Policy: Respectful Relationships and Conflict Resolution

Apr 25, 2024

WWOOFing is often a meeting between individuals of different cultures, ages and social backgrounds. Misunderstandings happen and we are all growing. Sharing daily life with strangers requires extra care regarding communication and setting appropriate boundaries with one another from the start.  With that said, we believe it is helpful for our members to understand a few things so that they can navigate these interactions in a mutually beneficial way. Those things include:

  • Definitions of Harassment
  • Suggested Conflict Resolution Protocol
  • Reporting to WWOOF

WWOOF operates largely on the honour system with members trusting one another to be respectful, honest and to abide by the WWOOF Charter. All members make themselves vulnerable in order to be open to new learning and growing possibilities. Members can help avoid potentially negative situations by setting appropriate boundaries with one another from the start. Respect for others is critically important to maintaining an environment which supports this community.

Hosts must be especially mindful of their responsibility towards WWOOFers, as WWOOFers rely on hosts for guidance, accommodation, meals, and often transportation. It also comes from the fact that hosts are in a teaching role with WWOOFers, which creates greater vulnerability on the WWOOFers’ part. 

Definitions of Harassment

General Harassment

Harassment is persistent unwanted or unsolicited attention which is disturbing or pestering. Harassment is not limited to the sexual realm, and all forms are unacceptable. This includes unwanted teasing, displays of affection or admiration, touching, flirtatious or sexual behaviours, conversations of personal relationships or sexual preferences, or any other persistent unwanted demand for an individual’s attention. Nonverbal harassment includes distribution, display or discussion of any written or graphic material or gestures that ridicule, denigrate or show hostility or disrespect toward an individual or group.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment is any kind of unwanted conversation, attention or touching which is sexual in nature by any member, regardless of gender or sexual preference.  

Harassment of a sexual nature can involve one person taking advantage of an individual who may not feel comfortable confronting the situation for any number of potential reasons. It is important that each individual be conscious of their role and how it may affect others. It is everyone’s responsibility to contribute to a safe, conscious and consent-based community environment.

Interactions where power differentials exist, such as a student/teacher or WWOOFer/host relationships, require special care as they present greater potential for harassment to go unaddressed.  While lack of consent generally defines whether harassment is occurring, it should be assumed that sexual advances in these situations are inappropriate whether consent has been granted or not.

Identity Harassment

Identity Harassment is occurring any time unwanted and repeated reference to one’s identity is taking place. This includes but is not limited to age, class, religion, race, sexual orientation, language, nationality, disability, body type, gender identity or expression, marital status or other protected status including epithets, slurs and negative stereotyping.  Attempting to minimize the seriousness of such behaviour (e.g. “I was only joking”) does not excuse the behaviour.

Conflict Resolution Protocol

*This conflict resolution protocol does not apply to criminal sexual harassment. WWOOF encourages victims of criminal sexual contact or other criminal sexual behaviour to make a report to the appropriate law enforcement agency or agencies and contact WWOOF Admin at info@wwoof.ca as soon as possible. In most cases, this is reason for the immediate removal of the harasser.  

Resolving Conflict Between Members

Non-criminal harassment may be dealt with cooperatively. WWOOF members live close together, and may have differences. Although WWOOF members should strive to be mindful and respectful of others, we are only human. Mistakes happen, and we are all growing. Not every issue or event results in membership revocation. 

If you are the target of harassment, speak up. Although it is better to speak directly to the person who is doing it, that may not be possible.  A person who is already disrespectful may not be able to listen or may have already framed the relationship in terms that leave you no voice. If you are not comfortable speaking to that person ​directly​, speak to a person of authority at your location. If that is not possible, then reach out to a WWOOF Admin. 

If you witness harassment, you may:

  • Confront the harasser directly if you feel comfortable that​ it will not escalate the situation or draw hostility in your direction.
  • Deflect or distract the harassment by engaging with the subject. An example of this would be introducing a new topic or activity.
  • Stand by and follow up with the subject afterwards. Offer emotional support. Harassment is a deeply isolating experience.
  • If the conflict is unresolved, report the incident​ to WWOOF Admin for assistance info@wwoof.ca.

If somebody says that  you have been harassing someone else, listen and try to see it from their point of view. Reflect on your own actions and see if your behaviour could be described by one of the definitions of harassment stated above. If it could, do your best to change your behaviour in the future and make amends with those who have been affected.

Reporting Harassment to WWOOF

If the individuals involved in a conflict cannot resolve the problem to their mutual satisfaction, they should contact the WWOOF Admin at info@wwoof.ca.

Every allegation of harassment is taken seriously, and​ is not to be dismissed out of hand​​. Harassment is generally​ thought to be​ under-reported. If someone reports an incident or pattern of incidents, that individual’s word will be given a significant amount of weight on its own.

A person who has​ been deemed to have​ harassed another can have no expectation of secrecy or confidentiality. WWOOF will not protect harassers. Other WWOOF members will be warned as necessary.

WWOOF admin reserves the right to revoke the membership of anyone for any behaviour it deems inappropriate. If a person’s WWOOF membership is revoked and ​that person then tries to rejoin the organization without permission, they may face ​legal action. 

Publication of this Policy

All new hosts will be sent the Respectful Relationships and Conflict Resolution Agreement and asked to read and agree to each of the definitions and policies. 

This document was adapted from and used with permission from WWOOF USA and Bodhi Manda Zen Center.

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