Posts Tagged ‘group dynamics’

The following is a letter reposted from Microcosm. It felt important to repost here because of the extent to which it has become a public situation- not so much the abuse, but Microcosm’s process of struggling with accountability work.

There are some important posts from Alex about this situation, and we would like to link to them here up top (you can also see Alex’s links in the comments below). This letter without the context of these posts could be problematic, so here, here, and also here, are good places to get a fuller perspective on things including Alex’s recent response.

Philly Stands Up is available as a resource in supporting these and any radical community through the process of supporting survivors, holding people who have caused harm accountable, and helping communities in figuring out how to challenge abuse, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence using restorative and transformative justice. We know this work is hard, but it is also important that the communities doing this work are themselves accountable to their own politics and to communities of survivors.

It is through struggling to address our own problems and striving for healing justice in our own communities that we become not only informed, but transformed.


Hi all,

This statement is in response to individuals in the zine community accusing the founder of Microcosm, Joe Biel, for emotional abuse. Alex Wrekk (of Brainscan and Stolen Sharpie Revolution) and Cindy Crabb (of Doris zine and distro) have written about this, and other zinesters have requested information. To many, this may come out of left field or seem incidental to one’s relationship with Microcosm. This is for us to get off our chests, and to address silence that those involved have waited to see broken.

Staff at Microcosm earnestly care that this emotional abuse was named. We care about abuse and support, and we care for Alex, and for Joe, and for others who have been hurt by this. We unequivocally stand for those who have suffered from abuse. And we’ve struggled with where to go from there. The collective believes that ostracizing someone isn’t a healthy, restorative response, and we’ve struggled with accountability being more than a radical judge-and-jury trial.

Microcosm began as a very small, very personal project. We honor that the zine distro seen today developed as a joint effort of Joe and Alex. After their relationship ended, the organization eventually moved to Bloomington, IN into the new house of Joe and his partner at the time. Both partners were talented collective members with deep investment in Microcosm, and after their separations, the organization struggled for a meaningful, respectful way to acknowledge their involvement. In this highly personal nature of the organization at the time, how to provide support and accountability was something the collective has seen differently and fallen short on.

We believe that we’ve been ill-equipped to address emotional abuse and support on an organizational level. We’ve struggled with how to provide that space and forum in Microcosm. As abuse creates cycles of hurt, it’s been easier for those involved to put up a wall for personal protection rather than create resources for healing. We’ve sincerely wanted to transcend this, but focused primarily on day-to-day matters to keep this business afloat. And our long internal discussions have remained within the organization, resulting in more disappointment from that lack of transparency.

For the past nine months, Debbie Rasmussen (former publisher/director of Bitch magazine) has offered pro bono facilitation creating an “organizational refounding” and discussing proposed accountability processes. While the movement is gradual, there have been many organizational changes in the past months. Joe stepped down from being a collective member, and Microcosm will be collectively owned by the remaining members by the end of this year. The collective is working to create a Resource Council, an independent group of volunteers to offer support and mediation to Microcosm. Our hope is that an external ring of support could offer help with personal conflicts that fall outside of our Non-Adherence Policy and assist in maintaining a compassionate Safer Space Policy for the non-physical space that is Microcosm.

We can’t expect to bandage anyone’s wounds. We do sincerely hope to open the conversation and aid in creating the resources that may someday help others. Please feel free to contact us at We’re excited about a healthier, stronger Microcosm, and we wouldn’t be here without all of you. Thanks for your support. Expect to hear more from us soon!

The Microcosm Collective

Rio, Jessie, & Adam

Over the years, we’ve come to adopt and refine several organizing principles, that ground our work, facilitate communication and internal support, and challenge us to grow as dedicated organizers enmeshed in a web of struggles for justice in a very broad sense. As a group dealing with community based responses to sexual assault we have found it very important to come from a common ground. Being far from a formal group that needs paperwork to back up our intentions to submit to a non-profit umbrella or something of the like, we did find it essential to create points of unity. It is something of an agreement for anyone wishing to join our group needs to whole heartedly believe in and understand. It is a living document that has changed as the group has over the years, but has always served as a center for how we approach the work that we do. Breaking these things down into sentences obscures the depth that these concepts hold and we explore them in many ways beyond what you see here (as we shall do with future postings in the blog).

We offer them here in summary for anyone to borrow, adapt or discard. We are all imperfect and humble our work and our lives by that fact. These are a reminder of that:

PHILLY STANDS UP * Points of Unity (as of January 2007)

• We are a group dedicated to dealing with sexual assault.

• Philly Stands Up formed in reaction to specific incidents of sexual assault in our community and will continue to exist as an avenue of support for the future as well as working on proactive means to deal with sexual assault.

• We strive to take an active role in our communities and to deal with the deeper rooted causes of sexual assault by challenging sexist attitudes and deconstructing patriarchy in our daily lives. In this, we also recognize the interrelatedness of systems of oppression and work to confront them on all fronts.

• We work to educate ourselves and others on issues in our society that contribute to sexual assault. As well as provide information to the public that will help confront these issues and provide access to resources that exist.

• We acknowledge that socialization in a patriarchal society greatly affects how we view and deal with sexual assault. In this, we recognize that gender does not define a person and we welcome anyone who agrees to these points of unity into this group.

• We are a group that survivors can come to for help and support. We will always support survivors and ensure survivor autonomy, where they will always be in control of how a situation is dealt with.

We work with perpetrators to recognize, understand, and change behavior, not to simply punish them or run them out of town. Dealing with an assaulter includes the long term goal of ensuring that they are not a threat to others, recognize what they have done, and work to permanently change their behavior.

We do not support the prison system as a viable means of rehabilitation for perpetrators, but we will always support a survivor’s wishes and engage the legal system on any level necessary.

• We are dedicated to this issue and this group. We all promise to ensure that our level of commitment is clear and consistent. This includes a time commitment and accountability to tasks that we agree to take on.

There is no hierarchy within this group. We make decisions as a group with casual consensus, but will call on using formal consensus for making serious decisions.

• We value communication and honesty in our interactions. We practice active listening and do not attack one another, but rather work through conflicting views. We are not interested in “PC” responses, but communication of our true understanding/ feelings.

Members of the group may at any time step back from an issue or situation that is being acted on by the group if they feel that they need to or that they cannot be objective.

• We operate under strict confidentiality in both our work as an action group and as a support group. Information shared within the group, stays within the group, unless consensed upon by the entire group.

• We work in tandem with Philly’s Pissed and hold our group accountable to theirs. Certain situations may also call for Philly’s Pissed to be accountable to us.

• We strive to include and support anyone who has been targeted for sexual assault, sexual abuse, gender-based assault, or gender-based abuse. This includes all sexual and gender representations and identities.

We believe anyone can be assaulted. Sexual assault and abuse are not solely contained within heterosexual and gender-normative relationships.

• We always assume the best intentions of one another. Recognizing that none of us can be completely articulate in communicating our thoughts, we give time and space for clarity on things that may be hard to hear. We will work through the inherent difficulties between communication and misunderstanding.