How Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) Has Handled Sexual Misconduct
DxE is an open, grassroots network that has inspired thousands of activists to take action for nonhuman animals in over 30 countries and has saved hundreds of nonhuman animals from nightmarish abuse. In the process, we’ve gained an incredible following and put pressure on corporations and governments to stop torturing and killing nonhuman animals.
We also have a motivated body of detractors. Some are well-intentioned people who have genuine disagreements about tactics; others are former members who didn’t find DxE to be the right place for activism and left feeling discouraged and hurt, in some cases partly due to our own mistakes in resolving conflict. Still others, more troublingly, may be state or corporate infiltrators who seek to undermine the animal rights movement. While the latter suggestion may sound outlandish, the fact that the history of social causes is rife with examples of such behavior, including in the animal rights movement, prevents us from dismissing the possibility.
The obscurity of detractors’ intentions is only one factor that makes assessing claims difficult. Many conversations about DxE take place over social media, where the absence of vocal tone, facial expressions, and other conversational cues allows undue tension to arise; facts often blur with assumptions and opinions; and algorithms elevate inflammatory content over sober, truth-oriented dialogue. Supporters often feel confused and upset at allegations made about us, particularly those dealing with how we have handled sexual misconduct. We created this page because the seriousness of those allegations merits a response.
The DxE decisions described here were made by members of the SF Bay Area leadership. We encourage anyone with further questions to bring them to us at a weekly Meetup or a monthly Chapter Meeting.
Our sexual misconduct report and response policy is laid out in our Code of Conduct, in points 4-6, and in our supplementary Harassment Policy. This Code of Conduct, which was the result of a community-led discussion, has been listed in official DxE SF Bay Area events since November 2016.
In addition, pursuant to our relationship policy, approved in May 2018, community members must follow a “one-ask” rule wherein a community member may not ask another community member out on a date or otherwise express romantic interest if they have already done so for that individual and not received a clear affirmative response.
Yes. Since DxE’s founding, members have brought accusations of sexual misconduct about several organizers, or individuals who claimed to be organizers, to leadership. Descriptions of most* cases, and our responses, follow. (Note that privacy concerns limit what we are able to say, and names have been changed.)
* In several other cases involving sexual misconduct with organizers in the international network, the individual who was harmed requested we not share details of the matter publicly. In all such cases, the accused organizer either stepped down or was removed following the allegations. Some details of those matters have since become public.
We have also removed multiple non-organizing community members for instances of unwelcome touching, using our spaces to try to get dates, or failing to respond positively to feedback on any behavior that made community members uncomfortable, and we have warned other animal activist groups about particular individuals with problematic behavioral patterns.
No. DxE has never taken any legal action nor made any legal threat against any person who has reported sexual misconduct, nor have we ever required any sort of confidentiality agreement of any person victimized by sexual harassment or misconduct.
In the above-mentioned instance regarding Henry, a number of women, including both current and former DxE members, represented by outside counsel with assistance from DxE co-founder and former Lead Organizer Wayne Hsiung, sent cease-and-desist letters to Henry as well as three other individuals who had also harassed and cyberstalked those women. None of the four recipients of those cease-and-desist letters had ever reported anyone in DxE for sexual misconduct. The harassment and cyberstalking ceased, and no lawsuits were filed.
In the above-mentioned instance regarding Susan and Robert, Robert later sued Susan, claiming that, subsequent to DxE’s accountability process and Robert’s restoration to the network, Susan falsely accused Robert of rape. DxE had no involvement in the case. Wayne Hsiung provided an affidavit, in lieu of a subpoena and deposition, that provided a statement of facts and did not take any position in the litigation. While the lawsuit was ongoing, Robert left DxE, and the parties subsequently settled under confidential terms.
No. We have made reports of sexual misconduct as public or private as the reporters have requested, aiming to create environments conducive to reporting and to respect survivors’ wishes. We have brought instances of sexual misconduct to the attention of all SF Bay chapter members, had multiple all-chapter and all-network open forums where specific instances of misconduct were discussed, and have been supportive of open letters admitting misconduct.
We have made two major changes to our approach to sexual misconduct. First, we no longer perform accountability or restorative justice processes in house. In a case involving sexual misconduct of a DxE organizer, we refer the matter to an external professional and remove the accused organizer from the network pending guidance from the survivor and the external professional. Second, we make consent trainings mandatory for all organizers.
We regularly consult resources outside of the DxE network on our sexual harassment policies to ensure our policies are consistent with best practices.
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