strategies or false-target maneuvers because no one needs to feel like they experienced something alone, and sometimes a third person can act as a vibe-checker/observer when a dynamic between two other people is moving in an unhealthy direction (especially one that follows a trend). We have also created an easily accessible intra-pod “cheat-sheet” summarizing patterns to watch for so we don’t forget or avoid them ourselves, given how much of Charlie’s patterns of harm relate to gaslighting and changing both the narrative of events as well as the focus of others’ concerns. This has resulted in a noticeable change in Charlie’s resilience and levels of openness when receiving critical feedback. We’ve observed a shift in some of Charlie’s behaviors and attitudes (that are not merely attributable to “knowing how to do and say the right things”), particularly his ability to take more pause before (or rather than) immediately getting defensive and using faux empathy and validation to brush away critique or someone’s statement that he’s been harmful to them.
One of the behaviors Charlie continues to work on is his tendency to circumvent or, in some cases, disregard implied or asserted requests and boundaries, often tied to some sense of urgency on his part. This behavior recently came into focus during the drafting of our previous Medium update. Charlie continued to add comments and suggest changes to the draft even after Rachel stated the document wasn’t yet ready for full review. This dismissive prioritization of Charlie’s own needs over Rachel’s request appeared to be a conscious choice as Charlie mentioned in a document comment that he knew Rachel wasn’t asking for feedback at the time. Additionally, some of Charlie’s comments and suggested edits were attempts to shift the critical narrative of the pod’s summary of his behaviors. This not only had an impact on Rachel and her work on the draft, it also connected to some of the themes and narratives of harm we’ve collected from others. After reaching out to the pod for support and advice, Rachel and Xiomara met with Charlie to share the impact of his actions. During their dialogue about how each person experienced the situation, Charlie mentioned his own sense of urgency and ideas of efficiency contributed to his decision to disregard Rachel’s request. While unpacking this further, he was invited to consider what it might look like to trust another person’s writing process and to respect another person’s articulation of their own needs. Finally, he was asked to further interrogate his impulse to manage things not meant for him to manage. Helping Charlie identify the roots of this impulse will be part of our continuing work, as it is vital to transforming his patterns of control and manipulation.
Conversations about Charlie’s sustained work and network of support. As our work with Charlie will eventually conclude, we wish to help him establish a community of people who can continue challenging him to identify and transform the ingrained patterns and internalized beliefs that cause others harm. Aida has offered a number of reflection questions to help Charlie identify individuals who the pod can, at some point, work with to call him into accountability and support his growth after we have disbanded. We are publishing these questions in a separate Medium post and plan to share more details about Charlie’s post-pod accountability network will be shared near the conclusion of our process.
Technical issues/email forwarding corrections. On September 8, while doing narrative reporting work, Rachel and Bee learned that our CGAccPod@gmail.com address had not been forwarding alerts or emails to anyone on the Pod since late July 2019. Two pieces of internal pod communications and a message from an external party had gone unread. Quickly working with Xiomara, Rachel and Bee immediately corrected the forwarding issue and responded to the previously unread messages. The CGAccPod@gmail.com account is meant to be the public’s primary and confidential method of contact with the four pod members. Though there were some technical issues outside of our control, the pod failed to ensure the proper monitoring of this account. In doing so, we failed to provide the level of community support to which we have committed ourselves. Within an hour of discovering this issue, we set up a point person to receive email forwards for all future incoming messages, a solution we hope will prevent this situation from happening again. Additionally, we plan to discuss scheduling regular technology functionality tests during our next full group meeting in mid-September.
Charlie continues to engage in regular reflective writing, skill-building and action-planning. This work is sometimes explicitly prompted by the pod or connected to a particular call-in conversation. It is also often self-directed, emerging from Charlie’s own growth efforts. In addition to his reflections on collusion and complicity and building out his long-term support team (both mentioned above), Charlie has also recently:
- Mapped out his shame-fear responses and the role they can play in defensive reactions to critical feedback
- Examined patterns and beliefs formed during childhood development and practicing somatic tools to interrupt those patterns
- Reflected on emotional labor and the impact of eliciting support from others, and then insisting on his own version of events
- Tracked his continued work on individuals’ explicit requests for accountability
- Revisited previous writings to look for patterns of evading accountability and efforts to control or manipulate narratives about his behavior
- Identified or reasserted his commitments moving forward
The pod remains encouraged by Charlie’s continued dedication to his personal development, his willingness to engage in difficult dialogues, and his attentiveness to the accountability requests made of him.
Our Next Steps
In the coming months, the pod hopes to move forward on several important elements of our process. While we are constantly driven by the urgency of our overarching charge as stewards of Charlie’s accountability work, in our current mid-pandemic reality, we have learned to expect unpredictable impediments to our progress. Therefore, we share these next steps without specific target dates for completion but with transparency that we are engaging multiple times a month in various configurations.
- As previously mentioned, we plan to conduct a series of mid-process check-ins with individuals who have shared narratives of harm. We also plan to offer individuals the option of reviewing our report on the summary of narratives and Charlie’s list of harms.
- After receiving and incorporating this feedback, we plan to publish the summary of narratives and then the “Naming My Harms” document.
- We will also begin compiling evaluative information from those who have participated in this process and combining that with our own team assessments to formalize a mid-process evaluation to share.
- We remain committed to more frequent outward reporting — including progress reports, lessons learned, ways for the community to engage in the process, and more.
- We plan to connect with people and organizations who colluded with Charlie and enabled his harms, whether passively or actively.
- In cases where we have explicit consent to do so, we will continue to share with Charlie the details of individual reports of harm. And we will continue to support and advocate for the needs and requests of those who have been harmed.
- After the publication of the summary of narratives and Charlie’s list of harms, we plan to publish more information on the work Charlie has done to honor specific requests. This may include some of Charlie’s writings and the pod’s observations of Charlie’s growth and areas for continued work.