Statement On Community Safety
Dear community members,
We are writing to you in acknowledgment and deep regret for UNAVSA’s actions outlined in the open letter written by our former staff member, Michelle Dao. UNAVSA has failed to provide a safe environment for our constituents and a sense of urgency and action toward matters of community safety. We deeply regret our lack of action to protect survivors and sincerely apologize for the harm that we have done to Michelle Dao and to all survivors. In particular, we regret our decision to not more actively pursue justice by investigating David Truong’s behavior and staff role, as well as the harm that our lack of action has caused to Michelle Dao and all survivors. As of August 15th, 2020, David Truong’s staff term has expired.
While our organization was not equipped with the policies to address many matters of safety and enablement, we understand that moving forward requires both a commitment to changing our community culture and prudent policy development. We thank our community members for holding our leaders and our organization accountable for their actions, shortcomings, and failures. Thank you to the survivors and allies who endure the trauma and heavy emotional labor of sharing their stories in the hopes of creating a better, safer community. It is with your continued support and commitment to our organization that we are able to grow as a community and strive for safety for all. Domestic violence, intimate partner violence, harassment, abuse, and all other forms of violence have no place in our community.
As incoming Executive Board members, we are setting an urgent priority for all matters relating to community safety and creating a more survivor-centric organization. We are committed to engaging in discussions with survivors, previous Executive Board members, regions, our Board of Directors, and you, our community, in order to create a safer environment for all. While these may be subject to change, some of the community safety policies and initiatives that we are working on implementing include:
- A public, centralized, and easily accessible location for our internal policies and procedures in efforts to increase radical transparency to our community
- Screening of UNAVSA staff applicants to ensure our staff includes people who are interested and equipped to work on dismantling rape culture in our communities and excludes those who perpetuate violence
- Models for transformative justice in our community
- Internal, mandatory staff trainings on changing safety policies, intervention, interpersonal relationships, and rape culture in consultation with trained professionals
- Public workshops for community members to learn more about creating safer communities and responding to violence
- Anonymous third party reporting that would allow survivors to come forward to our executive leadership with their stories with an opportunity to decline investigation
- Examining our regional partnerships to encourage more frequent, open communication on matters of safety (i.e. through both Presidents’ Council and Council of Regional Representatives)
- A collective set of community principles for UNAVSA and its regional partners to agree on as an interconnected, overlapping community
We understand that cultivating a safe community is an ongoing process and we are committed to constant reevaluation of our safety policies. We believe that our communities cannot “arrive” to safety; instead, we must be proactive in making safety a priority that is weaved into the fabric of our organization. We plan to provide our community with updates regarding our action items, plans, progress, timeline, and priorities. Please continue to hold us accountable as we strive to provide transparency and survivor-centric changes to our community. We do not expect this statement to provide closure because we are attempting to dismantle long-standing, internalized, and systemic ways of conditioning. Working toward a bold future of justice in our community will be a continual practice for our current and future leaders. We are not simply working for our community, but working in concert with the community because we understand the leadership that all of you hold. We appreciate and value our community members’ input and would like to hear from you. Please submit your comments to us anonymously via our community feedback form or by contacting our Executive Board directly through email at email@example.com.
Thien An Nguyen