Safer Spaces Policy
The Scarlet Alliance Safer Spaces Policy is about taking positive, proactive, preventative steps towards making spaces safer in our community. We use the word ‘safer’ to acknowledge that no space can be entirely safe for everyone, and that not everyone experiences spaces in the same way as others.
This policy covers all Scarlet Alliance operations, including Vixen and Scarlet lutruwita (Tasmania) project.
This Policy is in place in all Scarlet Alliance’s spaces, including physical spaces (our offices, training spaces, meetings and events) as well as online spaces.
Scarlet Alliance’s Safer Space Policy invites all stakeholders to actively participate in the creation of safer spaces and to progress in that work as equals. Stakeholders include:
- All staff
- Sex workers
- Event attendees
- Volunteers including committee members
- Contractors and consultants
- Training participants
We all share responsibility for creating safer spaces at Scarlet Alliance.
Through collaboration, we aim to create and maintain spaces where:
- Sex workers are able to come together.
- We are accountable to our community.
- We celebrate the strength, diversity, history and autonomy of sex workers.
- Everyone is as physically and emotionally safe as we can facilitate.
- Everyone can set their own boundaries and have those boundaries respected.
- There is transparency, accountability, and space for self-reflection.
- Through reflection there is the opportunity to learn and grow from times where challenges arise.
- We are responsible for our own behaviour.
Creating and maintaining safety
Creating and maintaining safety is a collaborative process that requires the participation of all people within a space.
At the organisational level, the Safer Spaces Policy seeks to support this process, by outlining responsibilities and expectations of behaviours, and can be referred to if challenges to safety, or conflict, occurs.
Scarlet Alliance staff and volunteers have a particular responsibility for facilitating and supporting the process of creating safety, and for responding when community members or others are experiencing challenging scenarios, or are impacted by the actions of others.
We understand that there is no single approach to creating safety that works for every group, setting or person. However, some ways that the Safer Spaces Policy can support creating and maintaining safety, includes:
- providing a clear and transparent account of responsibilities and expectations for everyone.
- supporting respectful and affirming ways of relating to others, and can be referred to when challenges to this occur.
- enabling an amount of flexibility, allowing expectations of individual or group behaviours and boundaries to adapt, depending on who is present.
- inviting, and seeking to provide safety for, everyone to contribute respectful feedback and to communicate their boundaries.
- seeking to maintain the safety of all people equally, regardless of age, gender, disability, position or other identity or lived experience.
Some ways that Scarlet Alliance staff can use the Safer Spaces Policy to model the creation and maintaining of safer spaces, include:
- modelling safe, open ways of communicating with others, including assuming good faith of others (that is, not assuming the worst, and approaching dialogue with an open mind).
- facilitating and supporting others to participate in creating safety through reflective questioning and active listening.
- providing feedback, and inviting others to do the same, when appropriate, about what we are noticing.
- being consistent in our individual and collective understanding and application of the Safer Spaces Policy.
- inviting feedback from others (including community members) on the validity of the Safer Spaces Policy.
- celebrating learning and progress.
Induction to the Safer Space Policy
Where practical, all stakeholders should be made aware of, and referred to the Safer Space Policy when connecting with Scarlet Alliance programs, services or spaces. Where this is not practical (for example, a contractor conducting repairs at the office), breaches of the safer spaces policy will still be dealt with under this policy.
While we aim to create and maintain safer spaces for all stakeholders, at times there may be an incident or behaviour that challenges our commitment to Safer Spaces and this Policy.
Something is considered a breach of the Safer Spaces Policy if there is a negative impact on our collective values, our ethics are transgressed, or an incident affects the health, safety or wellbeing of other people in our physical or online spaces.
Examining our own subtle and not-so-subtle prejudices
We all often carry the same prejudices as the ‘mainstream’, and we all need to address this. We are all part of this broader society, and whether we realise it or not, we are all socialised in ways that directly contribute to the systemic marginalisation of specific sex worker communities. All of us (particularly staff members, volunteers and Committee members) have a responsibility to challenge our own internalised sex worker stigma. By all contributing towards a safer space, together we can learn about how to overcome these stigmas.
Stakeholders are asked to be aware of their language and behaviour and to think about how it may affect others.
Scarlet Alliance spaces aim to be free of:
- Violence in all its forms
- Sexual assault
- Touching people without their consent
- Being intolerant of someone’s cultural and/or religious beliefs, or lack thereof
- Behaviour or language that perpetuates stigma, discrimination and/or oppression (including homophobia, sexism, ableism etc).
All of us are to be responsible for our own behaviour, and are responsible for managing internal or external influences that could affect our ability to gauge and manage how our behaviour is impacting others. People who are not able to manage their behaviour or recognise the impact their behaviour is having on others may need to leave the space until they are able to do so; whilst still ensuring that they themselves are safe.
Scarlet Alliance spaces are not drug and alcohol free, as we acknowledge that drug use (including alcohol) takes place everywhere, and that sex workers who use substances (whether illicit or not) have the right to participate in spaces in ways that respect our autonomy. In order to be a safer space we must also actively dismantle systems that make drug use less safe, including stigma, prohibition induced poverty, criminalisation, shame and using in isolation/secrecy
As sex workers, we understand the importance of confidentiality regarding someone’s sex worker status. We are committed to maintaining the privacy of all sex workers that we work with, or come into contact with. In terms of safer spaces, this means that stakeholders must not, without express permission:
- Share someone’s sex worker status.
- Share details of someone’s private life, including other names they may also be known by.
- Share any other private information they may have about another person outside of the context in which it was shared.
Many of our spaces and events are sex worker only. Respecting the privacy of other sex workers is important. For this reason we often do not release venue information publicly, and do not provide the location to non sex workers.
