We reserve the right to make changes to these policies at any time without prior notice. We reserve the right to refuse access to our events, services, and resources to any individual for any reason.

Identity

RVA Rope is a collective of rope bondage art enthusiasts in and around Richmond, Virginia who are eager to share their knowledge and passion and to build a community of like-minded practitioners.

We are managed by a Board of participants who volunteer their time and talents to organize and create resources and activities for the local community.

RVA Rope also seeks to foster a strong volunteer and service culture for the engagement and development of community participants and the community as a whole.


Mission and Vision

Our goal is to provide opportunities and resources that promote the responsible, consensual, risk-informed enjoyment of rope bondage and rope bondage art in all of its many forms and styles for all participants in the region. We are open and welcoming to all and do not discriminate based on experience level, style of rope, body type, race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other means.


Commitment to the Community

Provide Social, Skill-Share Opportunities

We will host regular events that provide opportunities for those interested in rope bondage to meet socially and/or to practice rope bondage and share related information, tips, and skills.

Provide Educational Opportunities

  • We will provide curated educational opportunities from local and visiting presenters through regular meetings and special events.
  • We will provide progressive rope curriculum courses and special-interest workshops through Rope Study.
  • We will provide community-focused education opportunities when possible, including workshops on negotiation and consent as well as effective Dungeon Monitor (DM) strategies for rope.

Be Welcoming to Volunteer Involvement

  • Board Members volunteer their time and talents for the benefit of the group without promise of reward, whether monetary or otherwise.
  • All community participants in good standing are welcomed and encouraged to volunteer, and we will provide multiple opportunities through which to do so.

Be Transparent in Our Operations

  • We will publish clear operational and response policies and guidelines (this document).
  • We will disclose all relevant finances while maintaining personal confidentiality.
  • We will regularly engage the community for feedback and do our best to respond to that feedback openly and honestly.

Optimize Cost of Services

We will always endeavor to provide opportunities with the priority of serving the community over generating profit.

Make Available a Variety of Reporting Systems

We will provide anonymous contact options and all submissions will be immediately available to all Board members.

Maintain Confidentiality where Appropriate

We will not disclose the identity of anyone who contacts us with a concern without the express, written permission of the individual(s) making the report. (We recognize that this limitation may close some avenues for resolving an incident, but we choose to value desired confidentiality above other concerns.)

We make no promise of services or obligations beyond those explicitly stated in this document.

Ethics

RVA Rope strives to follow the “Core Values” listed here. We use these values as a guide in our decision-making process.


Financial Policy

We will always seek to provide services and opportunities that are as affordable as possible.

We host many free events and provide a number of free services to group participants and to the larger community, and we will continue to do so as long as venue availability and community volunteers allow us to do so.

However, we also recognize that some of our events entail costs. Where possible, we will make the sharing of those costs voluntary through a donation basis.

Some events–in particular, guest presenters and weekend workshops or intensives–carry substantial costs that cannot rely on voluntary donations. In those instances, we will charge an amount that sufficiently covers all expenses related to holding the event.

Educational classes and workshops offered through Rope Study attempt to balance affordability on the one hand with fair compensation for time and skills of the instructors on the other hand. In those cases, discounted rates for college students and those with financial challenges will be made available.


Consent Policy

In order to protect the security and identity of this group and its participants, we will follow the guidelines below in the event of any reported consent incident or related issue.

What Constitutes Consent

We follow the NCSF guidelines on defining consent. Specifically:

Consent is an informed, voluntary agreement by two or more people to engage in a particular BDSM activity. An agreement to enter into a BDSM, D/s or M/s relationship may also constitute consent to specified BDSM activities unless that consent is withdrawn at the time of engaging in such activity.

Consent as an Ethical Principle

BDSM activities are based on the ethical principle that what we do is done by informed agreement amongst all of the participants, which means all the participants communicate what they agree to do and not to do, as well as the nature of the relationship that they agree to enter.

Consent is agreement in advance to something that hasn’t happened yet. It is impossible to eliminate the risk that the activity or relationship may turn out differently than everyone involved anticipated. Though it may not be possible to entirely avoid the risks of BDSM, that doesn’t alter either the ethical or legal responsibility to ensure that BDSM activities and relationships are consensual.

Consent as a Legal Principle

The legal issue arises when someone is harmed or injured by a BDSM act, and the person who committed that act denies criminal liability on the ground that the other person gave prior consent to the act in question.

