I hear a lot of optimistic statements from the school these days. Supposedly, things are improving. Procedures and training that weren’t there before are in place now.
1: Here’s what I don’t see:
- The parents and victims had a very good, reasonable list of requests they made to the board (parent forum letter from Jan 8). None of them have been followed or even responded to. Maybe this would change. We aren’t holding our breath- which brings me to..
2: Here’s what I do see:
- Victims, parents, advocates, allies- are trying to leave, have left already or are in serious distress because they can’t leave. Of course- how can a person function in a community like that if you believe some of the victims? What about the people responsible for what is wrong with the school? Are they being held to account? Doesn’t look that way. It kind of feels like their authority is being consolidated and re-branded beautifully.
The school has therefor perhaps forever lost the opportunity to do right by its students because whatever they do now- it’s too late for the victims isn’t it? They have given up and left to fend for themselves. They don’t want to talk any more and who can blame them? But they have their community around them – it just may not include the school itself ever again. That opportunity was lost – that’s sort of what it looks like to me.
There was another serious allegation a few months ago and I feel the matter may be concluded soon with nothing learned and nothing accomplished and no real sense of safety or clarity established. Hopefully the school will say something about it to the parents, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they said nothing to us. Perhaps they CAN’T do much at this point – but that would only be because they thoroughly botched the handling of her allegation right from the beginning. The school may be handling things worse than before, but their rhetoric is ramped up a notch. So much for training and procedures. At least the first time, they had a little more trust from victims and therefor were able to get more information and to communicate a little more with the community.
Last night I was reading my “Group Work” book. It had me thinking – if the school had done things better to begin with things would be so different today. There would be the chance for healing as a community. People could speak openly about their grievances. There would be sharing circles and group work which would be so helpful in establishing trust and connection again.
The victim of the present allegation would also be much more forth-coming. She would have had reason to trust the school and the people who are responsible for student safety. I believe this victim and I know her, as I believe the other victims who I also spoke with. But the world wont know one way or another if the school is safe at this time (it isn’t).
There is good news though. The community of the victims and allies is safe to a certain extent at least from being groomed, abandoned, marginalized, ‘invisibled’, and maligned – because it established its solidarity and connectedness beyond the reach of the school’s censorship. We have each other, and in this community there is a level of trust, affection, safety and healing that can be hard to find elsewhere. It is a beautiful thing. We see each other and care for one-another. It is a victory and a joy and I feel some hope as I experience how we support each other spiritually, emotionally and even materially. Some of us still suffer terribly – but the suffering no-longer needs to happen in complete isolation, without any support or recognition.
The NSA [governing institution of Bahá’í’s in a respective nation] of the UK, states in its insightful and wonderful domestic abuse policy guide that “[community leadership] needs to create an environment which provides a safe space to talk for someone alleging abuse. The abused person needs to feel she can speak to anyone about what is happening to her without being accused of backbiting.”. We have among our friends created such an environment for victims. It is indeed a beautiful community- ad-hoc, and international – a diaspora of true friends.