Safety & Support

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

The latest updates provides action items, news, announcements, events, and more regarding the survivor support.

May 2021

  • President Riccobono shared an Open Letter on Safety and Support Progress on April 15.
  • Sarah Meyer gave a Survivor Task Force update at the May presidential release. Access her update directly.
  • The Survivors Task Force invites Federationists and members of the blind community to attend an additional open calls to review the the NFB Code of Conduct Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and to collect feedback on the Code of Conduct itself, on May 23 at 8:00 p.m. ET. Captions and Spanish language interpretation will be available for access. Aggregated concerns collected during the Code of Conduct feedback sessions will help inform the Code review, which is presently underway. Access the Zoom and agenda details.
  • Read a recent Voice of the Nation's Blind blog post from Robert Stigile, The People In My Life Don't Believe Me: How to Proceed After Sexual Abuse .

    Climate Assessment Survey

    RAINN, the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, is partnering with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) to gather feedback from the blind community, including NFB members and nonmembers, in a climate assessment survey to help inform recommendations for further sexual misconduct prevention and response programming. This effort will assist in determining additional and continuous training, which will ultimately provide consistency across the organization. This is a baseline measurement to target our future efforts and will continue to be assessed as a component of our accountability measures.

    Survey via Web

    Participate in the assessment survey either via the web or by phone. It will take approximately thirty minutes. For the web*, please use the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/rainn-nfb2021

    *Web survey note: if completing the survey with a screen reader, a helpful tip when currently navigating pages in SurveyMonkey is to press Control+Home before answering the next set of questions.

    Survey via Phone

    The survey may also be completed over the phone by calling 229-632-7878 or toll free 833-632-7878. Please note that the phone number above provides the survey in an automated system and will require the survey to be complete at one time. There is an option to pause the survey for five minutes at a time. Push # for help.

    Upcoming Events

    There are several events for the safety and support initiatives. The events include reoccurring meetings with the Survivor Task Force branches, public speaking engagement events, upcoming publications, and more. If you are unable to submit forms, please feel free to call our extension at 2238 or email us at [email protected] and we can get you the information for the upcoming meetings. If you are interested in requesting the Survivor Task Force speak at an upcoming affiliate, division, committee, or group meeting, please submit the Safety & Support Online Speaking Engagement Request Form.

    Review upcoming safety & support events.

    Branches

    Our survivor-led task force has established the following branches to accomplish the mission to ensure a safe, healthy environment throughout our movement. Along with descriptions and co-chairs, each branch host open meetings 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 the safety and support initiatives. Volunteer in one or more of the branches by submitting the Safety & Support Volunteer Registration Form.

    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

    Training and Culture Meetings

    Registration for Training and Culture Meetings

    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

    Communications and Engagement Meetings

    Registration for Communications and Engagement Meetings

    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

    Procedures and Oversight Meetings

    Registration for Procedures and Oversight Meetings

    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:

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

    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 [email protected] 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

    White woman with blonde and silver shoulder length hair. She is wearing a brightly colored, vertically striped blouse.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

    African American woman with long salt and pepper locs. She is wearing a traditional Kente cloth dress. The colors featured in the cloth are yellow, blue, orange, and black.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

    A white woman in her early 30’s with a beautiful smile. She has slightly wavy long red hair. She is wearing a dark blue jacket over a blouse.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

    Black woman who is wearing a black blazer with a blue, white, black, and green patterned blouse. She has shoulder length black and auburn hair that is styled in an asymmetrical bob with curly bangs.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

    A white woman with shoulder length blond hair smiles. She is wearing a blue with light pink and white flowers, sleevelesstop.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

    White woman with long blonde hair. She is standing in front of a fountain, and wearing long silver dangling earrings, a black tank, and a white denim jacket.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:

  • When Survivors Lead: Introducing the Survivor Task Force, Braille Monitor, February 2021
  • January 4, 2021: Partnership with RAINN
  • January 4, 2021: January Presidential Release
  • December 16, 2020: Open Letter of Apology