Safety & Support: #MarchingTogether

Content Warning: the following information addresses sensitive topics regarding abuse, sexual violence, and misconduct.

As the leading civil rights organization of the blind in the United States, every day we work to bring equality, love, and hope to our community. The blind community, like the rest of society, is not immune to violence and sexual misconduct. We thank the brave survivors for sharing their stories during a recent movement under the hashtag #MarchingTogether. We are committed to and welcome an ongoing process of learning how to heal from past trauma, to prevent future instances, and to protect victims and survivors.

Regarding this initiative, a survivor is someone—a Federation member or non-member within the blind community— who has experienced pain through violence, abuse, or misconduct of any kind (including, but not limited to, physical/sexual/psychological abuse, harassment, or assault) and may continue to live with trauma as a result. 

Please find updates and important details regarding this critical matter:

Latest Updates

February 1, 2021

  • Training, facilitated by RAINN, will begin on March 23, 2021. During this initial level-setting training, the audience includes: national board, national division boards, affiliate boards, NFB training center students, NFB training center staff, NFB training center boards, NFB national office staff, 2021 Scholarship Committee, and the Survivor Task Force.
  • Our survivor-led taskforce has established three branches to accomplish the mission to ensure a safe, healthy environment throughout our movement. More details below.
  • Our three branches are holding open calls for survivors and allies to get involved in our efforts or to bring concerns. Please join and learn more about our initiatives.

Upcoming Events

The following are events of the safety and support initiatives:

Open Meetings for Task Force Branches:

Each of the three branches are holding open calls for members and non-members, survivors/allies alike. These calls will be for information sharing, feedback capturing, and figuring out how people in the community can get involved in our work. If you are unable to submit forms, please feel free to call our extension at 2238 or email us and we can get you the information for the upcoming meetings.

2021 Washington Seminar

During the 2021 Washington Seminar, February 8 through February 11, the NFB Survivor Task Force invites all survivors and allies to share feedback and ask questions at one of three calls we are hosting this week during. You do not need to schedule ahead of time but please know we hope to keep these meetings to fifteen minutes each. We will be using a waiting room to protect everyone’s privacy, so meetings will be only with one participant and members of the task force at a time. Don’t worry if you show up and are waiting in the waiting room for a while. We will be sure to meet with everyone who shows up.
 
We look forward to meeting with you on:

Tuesday, February 9: 12-2 p.m. EST

Join Zoom Meeting 
https://zoom.us/j/96579144668 
Meeting ID: 965 7914 4668 
One tap mobile: +13126266799,,96579144668# 

Wednesday, February 10: 9-11 p.m. EST

Join Zoom Meeting 
https://zoom.us/j/97853293786?pwd=anIrcFQ3NEJKT2k0YVhjN1VZVDVUdz09 

Meeting ID: 978 5329 3786 
Passcode: 247337 
One tap mobile 
+16468769923,,97853293786# 

Thursday, February 11: 4-6 p.m. EST

Join Zoom Meeting 
https://zoom.us/j/96182641257?pwd=bWFwSU9RUEN2M2EvbVVRaVg3cnYzZz09 

Meeting ID: 961 8264 1257 
Passcode: 346566 
One tap mobile 
+13017158592,,96182641257# 
 
We are committed to ensuring everyone has an opportunity to share with us. Spanish translation and close captioning will be available as needed. We look forward to meeting you and to hearing how we can continue to make our community a welcoming and safe organization for every blind person.

Branches

Our survivor-led taskforce has established the following branches to accomplish the mission to ensure a safe, healthy environment throughout our movement:

Training and Culture

Responsible for recommendations around the development, delivery, sustainability, and frequency of trainings for abuse and misconduct.  The branch’s work will focus on trainings for leaders and members alike. It is also responsible for driving the long-term organizational culture change throughout the movement. Co-chairs: Sarah Meyer and Kathryn Webster

Communications and Engagement

Responsible for recommending ways the blindness community may have constant involvement in the organization’s transformation. This branch is eager to engage members and non-members. We welcome survivors/victims, allies, or anyone who has perspectives on our task force mission. We strive to ensure communications and engagement are streamlined, empathetic, and trauma-informed. Co-chairs: Daphne Mitchell and Marci Carpenter

Procedures and Oversight

Responsible for recommending improvements to the Code of Conduct procedures and processes, including stakeholder involvement. This branch is also responsible for suggesting ways in which partner/neighboring organizations (including training centers and affiliates) can have organizational oversight through our newly adopted processes. Co-chairs: Cheryl Fields and Briley O’Connor

Introducing Our Survivor Task Force

As part of our efforts to implement a sustainable positive culture change, our entirely survivor-led task force, will serve as an intermediate advisory team to the National Federation of the Blind leaders, members, and third-party partners until a long-term solution is identified. In representing the voice of survivors, these task-force members will focus on addressing and preventing abuse and sexual misconduct within the Federation. Objectives include:

  • Collect feedback and information from survivors and allies;
  • Share resources/information and updates with the blindness community;
  • Brainstorm action plans and develop recommendations for leadership;
  • Recommend ways to provide ongoing support to survivors who have been harmed at Federation events or NFB-branded centers;
  • Contribute to creating a culture of accountability, transparency, and safety for everyone who attends Federation events or programs; and
  • Identify a long-term sustainable structure to focus on support and healing of survivors and prevention of future incidents across the Federation.

