Intersangha Working Group Notes from June 23

Portland Refuge Recovery Inter-Sangha Working Group on Sexual Misconduct

June 23rd, 2018


Group Agreements

This is our working list of group agreements.  It will be amended as needed:

  • Bring curiosity and a reflective stance
  • Be solution oriented
  • Bring self-awareness
  • Honest communication
  • Assumption of positive intent
  • Willingness to tolerate criticism
  • Practice both personal vulnerability and appropriate boundaries
  • Practice sensitively to triggers and trauma
  • Hold the reality of multiple truths

Building a share language and analysis of sexual misconduct

We explored and discussed a range of ideas and experiences that form the context and definition of sexual misconduct.  

Sexual misconduct is a gendered experience

  • Gender is not a binary and not tied to biology
    • Gender is strongly influenced by assumption and stereotype
    • Gender roles are reductive, prescribed and oppressive
  • Dominant culture ideas about gender roles that are linked to sexual misconduct:
    • Men as dominant, women as submissive
    • Men have the right to women – bodies, sexuality, attention
    • Men can’t help themselves
    • Women make things up, are not to be believed
  • There are permissions and restrictions to both/all genders
    • Opting out of dominant forms of masculinity or femininity can result in punishment
  • Gender roles are culturally specific and dominant culture also reinforces racism through gender roles.  
  • Fear of violence is part of the experience of people who statistically experience significant sexual, physical and intimate partner violence – women, queer and trans people are most at risk for violence.  Heterosexual, cis men are most likely to perpetrate violence.  
  • Sexism, homophobia and transphobia are interconnected and mutually reinforcing
  • Historical trauma is real and impacts our present day experience

Sexual misconduct is about power and control

  • Entitlement:  men feeling entitled to women’s’ bodies, sexuality and attention
  • Recovery is a vulnerable experience
  • Consent is fundamental for negotiating power and control – consent is always complex, especially so in the context of addiction and recovery processes (note we want more discussion about consent but talked about verbal and exuberant consent).
  • Assumption that women (specifically new to recovery) need men’s help.
  • Key questions for assessing behavior through a power lens:
    • What is “in it” for the person stepping in to another person’s space?
    • Why do I feel compelled as someone with more sobriety to engage this person?
  • Power and patriarchy are built in to recovery programs
    • Role of religion:  Christianity, Buddhism as religious traditions that have used ideology to control gender and women
    • Historical BRO culture of Refuge
    • 13th Stepping
  • Ways we see power play out in the context of recovery and Refuge:
    • Teachers
    • Time (in recovery or in Refuge)
    • Gender power
    • Friends of Noah
    • BRO culture in the story of RR – women invisibilized; white, cis, male sensibilities
    • Conspicuous practice
    • The privilege of opting out

Terms that we defined in the course of our conversation

These are working definitions to be expanded or amended as our discussions progress.

  • Sexual misconduct:  a range of behaviors (verbal, physical, emotional, energetic) of a sexualized nature in which one person exerts power and control over another.  Sexual misconduct is by definition non-consensual.  It often occurs in the context of gender roles and assumptions.  
  • LGBTQ:  an inclusive term for describing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning identities.  A very appropriate term for non-LGBTQ people.
    • Queer and trans:  an inclusive term for the full spectrum of sexual and gender identities within the LGBTQ community – most appropriate for people who are part of these communities.
  • Cis/cisgender:  a person who experiences alignment between their gender identity, the perception of their gender by others and the sex they were assigned at birth.

Ideas and themes we want to pursue in future working group meetings

  • Further developing our definition of sexual misconduct and consent – this will include exploring the spectrum of behaviors that typically comprise sexual misconduct
  • Flesh out desired outcomes for our process, including how to move the conversation through the community
  • Bringing our stories and experiences in to the conversation

Notes on the Working Group

  • There is a desire for more people to be in the room –“who is not here and why?” – but an agreement that for now we want to make sure everyone feels welcome but that we don’t need to recruit because we have a strong critical mass.  
  • We create accountability through providing leadership rather then being frustrated with others who are not participating.  We validate our own experiences and the experiences of others – using our recovery as a guide/practice.  
  • Facilitation matters.  While we may hire an outside consultant in the future, for now we will share facilitation – asking folks to step in to leadership and supporting them in doing so.  

Next Steps

  • Next meeting:  July 14th 11:00-12:30
  • Confirm space at 4th Dimension:  Sarah
  • Write Up notes:  Moira
  • Share notes on facebook:  Stephanie
  • Announce next working group meeting on facebook:  Stephanie
  • Announce next working group meeting in weekly meetings:  all
  • Facilitate next meeting:  Audrey (Moira to provide planning support)