As professionals and advocates in the addiction prevention, treatment, recovery and harm reduction space(s) we must talk about the emergence of abuse and apathy, and a society that capitalizes on white male privilege, and the exploitation and silencing of the marginalized and vulnerable. This may be experienced by some as an inflammatory or even political statement: it is not intended to be. I simply believe that in order to make any real progress we must challenge the status quo by courageously identifying and dismantling the institutional sexism and racism that fosters the very culture that enables and in some cases encourages bad actors and their behavior. Only with honest dialogue and self-reflection can we grow as individuals, leaders, organizations and a field. Will you remain stagnant and silent due to apathy, convenience or fear of others' perceptions? Or, are you willing to do the work? I am.
Please reflect on the following 5 questions:
1) Do I and/or my organization take a proactive stance against racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other forms of hateful rhetoric, abuse, and/or discrimination?
2) Do I and/or my organization embody a culture that believes victims, and empowers, encourages and supports victims?
3) Do I and/or my organization challenge comments that blame the victim(s) and do we let people know that victim shaming is inappropriate and offensive?
4) Do I and/or my organization hold people and organizations accountable when we see abuse (physical, sexual or emotional/psychological) via narcissism, sexism or racism?
5) Do I and/or my organization stand up against perpetrators, or co-sign their behavior by keeping quiet to avoid liability and/or “embarrassment”?
If your answer was no, to one, or all, of the aforementioned questions, then please ask yourself the most urgent question: "What can I do?"
As leaders, individuals and organizations, in the prevention, treatment, recovery and harm reduction space(s) we must be held to only the highest of standards. We must also take responsibility for being our brother's and sister’s keeper, by using our voices and our actions to hold ourselves, others and organizations accountable. Even when this means standing against one of "our own." As a field, we can no longer minimize or turn a blind eye.
This is not a call for perfection, nor am I attempting to tout my perfection. I am wildly imperfect. But it is a commitment to be and do better, and a plea for our community to be and do better. I will strive to have the humility and courage to self-examine and correct when necessary. I will strive to always speak truth to power. I will strive to have the integrity and fortitude to lead an organization that always puts its mission and the people it serves first. Please feel free to hold me accountable to this.
Mariel S. Hufnagel
Executive Director – The Ammon Foundation