On July 29, 2021, SPC’s Steering Committee approved a Protocol for Reporting and Responding to Incidents of Harassment for our organization. The Peace Council does not tolerate harassment of any kind. This document defines harassment and empowers a Review Committee to hear complaints, and take action to repair the situation and provide accountability.
Feedback or questions about the protocol can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. This feedback will be collected to inform the evolution and improvement of the protocol.
Download the protocol here or read it below.
New York State Labor Law requires all employers to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy that includes a complaint form to report alleged incidents of sexual harassment. This form can be filled out by SPC employees, interns, volunteers, committee members, supporters, etc. – anyone who experiences harassment of any kind at an SPC event or in our organizing spaces.
If you believe that you have been subjected to harassment, you are encouraged to complete the SPC Harassment Complaint form (PDF here or Word doc here) and submit it to the SPC Review Committee by emailing email@example.com. You will not be retaliated against for filing a complaint.
If you are more comfortable reporting verbally or in another manner, you may contact the SPC Review Committee directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to initiate the review process. The SPC Review Committee should then complete this form, provide you with a copy and follow its harassment prevention policy by investigating the claims as outlined in the harassment protocol.
In our Statement of Purpose, the Syracuse Peace Council discusses the connections between systems of injustice, structures of oppression and interpersonal relationships. As members, we strive to implement our political principles in our daily lives, to have our political values and personal lives shape and reflect each other. But we live and work within structures and a culture that are steeped in practices and manifestations of violence, oppression and bias. Just as social change requires intentional, organized movements, personal change also requires explicit and intentional support (especially because we all have grown up in and live within those structures, as much as we might try to overcome them). We need clear policies and practices to help us live up to our ideals. Our policy on responding to incidents of harassment within the SPC community is one tool to guide us in the ongoing process of helping the Peace Council to be the change we wish to see in the world.
Protocol for Reporting and Responding to Incidents of Harassment in the Syracuse Peace Council
July 29, 2021
This document is a protocol to provide a process that should be followed in the event that a Syracuse Peace Council member or supporter experiences harassment (see definitions below) at an SPC event or in our organizing spaces. It is an evolving document that will be reevaluated regularly. We recognize that victims often feel afraid or disempowered to come forward with a complaint, and therefore aim to enforce this policy non-judgmentally, with empathy and support, keeping in mind the safety of the complainant.
The goals of this protocol are:
- To provide safety in SPC spaces
- To provide a transparent and accessible process for reporting and responding to harassment
- To provide a process for personal and organizational accountability.
SPC staff and Steering Committee members are familiar with this policy and take responsibility for providing it to anyone who discloses harassment within the Peace Council. The policy will also be made available through SPC’s website at https://www.peacecouncil.net/harassment-protocol. Additionally, SPC committees are expected to make sure their members are familiar with this protocol. SPC committee members are responsible for providing this protocol to anyone who discloses harassment within the Peace Council.
This policy is but one tool that we hope to implement as part of an ongoing process to align SPC’s policies and practices with its values. Its specific purpose is to address incidents of harassment as defined in the policy below. It is not designed to be a general conflict resolution process, to mediate interpersonal conflicts, to address political disagreements or other situations that may arise.
Definition of Terms
Verbal harassment includes comments that are offensive or unwelcome regarding a person’s national origin, race, color, class, religion, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, body, disability or appearance, including epithets, slurs and negative stereotyping, and microaggressions.
Nonverbal harassment includes distribution, display or discussion of any written or graphic material that ridicules, denigrates, insults, belittles or shows hostility, aversion or disrespect toward an individual or group because of national origin, race, color, class, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, body, disability or appearance.
Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
The complainant is a person making a disclosure of harassment.
The respondent is a person who is alleged by the complainant to have harassed.
The support person is a person who supports the complainant in being empowered to bring the disclosure to the Review Committee, either in person or in writing, and in helping the complainant think about what course(s) of action will help ensure the complainant’s safety. The support person is not involved in actually making decisions about what course(s) are appropriate
The Review Committee is a group of 3-5 individuals consisting of Steering Committee members and other active SPC members who are responsible for hearing and investigating a disclosure of harassment, and identifying appropriate courses of action to ensure the complainant’s safety and/or seek accountability from the respondent and/or SPC organizationally (ie, need to create trainings, update and/or adjust community agreements, etc.). Review Committee members are selected by the Steering Committee, serve for a minimum term of one year and are trained about harassment prevention, conflict resolution and SPC’s policies and values around harassment prevention. Review Committee members will orient the incoming Review Committee on this policy and their roles when their term on the Committee is ending. Review Committee members (and SPC staff) are required to take the online NYC Human Rights Commission sexual harassment training here: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/law/sexual-harassment-training.page
Historically, the words of marginalized or disempowered groups—such as women, children, people with disabilities, people of color—have not been valued equally to non-marginalized groups. To the extent possible, the composition of the Review Committee should reflect the diversity of the broader SPC community. We recognize that victims often feel afraid or disempowered to come forward with a complaint. Review Committee members should review complaints with a sense of objectivity and openness to listening to all perspectives involved in a particular incident, aiming to enforce this policy non-judgmentally, with empathy and support, keeping in mind the safety of the complainant.
