One of our principles at [Re]vent is consent:
Consent Our community values expanding our comfort zones and we often enjoy pushing each other’s boundaries. Our courage, openness and sense of freedom rests on a foundation of trust in our boundaries being respected, and that no-one will push beyond what we have consented to. In this way we can fearlessly push the limits. So we ask each other for consent and to avoid ambiguity.
Last year we had two issues where our procedures were found lacking and we are spending a lot of effort this year to avoid any such situation arising again.
As a response to last year, we formed an initiative and joined with other members of the burning community to form an institution that can help us deal with consent issues and conflicts: the Lighthouse Conflict and Consent Council. Through that we are training some members in Restorative Justice processes, and we are looking to establish best practices for how to be ready for difficult situations at a burn. Of course we are also working with prevention and with creating a culture where checking for consent is as natural as saying hello. To this effect we are preparing workshops to be held at the event, and elements for the opening ceremony.
We are still working on the exact form, but what we have in place is that we will always have a responsible person on shift, called the Consent Responder, that is ready to respond to any emotionally risky or conflictual situation and take care of affected parties. We are currently looking into the exact nature of what training they will get.
On site will also be another person on shift, called the Helm, that has the acting responsibility for the event. This person has the authority to evict a person from the premises should they be considered a threat to the safety of other participants.
In the event of an issue arising, we will initiate a Restorative Justice process, that may be run at or after the event depending on the specifics of the issue. Nobody will or can be forced to participate in such a process, and it is in no way meant to replace a legal process if the issue is severe enough for that. A victim will always get our support to go to the authorities. We hope that we can heal most wounds between people in this framework, or at the very least help our community members grow into even more mature and beautiful people.
Read more about the consent council at https://fb.me/LCCCouncil.
Avoiding difficult situations
To avoid ending up in a situation where a process is needed, you can participate in one of the workshops on sensing and setting boundaries. It is everybody’s responsibility to help us uphold a culture of consent and safety, and this involves learning to sense other people’s boundaries when they are failing to clearly show them, as well as learning to clearly show and respect your own body’s boundaries.
When you are the least bit unsure of whether the person you are with is participating in something against their will, slow down and check properly. Allow them space to say no. If you are reluctant to ask because you are afraid to be rejected, remember that if they want to be with you they will not reject you, and if they don’t want to be with you and you proceed, you are committing a form of abuse. If you are rejected, thank them for being clear about their boundaries. You were just spared from becoming a perpetrator, something really uncomfortable.
If you are with somebody and you are the least bit unsure of whether you want to do what you are doing or about to do, slow down and ask for the space to feel into the situation. If you direct your attention to your body, you know whether you want to or not. You don’t need to know why you want or don’t want something; you never need a justification, your will is sovereign. Practise being in connection with this knowing, and practise trusting it. It will grow stronger.
Remember that you can change your mind at any time without owing anyone an explanation. If you no longer want to, that's reason enough to stop.
To make it easier to say no, you can practise redirecting the flow instead of saying a harsh no, if you want to. That generally makes it much easier for a person to receive a no, as you can reject a proposition without rejecting the person. Try something like “I’m enjoying being here with you, and I don’t want to do that with you now”, or “I’ve been having a good time with you and now I feel a need to go hang out with my friends for a while. I would like to check in with you later”. Notice the use of “and” instead of “but”. The “but” negates the sentence before it and puts all the focus on the rejection. The “and” allows both the acceptance of the person and the rejection of the specific thing at the same time. Try a workshop in boundary setting, embodying that your boundaries are ok and worth listening to is the most important factor, and that can take some time to learn.
Authors: Rikke & Martin & Einar