The extent to which such consent—even if clearly given—is a defense to criminal prosecution, has been greatly limited by U.S. courts. The courts have found that minor harm, such as redness from dripping hot wax or the pain of nipple clamps, is enough to be “serious bodily injury.” However, the Model Penal Code, which has been adopted in some form by many states, defines serious bodily injury as harm “which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”

Consent Defined

  • Consent is choice. The people giving consent to engage in a BDSM scene or enter into a power exchange relationship must do so voluntarily, without being subjected to threats, fraud, coercion or deceit.
  • Consent is informed. Everyone involved must know enough so that the consent is given on an informed basis to the BDSM activities that are planned or to the power exchange relationship.
  • Consent is given by an adult with a sound mind. BDSM takes place among consenting adults. A person must have sufficient mental capacity to give consent, and each person has a legal obligation to make sure that this is the case with all of their partners. In order to consent you must be in a clearheaded state of mind, not impaired by alcohol, prescription medicine or recreational drugs.
  • Consent is given within limits. Consent is not a blank check. Consent must be clear as to what BDSM activities and/or what type of power exchange relationship is being agreed to.
  • Consent is revocable. Anyone can revoke consent to anything at any time during the activity. If a pre-negotiated and agreed upon safe word or safe sign—or any other pre-negotiated expression of a withdrawal of consent—is ignored, consent has been violated.
  • Consent is communication. It is ethically and legally important in any scene that there should be a mutually understood means of communication between the participants, whether it’s plain speech, safe word or safe sign.
  • Consent is not a defense for causing serious injury. When “serious bodily injury” occurs during a scene, it is possible that criminal prosecution for assault will take place even when consent was clearly and validly given for the BDSM activity that caused the injury. Refer to ”Consent as a legal principle” above.

Consent Guidelines

These are the specific guidelines we will seek to enforce at our events (again, based on the NCSF guidelines).

  • Never touch people or personal property without explicit permission.
  • Approach everyone as an equal; only engage in verbal role-play if you have express permission. For example, don’t address someone as “Mistress” or “slave” or by any other role-play word unless you’ve asked permission.
  • Negotiate the scope of your scene prior to play. Before the scene begins, it must be clear to everyone participating in the scene that the bottom has given consent to all proposed acts.
  • Each participant is responsible for ensuring that everyone involved has the mental and emotional ability to give informed and voluntary consent during their negotiation for the scene.
  • Participants can withdraw consent, make a nonverbal safesign, or use the universal safeword “Red” at any time. Once consent is withdrawn, the activity must stop immediately. Dungeon Monitors will be enforcing immediate cessation of play at “Red” or another safeword that has been previously shared with the event’s Monitors. Partners are responsible for sharing which safewords or safesigns are being used.
  • The top is legally responsible for stopping the activities at any suggestion that the bottom has withdrawn consent. The bottom is ethically responsible for being clear and unequivocal when withdrawing consent. It is this balance and counterbalance that will allow us to create a culture of consent.
  • Depending on all participants’ state of mind, we advise against re-negotiating at any point during a scene. When a person is in subspace or otherwise not in a clear state of mind, informed consent can be compromised. Such renegotiation takes place at risk of a consent incident.
  • Harassment or bullying of any kind is not permitted.
  • If you believe a consent incident has occurred:
    • At an event: Verbally tell a play monitor or clearly marked delegate of the event organizer as soon as you feel comfortable doing so. Swift action can be taken at the behest of the reporter. Violation of the consent policy may result in immediate expulsion from the event. No one is exempt from the rules. Depending on the situation, we may request a written follow-up report.
    • Outside of one of our events: Please contact us (rvarope.com/contact) with pertinent information. We will confirm we received your email (if possible–see anonymous reporting below). We may have follow up questions for you in order to determine your and our community’s safety and to determine our best course of action.
    • There is no time limit on how long you can wait to reach out to RVA Rope leadership. (However, the sooner you make a report, the more likely that we will be able to gather relevant, helpful information to aid us in determining what action to take.)
    • It is our intention to take every claim seriously and respond in a timely manner. We will make a decision on our course of action based on the information we receive, up to and including expulsion from the group. We commit to interfacing with all involved parties regarding the appropriate response.

Prevention through Education

Our primary goal is to prevent any consent-related concerns so that everyone can participate in our events and educational opportunities freely and without worry. To that end, we provide a number of educational opportunities.

