May 2020 Update, Part II
The writing of this report was started at the beginning of the impact of COVID-19. Our intention was to publish this, “Part II”, at the end of May or beginning of June. The completion and publication of the report was further delayed by the social unrest and political action in the cities where many of our pod members reside. There has been a lot of uncertainty in the world, personal and collective trauma, as well an impact from the daily ambient anxiety. We appreciate the understanding and patience in publishing this update.
The pod members & consultant have been largely paused on the joint accountability work since the May 2020 “Part I” Update post (though it has resumed since late July). The following is a continuation of that report. “Part II” is a brief summary and description of the work we have been doing as part of Charlie’s accountability process between the months from January to May of 2020 (and thus capturing different points along the journey, some of which were more filled with problematic behavior that later was defused and/or addressed). As always, we welcome any comments, and are happy to clarify or answer any questions you may have about the process.
In addition to the work Charlie has done in reviewing reports of harm, he has also been:
- Diligently working on a to-be-shared-publicly detailed list of harmful strategies he used to exert control, so as to clearly name harms without evasion and provide a blueprint of actions to watch for in the future.
- Expanding his understanding of collusion through exploring the topic, how it harms, and evaluating with us what people’s complicity in specific situations looked like.
- Identifying and mapping his own problematic patterns and defenses as well as possible changes to address them more sustainably and reliably.
His work in these areas has been demonstrated through his writing, conversations with pod members, and in how he has reacted to calls for his accountability both overall and in this process itself.
Invitation to Participate in a Documentary
Since our last update, Charlie was asked to participate in a documentary about male prostate pleasure. Before responding to the inquiry, he contacted the pod with concerns about an unfinished conversation we had with him regarding media interviews during this process. The conversation centered around a previous concern when a pod member discovered that Charlie had omitted media interviews from the internal disclosure document cataloguing his engagements from March of 2016 to January 2018.
This discovery of omitted media appearances presented an opportunity for Charlie to address themes of harm on the macro level of community. In continued discussions, he came to a better understanding of how his actions rippled out into personal and professional communities because so much of what happened was online. With Charlie, the pod addressed topics of power, privilege, deflection, collusion; and the emotional labor, personal loss, and stress of those who had tried holding him accountable or calling him into accountability.
We saw how Charlie integrated many of those concepts with how he handled the inquiry to participate in the documentary. This process of addressing patterns of harm with media appearances also highlighted a deeper pattern of deflection. Charlie’s use of deflection strategies, positioned the pod and consultant as gatekeepers to his actions on some level. His initial check-in about participating in the documentary, “should I do this or not?”, put the onus on us rather than him working through his own discernment process.
We openly discussed the pattern of deflection we were seeing with him. Especially in the ways it created a dynamic where it seemed he was uncritically asking for permission. We encouraged him to address this pattern and rather than asking us for “permission”, suggested he actively engage with the asks of those who had been harmed to refrain from public facing work, impacts of his actions, and come to his own conclusion about participation.
Charlie responded with concern for those he has harmed. He detailed the ways his appearance as a subject matter expert in a documentary, during the time he is in an accountability process, may affect those who experienced harm. Based on feedback from the pod, Charlie shared the link to our Medium posts with the filmmaker for transparency, created meaningful questions for the filmmaker about his potential involvement, market, and distribution of the documentary. Additionally, Charlie made a list of potential referrals, prioritizing educators with marginalized identities, for the filmmaker. The project is on hold until further notice because of the pandemic.
Consent Accidents Post
During the course of our discussions about harm, Charlie took down the Consent Accidents post from his blog and replaced it with the following text:
As part of my accountability process, I have taken down my post Consent Accidents and Consent Violations. I used this post to gaslight a former partner and my communities, and to control the narrative around a consent violation my former partner experienced with someone else. As requested by some of the people who contacted my accountability pod, I removed it from circulation on April 3, 2020, in order to not cause further harm with it, especially to my former partner.
This document is available by request in order to serve as a record of my actions and to ensure transparency. If you want access to it, please email me or use this contact form. If you want to find more information about my actions and my accountability work, you can find it here.
The pod challenged his motivations and timing in removing the “Consent Accidents” post. Charlie responded that the motivation for removing the post was rooted in discomfort at the post still being live, how it could be used to gaslight others, and the potential on-going harm it could cause. His centering of self, dismissing previous conversations and not citing the asks of harmed parties to remove the post was concerning. Charlie’s stated motivation for the removal was inadvertently bolstered by a pod member who miscommunicated, lending support to the idea that the removal was Charlie’s idea instead of an explicit ask from people he’d harmed (a misattribution). This led to faux praise for Charlie and disconnect between the pod, consultant and Charlie, which prompted further processing and clarifying. The removal of the “Consent Accidents” post had been a request made by harmed parties and a topic of discussion with pod members in the Fall of 2019.
