A Statement From The Microcosm Collective

January 03, 2013 — by Microcosm

Microcosm has been part of a community for over over fifteen years and as a result, trust is important to us. We have been accused of ignoring and denying relationship abuse and we wanted to take a moment to respond. 

It is important, especially at times like these, to honor the experiences of everyone. The way two people experience the same events can be very different for each of them, due to their prior life experiences, what traumatizes them, what triggers them emotionally, their experience, background, and privilege in our culture. As a result, it is very important to see even two seemingly-conflicting accounts as both valid, because often the nuances are what strikes the greatest impact to one person while another person in their shoes might not even notice.

It is understandable that this many-years-old issue is often confusing to the public and we have faced extreme staff burnout as a result of attempting to deal with it. We have been called "abuse apologists" and much worse by strangers in a cycle of abuse that does not seem to have a way for the community to heal, so we wanted to offer this update about how the Microcosm staff has responded to this important community issue. 

In 2010, each staff person at Microcosm wrote a personal statement, as requested, that they believe in the legitimacy of abuse and that the survivor did experience what she describes. The collective was then asked to write a group statement, which we also did. The collective was then asked to post an updated statement on our own website, which we did. Jessie Duke became co-owner of Microcosm in in 2011 and was the sole member of the managing collective for the following year, also related to the extreme burnout of the entire staff. Elaborate conflict resolution policies were drafted for internal problems and more egalitarian measures were established for accountability of all staff members and their expected performance.
Joe took a leave of absence from the collective from June of 2010 til August of 2012. In his absence, the remaining staff made many decisions that felt long overdue. We have performed cross-trainings for staff to understand each other's jobs, our finances, our workload, to distribute power more equally, and to make better informed decisions. Both Joe and the collective attempted to enact further accountability processes through 2010 and 2011 but were not successful at locating someone locally who was able and willing to do so. 

While we did, admittedly promise to offer more updates in June of 2011, we were so inundated with negativity and abusive language that morale, for what we had thought would be a healing gesture of restorative justice, just collapsed. 

In August of 2012, Microcosm was split into two different, autonomous organizations along Publishing and Distribution lines, to attempt to help eradicate the effects of this longterm burnout and create more simplified local communication. Joe's current partner, since 2009, continues to describe their relationship as mutual and healthy. ("I spend a lot of time with Joe, I'd trust him with my life, I'm nobody's fool, and I don't observe anything like what's stated here in any part of his life.")

We felt that we have done what was asked of us and responded to accountability in a responsible way. If you have questions, feel free get in touch.


These are the demands made of Joe and his responses of how he feels he has resolved them:


1) Seek professional counseling (with someone who is not your friend) to deal with your past family issues as well as issues of control, abuse, and manipulation.

(I attended 3 1/2 years of therapy, most of which with Ruth Gibian in Portland, an expressedly feminist social worker to focus on issues of my family history, control, abuse, and manipulation. The first 3 months with her were intensive therapy of four hours per week with ten hours of homework and reading. She determined we were completed working on these issues in May of 2011.)


2) Publicly acknowledge that you have issues of abusing power through manipulation.

(I made a public statement about this in June of 2009)


3) Do not involve anyone you are dating with your work.

(When Alex wrote me this letter in 2007 I was working with my partner at the time, but since then I have not worked with anyone I am romanticly involved with)


4) Show me demonstrable changes in your behavior

(The most demonstrable change can be shown through my current relationship of more than five years where my partner has publicly spoken out about how she feels our relationship is healthy and how she is not being abused.)


5) Do not call me, speak to me in public, or send letters to my house (use my po box or speak to the mediators [she is referring to the people who have since been referred to as an "accountability process"] but don't ever send me a personal letter again.

(I have not contacted her in any way since this letter)


6) Do not come within five blocks of my house (not including the Credit Union since I know you have to go there)

(I have honored this)


7) Do not go to Beaterville Cafe

(Initially, I found this tied to my own healing but have since agreed and stopped going there..but I heard they have since gone out of business.)


8) Do not go to Amnesia Brewing

(I never went there after we broke up)


9) Do not go to Pause

(I don't know what/where that is and thus don't go there)


10) Do not go to the IPRC

(I stopped going there)


11) Do not go to any zine reading I am performing at or any shows played by [my partner's] bands.

(I have not attended any of them)


12) Stop engaging in "psychological warfare" like writing "I forgave my mother" on my royalty statement or leaving images of your tattoo where I would run into them near my workshop at the Symposium

(I definitely did not do the latter and I was nowhere near the property at the time and the former was not intended to come across this way, though I can see how it did. At that time, Alex and I were still communicating and she was closer to me than many people and was one of the only people in my life who had met my mother. So it seemed like an appropriate person I could tell. In hindsight, the way I intended it and the way she received it couldn't have been more different. And I recognize that was traumatic for her and have gone out of my way to make sure that more things along those lines do not happen.)


13) Do not ever mention my family ever again. That upset me the most about your letter.

(Haven't mentioned them again)


14) Remove Stolen Sharpie Revolution from GoogleBooks

(Microcosm/I had nothing to do with them using the book in the first place and did not give them permission (at this time they had they had scanned the contents of several libraries and were on the receiving end of several class action lawsuits already). I contacted them as soon as I got her letter and it was removed within a week.)


15) Quit using my artwork on the website side bar.

(She was already aware that we had spent the last few years working towards this redesign jump and we did remove it within a few months. It had taken several years for the programmer to overhaul the way the site worked and was already in the works and very stressful for everyone. Ugh.) 


16) Disclose any contract or any agreement you have with the publisher of the Alternative Media Handbook to my attorney.

(I had nothing to do with this, had no contract or agreement with them but I did forward the few emails they had sent to me where they had included messages from Alex giving them permission to use whatever they wanted in the book.)


17) Pay me the $800 owed for my medical stipend. 

(Microcosm began paying medical stipends in January of 2007 after Alex had quit in October of 2006. The collective (at the time) decided that it could not be afforded until the current production load was paid for, since that was so expensive. A number of different former staffers have explained this to her.)


18) Pay Brian for his sticker layout work.

(Brian had paid his rent money to Alex instead of to me in February 2007, when it was actually owed to me. After we talked about this and he explained this to me, I paid myself out of the contract work that he was owed for. I sent him the documents showing that he still owed the money to me. He accepted that and moved on.)

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