The initial areas of exploration and action include procedures and policies, training development and delivery, communication, oversight, and creating a meaningful organizational culture shift.

How can you contact us?

We currently have two methods of communication and will share updates via nfb.org/survivors. To share concerns, ask questions, or voice an interest in helping with our efforts, please email survivors@nfb.org or call 410-659-9314 extension 2238. Note that all task force members have access to these communication channels. The Survivor Task Force is not responsible for receiving and resolving grievances, but will be supportive and helpful as individuals navigate their experiences and healing. The Survivor Task Force stands with all survivors who have been harmed and are invested in this much-needed change.

Who Are We?

We are a group of six blind leaders and members of the Federation who are invested in positive change and justice for all survivors and victims, like ourselves. We represent a diverse array of backgrounds, including but not limited to, socioeconomic status, race, religion, sexual orientation, ability status, familial status, and leadership or membership roles within the Federation itself.

Marci Carpenter

Marci has been a proud member of the Federation since joining in 1981 as a student. Currently, she serves as president of the Washington affiliate. Marci is a cisgender white woman who is blind with hearing loss and other medical conditions. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the state school for the blind and has helped blind youth and adults gain self-advocacy skills. She lives life with intentionality and sincerity, and cares deeply about creating space for people to heal and grow.

Cheryl Fields

Cheryl is an African-American, cisgender woman from Cleveland, Ohio. She is an encourager who approaches life with enthusiasm and empathy. She loves laughing and playing games with her four grandchildren, reading, crafting (especially crocheting), and is currently editing her first novel. Cheryl is an affiliate board member and chair of the Ohio Community Service Committee. She is a thriving survivor of domestic violence and received peer support training through the Cleveland Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center. She currently facilitates a peer support group at Cleveland sight Center where she is also an executive committee member of the board of trustees.

Sarah Meyer

Sarah is a white, cisgender woman who derives strength from her Christian faith. She is a Federation member in our Indiana affiliate, lives with other mental and physical health conditions, and attended the Colorado Center for the Blind. As the lead call handler for a crisis and suicide hotline, she strives to lead with compassion, empathy, integrity, authenticity, inclusion, and wholeheartedness. Sarah is passionate about mental health wellness and recovery as a part of cultivating a culture of consent and strives to be an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, BIPOC, and others with marginalized identities. Experiencing sexual misconduct within the blindness community, and being familiar with the harm caused by not having had sound procedures to address this trauma, have compelled Sarah to participate in efforts to make the NFB a safer environment that allows blind people to live the lives they want.

Daphne Mitchell

Daphne manages vocational rehabilitation field services for the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. Ethical principles, equity, fidelity, integrity, and justice are the core values that guide Daphne’s personal and professional decisions. She serves on the Board of Directors for NFB of NM, secretary of the Louisiana Center for the Blind Board of Directors, and actively participates in and supports various efforts to advance marginalized and minority populations. Daphne is a Black, cisgender woman, and uses various meditation practices, journaling, and Christian faith in supporting her journey to healing.   

Briley O’Connor

Briley has professional experience in both the blindness rehabilitation and accessibility fields, and serves as the secretary of the Minnesota affiliate. In her personal and professional life, she strives to be a strong advocate for changing structures and systems that devalue and silence diverse voices. She is a white, cisgender member of the LGBTQIA+ community who works every day to actively listen to others, dismantle her own biases, use her privilege to elevate the voices of marginalized people, and teach her five-year-old son to do the same. She is particularly passionate about issues that impact blind children, women, and LGBTQIA+ people. Having been a part of the NFB for over fifteen years, she is honored to be a part of shifting the culture so all blind people feel safe, heard, and represented.

Kathryn Webster

Kathryn is a white, cisgender woman who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. She works at Deloitte Consulting implementing strategic transformation for federal agencies, notably rolling out improvements to the sexual assault/harassment process within the military space. Living with ADHD and losing her vision as a young adult have helped Kathryn to grow in adaptability, flexibility, and empathy. As the coordinator of Virginia’s employment readiness program for blind youth (ages fourteen to twenty-one), and treasurer of BLIND, Inc., she has a deep passion for optimizing the lived experiences of those around her as individuals reach their full potential. Kathryn prioritizes advocacy for others, leading with her heart, and living with purpose above all else. 

Additional Updates

We will provide additional updates and efforts as they are available. Below are more communications regarding this initiative: