The words below include a description of sexual assault. Please consider this before reading further, especially if you are a family member or friend of mine that may not want to read about events that happened to me.  I have been detailed, because I want there to be as few opportunities for speculation or misconception as possible.

My name is Sarah Sullivan, and I have been dancing for about eleven years.  I’m writing to the Lindy Hop community after years of consideration, hesitation, and confusion, about an experience I had when I was a teenager with Steven Mitchell, an instructor who was much older than me.  The words below were hard for me to write, and it may be hard for some of you to read.

I grew up in the Lindy Hop community, and I’m still part of it today (I’m one of the people who runs the Mobtown Ballroom in Baltimore).  Lindy Hop has provided me with extraordinary opportunities and relationships, for which I’m deeply grateful. My experiences with Steven have caused me a great deal of pain and confusion, though, and as I have come to terms with my experience, I have decided it is important for the Lindy Hop community to know what happened.

My Dad started dancing when I was 12, and I began going with him when I was 15.  As a teenager I was a nanny for several international instructors, which afforded me the opportunity to travel to Beantown, Swing Out New Hampshire, Snowball, and other events. My Dad knew a lot of people in the scene, and I was a pretty mature kid. I had a lot of independence at a young age.

I met Steven when I was 16 at a workshop that he was teaching in San Diego. We saw each other at a number of events over the next year, and we became friends. I was enamored with the attention and approval that I was getting from someone who was a celebrity in the scene. I thought it was a little weird that a man of his age had befriended me as a 16 year-old (weird enough that I kept the details from my parents), but I wanted to be seen as an adult, so I ignored my instincts. Eventually we started talking on the phone and online between events.

Our interactions were inappropriate from the beginning, although I didn’t realize it at the time. A number of our instant message conversations were automatically saved on the family computer, and I found them a few years after I stopped talking to Steven. In the saved conversations, which happened when I was 17, Steven joked about us having sex, talked about how we had to be discreet about our friendship because “no one would understand,” and tried to make me feel bad when I didn’t respond quickly enough. In one conversation he asked me if I was a virgin. When I said yes, he asked me why. He told me that we needed a “code word” at events so that we could meet alone without anyone knowing.  He told me I was different from other people, that he didn’t usually trust people, and that he could talk to me.  These are things that I now know were attempts to make me feel special, and to cause me to keep our interactions hidden from any adults that would intervene.  I was thrilled that he had chosen me, and that he treated me like an adult.

The first time I ever got drunk was with Steven when I was 17, around the time when those instant message conversations were happening. I was babysitting at Beantown the summer before my senior year of high school.  Steven and his friends threw a party that was separate from the event. Like any sane adults, the others who ran the party did not want me drinking; I think they probably would have preferred that I wasn’t there at all. Steven got alcohol from the party and filled up a coke can so that I could drink it discretely outside.

The next year at Beantown, I was 18. We were drinking, and Steven wanted us to go on a walk and spend time alone together. We went to the “lodge”, a building that the Beantown camp used for soul parties and classes. It wasn’t being used that night, and it was far away from other people. We went to the second floor loft where there was a couch, and we continued drinking and talking. I don’t remember the play-by-play of how things escalated, and it’s pretty humiliating to think about. I remember making out with him. There was a lot of touching over the pants and under the shirt. I can’t remember if there was any touching under the pants. I was drunk, and I was scared (but I never would have admitted it to myself).

At one point, Steven was on top of me and I felt like the situation was quickly escalating. The physical vulnerability (because he was much bigger than me), along with the realization that we were far away from any other people, caused me to panic. I started flailing and pushing him until he got off of me.  I apologized profusely. I was embarrassed, scared, and confused.

The part of this memory that is most upsetting is what happened after. As we were walking back to the dorms, he grabbed my crotch. He held on to it and told me that he didn’t know what had happened to me that “fucked me up” so badly. He said there must be something wrong with me. He told me I was the one who reached for his crotch first, and that I had started it. As a young person (and especially as a young person that was sexually inexperienced) engaging with an authority figure, I got the message that I was “fucked up” for not having sex with him. That something was wrong with me because I trusted my gut and my self-preservation mechanisms. In that experience I learned that my instincts, my boundaries, and what I wanted were wrong. Of course I didn’t know this at the time, but I internalized that message for years, especially in regard to Steven.

A few months later we had a similar interaction at Swing Out New Hampshire. I still thought we were friends and felt special for being the one that he was focusing his attention on. Steven was sneaking me drinks, and he told me he wanted to meet me alone in one of the other buildings on the grounds of the camp.  We couldn’t go together because people would “start to talk.” Again, this is hard for me to write about, because I imagine that some people reading this will wonder why I went. Hell, I wonder why I went. I looked up to him, and I wanted to be as special and mature as he said I was.

I had taken classes in this particular building earlier that day but when I got there it was totally dark. It was an auditorium with a stage and a big dance floor and Steven startled me when I walked in. The story is similar to the event at Beantown, and I don’t need to elaborate the details. We were on the stage, and things escalated again. I don’t know how long it went on for. He eventually ended up on top of me, I realized I was drunk and vulnerable, and I panicked. I started pushing him and he got off of me.

After the incident at Swing Out New Hampshire, I knew that I didn’t want another physical interaction, but I couldn’t process that what had happened was actually wrong. I didn’t want to admit to myself that I was traumatized by the incidents, because I wanted to think of myself as being mature enough to not let something like that happen to me. I thought we were friends, and I looked up to him as a Lindy Hop instructor. I stayed in touch with him but avoided situations where were would be alone.

Steven and I were alone on only a few other occasions after that. I babysat for instructors at Snowball (in Sweden) for a number of years, and I would often stay with the instructors after the event was over. Steven would sometimes stay in the house at the same time. I avoided being alone with him despite his attempts to spend time with me. One night I was staying on the floor of the family’s office because Steven was staying in the guest room. In the middle of the night I woke up to find Steven standing above me in the dark. He had come into my room while I was sleeping. I was so startled, groggy, and caught off-guard that I just started shaking, but did nothing. He laid down next to me on the floor and began emotionally venting about his life. I stayed silent and still until he left. That was the breaking point, and I consciously realized that this behavior wasn’t normal. Healthy, grown men don’t confide in teenage girls, let alone sneak up on them in bed.

I still wasn’t able to process or articulate what had happened, but I wasn’t ever alone with Steven after that. He attempted to contact me and make plans with me, which I politely avoided, until I felt so incredibly uncomfortable that I told some of the instructors I babysat for. I didn’t share any of the sexual details, but I admitted he was making me uncomfortable, that he had given me alcohol when I was underage, and that he was getting mad at me for not spending time with him. Their disgust and anger validated my discomfort. While I still didn’t want to see myself as a victim in the situation, I stopped communicating with him. He hasn’t made attempts at anything since.

I went to therapy during my senior year of college, and I began to come to terms with what had happened to me. I didn’t say anything publicly at the time for all the reasons that anyone in my situation doesn’t say something: I thought it was my fault, that I was making a big deal of nothing, that others would blame me, that I would be shunned for speaking up against someone that so many people adored; that my parents/people I babysat for/event organizers would be blamed. I didn’t want to see myself as a victim. The possibility that this could be happening to other people has been a constant source of guilt for years. I have gotten to a place in my life where I can see that none of this was my fault, and I don’t want to keep it a secret anymore.

I’m not speaking up because I want to ruin Steven’s life. I want the community to be aware of what he did. I teach kids now, and I bring them to events that Steven is teaching or judging at. There are teenage girls and young women at the Ballroom that look up to me and deserve to have an example of someone who speaks up when someone hurts them. I’ve seen him at multiple events a year, and I’ve kept my mouth shut when friends gush about how amazing he is. I have been carrying this around with me for almost a decade, and I have to get it off my chest. I’ve wondered if there are other women and girls who this has happened to, or is happening to (with Steven or anyone else), and I have been eaten up with guilt. I don’t want to feel as though I am colluding with Steven to keep his actions a secret.

I have been hesitant to use the term “sexual assault” because it can mean anything from an unwanted butt-grab to violent rape (I’m not discounting the severity of unwanted butt grabs, I’m pointing out the broad meaning of “sexual assault”). Let me be clear. Steven didn’t rape me, and we didn’t have sex. He wasn’t physically violent. I don’t want anything I’ve said to give you an exaggerated idea of what happened or lead you to believe anything that is untrue, because the truth of what happened is enough. He did have sexual contact with me when I was not sober or mature enough to consent. He manipulated me and abused his power as an authority figure, mentor, and adult. By putting this experience into words I am forced to define the weight of what happened to me, and I don’t want you to think that he did anything worse than what he actually did. I also don’t want you to think that I’m unsure about what happened, or that I think there’s room for interpretation—I am sure, and there isn’t.

I can’t tell you what to do with all this information, but I can tell you what I’m trying to do with the experience. I love the Lindy Hop community, and I am not going to leave it. It’s important to acknowledge, though, that this sort of thing does in fact happen in our scene, and the culture of our community contributes to it. As a scene, we idolize instructors and good dancers, and value what they think of us over speaking up when something is wrong. We frequently conflate having authority in dance with having authority in life, which leads to us privileging particular voices over others. As a young person, I thought that I would lose my place in this community if I spoke up about Steven. While I don’t believe that anyone besides Steven is responsible for what happened to me, I do think that a different tone in the Lindy Hop community could have protected me from the years of not speaking up.

I am trying to use my experience to inform my thoughts and actions in my position of power (at the Ballroom, and as a regular dancer that has been in the scene for a long time). At the Ballroom, we are constantly striving to make the venue safe, without taking away from the fun, adult atmosphere, or making “safety” the theme of our events (and I’m willing to explain how we do it to anyone who is interested). I strongly believe that the culture of events can be intentionally designed to be that way, and it’s the responsibility of everyone from top-level organizers and instructors, to each individual dancer. I don’t value my place in this community more than I value speaking up for something that I believe is wrong, and I don’t treat instructors or good dancers as being inherently more valuable/authoritative than anyone else for anything other than their dancing. I do my best to cultivate this attitude at the Ballroom and in dancers that look up to me, not just because I think it’s right, but because I think it’s actually dangerous for people to act otherwise.

Saying this publicly is part of how I’m trying to do this. The risk, while it feels high, is not as high for me as it is for a lot of other people, and I feel like I have a responsibility to speak up. While I am not advocating that we have a witch-hunt, I am hoping that I will forge a path for other people to speak up when they see something wrong, especially people whose position in the community isn’t as secure as mine. I’m also hoping that everyone will look at the way they act in the scene, and reconsider any behavior that breeds idol-worship or silences younger dancers. I consciously chose not to write this anonymously, because I want you all to know that it was me (because I want to take responsibility for what I’m saying). I want young people to know that this happened to me, and I’m still here. I want those that are inclined to question what happened to me to know that I stand behind what I’ve said, and I want to make it as difficult as possible for this to be ignored or written off.

I know this will have an effect on both Steven and all the people who admire him. It is with deep consideration and forethought (years) that I say anything at all, and I am not doing it lightly. The truth is that when I was a young member of the Lindy Hop scene, Steven fed me alcohol, engaged in wildly inappropriate conversations on and offline, and encouraged me to keep our “friendship” secret. As a hired instructor at events, he initiated sexual contact with me despite a massive age difference. He used his position of authority in the scene to take advantage of a drunk and inexperienced teenager who looked up to him. I think the Lindy Hop scene needs to have a discussion about how we perceive instructors and how we take care of our younger members, but in his case the time for conversation has passed. He has been entrusted with a role that he has abused, and it’s time for me to stop keeping it a secret.

I imagine some of you will want to contact me with your thoughts on what I’ve written. Feel free to email me privately at sarahsullivan760@gmail.com. Please do not take it personally if I do not respond quickly (or at all).