  • Online Resources in Rope 101: Our Rope 101 course contains information about navigating the community and the concepts of negotiation and consent. All participants are encouraged to review these sections carefully.
  • In-Person Workshop: We regularly offer in-person workshops on negotiation and consent and encourage community participants to attend.
  • Contact and Support: Board Members are available for contact or consultation about negotiation or consent-related questions or concerns. We also provide an anonymous contact form on our website (rvarope.com/contact) for those who wish to report concerns anonymously.

Response to Reports of Consent Incidents

Given the serious consequences for everyone involved in a consent incident, we do take all accusations seriously. We will do our best to determine “what happened” and to establish the facts to the best of our ability.

However, we are not a court of law, nor do we pretend to be. We will not attempt to determine blame or guilt. We will use the information we are able to acquire to make a decision that attempts to balance the needs and concerns of the group and larger community with the needs and concerns of the individuals involved.

We recognize that we may be required to make decisions on impartial or inaccurate information.

In cases of a reported consent incident where the facts are uncertain, we will always act in the interest of the alleged victim and in the interest of protecting the group and its participants, and by extension, the greater community.

While we will always address concerns on a case-by-case basis, we have also developed these guidelines to ensure that we address all concerns as fairly and equitably as possible.

Legal Proceedings Pending

In the event that we are informed any participant has legal proceedings pending against them that relate to any of these concerns (for example: this would not apply to legal proceedings for a financial issue, but would for allegations of sexual assault), that participant will be placed on a temporary suspension status until the legal proceedings are finalized. Our response at that time will depend on the legal findings of that proceeding.

Immediate Response to Consent Incident Report: Temporary Suspension Status

In the event of any consent incident reported to us, the accused will be placed on a temporary suspension status as we attempt to gather information and until we are able to confer as a Board and make a decision. While on temporary suspension, the accused may not serve in any official capacity for RVA Rope and may not attend any RVA Rope events or offerings. This entire process may happen within a few minutes or hours of an incident reported at one of our events, but may take a few days or longer to resolve.

This status in no way implies the guilt or innocence of the accused.

The purpose of this policy is to try to prevent the possibility of further harm occurring at our events while we attempt to ascertain what happened and make decisions about how to respond.

If we cannot find sufficient information to make a decision, or if the information we find causes us to decide note to take action, the accused will be immediately reinstated at no penalty.

Incident Reported at an RVA Rope Event

If an incident should occur at one of our events, we will do the following:

  • Provide any immediate services needed:
    • Address any medical injury immediately.
    • Provide opportunity and support if any individual wants to make a formal complaint to the police.
  • Attempt to determine “what happened” (as distinct from blame):
    • If no medical or police intervention is required, two staff members will offer to speak with the person reporting the consent incident, as well as to anyone directly involved and any witnesses to what happened (including the accused).
    • We will record names (at minimum, scene names) and contact info (at minimum, social media contact options) for everyone involved.
    • We will record the information reported to us for future reference.
  • Ask what the person(s) reporting the incident prefers: We will always attempt to respect the wishes of the person reporting the incident in relation to how we proceed and our final decision about the situation.
  • Offer group remediation: We will only pursue this at the request of the person reporting the incident and when the accused seems genuinely eager and sincere in apologizing and rectifying the situation.
  • Offer to act as a liaison: We will also offer to act as a liaison between the parties if all parties want this remediation but do not want to meet in person.
  • Confer as a Board and make a decision: After we have gathered as much information as we are reasonably able to, the Board will confer as a group and make a decision about how best to respond within a reasonable amount of time. Please note that any parties who have had a consent incident reported against them will remain on temporary suspension status until the Board is able to make a decision.

Incident Reported at a Later Date or Another Event

If an incident is reported that happened at one of our past events or somewhere other than at one of our events, we will do the following:

  • Invite discussion to determine “what happened” (as distinct from blame):
    • Two Board members will offer to speak with the person reporting the consent incident, as well as to anyone directly involved and any witnesses to what happened (including the accused).
    • We will record names (at minimum, scene names) and contact info (at minimum, social media contact options) for everyone involved.
    • We will record the information reported to us for future reference.
  • Consider reports from other groups: We will also consider the report(s) provided to us from other groups, with particular weight given to the report from any group responsible for an event at which the incident occurred.
  • Ask what the person(s) reporting the incident prefers: We will always attempt to respect the wishes of the person reporting the incident in relation to how we proceed and our final decision about the situation; if another group provides this information, we will attempt to confirm with the individuals involved, but will use information from the group in our decision-making if we are unable to confirm individually.
  • Offer group remediation: We will only pursue this at the request of the person reporting the incident and when the accused seems genuinely eager and sincere in apologizing and rectifying the situation.
  • Offer to act as a liaison: We will also offer to act as a liaison between the parties if all parties want this remediation but do not want to meet in person.
  • Confer as a Board and make a decision: After we have gathered as much information as we are reasonably able to, the Board will confer as a group and make a decision about how best to respond within a reasonable amount of time. Please note that any parties who have had a consent incident reported against them will remain on temporary suspension status until the Board is able to make a decision.

