As the moderator of this panel, I had a difficult job: to ensure the panelists covered how to recognize and respond to abuse within our alternative communities without focusing on the definition of emotional abuse itself. Fortunately, the panelists were experts and right on target!
So we began with a simple question: what is the one thing each panelist really wants for attendees to take away from this panel, if NOTHING else?
And then we got into the finer points of abuse.
And the all-important question of how we should respond if someone comes to us and says either that they are being abused or that they think they are abusing someone else.
Stepping aside from one-on-one conversations, how should community leaders and organizers respond to reports of abuse? The traditional single tool has been to either ban the perpetrator of abuse or not. The panel took care to explain that we often end up ostracizing the survivors, while their abusers maintain prominent positions within the community. With that in mind, what other tools can we add to our toolbox?
Then came the $10,000 question: what about when the perpetrator of abuse is a leader in the community? Warning: we didn't have good answers for this one, other than to create awareness, to agree to a community mission statement and cultural norms focused on inclusion and creating a safe space for all and having several community members act as safe havens for reporting abuse (not just a single member, as it's always possible that one person might be perpetrating abuse).