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529 thoughts on “

  1. I’m very sorry to hear this story. Thank you for your courage to share and for your honesty about a difficult and scary topic. I am sure there will be a lot of debate and probably some unkind reactions but every action of bravery like this paves the way for the next young woman to tell her story.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Just read your post about Steven Mitchell. Sorry to hear about this and the lack of agency you had or agency you felt you didn’t have at the time.

    I applaud you for being the brave soul to write about your experience. I imagine it must have been difficult, but important for yourself, and other young impressionable people in Lindy Hop and other dance scenes.

    Although I don’t know you, I just want you to know that I stand in solidarity against anybody who would take advantage of others.

    Sincerely,
    Kevin Sue

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Heartfelt thanks for speaking up from another community leader in the Lindy Hop scene. I coach an all-female solo team and I’m going to talk with them about this. I think you can rest assured that by posting this, you will save other women from having the experience you did.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Bravo to you for speaking up, Sarah. You were subjected to the classic “grooming” behavior sexual predators use to lure their young victims. You will surely help other young women with your brave words. May you get the support you deserve from the Lindy hop and other dance communities.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Sarah, thank you. It’s important that these things are brought out into the open so they can be discussed. Thank you for enabling the conversation to begin with integrity and clarity. I hope it can carry along on the same lines. Your points about how this impacts on all of us, and our responsibilities as members of the community to ourselves and each other, are ringing clearly with me. Thank you for sharing them with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your post was hard to read, because it’s just so hard to hear that this stuff goes in in the dance world. But it does. I wish some of my friends would have the same courage to speak up about these types of situations. You are most certainly a leader. I hope that your post will achieve the goal of awareness, of giving others the opportunity to speak up. Like you said, sexual assault is wide in definition, but the point is that sexual assault is sexual assault. I, like Kevin, stand in solidarity against anyone who takes advantage of others. I’m truly sorry you went through this.

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  7. Thank you for sharing your experiences Sarah, I often tell non-dancers how wonderful and welcoming and supportive the Lindy community is, so it’s awful to hear about situations to the contrary, but it is a conversation that must be had. Things like that should not be swept under the carpet, and I know many people will respond in solidarity. Hopefully dance scenes will take the opportunity to build safer spaces for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thankyou for sharing your story. I currently work with victims of sexual assault, and it is only by talking to young people about grooming and abuse of power, that we help them realise what is happening and help them feel empowered to put a stop to it. It is brave people like you that help young people reflect on situations, and show them that is OK to talk about it with others. The most common thing I have come across is that the victim feels that they are to blame – that they flirted, or accepted the drinks that made them drunk. You really eloquently talked about this, and showed how those in power can manipulate this feeling of guilt, to take advantage of the situation. Thank you once again for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thank you for sharing, and for articulating it so well. It is a story that has happened in many communities, not just dance. Though I am glad to hear that when you spoke up you got the support you needed from this community. It says so much that it has taken years of thought and consideration for Steven to decide whether you say anything at all. Not wanting to impact the other person keeps so many people and in speaking up you are helping to change this, which is so good. Thank you.

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  10. It’s so brave Sarah to write such a detailed story about your not pleasant experience! I want to say thank you for your care of the lindy hop world, that you didn’t stay indifferent keeping it all and leaving a possibility of such things to continue. By opening it up you stayed not indifferent to other girls that could face the same!
    I’m also thankful that you opened eyes of many people on what Steven is capable of! who could have thought that Steven Mitchel is capable of more than butt-grabs? This all information can hurt his fans but better a bitter truth than a sweet lie! Thank you for the truth Sarah!

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  11. You have obviously worked incredibly hard to deal with this in a responsible and positive way. Most importantly, you directly and clearly address the larger message you derived from your harrowing experience – that the community as a whole needs to create a culture of equality and safety for all its members. I am 60 years old, but I totally remember what it was like to be a young teen who appeared to others as mature, while inside feeling so eager to please an idolized older guy that I would have put aside all my own values and needs. I hope your post begins a good dialogue in the community, even though I know it will be a difficult one.

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  12. Sorry to hear this happened to you. Thank you for your bravery in speaking out. Though I don’t know you, I wanted to add a voice of support.

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  13. I feel so terrible that I made Sarah feel this way.

    At that time, I had strong feelings for her (whether right or wrong given her age).
    We did have those conversations and alcohol was involved.

    I don’t want people to think that this is something I do at all, and by no means am I a predator.
    This is something that happened and now I feel really, really bad about it.
    I most definitely should have used better judgement.

    I wish Sarah and I could have talked.
    After reading the blog, i understand why it was not possible for her to do so.

    I apologize to Sarah.
    As you all know she is a very special person and I apologize for hurting her.

    I apologize to the dance community, and I apologize if I have let you down.

    Steven

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    1. Okay so Steven how do you explain the same thing happening to me??? You need to take some accountability for your demons. You damaged a decade of my life. You have no idea the impact you had on me and probably others I would only assume being that Sarah’s story is MY story. Flabbergasting.

      Sarah I understand how you feel and you are not alone.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Hi Allison,
        For the sake of those reading the comments, are you making reference to something that happened between you and Steven or a similar situation involving someone else?

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      2. Allison, I am so sorry to hear that you have been subject to mistreatment by this individual. I just wanted to leave a small note to say that you are believed and supported.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Thanks, Allison. I hope my question didn’t sound accusatory towards you in anyway. I thought it beneficial to the situation to make sure Sarah’s encounters weren’t a one-off. My heart goes out to both of you.

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      1. I am referring to Stephen and that he put me in the same situation as Sarah in 2000. Rape , date rape call it what you will- unpleasant

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Steven’s response is (unsurprisingly) sickening. It only brings more shame on him. It will be appalling if he is ever hired again by the lindy community.

      ‘I feel so terrible that I made Sarah feel this way.’
      > I feel so terrible I sexually assaulted Sarah.

      ‘At that time, I had strong feelings for her (whether right or wrong given her age).’
      > I had aggressive sexual feelings for her (this is wrong). (Obviously, if you care for someone you don’t violate them.)

      ‘We did have those conversations and alcohol was involved.’
      > I spoke in a totally inappropriate way to a minor after I got her drunk.