Looking after mental health and wellbeing
Scarlet Alliance aims to provide an environment that supports stakeholders in looking after their own mental health and wellbeing. Sometimes discussions or situations can trigger memories, feelings and thoughts related to past traumatic experiences and make us feel unsafe. Others may not realise that this is occurring, so you might wish to tell people that you are feeling triggered or distressed, or you might simply prefer to take some time out of the situation. We ask people to consider the potential impact of their words and actions on those around them, and to be respectful if others become distressed.
If you feel that your mental health or wellbeing is being negatively impacted by anything that occurs, we encourage you to take time for self-care and seek support, including from staff, volunteers, and other community members as appropriate. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis or feeling suicidal, please call LifeLine on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or other appropriate supports.
Breaches of the Safer Spaces Policy
A breach can take many forms. It might look like:
- Aggression or violence.
- Actively trying to make others uncomfortable.
- Talking over or disrespecting others.
- Sharing event details that have been marked as not for circulation (this includes social media posts that unintentionally reveal the location).
- Sharing about trauma, harm or other potentially difficult or triggering topics without the consent of others.
- Exercising power over others or exercising privilege in a way that excludes or negatively affects others.
- Causing divisions e.g. criticising staff, or pitting staff against each other.
- Complaints about staff or the work of Scarlet Alliance should follow our complaints policy, or for internal issues the grievance policy.
- Misgendering someone intentionally.
- Making derogatory comments about drug use.
- Shaming people for who they are or how they work, including how much they charge for services.
Scarlet Alliance understands that such incidents or behaviours may not always be intentional challenges or disruptions to Safer Space Policy.
A breach is not:
- Robust discussion or arguments between conflicting points of view (so long as it is carried out respectfully).
- People being uncomfortable with a different point of view or perspective
- Calling out unacceptable behaviour.
- Someone communicating in a particular way that you personally find confrontational.
- Conflict that is essential to the evolution and development of the sex worker movement.
- Managers providing direction or critical feedback to staff.
- Interpersonal conflict unrelated to Scarlet Alliance.
Responding to breaches:
When a breach occurs, Scarlet Alliance staff or designated Safer Spaces Officers are responsible for assessing the situation and deciding on a course of action.
A resolution may be inviting those who disrupt or challenge safety to recommit to the Safer Spaces Policy and apologise to those affected for their actions.
Sometimes in order to create enough safety for everyone, we ask individuals to remove themself from the space and reflect on and change their language or their behaviour.
When we have those conversations, our first priority is to stay in a relationship with the person, to try to understand where they are coming from and help them see where the other person is coming from. We have hard conversations about being responsible for the impact you have on others, but we do it with compassion and to help them learn and grow. We give those conversations time, knowing it might take a long time for someone to see another person’s worldview, or be willing to shift their own.
It is worth noting that staff and volunteers are peers, and whilst this creates connection and empathy, it can sometimes mean they may also experience triggers, discomfort, or challenges.
When responding to breaches, our principles and practices include:
We prioritise maintaining or re-creating safety as quickly as possible.
We recognise the impact experienced by the individual/group; and we respond to the person whose behaviour caused that with compassion.
We ask the person or group who has been impacted – what do you need? And we ask the person whose behaviour is of concern – what would it take for you to come back into the space in a way that is safer for everyone?
Accountability and personal responsibility
We want to build a culture of accountability and responsibility without shame.
We choose our response based on what is called for in the moment. We prioritise the safety of all, including the individual who has breached the Safer Spaces Policy. If the situation isn’t urgent, we then decide on the most appropriate timing. Sometimes an immediate response is required. The most appropriate time to raise it with the person who has breached the policy will also need to be considered.
Sometimes a breach requires a wider response, such as a public statement, or communication to everyone who was at a particular event. This may be to re-create safety, or to signal that the words/behaviours are not in line with Scarlet Alliance’s values and this Policy. Things to consider when deciding where to respond include:
- The nature of the incident
- Any pattern of past behaviour or incidents
- The relationship between parties affected/involved
- The wishes of the person/s who were impacted
- Whether wider naming of the event will be helpful to the individual/s and the Scarlet Alliance community, or more harmful to relationships and safety
- Whether naming something will give it more power/impact and thus cause more harm to either the person/s who was impacted, or harm the person creating the impact.
Public statements are approved in line with the Delegations of Authority Policy.
Different situations will require different skills or personal experiences to manage. We will seek to engage the most appropriate person to resolve a safer spaces breach, in consultation with the affected parties.
Each situation is unique and the response should be tailored to and proportional to the breach. Sometimes the most appropriate option is to ask/require the person in breach of the policy to take some time out of Scarlet Alliance spaces. This is not as a punishment, but to allow time and opportunity for recovery, learning and restoration.
Time-outs and bans
Time-outs (restricting access to services or programs for a set period of time) and bans (permanently restricting access to services or programs) should be used as a last resort, and should not be framed as ‘punishment’. Rather, these are mechanisms to maintain safer spaces where other avenues have failed or are not suitable.
Decisions to implement a time-out or ban will be made by two relevant managers (e.g. a program coordinator and their supervisor), with the CEO and Committee (and relevant program subcommittee) notified.
When implementing a time-out or ban of a community member, we will seek to ensure that they are still able to access appropriate support, whilst also ensuring the safety of other community members. This might include restricting which staff members the community member is able to contact, methods of contact and communication, etc. A blanket time-out or ban for all spaces is reserved for the most serious of circumstances.
The exact nature, including time period, of the time-out or ban will be communicated in writing to the impacted person, as well as information regarding review periods and appeals mechanism.
Complaints and appeals
Complaints about the implementation of the Safer Spaces Policy will be handled as per the Complaints and Feedback policy for non-staff members and volunteers, or Grievance Policy for staff members and volunteers.