Case Study - Embassy Network

The Embassy Network is a group of residential intentional communities. Sexual and domestic violence happens in communities, as it does everywhere. 

Many of us don't want to call the police when we are faced with domestic and sexual assault. Many of us hope for prevention instead of punitive measures. For transformation of those that commit harms over retribution. This has been our attempt to build for that. 

At the EN, we have been working on various strands of an alternative justices project at the Embassy and the Red Vic over the last two years. Loosely based on a combination of restorative and transformative justice, 'alternative justices' refers to the creation and application of mutiple systems of justice that can transcend and transform the state and its flawed systems. 

This is our system: 
The Embassy network system is designed to align with Embassy network core values of experimentation, openness, consensual engagement and learning and unlearning and thus it is meant to be personal, experimental, flexible, humane, and modular. The Embassy network test case also works in conjunction with the Embassy Network Accountably Space Policy which includes requirements for affirmative consent, sex-positivity, community and individual safety and community and individual transformation.

Goals for the Embassy Network test case framework:
·         Empowering actors to take responsibility
·         Taking burden off victim/survivors
·         Upholding accountable space policy of Embassy network

These goals are prioritized this way because empowering actors takes burden off victims and upholds accountable space policy.

Our Accountable Space Policy

As an intentional community, we are dedicated to building a supportive and self reflective culture around respect and clear communication. We make this declaration of our values not only to communicate this culture but also in public recognition that we actively reject rape culture* and other forms of oppression. 

By entering into our community we request that you heed these cultural norms. If you have any questions, do please ask! This is also an iterative process and if you have any suggestions or feedback on our process or culture, we’d love to hear about it.

Yes means yes

Our house, and the state of California, have adopted Affirmative Consent as a policy. This means ‘yes, means yes’ as opposed to the old model of ‘no means no’. In practice, this means that if you want to touch someone, you need to get an explicit “yes” from them. For example, “Hey, I’d like to give you a massage, would that be ok with you?” or “Can I have a hug?” a ‘maybe’ or silence, or even a yes under persuasion does not count as consent and will be treated as a consent violation in our community. Remember that consent can be withdrawn at any time. This means checking in regularly! ** We understand that this can be a tricky thing to do in practice, if you’d like to talk to anyone of us about how to do this, we’d love to have that conversation so do please ask!

We are a sex positive community

What does this mean? Sex positivity allows for and celebrates sexual diversity, different desires and relationship structures and individual choices, based on consent. This does not mean that anything goes, this is an attitude that respects whatever choices an individual makes about their sexual and romantic behavior, which may include asexuality or abstinence. Sex positivity is not about having as much sex as you can, it is about respect. The key is that consent is essential. This is to ensure that people are not unnecessarily hurt in the process.

Transformative Justice (aka Restorative Justice)

Despite our best efforts, people get hurt in communities and violations do take place. We are committed to maintaining the safety of people in our spaces. What this means is that anyone accused of wrong doing, will be asked to leave the space. In certain circumstances we will help rehouse them in the short term. We uphold the principles of restorative justice as a way for both victims/targets/survivors of abuse of all forms, to have their needs for communication and dialogue met, as well as attempting to create space for perpetrators/accused to reflect on their behavior.

* A culture that is part of a broader culture of violence rooted in broader systems of oppression, whereby individuals are socialized to certain forms of hierarchy, to commodify their fellow humans and to relate through violence and coercion. 

** In fact, “Yes” is not enough. Consent is about preventing going against someone’s will. Because of this, yes under duress or psychological persuasion or dominance may not count. If in doubt, ask! If you are unsure at any point about how your partner is feeling, ASK. This may feel a little awkward, but remember that traumatizing someone or sexually assaulting them is an entire other world of awkward. Interested in hearing a little more?