The AwareMess Initiative
A Short Guide for Volunteers
Attend this meeting to get involved: no link here yet
What is the AwareMess Initiative?
The idea of the AwareMess Initiative was born in July 2018 in a Lido Restaurant in Riga during CMWC, while reflecting on the stories of harassment and sexism experienced within the Mess scene that were shared by some folks during the *BMA meeting. Discriminative behavior comes in all shapes and sizes: biased language, name-calling, harassment and even physical assault to name a few. And let’s get this straight: the Messfam is no exception to harmful behaviours. The AwareMess Initiative is an attempt to actively contribute into making the Mess community safer during championships, by having an Awareness Team present throughout the event ready to handle incidents of discrimination and harassment and positively encourage awareness,
solidarity and diversity within our scene. The Awareness Team (referred to as the “AwareMess” team) is a group of volunteers consisting of messengers, messfriends and allies, available at all times during official events and parties, to whoever may need support, help, or a time-out.
Q: What is an Awareness Team and how does it operate?
The aim of an Awareness Team is to contribute creating a welcoming, supportive and safe event and environment for every participant, by being present and responsive in case of incidents of discrimination of any kind. The AwareMess team is available to all participants of the ECMC and present during all official events of the championship to offer support, react, possibly mediate and take action in situations of discrimination, harassment or assault on the premises of the event.
The AwareMess Team is a staff of volunteers and is neither professional nor specifically trained. Their job is to help making the event safer and fun for all. They are not cops, they are not counselors nor judges. The volunteers’ primary task is to positively encourage awareness and
respect with their presence. They intervene constructively within the limits of their individual capabilities. The awareMess Team works in shifts during all the official events of the championship and wears “AwareMess” t-shirts while on duty.
I am part of the AwareMess Team during ECMC Basel, what is my
role? You are here to support folks who may experience discrimination by listening to them, validating their experience, asking them what kind of support they need and do what is reasonably in your power to help them feel safe. Your role is to be responsive and ready to handle incidents of harassment and violence in a constructive way that does not escalate the situation.
We may not be professionals, but we still have accessible resources to make our community safer. Here are some tips and ideas to help you in your task while being an AwareMess volunteer.
Respect others’ physical, mental and emotional boundaries! Listen and believe the person seeking for support. Listen actively and validate their experience verbally so they know they have been heard and understood.
Communicate openly, accurately and in a respectful way. Use inclusive language.
Always ask for explicit verbal consent before engaging or touching someone who has just experienced some verbal, psychological or physical violence. Don’t assume consent. It is important to remember that consent is not always implied, even with folks that one is typically very close to.
Respect the privacy of information, narratives and experiences that others share with you. Do not out them. If you need to share some essential information with other members of staff in order to take a specific action, let the person know what is the relevant information you need to disclose and make sure they are fine with it.
Offer to take action, but make sure what you offer is realistic and doesn’t cross your own borders.
Respect your own physical, mental and emotional boundaries !
Know your own limits and protect yourself. Only offer what you can really give.
If someone comes to you and ask for support with a situation you can’t handle or triggers you, ask for help, refer the person to someone else from the staff and step back.
Be conscious of your own language, biases and prejudices! Don’t assume the race, ethnicity, culture, sexuality, gender, history with violence etc. of others. Instead, ask if someone is open to engaging in dialogue about identity. If at all possible, find out what pronouns people prefer or use neutral pronouns such as “they” or “them.”
Do not perpetuate stereotypes, as it can be very offensive and harmful.
Do not feel you must have the perfect answer to a question or situation. If you do not know or feel unsure, ask someone to help you out.
A few tips on how to deal with concrete situations:
Someone comes up to you to seek for support:
If someone comes up to you to share an experience of discrimination or harassment and/or ask for help, first listen and acknowledge. You can then ask the person some questions to help you figure out how you can support them and make them feel safer.
• “What could help you feel better right now?”
• “What would you need to calm down?”
• “Can anyone or anything help you?”
• “What can I do for you to help you?”
Someone within the Messfam made a sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or any other discriminatory comment towards someone else:
If the targeted person comes to speak to you, listen, acknowledge their experience and ask what kind of help they’d need to feel safer. They might or might not want the AwareMess Team to address the person who was disrespectful. If they wish for an intervention it may be useful to work in team: one person talks with the targeted person while another speaks with the person who made the derogatory comment.
Ask the targeted person if they need anything and if so, what they need. If they don’t know, you can also make suggestions (call someone, go to another place to calm down, offer to speak to the perpetrator, support the person in confronting the perpetrator, talk to the organizers, etc.)
Address the perpetrator and let them know their behavior is not ok and why:
• “…what you said: was insensitive / harmful / discriminatory / border-crossing / made some people feel bad / sad / threatened…”
• “…your behaviour is offensive…” or “…there is no space for such behaviour on this event…” etc.
• “…we want everyone to feel comfortable and safe here, please stop…” / “If you do not stop, you will have to leave the room/event”
• If they say “…it was just a joke…”, you can ask them about their intention and remind them about the waiver they signed at registration.
In case of physical violence, sexual assault or dangerous verbal threats, make sure the targeted person is safe and looked after and get in touch with the organizers of the events. They are entitled to remove the perpetrator from the premises and ban them from the event. If you have any doubts, or if a situation gets out of hand, get in touch with other volunteers and/or the staff.
Remember: communicate positively and openly, know your limits, only offer what you can realistically give. And last, but not least… spread the messlove!