A Letter To Our Community

To our community:

In recent weeks many in the community have raised important questions on how NOC handles issues of gender and sexual violence, both as it relates to accusations of staff and members and questions about how we intend to keep community safe. We appreciate our communities for holding us accountable and making sure we take proactive and necessary steps in addressing these issues. We want to apologize to the broader community for our delay in responding and our lack of transparency on these issues, and acknowledge where we’ve fallen short in addressing community concerns. We are committed to being more transparent and publicly accountable to our community going forward.

Gender and sexual violence of any kind is destructive to our communities, our organizing environment and our sense of social justice. People who commit acts of sexual harassment, sexual assault, or domestic abuse are not welcome in our spaces. It is vital to us that people who have been harassed, assaulted, and abused feel comfortable and safe in our spaces. We know that victims of gender and sexual violence are often marginalized and silenced by forces more powerful than themselves. NOC is committed to not perpetuating this culture of marginalization and silencing. We acknowledge that we must be more thoughtful and less reactionary in responding to community concerns. We must, and will, do more to make sure survivors feel safe in our space and feel safe speaking out.

We’ve dealt with issues of gender and sexual violence before, in a process ranging from outside mediation, to firing staff and removing people from our work entirely, and even pursuing legal actions against abusers. With every reported incident, we've researched the incident and structured a deliberate internal process when appropriate. Utilizing an internal process has kept the organization operationally sound, and it's not been sufficient. One of our many errors has been to deliberately limit access to information that could have been made public. The net impact has been that the community has no way of knowing the actions we've taken to keep our folks safe. We’ve not been transparent enough in communicating our internal processes, and the community’s trust has at times eroded because of it.

Going forward, we are committed to a publicly accountable transformative justice process that is both transparent and confidential. Complaints involving staff or others affiliated with NOC will go through an independent investigation rooted in a transformative justice model. Through this process, we are committed to creating safer paths for folks to come forward, while acknowledging and alleviating the trauma that coming forward can elicit. This approach will result in thoughtful recommendations about next steps, including any disciplinary or legal action.

We are also committed to a public engagement process to answer questions and help shape our response to these issues, including a public meeting in the next few weeks to hear from community members and folks directly impacted. We will share more details about this public meeting and our transformative justice process in coming days and weeks.

We recognize this statement will not and cannot answer all questions. We see this as the first step in a new process of community accountability and transparency. NOC has worked hard over the years to become a highly valued movement space and we’ve set a very high bar for our work. The work itself is built on the belief that those who are most marginalized need to be listened to, supported, nurtured, and protected, not just in the world but in our organizing spaces as well. We know we can do better in realizing these values -- and we will. Thank you for holding us accountable to the collective work we do in the community. We owe it to you and to ourselves to be better, and we will be.

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