Factors in Determining a Decision

  • Wishes of the Person Reporting the Incident: We will consider the wishes of the person reporting the incident in our process and final decision-making.
  • Seriousness of the Incident/Accusation: Clear indicators of a more serious incident include (but are not limited to) whether or not medical treatment was required and whether or not the incident includes accusation of rape or sexual assault.
  • Intent: Incidents that contain clear indicators of deliberate violation or accusations of coercion, manipulation, or malice are deemed more egregious than incidents that result from accidents, misunderstanding, miscommunication, or a lack of skills.
  • Multiple Accusations: Incidents that contain accusations from multiple sources are far less likely to be the result of false accusation (studies find the number of false accusations in these cases to be less than half of 1%). In addition, someone with previous accusations of consent violations cause greater concern.
  • Police Reports / Restraining Orders: These will always be considered serious indicators and will be respected. (There are serious consequences for filing a false police report, and restraining orders are decided by a judge and require evidence.)
  • Response and/or Confession: The way the individual responds to a consent incident tells us a great deal about their ethics and whether or not we would want to continue to have them as participants at our events, regardless of guilt or innocence. In addition, an individual who admits to the accusations in a consent incident and offers a genuine confessions can be a good example for the community and can help everyone involved in the incident to begin the process of reparations.

In the Event of False Reporting

While we realize unscrupulous participants may take advantage of these policies resulting in false accusations, we would rather people take advantage of our policies than our other community participants. In addition, we rely on findings that suggest the rate of false accusations of rape are between 2% and 10%, and that false conviction appears to be exceedingly rare.

In the event that it does become clear to the Board that someone has issued an intentionally false or misleading consent incident report, our response will follow the same guidelines as those applied to the accused in the “Decisions and Consequences” section below.

Decisions and Consequences

Every consent incident is unique, and our goal is to cater our response to the specific needs and concerns of each incident. However, in order to also be fair and consistent in our responses, we have outline the following broad guidelines.

It is not our intention to determine or assign guilt, nor do we believe we are adequately equipped to do so. Our primary goal is the physical and emotional safety of our participants and our community.

Access to our events, services, and educational resources is a privilege, not a right, and we reserve the right to refuse access to our events, services, and resources to any individual for any reason.

After we have determined the facts to the best of our ability, and assuming we find sufficient reason for concern, we will decide which of the following actions should be taken. Please note that these actions or lack thereof are not statements of guilt or innocence and should not be interpreted as such.

Also note that this is not a list of escalations. We can and may elect to issue any of these for any given incident.

  • Temporary Suspension Status
    • This is the status we will immediately assign to anyone with a consent incident reported against them.
    • This status does not indicate guilt. It is merely a recognition that there is a concern, and it is only issued in an effort to best protect participants at our events until an the Board can make an actual decision.
    • We will notify the accused that they have been placed on this status.
    • To be removed from this status, the accused will either be immediately reinstated to full participation or will be issued a warning, placed on probation and remediation, issued a temporary ban, or issued a permanent ban.
    • This status will not be recorded for future reference, and there are no future consequences once a person is removed from this status.
  • Warning
    • Requires support by a simple majority of the Board.
    • The accused person will be issued a warning about their behavior.
    • The decision will be recorded for future reference, as multiple incidents that result in a warning will likely result in probation or even a temporary or permanent ban.
    • The person will be offered in-person education about negotiation and consent that is provided or approved by the Board.
    • The person may be placed on a watch list for DMs.
  • Probation & Remediation
    • Requires support by a simple majority of the Board.
    • The accused person will not present, DM, or otherwise serve or volunteer for the group in any capacity that puts them in a position of power for the duration of the probationary period.
    • The decision will be recorded for future reference, as multiple incidents that result in probation and remediation will likely result in a temporary or permanent ban.
    • The person will be required to attend in-person education about negotiation and consent that is provided or approved by the Board before being allowed to attend any future events or services.
    • The person will be placed on a watch list for DMs, and a DM will be asked to oversee all negotiations at group events while the person is on probation.
  • Temporary Ban
    • Requires a 2/3 vote of support by the Board.
    • The person will be barred from attending any group-related events or making use of any group-related services for the duration of the ban.
    • The decision will be recorded for future reference, as multiple incidents that result in a temporary ban will likely result in a permanent ban.
    • Before returning to the group, the person will be required to attend in-person education about negotiation and consent that is provided or approved by the Board.
    • After returning to the group, the person will be placed on probation for a period of time commensurate with the initial ban.
  • Permanent Ban
    • Requires unanimous support by the Board.
    • The person will be barred from attending any group-related events or making use of any group-related services indefinitely.
    • The decision will be recorded for future reference.
    • Under extenuating circumstances, it might be possible that the person may someday be allowed to return. This would require a unanimous decision by the Board, and the person would return under a status of Probation & Remediation for a minimum of 6 months. Other requirements may be applied at the Board’s discretion.

