Cara Cordoni’s statement

Link to original FB post

“When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?”

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

When I was struggling with the upcoming publication of the joint statement, my fellow 3SC team member, Dave Booda, shared his perspective of being both proud and disappointed. Which reminded me that two or more seemingly contradictory things can be true at the same time: ISTA has made important changes and the changes are not enough.

I am proud of the work we have done and I am disappointed in what was accomplished.

I am both a survivor and an activist, and within myself, and as part of the 3SC team, I have taken a stand for principled struggle, and for transformative justice. If calling out were effective, if cancelling or the media coverage alone were shown to change organizations and reduce harm then we wouldn’t have tried this grueling experiment. But they have not been overall successful in stopping or reducing harm.

As a cult hopper, I have tended to a black/white bias, to idealism and zealotry. Cult/anticult. And I have seen how each side, either side I choose mirrors the other. Naomi Klein’s book Doppelgänger was so helpful for me in sorting through this mirroring. I want the simplicity of all or nothing, I really do, and I also recognize that choosing that simplicity does not create the change or outcomes that I desire. It’s harder than that.

So I chose to try mediation, as part of principled struggle, as an uncertain experiment. To sit face to face and endure the discomfort, the rage, the fear and the lack of trust in order to build a bridge of understanding, to educate and advocate, and see if change was possible.

I was changed by my own commitment to keep showing up when I was hopeless, when I was out of tears and patience. I was changed by the mediator and his insights into conflict and culture change. I was changed by my peers, focused and clear, and who remained kind and supportive even as I succumbed to another wave of intense emotional dysregulation. And I was changed by the ISTA team who showed up and struggled with our concerns, over and over.

I struggled with the speed with which communication happened, and change. I thought mediation would be 3 months; it was closer to 11. The urgency of my nervous system made waiting torture, and my fear of meaninglessness drained me.

Then I struggled with celebrating the changes ISTA was implementing. Not enough. Not good enough. And then I saw and recognized that if I didn’t celebrate what was happening, I would be getting in the way of the momentum of change. If I only criticized, I would deplete the energy to continue on a massive culture shift that reduced harm going forward. Like someone who must run a marathon, how will they make it if from the very first moment, those around are yelling, “You’re not there yet!” and on and on with every hard-earned step?

A week ago I struggled with the devastating to me confirmation that ISTA has not taken a stand against teacher/student sexual interactions. I wanted to throw the baby out with the bath water, to rage and wail. How could they still not understand it’s not consent when there’s a power differential? If they don’t understand that, has anything been accomplished? What to do except share the reality of what has changed and what has not.

As of Friday I have been struggling with the perception from fellow activists that I have betrayed them and fellow survivors; that I have been influenced, and brainwashed by ISTA. And I get it. After not going through the process and the lack of communication, I can imagine reading the joint statement and recoiling and feeling betrayed. I am very sorry for that.

I knew that avoiding the polarization I so desperately desired, to say ‘all bad!’ especially from the most wounded part of myself, would inevitably lead to misunderstanding, misinterpretation, judgement and rejection. Taking a stand does, especially when there is nuance and complexity. Still here I stand in the messy, vulnerable reality of action and imperfection.

We did our best to advocate for the changes in The Open Letter to ISTA and Highden, to work through defensiveness and denial so that we could have some faith that reports would be handled with integrity.

My hope, now, is that those harmed by ISTA will engage in transformative justice by submitting reports to ISTA or through Safe Mediation. For the process to continue, for there to be transformative justice, those who were harmed need to be heard and repair, if possible, needs to take place. For that to happen, ISTA needs direct contact by those harmed, those who are resourced and courageous enough to take action. While reports have been submitted, I know there are voices ISTA has not heard from yet.

Whatever your opinion is of me or 3SC, or how we have engaged, or communicated, I encourage you to take action to advocate for the recognition and repair that you deserve.

If you have capacity, please use your voice.