The objectives of the New England Leather Alliance in implementing and enforcing this policy is to:
- Define “consent violation” (hereinafter also referred to as “CV”);
- Minimize the occurrences of consent violation(s);
- Carry out appropriate corrective action measures in the case of violations; and
- Provide procedures for reporting complaints about conduct that violates this policy and investigating violations of consent.
The New England Leather Alliance is committed to standing with survivors and minimizing the trauma experienced by survivors and members of our community. NELA is an education organization and has the authority to investigate complaints of NELA employees, Board members, and volunteers or more limited authority to investigate incidents that occur at NELA events, for the sole purpose of determining whether action should be taken against an individual related to that individual’s ability to attend NELA events or be an associate of the organization. All survivors are encouraged to seek appropriate law enforcement, legal, health-care, support or other services they may require to adequately heal. NELA cannot make public statements about individual cases, name individuals, give out the results of investigations (other than statistical information) due to risk management concerns relating to the potential Defamation concerns.
This policy applies to all associates of New England Leather Alliance and those working for the organization at all locations. All workers, volunteers, associates, presenters, vendors, or others including Officers and Board members, will be subject to discipline, up to and including permanent discharge from the organization.
Consent: The act of ensuring that people involved in a given activity have the ability to give their ok, comprehend what is going on, and specifically, consciously, and enthusiastically choose to engage in that activity. NOTE: Anyone can withdraw consent, at any time. Once consent is withdrawn, the activity must stop immediately (failure to stop once consent is withdrawn is a crime).
Consent violations: When someone intentionally chooses to act or intentionally ignores or intentionally does something beyond a person’s stated/Negotiated boundaries or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment by an overt action or behavior. Violations of consent can be committed by any party regardless of any role in a dynamic, i.e, Top/Master/Dom or bottom/slave/sub.
Consent accidents: When someone unintentionally acts, accidentally or through ambiguous [mis]communication, or because of an honest misunderstanding, or through an unintentional failure to thoroughly negotiate an interaction or boundary.
Though violations of consent encompasses a wide range of conduct, some examples of specifically prohibited conduct include the following:
Physical assaults of a sexual nature, such as rape, sexual battery, molestation or attempts to commit these assaults, and intentional physical conduct that is sexual in nature, such as touching, pinching, patting, grabbing, brushing against another person’s body or poking another person’s body.
Verbal assaults of a sexual or nonsexual nature such as uninvited comments on body parts, attire, body size or structure; proposition of/for sexual favors or behavior; degrading, derogatory, discriminatory or socially unacceptable name-calling including race or religion; and misgendering of an intentional and repeated nature.
The above list is not intended to be all-inclusive.
“Complainant” – Person filing a complaint
“Respondent” – Person accused of alleged consent violation
Retaliation by members of the NELA Board, officers, or agents for submitting of consent violation complaints will not be tolerated.
Responding to Conduct in Violation of Policy
As the initial step, the respondent SHALL be temporarily suspended from attending any and all New England Leather Alliance events or sponsored classes. This is not a judgment on the Respondent, it is for the safety and protection of all concerned.
If a Complainant believes, that they have been subject to violations of consent or any unwelcome attention, that Complainant may address the situation directly, if it is determined by that Complainant to be appropriate and safe.
If the inappropriate conduct does not cease, or if the Complainant is unable to, or uncomfortable with, addressing the alleged consent violator directly, they should report the incident to their supervising volunteer, an officer, the Board of Directors, Ombudsperson (or designated recipient) or via the online reporting portal found on the NELA website. It is helpful, but not required, to provide a written record of the date, time and nature of the incident(s) and the names of any witnesses.
It is important to report any and all concerns of violations of consent or inappropriate conduct through one of the above mechanisms. Leaders must be made aware of the situation so that an immediate and impartial investigation can occur and to take appropriate action to remediate or prevent the prohibited conduct from continuing.
Board Members and Officers
Board members and officers must deal expeditiously and fairly with allegations of violations of consent within their departments whether or not there has been a written or formal complaint. They must:
- Take all complaints or concerns of alleged or possible violations of consent seriously no matter how minor it appears to be or who is involved.
- Ensure that inappropriate conduct is immediately reported to the Board and Ombudsperson so that a prompt investigation can occur.
- Take any appropriate action to prevent retaliation or prohibited conduct from recurring during and after any investigations or complaints.
- Board members and officers who knowingly allow or tolerate violations of consent or retaliation, including the failure to immediately report such misconduct to the investigative committee, are in violation of this policy and subject to discipline or removal from the board.
The investigative committee shall consist of three Board members, or designate(s), who will serve on a rotating basis. One member of this committee will be designated the Lead.
The investigative committee is responsible for:
- Ensuring that both the individual filing the complaint (hereafter referred to as the “complainant”) and the accused individual (hereafter referred to as the “respondent”) are aware of the seriousness of a violations of consent complaint.
- Explaining New England Leather Alliance’s violations of consent policy and investigation procedures to the complainant and the respondent.
- Exploring informal means of resolving violations of consent complaints.
- Notifying the police if criminal activities are alleged and the complainant consents to such notification.
- Arranging for an investigation of the alleged harassment and the preparation of a written report.
- Submitting a written report summarizing the results of the investigation and making recommendations to designated organization officials.
- Notifying the complainant and the respondent of the corrective actions to be taken, if any, and administering those actions.
Complaint Resolution Procedures
Individuals should report complaints of conduct believed to violate New England Leather Alliance’s violations of consent policy according to the policy’s complaint procedures. To initiate a formal investigation into an alleged violation of this policy, ANYONE may be asked to provide a written statement about the alleged misconduct to the Lead. Complaints should be submitted as soon as possible after an incident has occurred. The Lead may assist the complainant in completing the statement.
To ensure the prompt and thorough investigation of a violations consent complaint, the complainant should provide as much of the following information as is possible:
- The name of the person or persons allegedly causing the harassment.
- A description of the incident(s), including the date(s), location(s) and the presence of any witnesses.
- The effect of the incident(s) on the complainant.
- The names of other individuals who might have been subject to the same or similar harassment.
- What, if any, steps the complainant has/had taken to try to stop the harassment.
- Any other information the complainant believes to be relevant to the harassment complaint.
Anyone who violate this policy is subject to appropriate discipline. If an investigation results in a finding that this policy has been violated, the mandatory minimum discipline is a written reprimand. The discipline for very serious or repeat violations is termination (including board members). Persons who violate this policy may also be subject to civil damages or criminal penalties.
Discipline may range from written reprimand/warning to a set period of time ban (i.e, 1 year, 2 years, etc.) to a lifetime ban. Respondents who receive a set period of time ban may apply for reinstatement after that specific ban period. An appeal to an indefinite or lifetime ban may be made to the Board of Directors as provided at the time of notification of the discipline decision but not less than period of 5 years. The burden of proof will fall upon the Respondent to show that a significant change in behavior, mentality/thought process have occurred and should include proof of education, including NELA’s Consent class (currently in development), regarding matters of consent and provide character references. An appeal does not guarantee reinstatement as a NELA Associate or admittance to NELA events.
All inquiries, complaints, respondents, and investigations are treated confidentially. Information is revealed strictly on a need-to-know basis. Information contained in a formal complaint is kept as confidential as possible. The identity of the complainant may be revealed to the respondent and witnesses (if the Complainant agrees). However, during the investigation, details of the incident may inadvertently identify the Complainant. The Lead takes adequate steps to ensure that the complainant is protected from retaliation, from any NELA employee, Board member, or Volunteer. All information pertaining to a violations of consent complaint or investigation is maintained by the Lead in secure files. The Lead can answer any questions relating to the procedures for handling information related to violations of consent complaints and investigations to complainants and respondents.
Other Available Procedures
The procedures available under this policy do not preempt or supersede any legal procedures or remedies otherwise available to a victim of violations of consent under local, state or federal law.
This policy will be administered through New England Leather Alliance’s Consent Violation Committee.
Consent Violation Reporting Process
- Submit a report/complaint through NELA’s website under Contact Us/File a Consent Violation Complaint
- Complainant will receive acknowledgement upon receipt of their report
- Consent Violation Committee will convene to initiate review within 21 days
- Investigation will be conducted
- Complainant and respondent notified of results