I was a member of Lawrence DSA and I was raped by someone who was supposed to be my comrade. I trusted him to be my friend and comrade and he raped me. This was devastating not only as a violation of my body and my agency, but as a betrayal of my trust.
I reported my rape to people who were also supposed to be my comrades. I trusted them for care and support. One of those people betrayed that trust. This was devastating and lasting.
When I reported my rape, Lawrence DSA had no grievance process fit for handling sexual assault. My comrades – people I thought were my comrades – discussed creating a grievance process, but I had doubts. Internal grievance processes are always intended to protect the organization, rather than the people within them and official policies are too often designed and used to disempower victims even further. Just like “internal investigations” of police, DSA internal grievance processes make a mockery of truth and justice. Despite this, Sam Allison-Natale forged ahead on this inherently flawed process and would now like to blame me for avoiding a policy that is now being used to protect his position within Lawrence DSA and his reputation as an organizer, and to disempower the victims, exactly as I predicted.
Regardless, at the time I tried to trust in Sam’s greater and much-touted experience and waited for them to deliver on their promises of creating a grievance process.
In the meantime, I attended the September General Meeting, where I was alternately ignored and othered, as if I had done something wrong in order to feel excluded where I was otherwise welcome before, by Sam Allison-Natale. A week later, I checked in on the process and I discovered that immediately after I reported my rape, Sam Allison-Natale had notified Brian of the grievance (was there a grievance or were they still working on a grievance process?) and told him to not attend meetings, but without asking me first. I was devastated all over again. I messaged Sam Allison-Natale and he refused to tell me anything. I guess only rapists get the privilege of updates from Sam Allison-Natale.
Eventually, I learned that I was not alone in being abused by members of my chapter or in my abuse being enabled and covered up by Sam Allison-Natale. When I learned this, I sat with my feelings for days. I was numb; I moved through the world like walking through a swimming pool, a wall of resistance against every step, every motion. I did not know how to climb out of the pool; I began to forget how to breathe.
I needed to breathe.
Filing a police report and filing a grievance report are both processes that claim to help you climb out of the pool, that claim to offer oxygen but instead, both processes only teach you how to drown.
I decided not to drown.
We all met together, the other survivors and our allies, some of whom were on the Steering Committee, and we discussed the injustices perpetrated against our bodies, against our agency, against our trust. We were the de facto Lawrence DSA Survivors Support Group and over the course of two months, we learned how to stop drowning together.
Everyone there had been abused in ways both great and small – some people, including Steering Committee members, had been pressured and gaslighted and forced into doing other people’s work and forced into uncomfortable positions and statements, had credit for their work co-opted, had been left crying on the streets of Atlanta after an 18-hour-drive while the members with the room keys were too busy to let them in. In a hierarchy of abuse, some things were “worse” than others but our experiences were all the same in terms of the elements of cause and effect and perpetrators and enablers and damage.
After we learned to stop drowning, we decided that we deserved to breathe. We spent a great deal of time going over our options – what had other groups done when faced with these issues? We did the research and found too many other groups who had faced these same issues. Grievance processes don’t work.
We agonized over the small field of bad options and finally we realized that we already knew exactly what to do when we face bosses, landlords, cops, and any other abusers with power. We gather all the receipts, we hit record on our phones, and we blew this shit out of the water. And that’s what you’re seeing right now.
It’s a tragedy, in a way, because we could have unionized an entire workplace, organized an entire apartment building, recorded an entire police force, or elected an entire School Board in the time we spent learning not to drown and planning to learn to breathe again. But instead we’re all forced to address Brians abuse and become wrapped up in Sam Allison-Natale’s power-trip bullshit.
Reading Sam Allison-Natale’s statement was like being transported back to last September, when he started othering me, when he reported back to my rapist, when he created a process to obfuscate abuse in our chapter, when he gaslighted so many of us about our abuse. In Sam’s statement, he brings up several members who weren’t even involved to obfuscate the events, because of course he does. In his statement, Sam re-directs blame from himself to the co-chairs which is especially ridiculous because the co-chairs were the only members who supported me and who have worked and continue to work to empower and support my decisions as a survivor.
Sam Allison-Natale did not support me – he supported my rapist, who was his ally on electoral work. Sam did not take charge of the grievance process to support our chapter – he took charge of the grievance process to enforce power. Sam’s involvement was the largest single reason that I decided not to participate in his grievance process, which was specifically built to keep victims silent and then to wield against us if we decide not to stay silent.
If the abusers and enablers were cops or bosses or landlords, there would be no question as to who is right and who is wrong here – you wouldn’t spend five minutes listening to their bullshit justifications and statements written by their lawyers and you would scoff at any cop that blamed any victim for not filing charges – especially if the rapist were the investigating cop’s good buddy. And that’s exactly what this is, what Sam’s is, and what his grievance process is.
Finally, when I read Sam Allison-Natale’s statement, his self-centeredness struck me exactly as it should strike you – Sam Allison-Natale is so power-hungry and so self-absorbed that he is making this 100% about his political career and electoral opinions, it has nothing to do with me or with my rapist or with rape or with protecting victims or with dismantling the oppressive systems that inundate everything in our world.
To build a better world, we have to be willing to admit that we come from and live in this world, and we have to be willing to confront those systems and our complicity in them and ROOT. THEM. OUT. of both our organizations and ourselves. Sam Natale is completely unwilling to do that, and that should tell you everything you need to know about him.