The Review Committee can be reached directly at email@example.com.
The Review Committee will maintain confidentiality about all parts of the review process. If the respondent approaches any member of the Review Committee and inquires whether there has been a complaint made against them, and the Review Committee has not reached the point of conducting an investigation/review, the Review Committee member(s) must say they cannot comment. This is to respect the confidentiality of the complaint and the review process.
Overview of Timeline of events:
- Review Committee receives a complaint.
- Review Committee acknowledges the complaint, and informs the complainant they need to share details of their complaint with the Review Committee within 2-4 weeks, attaching the policy/protocol as reference.
- Review Committee conducts Review Process and comes to a conclusion within 60 days.
1. Disclosure of Harassment: Anyone wishing to disclose harassment that has occurred at an SPC event or organizing space is encouraged to bring this disclosure – either directly or through a support person – by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by communicating with an SPC staff person, Steering Committee member or SPC Project Committee member – who will help facilitate bringing that information to the Review Committee.
Once the Review Committee member monitoring the Review Committee email address receives the complaint, they will send the complainant the Harassment Policy, and let them know who is on the current Review Committee and what the next steps are. At the same time, that Review Committee member will let the rest of the committee know they’ve received a complaint and who it is from.
2. On Objections to, and Recusals of, Review Committee Members: If the complainant has an objection to one of the committee members, the request should be made before the complainant shares their story. The complainant has the option to ask a member to step down, and members of the Review Committee have the option to recuse themselves, but in either situation, specific reasons must be verbalized or written down – such as having an existing relationship or previous experience with that person that might compromise the Review Committee member’s ability to be objective. Given how small the SPC community is, simply knowing each other is not automatic grounds for a Review Committee member to step back. The Review Committee, minus the person who has been objected to or has recused themself, will make the final decision as to whether someone should step back.
3. On Support Person and Safety Plan: If the complainant does not have a support person of their own choosing, and wishes to have one, the Review Committee recommends the complainant contact one of these organizations, as they are trained in supporting people directly and helping them identify other supportive people in their lives.
- Vera House 24 hour crisis and support line – (315) 468-3260 – https://www.verahouse.org/
- Contact Community Services Hotline – (315) 251-0600 – https://www.contactsyracuse.org/
- New York State Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline – (800) 942-6906 – https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/sexual_violence/
It is not the role of the Review Committee to create a safety plan for the complainant, and recommends using the above resources.
If the complainant has a support person, at the complainant’s request, the support person may meet with the complainant, listen to their experience, help the complainant gather relevant information, which may include suggested courses of action the complainant would like the Review Committee to consider, and support the complainant in bringing their disclosure forward to the Review Committee.
The support person may assist the complainant in communicating their experience to the Review Committee by scheduling and accompanying the complainant to an in person meeting, OR by obtaining a written account of the complainant’s disclosure and written permission to share it with the Review Committee, and sharing the account with the Review Committee either in person, video conference, or email.
4. Process for Complainant sharing their experience with the Review Committee: Within 2-4 weeks of the complainant’s initial contact with the Review Committee, the Review Committee will hear the account in person or video conference from the complainant or a written account provided directly by the complainant, or a written account that has been approved by the complainant and provided by the support person. The 2-4 week timeframe is meant to be a guideline to move the process forward, not to place pressure on the complainant. The Review Committee should maintain some flexibility around timing in working with the complainant through the review process.
To avoid misunderstanding or confusion about the nature of the harassment, the Review Committee cannot take action based on hearsay. They must hear directly from the complainant or read an account approved by the complainant. The Review Committee must be able to communicate directly with the complainant either in person or in writing, in order to ensure the committee avoids taking action that the complainant is not comfortable with.
Details of a disclosure will not be shared beyond the Review Committee unless under extreme circumstances, such as concerns of self-harm or harm to others, or by the permission of the complainant. In the event that the situation is urgent or possibly dangerous, the Review Committee must encourage the complainant to seek urgent professional services, such as Vera House (315-468-3260) or Contact (315-251-0600), or if a dangerous, imminent emergency, 911.
5. Once the complainant has shared their experience with the Review Committee: The complainant will be asked by the Review Committee if they have made any complaints or been through the Review process before. If the answer is yes, the Review Committee will ask if they have made a complaint about the same respondent before. If yes, the Review Committee is empowered to look at the records of the previous complaint.
The Review Committee will also check the list of cases (see point #8 on Recordkeeping, below) to see if any complaints have been made about the respondent in the past by other complainants.
6. Review Process:
If the complainant does not want the respondent to be made aware of the complaint: the Review Committee will log the complaint for the purpose of documenting a possible pattern of behavior and provide the complainant with other community resources (i.e., those above). No action will be taken directly toward the respondent.
If the complainant desires action to be taken toward the respondent: the Review Committee should make it clear to the complainant that the complainant will not be able to remain anonymous as the Review Committee conducts its investigation. The Review Committee must inform the respondent that there is a complaint against them. The Review Committee will collect and Review information regarding the alleged incident(s), including speaking with the respondent, interviewing witnesses, determining if there is a pattern of behavior by the respondent, etc. The Review Committee may decide in what order to interview witnesses and the respondent.
