Minneapolis, MN – In the summer of 2016 trusted community members and allies congregated in a Minneapolis public park at the request of a survivor of rape. The purpose of the gathering was to visibly show community support for the survivor, George/Anne, and also for all involved to bear witness to her demands of the perpetrator.
The inadequacy of law enforcement officials partially influenced this remarkable event. In 2014, after the rape took place, George/Anne went to a local police station. When she described to the officers what had happened, they said they didn’t think she had a case and that they would not file any paperwork on her behalf.
The encounter with law enforcement was disappointing for George/Anne, who had been taught that the proper action to take after being raped is to file a police report.
The police’s initial refusal and pointed lack of sensitivity served to protect the perpetrator, while abandoning an individual who had been attempting to report illegal activity. It also reinforced her assumption that no one would believe that she had been raped.
George/Anne and the perpetrator had both been involved in the local activist community and frequently attended the same events. George/Anne did not feel safe around the perpetrator, and ceased frequenting spaces where she knew she might encounter them.
She still encountered them elsewhere around town, and had to decide each time whether to leave a space, or try to stay, despite feeling unsafe. After almost two years of this, she wanted to once again rejoin activist spaces, so she decided to stop avoiding the perpetrator.
Through the process of trying to navigate spaces while having to encounter the perpetrator, numerous close friends of George/Anne, as well as some strangers, learned that she was a survivor of rape and that the perpetrator was a member of their shared activist communities.
She decided to call a meeting of trusted friends and allies in order to inform them of the situation, and to figure out how to move forward. Everyone who attended this meeting voiced their belief immediately, and offered George/Anne their support. Inspired by the work of the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (BATJC), they started to refer to themselves as a “pod” whose purpose was to support George/Anne. Members of her pod met weekly and supported her envisioning what accountability would look like in her case, and how she could feel safer in her community.
This support gave impetus to a planned action wherein George/Anne would confront her perpetrator. Her pod would be present, as well as fellow community members, all standing together behind George/Anne in support of her and of her demands.
Local activist spaces, groups, and businesses with which the perpetrator was involved were all informed that the action would be taking place. Friends of the perpetrator were also contacted, some of whom encouraged the perpetrator to attend this meeting.
On July 2, 2016, two years after the rape, those who had been invited to the event gathered in Matthews Park in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, MN. Over fifty people showed up in support of George/Anne. The perpetrator had agreed to attend the gathering with two of their friends, under the condition that they would not speak or attempt to negotiate; the space was not intended as a place for them to voice their opinions or try to defend their actions in any way.
As the perpetrator and their friends approached the gathering, supporters stood on a hill behind the survivor. George/Anne and pod members stated the purpose of the event, and read to the perpetrator a list of demands:
- that they would not contact George/Anne;
- that they would leave a space if they saw George/Anne;
- and that they would never again rape anyone.
The perpetrator signed a statement that said they understood the demands and were agreeing to uphold them. At one point the perpetrator produced a vocal sound and turned away from the person reading the demands, seeming to indicate disagreement, but within seconds (at the urging of one of their friends) they turned again to face the group, and resumed their silence.
This is the half-sheet distributed to all attendees (perpetrator’s name has been redacted):
Once the perpetrator had signed the document, they were instructed to leave the area, and did so. After they left, the survivor expressed relief that the action had gone well. She also expressed gratitude to her pod, whose support had empowered her to organize this action.
George/Anne and her friends, family, and community members spoke with each other about the event, the process of creating it, and other ways to further these conversations and actions in their own activist communities.
She invited attendees to write a letter of support to her specifically, or to rape survivors in general. A half-sheet listing helpful resources for survivors of sexual violence was also distributed to the group.
After and during this process, George/Anne felt the sense of community and support. She stands firm in the belief that this process can be duplicated and that survivors can find some semblance of peace. While the pod advances its organizing efforts and George/Anne continues to heal, she continues with the positive hopes that this action can inspire others.