      ‘I don’t want people to think that this is something I do at all, and by no means am I a predator.’
      > (This is categorically false. Care what people think, even if you don’t care about them? Never, ever sexually assault someone.)

      ‘This is something that happened and now I feel really, really bad about it.’
      > I did this and only now do I acknowledge a semblance of guilt. (Because *now* everybody knows about it? You certainly had time to think it over.)

      I most definitely should have used better judgement.
      > (This is just fucked up. Better judgement? What judgement is there? Sexual assault is not a ‘will I won’t I’ decision. You shouldn’t do it. EVER.)

      I wish Sarah and I could have talked.
      > (Even more fucked up. Sarah obviously didn’t want to speak to you. You still don’t respect her.)

      After reading the blog, i understand why it was not possible for her to do so.
      >(A pathetic attempt to get brownie points. Brownie points are not available to you now.)

      I apologize to Sarah.
      As you all know she is a very special person and I apologize for hurting her.
      >…for sexually assaulting her.

      I apologize to the dance community, and I apologize if I have let you down.
      >**if** you have let us down? You abused (at least) one of us.

      I want you to leave the lindy hop community. It’s the only way to show that sexual assault should never be tolerated.

      Lydia Flynn

      Liked by 7 people

    3. Spoken like someone who is adept at grooming and manipulating young girls. But your victims are not naive teens anymore (at least not the ones we know of), and neither are most of us.

      Liked by 4 people

  14. I’ve been a member of the lindy hop community for almost a decade now, and I’ve seen and heard a few things over the years about various people, with a growing awareness in recent years of the need for better dialogue about inappropriate behaviors. I’ve seen the scene change and consciously try to make safer spaces for members in recent years, and I’m hoping that this incredibly well-articulated post will further that evolution of the scene.

    Incredibly well written Sarah. There’s no room (that I can see) for misinterpretation or exaggeration about what happened. I’m deeply sorry to know that you experienced this, and I’m glad you’ve found a way to get it out/off your chest and that you’ve been able to access support from people and therapy to help you make sense of the entire situation.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Thank you for feeling strong enough to write this for the Lindy Hop community. It is very true how this happens and terribly unfortunate that this happened to you. This, I’m sure will help many others out there who may have or are experiencing issues of their own that are unwanted or inappropriate. It is a sad truth that the dance community sometimes allows for these kinds of situations to blossom and harm our young people.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. This is awesome. I don’t dance anymore, and I attribute it to similar predatory behavior that I still can’t bring myself to come forward and talk about.

    I really think the dance exchange scene is incredibly predatory. I understand your point about being able to have honest conversations, but I want to offer some issues with having honest conversations:
    1. Many young teen women want to believe they are special for reasons other than being young. If you told me when I was younger that a guy was too old for me, I would’ve thought you didn’t understand because I was just so mature and able to handle myself. It’s a difficult conversation to have and may fall on deaf ears.
    2. As you said, you can’t start a witch hunt. There are plenty of odd and awkward dancers who aren’t predators. Having these dialogues is very sensitive, because once someone is called a predator then it’s difficult to ever recover from that. Personally, I hope Mr. Mitchell’s dance career is over from this. That is the type of admonishment necessary, but because it is so harsh we do need to be sure of the accusations we make.
    3. A predator will be very skilled at keeping this under the radar, as your story illustrates. Because a young woman likes the attention, she will want to keep it secret. It makes her feel special. It’s hard to actually recognize it going on, making the conversation difficult to even have.
    4. People give the benefit of the doubt to seasoned dancers. Instructors are considered to be ambassadors of the scene, so they will more easily hide under the radar.
    5. Older dancers might find younger dancers more annoying from their nativity and attention seeking behavior, thus it is more difficult to mentor them and reach out to them in this capacity. I cannot begin to recount the comments people made about me being 19, and I knew which women found me annoying cuz I was young and probably obnoxious.

    So my point is: in theory it’d be great if we had honest conversations, but in practice it’s pretty difficult.

    Exchanges, in retrospect, are really mature adult events. I really think they should be 21+, regardless of if there is officially drinking going on. Sure, there’s the fun innocent part of dancing. But there’s also usually a decent amount of drinking and hooking up. You can’t really get away from that. And that’s fine, people can consent … but allowing 21+ people to attend ensures that the person can legally drink and has had a few years of experience so that they can recognize predatory behavior. That’s my 2 cents. Let young people pay to come to the main dances, but don’t let them go to the late nights without an ID.

    Thanks for writing this. It actually made me feel alot better about a weight I’ve been carrying for a long time – I don’t feel so alone anymore, even though we’ve likely never met.

    Liked by 7 people

  17. Thank you for speaking out, Sarah. That is such a brave thing to do, and an experience dancers should be aware of.
    Experienced dancers and scene leaders should pay special heed to this. Perhaps a cautionary word from someone paying attention could have prevented this.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. “Healthy, grown men don’t confide in teenage girls” ->

    :-\ I don’t know how I feel about this statement, particularly from someone who isn’t a healthy grown man. We’re human and evolved into a tribal social animal. While the majority of our time (the few hundred thousand or million years since we were the previous great ape with 46 instead of 48 chromosomes) our tribes were 100-200 not megapolises or schools of fish and plagues of locusts. I can accept that a person relates who they relate to. This doesn’t absolve them from the responsibility of maintaining rights of others, including the right to grow into adulthood rather than be dragged into it for someone else’ convenience. But I can safely state that I respect…say the co-presidents of Java Jive (that could scarily enough be a hair’s width from half my age now) going back for a few iterations/administrations now way more than many people in Rockford, IL that are twice my age.

    “He did have sexual contact with me when I was not sober or mature enough to consent.” ->

    This is an altogether different matter. Maturity and biological and chronological age is a fuzzy concept. (I can name 24 year olds that have been awarded degrees I wouldn’t even suspect of having the maturity to decide when to engage in self-defense let alone mood altering chemicals, contracts or the like.) And that comes down to being a decent human being: no matter one’s limitations due to Asperger’s or autistic symptoms, one can simply ask the mind state of other people rather than seek to…mold that mind state. It’s what actually separates us from the animals (the 48 chromosome great apes mentioned before).

