Accountability, a primer.

Content note: brief mentions (no details or descriptions) of colonialism and residential schools in Canada, substance-induced hazing deaths, sexual violence and trauma, employee psychological/emotional abuse

All of my worlds continue to collide because history has shown that humans haven’t done a very good job at being kind do each other. So, for those of you who didn’t know that I was actively involved in my student union in university, or that I’m a sorority woman and volunteer, or that I’m a member of the Anglican Church, here is your context for what I’m about to say.

Accountability matters.

Accountability is responsibility for what does/n’t happen, and to those whom you uphold these expectations.

I know that the Church was involved in sustaining the legacy of residential schools.

I know that every day men and women are joining Greek-letter organizations, and some of those new members are being forced to consume alcohol and other substances to harmful, often fatal, excess. These members may also experience sexual violence at higher rates than outside of the fraternal system.

I know that I worked in a students’ union where bullying and harassment existed every day that I was employed, many days before me and many days after.

What does that mean, for me?

It means that I am willing to acknowledge that work needs to be done to repair and rebuild relationships with the communities who have been harmed. It means understanding the ways in which I have the privilege to do better, and to get others to do the same. Now I’m asking you to look inward, and do some of that work, too.

What does that mean, for you?

You should never make excuses for not taking accountability. When reflecting on events that took place “in the past”, ownership of your privilege may feel unnecessary as you do not feel the direct impact or result of the event. However, the generational effects of trauma, commonly experienced by children and grandchildren of survivors and victims of violence, can become a part of everyday life and colour many of the experiences of and interactions with these individuals. Understand why that might be the case, and be open to listening. Don’t force anyone to share their story, but be receptive if they offer up a vulnerable space to you.

As I learn and grow throughout this process, I’ll add more resources to this list, but here are some tools I commonly refer to people at all levels to understand how to engage with some of the issues mentioned above:

Creating Safe Spaces & Building Community, by Renée Watson
People’s Experiences of Colonization, Cultural Safety: Module 1, from the University of Victoria, BC, Canada (Modules 2 and 3 are also available from UVic)
Violence Prevention/De-Escalation of Emotionally Charged Situations, by Mourning Fox, MA, LCMHC, deputy commissioner for the Vermont Department of Mental Health (webinar recorded and shared by the National Center for Campus Public Safety)
Queering Sexual Violence: Radical Voices from Within the Anti-Sexual Violence Movement, review by Brighde Moffat & book edited by Jennifer Patterson
The Whys and Ways of Assertiveness at Work, by Eileen Chadnick (webinar recorded and shared by CharityVillage)

BONUS RESOURCE: How powerful is your passport? A tool for understanding mobility privilege, based on the country where your passport/travel document was issued.

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