Often, organizations, churches, or institutions find themselves thinking about their cultures, policies, and practices surrounding sexualized and spiritual violence because they have learned of violence in their own context. Many times, there is only a real investigation after initial attempts to address the violence have failed or done more harm. At this point, it’s time to bring in an outside firm to do an independent audit or investigation.
Of course, we at Into Account believe it is wise to bring in an outside firm to do a full audit of your culture, policies, and practices before you’ve been made aware of violence in your own context. Wherever you are in the process, our expertise can help you choose a survivor-centered firm.
There are two types of firms who do this work. There are firms specializing in seeking truth and justice for survivors. There are firms dedicated to ensuring organizations and institutions meet minimum legal requirements to avoid liability.
Here are some keys to telling the difference.
To whom is the firm advertising?
Take a look at to whom the firm’s website, brochures, and pitch is directed. Do they talk about assisting survivors? Or are they speaking to colleges, churches, institutions? If they don’t have any direct support directed to survivors, for example “How to File a Title IX Complaint,” they most likely fall into the “avoiding liability” category. If their primary advertising and pitch is aimed at colleges, churches, and institutions, you’ll need more information, such as what language they are using, to tell what kind of firm they are.
What language is the firm using?
Check out what kind of language the firm uses to describe their work and expertise. Do they talk about creating safer spaces? Finding justice? Bringing out the truth? This indicates a strong probability that the firm is survivor-focused. If they’re talking about compliance, liability, and legal standards, they are most likely a “liability” firm.
If it’s an investigation, does the firm require access to files and personnel?
If you’re looking for a firm to investigate how a report of violence was handled, it’s important that the firm makes a mandatory request for access. There is no reason, other than an investigation done only for appearances, to spend the time, money, and energy on an investigation that is only allowed limited access. You may have to ask the firm specifically about their access practices.
Are they the right firm for your context?
There are firms specializing in religious contexts, firms specializing in college contexts, firms specializing in business and organizational contexts, and firms specializing in all or some combination. Think through the specific components of your context. For example, if you’re looking to draw out the spiritual and ethical components, make sure to choose a firm with expertise in that area.
Will there be a full-length public report of findings?
Transparency is an essential component of justice and trust-building with constituents, survivors, and stakeholders. If the firm is planning not to release a report or agrees not to release a report, you’re looking at a firm in the “liability” category.
If you have further questions or specific situations that you’d like our help addressing, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com