    As for the ‘grooming behavior’ (as it is apparently called)-I’m glad I’m not the touchy feely type. Because when I observe this touchy feeliness it comes off as some subconscious dance that I can’t comprehend as subconscious. It’s like this massive network monitoring of signals that may or may not exist mixed in with noise from a thousand different sources and it smells like a gigantic chess game where I haven’t studied the players or the Renassaince in far too long. As for the secrecy, I’m glad I’m me (never, ever thought I’d say that twice in one day). Of the five things I got from my mother, #4 is ‘If you don’t want to be embarrassed, don’t do anything embarrassing.” So you tell someone it was weird that I didn’t raise my arms when so and so hugged me, I’ll tell you I don’t have the social skills to deal with that type of casual communication. I’ve told people before-“You want to stop corruption: showcase it.” Honesty isn’t an attribute but a practice.

    I also noticed how all my comments are about me. I don’t believe I know the person who wrote this and I’ve taken a lesson or two from the person I believe this article is about (having googled the name and matched it to a likely face). It’s not like any advice from me is going to change anyone’s behavior. And getting the other side of the story can only be “None of this happened.” which can easily be countered by “Here’s the logs of all these online requests for contact and secrecy.”. At least, I hope every sentient that can cope with English recognizes there’s no actual “I _sneaked_ a person alcohol and bade them to secrecy then attempted physical intimacy because *reasons it was a good idea*.” even with other countries having much lower alcohol consumption ages. Hence, I only really have my own thoughts on my own experiences and behaviors. And they turn to things like “I like going to college group dances because they need to see what their skill could be given some practice and outside experience because in a few years the dance scene will either be dead or made of them when they graduate.” which turns into “Hey, Connie. Let me ask you something. I know I’m the old man in the club, but am I the creeper?” [And semi-thankfully the answer was “No. You see that guy? That guy’s a creeper.”] But this is all “Not all men.” stuff rather than anything proactive.

    Unless my rambling is -> Check yourself before you wreck yourself. ‘It’s a good idea to examine things that you believe are true.’ So just because you believe you are behaving in an acceptable manner doesn’t mean you should approach someone who’s bound to have a very different viewpoint/perspective and ask. And I mean different. If you don’t know what cis-gendered means, go ask the advocates of the LGBTQ…s and see if you’re ‘that guy’. Find the people of the ethnicity you can’t speak the language of and ask them if you’re ‘that guy’. Find the youngest, oldest people in charge and ask if you’re ‘that guy’. Because you can tell, not necessarily from what they say, but from your reaction not being ‘Huh? I didn’t realize I came off that way.” and being ‘Pshuh – They know I’m just bein’ me. I’m old fashioned/gots needs/doin’ what I wanna do.” And if you ever, ever believe that anything you’re doing requires a “Let’s keep this to ourselves.” you need to look _that_ 50 times over. Because I assure you that you’re not talking about blowing up the Death Star in front of some storm troopers.

    Now having written that and then seeing Steven Mitchell’s response (and humans know it’s not my place to judge if it’s acceptable or not), I think my comments are sane enough to reply with.

    Like

    1. Mazel tov, Anonymous, on being the most off-point, pseudo-rationalist, and offensive commenter to troll this post. Somehow you took a thoughtful, courageous account of being victimized and assaulted and made it about you. And megapolises. There is no amount of conjecturing you could do to ever excuse the actions of Steven Mitchell or any other predator. You are a fart.

      Liked by 9 people

      1. Look up aspergers or the autism spectrum. The post may seem like a self absorbed rambling to you, but if you understand even a little bit about autism you might allow anonymous a little leeway. It seemed to me that anonymous was trying to reach out and make a connection, which is extremely difficult to those on the spectrum. Awkward for sure, but not ill willed. There seemed a genuine attempt to be supportive to Sarah and others that were victimized by the scumbag.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. While I agree with the spirit of your desire for sensitivity towards those on the spectrum, Rubyshoes, I stand by my previous comment to Anonymous. One of the lessons we can take from this assault is that people are responsible for their actions that harm or offend others, even when their intention is not to harm or offend. Perhaps Anonymous is trying to make a connection with Sarah, but his connection casts doubt on the victim and makes excuses for her assaulter. At best, he’s questioning the nature of sexual assault. At worst, he’s attempting to discredit the wrongness of what happened to Sarah. Whatever his intentions or mental state, I choose to respond to him the same way I would to any other person who asserts that stone age view that sexual assault is a morally gray zone.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. 1. Sarah, you are the best.

      2. Anonymous guy, is this some attempt to pass a Turing test,? Because after reading your incoherent rambling, I do not believe you are a person.

      Liked by 3 people

  19. Bravo Sarah for your decision to speak out and share your experience. I admire you for the strength and courage it took to do this. Hopefully your story will prevent others from having that experience.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. But I do like that you call people farts. It is so refreshing to get the point across without using the unimaginative profanity that is constantly thrown about.

      Also, I agree with your comment about Sarah’s being one of the most courageous and thoughtful accounts. If I had read something like Sarah’s account years ago, I might have been encouraged to advocate for myself when I was violated by a “friend” and avoided years of self doubt and lesser self worth. Sarah will help many with this.

      Like

  20. Wow, Anonymous, you should be 100% embarrassed and ashamed of all the bullshit you just spouted. You seem confused, so let me repeat Sarah’s accurate assessment and crystal clear words: “Healthy, grown men don’t confide in teenage girls.” They don’t. They actually really don’t. If you think this whole piece is about Steven “relating” to Sarah then you have a long and tough journey ahead of you. Your discounting of legal ages and sexual consent sickens me. Here’s some advice though: never, I mean never, attach that condescending “apparently” to any terms around sexual abuse ever again. It’s called grooming. It’s actually, really called grooming. And you can go around not understanding it if you really want, but choosing to muse about it in this comment to this post is beyond disgusting. Ironically, you really wrecked yourself here. You probably should have checked yourself.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. God willing this will be my only statement about this here. I am completely supportive of Sarah’s honesty and speaking her experience as part of her healing process and as a warning… but yes, healthy, grown men really do confide in teenage girls, just as much as healthy, grown women, confide in teenage boys, and healthy teenage boys confide in grown women, and healthy teenage girls confide in grown men.