Refusal to abide by the decision of the Board will result in the individual being banned until and unless they agree to abide by the requirements.

Communicating the Decision

If we decide to take action against an individual, we will:

  • Contact that person(s) directly through whichever means are available to us to inform them of the decision;
  • Contact the person(s) who reported the incident through whichever means are available to us to inform them of our decision;
  • Contact other local and/or relevant group leaders about our decision in the case of Probation & Remediation, Temporary Ban, or Permanent Ban;
  • If asked about the standing of a specific individual, we will accurately report their standing;

In all cases, we will not:

  • publicly post about our decision;
  • provide an explanation of our decision beyond the fact of our decision;
  • provide any personally identifiable information about the origin of any reports that resulted in our decision;

Please note that other groups or venues may be involved in an incident, and those groups or venues may have and follow different policies.

Anonymous Reporting

We provide an anonymous contact form on our website (rvarope.com/contact) for those who wish to report concerns anonymously. As noted on the site, we will not be able to respond to anonymous contacts, though we may attempt to do so by posting general responses online (provided those responses protect any relevant personal confidentiality). In addition, while all anonymous reports will be taken seriously, we may not be able to act upon some reports if those reports lack any actionable specifics.

Confidentiality

We will not disclose the identity of anyone who reports a consent incident or related concern without the express, written permission of that person to do so. (Any Board Member who intentionally violates this confidentiality will be immediately and permanently removed from the Board and banned from the group.)

Non-Exempt Status of the Board

Neither the Board nor its individual members are exempt from any aspect of the consent policies detailed here, and the same procedures will be followed in the event of a reported consent incident involving a member of the Board.

Explanation Behind Our Policy

Our policies exist in an effort to prevent incidents from happening at our events or from negatively affecting group and/or event participants.

While our first concern is to ensure the safety of participants and to foster a healthy and sustainable community, we must also consider the legal implications for those who work in service to this group, including its Board Members, volunteers, and DMs.

Specific justifications for these concerns include:

  • In the case of criminal complaints:
    • Witnesses can be subpoenaed in criminal trials. This would effectively “out” those individuals.
    • Board members, DMs, and other staff members may be interviewed by detectives as part of an investigation and subsequently called to testify in court.
      Venues could deny access to a group because of liability or insurance concerns due to criminal complaints.
  • In the case of civil complaints
    • Board members, DMs, organizers, venues, and other staff members could be sued in association with a consent violation that resulted in physical injury or property damage.
    • Board members, DMs, organizers, venues, and other staff members may not be covered by General Liability (CGL) policies or Directors & Officers (D&O) liability insurance if they were aware of an accusation and allowed that person to remain a member.
    • The Volunteer Protection Act does not protect a volunteer from liability for harm “caused by willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or a conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the individual harmed by the volunteer.” The act does not prohibit lawsuits against volunteers nor does it provide any protection for nonprofits.
    • If a group is aware that a Board Member, DM, or staff member (even volunteer staff members) has violated someone’s consent and that person is allowed to remain in a position of authority, then the group and the Board may be held civilly liable if that person injures someone whom they meet through that group.

 

Disclaimer: Every reasonable effort will be made to enforce these policies, but this organization makes no representations or guarantee about its ability to do so, and all participants/attendees retain full, sole responsibility for their safety and the safety of others with whom they interact.
Last Updated: February 2, 2018 @ 10:37 am

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