The pod has identified Charlie displaying a disconnection from the asks of harmed parties as a potential issue for the following reasons:
- The specific ask from harmed parties presented to Charlie in Fall 2019 to take down the post was met with resistance
- The number of times the Consent Accidents post was brought up as problematic
- Charlie deflecting responsibility, stating that he did not create the flowchart used in the post but was widely attributed to him despite him giving proper credit to the creator
- The delay in Charlie initiating further discussion or a plan for how to remedy the situation
We are currently addressing how Charlie is valuing the asks from harmed parties, encoding and integrating calls for change in his choices and behavior, and the subtle ways in which he deflects responsibility. We are actively tracking how Charlie interacts with narratives and asks to come out looking positive or accountable.
The pod continues to challenge Charlie on self-identifying problematic language, patterns of deflection, areas in which he is evasive, and his ideas around the impact of community harm.
Criticism and Feedback
Charlie is showing an increased capacity to take criticism and feedback. He has shown a willingness to both hear and sit with uncomfortable topics, such as reports of harm or collusion. There has been a marked change in his response in recent months, going from a place charged of defensiveness to more calm and thoughtful reflection.
This increased capacity to accept feedback has allowed the pod and consultant to address more persistent and sometimes subtle deflection and disconnection tactics Charlie has been using as emotional defenses and strategies to regain control of his environment and the people in it. A specific example of this is Charlie validating and agreeing with criticism by using the phrase “That’s fair”, to agree with what was being said in the moment but then not demonstrating the integration of the feedback. There were also concerns about the dismissive nature in the way Charlie responded to feedback from the pod members and consultant.
Also brought forth were several incidents of Charlie stating that he “forgot”, “didn’t recall” specific incidents, asks and was unable to produce requested information/documentation. Due to the consistency of the pattern of attempting to direct narratives, Charlie was called to examine instances of memory lapses as a deflection “at a subconscious level” trying to erase the narrative, centering himself, and reframe the way things happened.
Personal work with his therapist & supervisor has been ongoing. Charlie also has met frequently with pod members, both in formal full-group meetings and in smaller group conversations or one-on-ones to address specific topics and continues to share his process in writing with the accountability team.
Some Summary and Next Steps:
We have previously been focused on the internal and information-gathering work, which included bringing stories of harm to Charlie, working to catalogue and track as much of the bigger picture as possible, while giving many opportunities for self-reflection and exploration of his patterns. We then moved to creating the conditions for him to get a deeper understanding of the effects of the harm he caused and are now more consistently working on them “live” as they manifest with us so he can practice different behaviors. (This is a strong move through the first 3 steps of the Accountability Ladder as well as some work on the 5th step and small bits of step 4 as relevant or possible).
More recently we have gotten to a space where we are:
- Holding him accountable for using the same defenses and strategies with us that caused harm to others.
- Working with him to understand and name places of individual and community collusion.
- Helping Charlie move through patterns of harm, identifying the cause, and giving time and space for integration of healthier practices.
- Helping him start building out his support system that will help him hold himself accountable in the long-term.
This is emotionally fraught work, and many stuck points and harmful habits still remain. We acknowledge that this is a time when the process moves at a human pace.
Our next steps may be overshadowed by the effects of the pandemic. The following is how we intend to move the process forward.
- The team is reassessing the priorities and processes of the work during this challenging time in history, centering around the capacity of the accountability team and needs of those who have experienced harm.
- A more formalized check in for feedback (in digital survey format for ease and confidentiality) is in process with those who experienced harm to get a sense of how they’re doing, how this process is serving them or not, and what else they may need from us.
- We are committing to more frequent outward reporting — this includes progress reports, a detailed list of Charlie’s harming patterns/behaviors, ways for the community to engage, and more.
- We plan to connect with people and organizations who colluded with Charlie and enabled his harms, whether passively or actively.
- Share with Charlie individual reports of harm from those who have consented to or requested it.
- Continue to support those individuals who reported harm and requested support.
- Charlie has been writing about his changing view of his role as a leader and the ways he can better account for power when communicating with others to better ward against using power over them. We plan to publish that writing on Medium.
- Pod is actively thinking about questions from “Questions to Evaluate Accountability Process and Impact”