      I believe, *this* is not the problem here. The problem is talking about sexual, romantic, or physically intimate actions between the two people where there is a huge age and power difference. Human contact, trusting people with intimate details of your life, communicating your hopes and dreams is a *good* thing. We should be encouraging more of this, it is how understanding happens and breeds acceptance and respect. We should be making the conversation about the inappropriateness of what was shared not stating that sharing anything is inappropriate, because not only is it not true, it distracts from the truly objectionable parts of the interactions.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Speaking as a school teacher of teenagers, I strongly disagree. There is a power differential that grown adults have and should be cognizant of in their interactions with younger individuals. People who have their heads on straight realize that it is inappropriate and predatory to interact with underage youth in such a manner. There is a difference between befriending a youth and talking to them about important issues, and in secretly confiding in them as though they are a part of your peer group. The latter, *especially* from an instructor in the scene who is acting as a mentor for young dancers is a *disgusting* abuse of power. There is absolutely no room for excusing this kind of behaviour from an adult, let alone an adult in a position of power. It’s a hard line, people. There is no grey area.

        Liked by 2 people

  21. I have to agree with Pamela on this.

    However, what I would really like to comment on is the end paragraph of A Once Young Girl, and stand up for Sarah once more. While I understand the view of maturity at events such as exchanges and the not mentioned camps in the comment, I think it is unfair to limit the age of these events just because there is alcohol at a home, or nearby establishment. As a dancer who came into the lindy hop world before 18, I know that I would be disappointed if I couldn’t go to an exchange or camp because I was not 18 or 21. Keep in mind that there are some places in this country that are not as big as Seattle or San Francisco or Baltimore, and where big shots don’t live or often travel to. In 11 years of swing dancing, only 2 very well known instructors ever visited my hometown (to my recollection), which was just an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Sure, the local instructors were good, but they often were limited in their expertise or dance vocabulary. My hometown scene has changed over the years in interest level, but when I started: there were people of all ages interested in learning lindy hop, and once we learned all we could from our local instructors, it was either very costly weekly trips to the city or going to camps to level up in skill. Now, it’s unfair for me to really complain because a trek to San Francisco for classes at the 9:20 or Verdi club was not very long, but had we been further away, a weekly trek and possibly for months at a time, is just costly and exhausting. So, where does that leave us? saving enough money to go to camps, where we get plenty of star studded instruction, and the practice time at the evening dances. For a young people like some of my friends who are not yet 21 but super avid dancers, it really is the only option or the most practical option, and to deprive them of such experiences by putting an age limit bottom that they have not reached just because they are even just 1 or 2 years shy, does not really benefit them or the scene. Imagine yourself at Sarah’s age when she started. Imagine your love for the dance and knowing you can’t go to some camp or exchange because you’re a few years shy. Wouldn’t that make you sad? As Sarah has proved, alcohol can be snuck in. What’s important is not limiting events to 21+ people, it’s the communication, the empowerment to speak up, the education of not just the dance, but your rights.

    I can also say that there are adults who may be enamored with the idea of celebrity liking them, and this could happen to anyone. Man, woman, underage, 21+, student, instructor, with alcohol, without alcohol. It’s not an age thing. It’s a predatory thing.

    Liked by 5 people

  22. Thank you for sharing, Sarah. Your account was incredibly well written and your intentions clear. Conversations in and out of our dance classes need to address healthy boundaries so that others don’t have the same experience.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and a hundred times again, thank you. I will never be in your shoes, but some day I will be a father, and I want to know this and remember this in the future. Thank you for your honesty, your bravery, and your dedication to the unvarnished truth.

    We need to be more supportive to those who are emotionally vulnerable so as to prevent things like this from happening. When we fail, we will need to be supportive enough so that the next young woman will be confident enough to bring it to light.

    I am sorry you had these experiences thrust upon you. But thank you for being stronger than them.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Sarah,
    You are a very brave woman and I am deeply sorry you have had this horrible experience. I am always available to you for any support you need. I am sad to say I can empathize all too well albeit without the youth factor, which is extra disconcerting. I have only shared my story with a very select few people but feel that given you have put yourself out on the line like this, it is time I do the same both in support of you and to inform our community. I have spent all day deciding how much I want to say. I’ve been in the swing dance community for 15 years and was the target of unwarranted gossip for years and hated it and so I don’t not put myself out here lightly as the thought of my life being discussed again is really troubling. But I honestly feel this is the right decision.

    In May of 2013, Steven came over my house to talk, make Margaritas and watch a movie. We have known each other from dance for many years and he was living only 4 blocks away, staying with a mutual Lindy Hop friend. I had been out dancing a few weeks prior and after he and I danced, he had paid me a very large compliment by telling me that my retiring as a traveling international instructor was a disservice to the swing community, especially the follows, as I had so much to offer. He offered to come over and hang out and give me his ideas about why and how I should get back into the teaching circuit. I am not a big drinker and never drink to get drunk, last time I was drunk, I was 24 and I’m in my 40’s now. He made margaritas in a blender he brought over. We sat down on my couch and talked. We talked about all what went on with his leaving Australia, he had been dating my friend there. He told me that he would like to bring me on some of his gigs and that would make an in road for me. I told him I was flattered but I wasn’t interested. I had maybe a glass and a half. I usually stop at two for the night because that’s enough for me. I was suddenly and unexplicitly drunk, it hit me like a tank. I told him that I suddenly felt awful. He leaned over and grabbed my crotch and kissed my neck. I told him to stop and moved his hand away. He became upset and said “I was going to take you to Herrang!” I got up and ran to my very small half bathroom and threw up violently, unable to stop for quite some time. When I finally stopped, I laid down on the ground next to the toilet. Next thing Steven was on top of me kissing my mouth. I struggled to move my face away and pushed him off of me and managed to close and lock the door. When he had gone. I ran upstairs to my bigger bathroom to throw up more. He followed me upstairs and I yelled at him to get out and leave. At some point, I passed out on my bathroom floor. I woke up violently throwing up more. When I stopped, I went downstairs and found him sleeping on my couch. I asked him to take me to the ER. He dropped me off at the front of the ER and asked if he should come in. I asked him to leave and he left. I was treated and eventually released much later that day. I felt very sick well into the night and next day. The ER doctor had some very interesting thoughts on what had happened.

