A peer-led safety process
The RDO sangha (community) intends to provide a safe and welcoming environment for anyone seeking recovery. These safety guidelines have been created to deal with difficult situations that arise in our community.
We believe most conflict arises from misunderstanding, and can be resolved between individuals, or with the help of wise friends, and without the need for bureaucratic or formal interventions. Below we outline approaches and tools that can be used directly by individuals to achieve peaceful resolutions to conflict.
If you or another participant are experiencing discomfort, please review the Advice for Self-Care section below, as well as What we can all do when someone reports a problem and Self-guided resolutions.
A process is also described for how the RDO Safety Circle can aid in handling conflicts and issues when necessary. If you are dealing with a situation that can’t be resolved between the people involved, see Requesting assistance from the safety Circle below.
We encourage our members to approach all challenging moments, whether they are related to conflict or not, with compassion, understanding, and equanimity.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of behavior we consider harmful or otherwise unwelcome within our community.
- Derogatory comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, mental or physical ability, neuro(a)typicality, physical appearance, pregnancy status, veteran status, political affiliation, marital status, body size, age, race, national origin, ethnic origin, nationality, immigration status, language, religion or lack thereof, or other identity marker.
- Humor or irony with derogatory implications, as outlined above, is also considered inappropriate, regardless of whether it is “just a joke”.
- This also includes any images or symbols that match the description above and are visible during meetings, in community spaces, or in personal communications between members.
- Unwelcome comments regarding a person’s lifestyle choices and practices, including those related to food, health, prescribed medications, parenting, relationships, and employment.
- Deliberate misgendering, using inappropriate pronouns, or use of “dead” or rejected names.
- Any off-topic sexual images or behavior.
- Unwelcome sexual attention.
- Reacting negatively when others set boundaries with regard to communication.
- Any continued one-on-one communication after requests to cease.
- Threats of violence.
- Incitement of violence towards any individual or group, including encouraging a person to commit suicide or to engage in self-harm.
- Deliberate intimidation, including yelling or using aggressive behavior to dominate others.
- Stalking or following – online or in the physical world.
- Harassing photography or recording, including logging online activity for harassment purposes.
- Deliberate “outing” of any aspect of a person’s identity without their consent except as necessary to protect vulnerable people from intentional abuse.
- Public sharing of private communication.
- Publicly complaining or gossiping about other group members in any community spaces such as meetings, the “virtual parking lot” after meetings, Intersangha or Group Intention meetings, or other public forums.
- Deliberate or sustained disruption of meetings through either text or voice.
- Any speech or behavior that is intentionally or knowingly harmful to any person or group.
This list of behaviors can help us be mindful of our speech and actions so they do no harm, regardless of the intention. When inappropriate behavior occurs, we aim to help all parties understand why the behavior was unskillful, and prevent it in the future. The intention is not to punish, but to ensure that everyone may flourish in their recovery.
In some cases, this may not be possible, and individuals who are unwilling or incapable of behaving according to our community standards may be asked to stop participating in the sangha for the sake of all involved.
Understanding power dynamics and privilege is not oppression.
Please note that identifying individuals as members of groups with social and cultural privilege, in and of itself, is not considered harmful when it is done with the intention of kindness, follows the precepts of wise speech, and is intended to promote deeper understanding of one another’s experiences where those identities are relevant. Noting someone’s privilege as a person who is white, male, straight, cisgender, able, or any other mix of non-marginalized identities is not considered inherently harmful, but speech or behavior that attacks or denigrates others based on those identities is not welcome in our community.
Advice for Self-Care
All members come to meetings with their individual life experiences, and we encourage everyone to practice self care while engaging others on the path.
In many situations practicing understanding, equanimity, patience, and self-care can be more effective than trying to change the behavior of others.
When it comes to meetings there may be moments that are unintentionally triggering to you, such as when someone’s share is disturbing due to your own past and challenges. In such a situation, consider lowering your audio volume until that speaker is finished, and focusing on yourself instead. Similarly, if there are visual distractions from other participants in a meeting, you might consider switching your viewing mode on the call software, or hiding all visuals entirely, and just listening to audio. If you find the chat feature of calls to be a problem, you can simply close it for that call.
When communicating with other members outside of meetings, be clear about your boundaries and expectations. This can help improve a tense situation.
If you receive unwelcome communications of any kind from another participant, let them know that you do not want to continue the conversation and disengage. If you are being contacted on a medium that allows blocking, such as social media or messaging apps, don’t hesitate to block the person if they are not honoring your requests to be left alone.
It is important that we are compassionate to both ourselves and others, whether that means making space for ourselves when a situation is difficult, or clearly expressing to others what makes us uncomfortable so that they have a chance to learn and grow from their mistakes.
How anyone can respond to issues
Reports related to safety come in many forms, and can be “received” by any member of the community, whether they are a member of Sangha Support Circle, a facilitator, or just a fellow meeting participant.
Regardless of your role within RDO, if you are approached by someone feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, please use these suggestions to support that person as they decide how to proceed:
- First, listen to the person’s issue and learn any important details about what is making them feel unsafe and who may be involved.
- Often what seems like a “report” is really just a need to better understand something about our sangha. Try to answer any questions the person may have and direct them to RDO resources that will help them understand how our community functions, such as About RDO and RDO Roles – Leadership roles and definitions.
- If the person’s request ultimately boils down to a proposed change in RDO policy, encourage them to learn about the RDO Slack, RDO Intersangha Meetings and RDO Consensus Practice, where they can make proposals for change to be discussed by the community.
