Be the change you wish to see

i think I am probably going to do a couple of weeks on my experiences at the bapca conference. This one will be less about my personal experience and more about BAPCA.

Going back to ADPCA last year, I listened to some people say they didn’t feel safe with ‘some people’ at the conference. It seemed to be a long-standing thing and I had no idea who or what it referenced. As the ‘outsider’ (it was my first time) it engendered a feeling of unsafety for me, and also of rules that I didn’t know if I was breaking. I didn’t know if I was talking to the ‘wrong’ person, and I am concerned about my own safety with regards to who is safe or not to become close to.

At the BAPCA conference this year, someone was named in group as having had several inappropriate relationships where you might reasonably expect those not to happen (for example, as a counsellor, tutor, trainer, etc).  I have to be honest. My first two responses were a) relief that *something* was out in the open and b) a thought about whether that was (one of) who was being talked about last year. I don’t know the answer to that.

I saw the community rocked by this. It became clear that some people were on one side and some were on another. My question was about whether there was evidence- my concern was that as a ‘newbie’ I was listening to a narrative by one person about another person (who had chosen not to be present) involving other people (also not present) that I’d never met. It becomes difficult to make a judgement although I tend towards thinking that ‘a string’ of allegations leads to some important questions. I was told a statement was made by one person and that originally the BACP were approached with that. That’s enough for me. At that point, I have to say ‘I believe her’.

A different community I am part of had a similar conversation last year. A consent violation was alleged, and initially denied. Then, much like the Saville case (and seemingly every high profile case since), more and more people came out to say ‘me too’, over years, even (in my case) as the original victim was still being vilified publicly and privately. I know that because when I contacted them privately to say simply ‘I believe you’ that’s what I was told in return. Those consent violations had been happening for years. I had not known and I had been at very personal potential risk.

For me there is no fence to sit on. I must be on one side or the other, and it is unthinkable to me that I should be against a potential victim. It comes from personal experience. Seven years ago I experienced my own consent violation. Dealing with the aftermath literally nearly killed me- I was spiralling into suicide attempts, an eating disorder, a lot. I came out of it thanks to my family. My mum literally saved my life. But a few months later I started to hear rumours about myself from friends across the country (From Suffolk to Northamptonshire to the Midlands) that I was accusing the person of X and that I was lying. On finding the original source of the rumours, it was someone I had briefly met once and who after the fact had met him and they had become friends. And the reason I say ‘there is no fence’ is because the people who said to me ‘I wasn’t there, I don’t know what happened, so I can’t say for sure’ essentially felt like they were saying ‘I don’t believe your experience is true’. For them, my aftermath meant nothing (I gave up my job, my home, my life and moved across the country to escape).

I cannot be that person. All the consent violations I have mentioned are different- I’m not equating any of them. But they are all deeply personal and involve a misuse of personal and structural power.

So, I was glad that the ‘rumour’ had names and dates. But it meant that BAPCA was now falling apart. I went to the ‘what’s next for BAPCA?’ meeting and also spoke to a few people and it was clear to me that there was some unease around the CG and processes. At the meeting, I was trying to decide whether or not to stand for the CG, when my friend spoke to stand. At that point I decided that I could too. I had not wanted to be the lone voice, but felt sure then, that on a lot of things I would not be the lone voice. So I have been co-opted on to the CG. I also know of one other person who definitely wants to be co-opted, and one who is saying she does (but I’ve had less specific conversation with her), and I think that the four of us are a) very different people to each other, but also b) very different people to many of the CG and I hope that it will provide a balance in processes.

I don’t know if this will be a long-term ‘staying’ for me or not. I am undecided on many things, but I also know that I do have a chance to change things- so I will take that opportunity up.

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3 thoughts on “Be the change you wish to see

  1. Paul Colley says:

    Oh joy. This is great news. I had wanted to be there but cancer has its own imperative. I look forward to someone filling in some of the gaps in your conference report – I guess that will have to be done privately. In the meantime, thank you so much for stepping up. I still believe in the tremendous potential of BAPCA and I have no doubt your involvement will move things in the right direction.

    • Meep says:

      You were missed, and thought of.

      I really hope that I can be of use. I’d like to see BAPCA more ‘out there’ and although my primary partner went slightly up the wall at the news I was now on the board of *another* thing, I hope I can do something good!

    • Sara says:

      Thank you for this Paul, and I agree entirely! very sorry you were not at the cOnference too.

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