    Like you Sarah, I feel I was taken advantage of in an extremely vulnerable state and repeatedly so after I said stop. Like you, let me be clear, I was not raped. But what he did was wrong.

    I hate writing all of this. I don’t like it at all. I’ve never confronted Steven and I hate doing it in this manner. But Steven’s response to you was especially upsetting because he apologizes and talks about his feelings without seemingly understanding that his actions all around were wrong.

    Steven, grooming and sexually taking advantage of young girl is very wrong and is sexual assault, taking sexual advantage of a drunk woman is very wrong. I believe you need some help. I’m sorry I’m doing this publicly, but you need to reflect and figure out what is going on with you and get help.

    If anyone one wants to talk about this, feel free to contact me. I understand this is very upsetting for everyone involved. Please try to hear this with that in mind and try to understand why I have shared this here.
    ~Heidi Salerno

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Heidi,

      I am very sorry that you had to experience such a horrifying experience.

      Thank you for being brave and courageous to come out and empathize with Sarah in these horrible actions that Steven did. I honestly wouldn’t have thought he would go to such great lengths to just get a girl. I mean, seriously? Why would a man try to initiate sex with a girl who is drunk (or possibly drugged in this case) – with full knowledge that he is a well known dance instructor in the lindy hop circuit. He was risking his own career for doing such a thing.

      Thank you for coming out with your experiences – I’m sure Sarah is glad that she is not lonely in this situation.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. I am so sorry to hear that you, also, have been subject to mistreatment by this individual. I just wanted to leave a small note to say that you are believed and supported.

      Liked by 2 people

  25. Thank you Sarah again for having the courage to share this horrifying experience. I’m confident your example will save many young people from going through the same.

    I’m also sure that there will be a great deal of fallout in one way or another for you. Please don’t ever let that discourage you. Hold on to your support system and keep doing what you are doing. You are what I wish community builders and teachers everywhere should be like. Brave, honest and caring.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Sarah,

    I was a very peripheral member of the Lindy Hop community in San Francisco from about 1994 to 2000, taking lessons from Paul and Sharon, attending workshops put on by Frankie Manning and Steven, regularly dancing at Golden Gate Park on Sunday mornings and at the 9:20 special (though it wasn’t called that at the time, I think). Also, in my teens and twenties (I’m now over 50), I unfortunately had some awful date rape kinds of experiences. So, I relate to your post on many levels.

    I so admire how clear thinking you are. You are absolutely right that what Steven did was extremely wrong and extremely inappropriate. He absolutely used a position of authority to take advantage of you. It is unconscionable that he did that. I’m so sorry that it happened and that the dance community wasn’t able to protect you from that kind of predatory behavior.

    Thank you so much for letting the world know what happened to you. What you have done is very brave. I think your suggestion that the Lindy Hop community have a discussion about how it takes care of its younger members is a great suggestion. I hope that the community takes you up on it.

    Take good care.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Sarah. I like to think of the Lindy Hop community as a safe cocoon away from creepiness…this is a sobering reminder that there are predators in any society. Even well-esteemed icons are not immune to terrible behavior. I will do what I can to keep as safe a place as possible.

    Like

  28. I was, for many years, a leader in the dance scene in Toronto, although family responsibilities have, of late, caused me to take a back seat.

    My mind is whirling with what I have just read.

    Sarah, thank you for the courage to share.

    Allison & Heidi, you too. And all the others who offered support.

    I have danced since my middle teens. The dance floor was always a place where I was safe, where I could get out of my head and just be in my body. It is deeply distressing to me that, that very safety I found on the dance floor, was not there for others.

    In the west coast swing community, I’m sorry to say, there have also been a few incidents. Since I’m no longer directly involved, I have only very few details, but enough to tell you that this isn’t, of course, a Lindy-Hop-only phenomenon.

    I hope this brave action by Sarah, and the speaking up and validating by Allison and Heidi, will alert all active teachers and dance leaders to be more aware of and vigilant to the possibility of misconduct in and around the dance floor, and to take action to prevent it, where possible..

    Michael Wagner, Oakville

    Like

  29. Sarah, thank you for having the courage to write this piece. Please accept my best wishes and hopes that you are able to heal from this experience.

    My personal experience of the lindy hop community in the short time I have been dancing has been very positive. But any community can include evil people.

    Some communities try to conceal this, by blaming the victom or by other means, which allows perpetuators to continue their predatory ways.

    A better path in my opinion is to reveal evil behaviour to the world so that the community can police itself.

    In this way, the community becomes a better place, not by concealing evil behaviour, but by limiting its extent when it occurs, and taking a moral stand that such behaviour is not condoned and that there will be moral consequences.

    Thanks also to the other commentators who have related similar experiences, backing up the pattern of behaviour that Sarah has related.

    Like

  30. I think that the real problem is that there is a very strong incentive for the men in the Lindy Hop scene to act as sexual predators. I remember being given fairly direct recommendation that I just push the envelope towards sexuality with women because I could get away with it. (Yes, I’m male)

    He was very good at playing the political game at exchanges and on Facebook when dealing with most people so if someone spoke up they would not be believed.

    I wonder if many men get into the swing dance community looking for women and end up taking the lead/follow relationship to a dangerous extreme.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Sarah and all,
    If there was one thing that I wanted to hear after I was raped, from *anyone* it was “I believe you”. I don’t know if you want to hear those words, different words, or no words at all, but, just in case -I believe you.
    As survivors, we need different things at different times in our healing. I won’t know what any of your needs are, but know that if you ever want to email someone who “gets it” (and who’s a dancer), feel free. Here’s my email: chutzpahgrrl@gmail.com.