- If they are reporting feeling uncomfortable due to the actions of others, provide a link to this Safety Guidelines document for them to review.
- In cases where someone is feeling unsafe, try to support them with the help of the Advice for Self-Care section above.
- If you are able to, consider offering to help with a Conflict Circle Process between them and the person they feel is causing issues.
If the person wants to request assistance from the Safety Circle related to perceived harm from another RDO participant, point them to the Request Assistance from the RDO Safety Circle Form, which is described in detail below.
Whenever possible, we encourage all parties involved in a conflict to address the issue amongst themselves, or with the help of wise friends familiar with the situation, rather than relying on direct involvement from the Safety Circle.
- Consider the self-care advice above and the many other practices our program offers
- Consider approaching the person to discuss the situation directly with wise speech, when doing so is not itself harmful.
Seek out and encourage a relevant third party, for example a facilitator who is familiar with both individuals, to assist with the situation using conversation and potentially open-ended mediation, such as the Conflict Circle Process.
Requesting assistance from the safety Circle
When a situation can’t be resolved between the parties involved, the Safety Circle can be brought in to help mediate and address the issue. The primary goal of the Safety Circle is to aid in understanding and reconciliation between everyone involved.
About the RDO Safety Circle
- The “Safety Circle” is a group of people who volunteer to facilitate the handling of safety issues in the sangha.
- The primary goal of the Safety Circle is to aid in understanding and reconciliation between everyone involved in any difficult situations, while cultivating a safe harmonious Sangha for all.
- See the RDO Roles document for a technical description of how to become a member of the Safety Circle.
Submitting a request for assistance
- The Request Assistance from the RDO Safety Circle Form is used to report a situation for the team to review. It includes contact information of the person reporting a possible safety guideline violation, and the people or group involved.
- Upon submission, the report is forwarded to one or more individuals responsible for initial review, after which it is shared with the other Safety Circle members.
- The form clearly states the specific individuals who will receive the report, in case the person in question is the subject of the report.
Any member of the Safety Circle involved in a report will abstain from participating in its handling.
How the Safety Circle handles reports
Before beginning any formal process after a request for assistance is submitted, the Safety Circle will ensure that all the steps in the How anyone can respond to reports section have been followed, avoiding escalating any situations where simply answering questions or clarifying RDO policies could lead to a resolution. Similarly, the Safety Circle will encourage any potential Self-guided resolutions that could help with the situation.
If none of these steps resolve the situation, the Safety Circle may choose to get involved directly:
- When a safety situation is deemed serious enough to warrant direct involvement by the Safety Circle, all parties should be available for discussions, whether they be mediations between multiple affected individuals, or meetings with the Safety Circle to address difficult situations.
- If the Safety Circle wishes to meet with the person who submits a report, that person is expected to make time to answer clarifying questions, otherwise their report may not receive further attention.
- If an individual or group has been reported for Inappropriate behavior, and refuses a request to meet with the Safety Circle to learn more, they will be asked to stop participating in sangha activities until the issue has been addressed.
- If the person who created the report is willing to participate in mediation with the individual or group they are reporting, the Safety Circle may offer a Conflict Circle Process, where the reporter is given a chance to explain the issue and the reported individual is encouraged to understand how they are affecting others, and offer to make adjustments.
- In any such case, if there are facilitators outside of the Safety Circle who are better suited to address the situation, they will be encouraged to take on the role of mediator or to meet with the reported person.
Being asked to stop participating in the sangha
In unfortunate cases where the processes outlined above aren’t able to ensure all participants are honoring the RDO Safety Guidelines, or the individuals involved are unable to find common ground, the Safety Circle may take additional steps to preserve the harmony of the sangha. As a last resort:
- Individuals who are unwilling to participate in the safety processes outlined above, such as meeting with the Safety Circle or participating in a Conflict Circle Process, will be asked to stop participating in the community.
- If an individual refuses to follow these Safety Guidelines, or the Safety Circle finds that their continued participation will cause harm, they may be asked to stop participating in the community.
By “stop participating in the sangha” we mean ceasing all facilitation, attendance at meetings, and participation in any other sangha spaces, such as mailing lists or Slack chat.
What we do not mean is that the person must stop participating in Recovery Dharma entirely. This outcome applies only to the small RDO sangha.
If someone is asked to leave RDO, it is done with a heavy heart, as well as the knowledge that there are hundreds of other meetings available for individuals outside our sangha. We hope that anyone asked to leave RDO finds safety, support, and growth elsewhere.
Reconciliation and returning to the sangha after issues
Individuals who have previously been asked to leave may communicate with the Safety Circle about the potential for return. Return is possible, but only in the context of honesty, self-introspection, and a sincere desire to grow.
Determining if someone is ready to participate in a wholesome way is a nuanced process at the discretion of the Safety Circle, but the following principles are used to assess each case and make a decision:
- Is the person willing to engage with the Safety Circle in an honest and direct manner, and are they available for meetings on request?
- Does the person accept the rules about Inappropriate behavior (see above) and their importance to the sangha?
- Is the person able to show understanding and wholesome regret for any harmful actions they have taken in the past? Can they articulate how they will act differently going forward to avoid causing new harm?
Additional readings and resources that may help in dealing with difficult situations. These are suggestions from our sangha. Their presence here does not mean they are official parts of our process, and we do not officially endorse them.
- Non-violent communication
- Sangha Harmony Guide
- The joy of conflict
- Conflict Resolution and peer mediation toolkit
- Clarifying Questions to help with mediation
This is a living document. To add comments or suggestions, please visit the Google Docs version: http://bit.ly/rdo-safety-guidelines-discussion-doc