If there is an investigation and the complainant withdraws before the conclusion, and the respondent has already been contacted by the Review Committee, the respondent will be told that the process has ended.
Throughout the process, the Review Committee will actively listen to and consider all accounts, maintaining a heightened awareness of societal and cultural biases.
To promote the safety of the complainant while maintaining fairness toward the respondent, the Review Committee may ask the respondent to not engage with the complainant at any SPC spaces or events if the complainant wishes.
Review Process Timeline: The Review Committee will be responsible for responding to disclosures of harassment in a timely way. The Review Committee should endeavor whenever possible to conclude its process no more than 60 days after meeting with the complainant or reading the complainant’s approved account of the harassment, unless there are extenuating circumstances such as key witnesses being out of town, or a large number of people being involved and requiring many meetings, or a global pandemic. If this process cannot be completed within 60 days, the Review Committee will contact the complainant or the support person if the complainant wishes, to share its projected timeframe for completion.
7. Conclusion of the Review Process: the Review Committee will take into account the complainants suggested courses of action (step #5) and the information gathered from the preceding steps and present to the complainant its recommendation for courses of action to ensure the complainant’s safety, hold the respondent accountable and ensure compliance with organizational policies. The complainant will have 2 weeks to communicate to the Review Committee which actions they would like the Review Committee to take. The complainant may also suggest other or additional actions for the Review Committee to consider. It is the decision of the Review Committee whether or not to accept such recommendations or to modify its decision.
Recommended actions may include but are not limited to:
- No action
- Documenting the complaint to assist in any further investigation about the respondent
- Educational action toward the respondent (such as referrals to relevant community programs or available literature
- Recommendation for counseling, etc.)
- Facilitated communication between the complainant and respondent for the purpose of accountability and/or resolution
- State that there is to be no contact between the parties
- Suspension or expulsion of the respondent from the organization, including possible termination of employment if the respondent is an employee
- Other disciplinary actions toward the respondent
The Review Committee will notify the respondent of the courses of action that will be taken, including steps the respondent can take to be accountable to the complainant and the community. If the Review Committee’s conclusion is that no action should be taken, the Review Committee will inform the respondent.
If the courses of action involve removal from a committee, non-contact between parties or other actions that directly impact the functioning of an SPC committee, relevant committees, staff and steering committee will also be notified of relevant courses of action.
8. Recordkeeping: Any notes, reports or recordings from the Review Committee’s meetings and interactions with the complainants and others will be kept in a password-protected folder in SPC’s computer file system. There is no time limit on how long they will be kept, as it could be important to keep them for future complaints. Only the Review Committee will have the password to this folder.
There will also be a document listing only the names of the complainants and respondents in each case as well as the dates of the cases. This is to allow the Review Committee to simply check whether a respondent has had multiple complaints documented about them, in order to spot a possible pattern of behavior. Each time a complaint is documented, a member of the Review Committee must update this list.
9. Review Committee’s access to previous case records: If a case is closed in one Review Committee, and the same complainant returns to a new Review Committee:
- In order to respect the privacy of previous complainants, a new Review Committee would not have automatic access to the records of previous cases brought by other complainants.
- If the complainant is bringing a new case about a different respondent – there is not an automatic need for the Review Committee to have access to the records of the previous case the complainant brought.
- If the complainant is returning about a previous case, or a new case with the same respondent – the Review Committee can then have access to the records of that previous case.
- A new Review Committee should only access records from a previous case for a compelling reason – i.e., if it is a situation in which the Review Committee feels it could be beneficial to their process to review those records. The Review Committee is empowered to discuss this amongst themselves and decide whether this is the case.
10. If there is an open case at the time the Review Committee members have completed their term, we aim to find balance between honoring the Committee members’ time commitments and obtaining closure for the complainant. Review Committee members have the option to stay on until the case experiences closure, or leave once they have fulfilled their time commitment. This may depend on how much time the Review Committee member(s) can continue to devote and how much they feel the case would benefit from them leaving vs. staying on. At the end of the Review Committee members’ term, an assessment should be made among the members whether the time should be extended to allow for closure or whether a new committee should be chosen.
11. The Review Committee’s relationship to the Steering Committee: To foster increased organizational awareness of issues of harassment, the Review Committee will make a report to the Steering Committee twice annually. The report will include the number of complaints reviewed, types of actions taken, any suggested modifications to policy, any suggested courses of action for SPC organizationally and which Review Committee members wish to rotate off the committee so that the SC can fill vacancies.
The Review Committee is fully empowered by the SPC Steering Committee to carry out this process, including carrying out action toward the respondent.
12. A complainant has the right to contest the Review Committee’s decision, and to provide feedback on the Review Committee and review process to the SPC Steering Committee. They may bring that to the Steering Committee by speaking with, video conferencing, or writing to a Steering Committee member or SPC staffperson, or emailing email@example.com.
13. This is an evolving document. We are open to ongoing feedback on this protocol from the SPC community, and will review this protocol for improvements every two years.