This statement is a first response to the public announcement and callout of our collective member Max Steele, the content of which may be read at https://maxsteelepubliccallout.wordpress.com/
Who we are: The Rosehip Medic Collective is a collective of queer and trans street medics, healthcare educators, and activists active in the Portland area. You can read more about our group at www.rosehipmedics.org
The Rosehip Medics take this callout seriously, and are very upset to hear the harm that has been done in our community. We understand that most of the three testimonies from survivors indicated no interest in dialogue, and that no ask has been made of our collective. As requested, we will not be contacting the three individual survivors directly. However, we believe that the community deserves to see this callout and to understand our response.
As medics and care workers, we strive to be a resource to this community when its members seek care and support. We are doing everything in our power to move forward in ways that cause no further harm, that promote healing, and that demonstrate our continued commitment to supporting this community. We welcome feedback about our responses going forward, and hold hope that we are able to learn from this difficult situation in ways that ultimately strengthen our ability to support each other and those around us. Here are our first steps:
- We have asked Max to step back from all public work and leadership responsibilities (training, medicking, answering our email, representing himself as a medic or active Rosehip) indefinitely and are working on creating a system for regularly reassessing his involvement. We value Max’s continued involvement in the collective in order to stay connected and not isolate him from our community. We believe that ostracizing him will not help protect our community and may do more harm.
- We are in the process of contacting all of Max’s partners since 2012 (not including the three who have come forward), to ensure that they are aware of the content of the callout and to offer support if they desire it – either from ourselves or community resources such as Portland Women’s Crisis Line or Bradley Angle House.
- As recommended by the writers of the callout, we have and will continue to carefully consider Max’s 1.5 years of participation with our collective. As a collective of queer and trans people, none of whom have dated Max, we have felt safe with him in the context of our work, and feel able to openly confront problems that might arise in the future. As recommended, we will closely monitor his involvement in our collective.
- We will support Max in regularly attending therapy, including using his annual education fund toward this end.
- We have made a monetary donation to Portland Women’s Crises Line, with the goal of supporting those around us working to create safe spaces for survivors of abuse and trauma in our community.
- We hear in the testimonials hopes that Max find friendships with people who will hold him accountable and help him to learn from this experience. We also recognize the extent to which all of us are influenced by the rape culture surrounding us, and by the internalized oppression we all possess. This callout is a reminder to us that the responsibility for fighting sexual assault, misogyny, fat-shaming, transphobia, and abuse in our communities lies with all of us, and we all have work to do in combating rape culture’s influence, educating ourselves, and countering internalized oppression. We believe that anyone is capable of perpetrating violence and abuse and so in the interest of helping all of us to learn and grow, we will engage, as a collective, in a study group on sexual assault in radical communities, preventing intimate partner abuse, and accountability. We welcome suggestions for study materials that anyone in our community would like to offer us.
- We are consulting with Philly Stands Up, a group whose longstanding work in survivor support and confronting abuse in activist communities we admire. We are soliciting their advice on responding to this callout responsibly.
- We are not running an accountability process because we recognize that we are not being asked to, nor do we have the skills to do so effectively.
- We are looking into further training for collective members in supporting survivors of violence from PWCL so that we can be better equipped as care providers to support and advocate for survivors, and to share these skills with others in our trainings.
- We remain open to feedback on our steps to support the community in healing. As with all of our medic work, we plan to approach this with as much integrity, transparency, and dedication to community support as possible.
A communication self-critique
We would also like to evaluate our group’s previous communication with Juniper’s support team, our only previous indication of the behaviors represented in the callout. This assessment is intended to open our process for understanding, critique, and growth. As a collective, we believe in supporting and validating all people claiming survivorship. We are also committed to self-improvement. Those we have trained, given care to, and work with know that we value confidentiality and consent highly, in both care-provision and personal settings.
The Rosehip member initially contacted by Juniper’s support group went to great efforts to preserve confidentiality, and until given the go ahead, shared neither the existence of callout, the survivor’s identity, nor the limited content of the callout that they knew. The support team and this Rosehip agreed that the request for Max’s removal from a specific project would be shared with the Rosehip collective. Max was removed from that project, and the collective decided from this experience that an unequal distribution of information was unsustainable for our group process. We requested that all future communications contain only information sharable within our closed collective, and go through a different (specified) Rosehip. In retrospect it appears that our process was inappropriate for this context and may have been interpreted as evasiveness and disinterest in preserving confidentiality. That was not our intent, and we regret that mistake.
Throughout subsequent communications, the Rosehips worked to learn what information the survivor desired to share about the callout, whether any actions were being asked of us, and how we could move forward in line with the survivor’s wishes. It is now apparent to us that these attempts failed to indicate the appropriate seriousness and dedication to values of confidentiality and survivor support that we hold. We are deeply sorry that this failure resulted in the survivor feeling a lack of support from our collective, and regret any damage we have caused. We move forward from this experience with a renewed desire to examine our collective communication processes, our relationships to the toxic, misogynist culture in which we all struggle, and our ability to act as a resource for individuals experiencing trauma.
We invite input from others within the community and all invested individuals, including suggestions, questions, critiques, and requests regarding this callout, collective processes, and our work generally. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org