    Also, Steven, I imagine you felt that apologizing here (such as it was) was a good thing to do. It might have been; I don’t know. I think Sarah gets to make that judgment. I’d like to invite you to consider this: when someone feels violated by another, any attention from that other person after the fact, even to do something “nice”, can feel like more violation. Why does this happen? Because it further denies control to the person who feels violated. In this case, it would be the control over whether or not that person has contact with you. Yes, even if you feel that what you have to say is good, or nice, or just really important to you. I can’t speak for Sarah, but I’d guess that this space was set up for her, not for you.

    Liked by 4 people

  32. Sarah, thank you. I am heartbroken to hear about this. I commend you and the others for speaking up, And hope that this will help prevent the same things occurring to others.

    On an aside to those offended by the rambly anonymous post. If you really look at what he wrote he is in no way condoning Steven’s actions. He is trying to make sense of this as an individual who does not think about or understand social interactions the way most of us do. Read autistic/aspergers. He is actually suggesting that if you are unsure that someone is ok with how you are behaving you should ask which is good advice. He is also saying manipulating someone or acting offended when they indicate your behavior is unwelcome is never ok regardless of age. I believe I remember who you are, anonymous, from my days dancing in that area. I am a huggy person, and you let me know it made you uncomfortable when I hugged you. I was very grateful you spoke up.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Wow. Just wow. Sarah, thank you for writing this. Heidi, Allison, thank you for sharing your stories as well. I am so sorry that you went through this. It is my hope that by bringing this out in the open, it will encourage a dialogue for all dancers to keep our community safe.

    Like

  34. Sarah, thank you for sharing. I believe you, and I’m so sorry this happened. As a lindy hopper who started as a young teenager and into my college years, I’ve received unexpected and unwelcome advances from older men, and although I wasn’t sexually assaulted, it could have easily happened given the situations, at exchanges as well as weekly dances in my hometown.

    This conversation is overdue: How can dance communities look out for our younger dancers and help protect them from this kind of predatory behavior? Speaking out against this behavior like Sarah has. Accountability regarding underage drinking, and drinking responsibly in general. Possibly making late-night dances 21+. Is it wrong to ask what is the parents’ role at social dances? I don’t want to put blame on anyone but the perpetrator, because it is no one’s fault but his, but as Sarah says, these discussions must happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree. I’d like to share some of my experiences and weigh in on that conversation about how dance communities can protect young (especially female) dancers, starting with what it is about the culture that especially puts teenage women at risk. I started dancing in the lindy hop/east coast swing scene in DC when I was 15 years old, going to the big Saturday night dances at Glen Echo. There were a lot of great things about it: I got a head start on dance experience, it was fun, it was alcohol-free, and I felt like an adult there because I was surrounded by adults.

      I was not sexually assaulted (describing some other problematic experiences in below paragraphs). I have a few theories about how the dance scene put me at risk in a way that I didn’t feel in any other areas of my life.

      These are some norms that I quickly adapted to, going in as a 15 year old, and I see as risk factors:
      – How to ask someone to dance: I thought that my role as a female follow was to subtly hint about who I wanted to dance with (eye contact, room placement, smiles) and wait for men to ask me. My female friend and I affectionately nicknamed this “getting swooped.” Instead of saying “no” if I didn’t want to dance with someone, I thought it was more polite to just avoid their eye contact and use other body language to prevent them from asking, then if they asked I felt I had to say “yes.”
      – Status: Dancing with experienced, usually older, male leads got me rewards like a circle cheering around us, compliments from others watching, and compliments from the experienced/authority figure whom I was dancing with. This encouraged my one-on-one interaction with older men, in a way that was different from the rest of my life.
      – During the dance: If a lead pulled me too close, I didn’t have the language to say “I don’t want to dance this close, let’s dance with more space between us.” I thought it was, accept or reject the dance without middle negotiations. I never saw that language modeled.
      – Voicing concern: Women follows would often warn each other not to dance with certain aggressive male leads, but it seemed rude to tell other male leads or to tell organizers which kept it quiet.
      – Enforced male/female roles: With authority figures enforcing and the norm being that men lead and women follow, it meant that women were always following men’s lead (without much nuance for beginners). That sets a tone for relationships outside of the dance. Especially with the frequent experience of some male leads (definitely not all) encroaching on my space, it normalized that type of interaction.

      A few proposed solutions:
      – Dance communities are up against a lot of baggage from greater society, and I believe that all instructors and organizers have a special responsibility to create a culture of consent through very public displays of modeling correct behavior, checking in with a person who looks uncomfortable while dancing with someone else, having very visible safe space policies, and making themselves approachable for people to voice concerns (including teenagers).
      – If an organizer or teacher abuses that responsibility, they should be ousted from that position. That’s not the right career for that person. It’s important to recognize that some people specifically take on authority positions because of the privileges power affords them. No one should be granted carte blanche to abuse their authority. It doesn’t matter how advanced their teaching or organizing skills are. Safety comes first.
      – I advocate for more female teachers leading and male teachers following on the social floor. This breaks down stereotypes about who has to lead and who has to follow, and creates opportunities for teenage women to have one-on-one conversations with same-gender authority figures, who they might be more comfortable sharing concerns with about aggressive older men they’ve danced with.

      For background, questionable experiences of mine that sprung from the dance scene:
      I was not sexually assaulted, and I was never treated inappropriately by an instructor or organizer. However, I was frequently hit on by men significantly older than me. I also began a non-physical romantic relationship when I was 16 with a man in his mid-30’s whom I met at the dance and was an established dancer and community member. I liked him and enthusiastically consented to our interactions, but it feels strange looking back that he told me he was in love with me and was specifically attracted to my naivete. We were alone many times and he never took advantage of me, but I could have easily fallen into the same kind of relationship with a predator who would have.

      When I turned 18, I was swing dancing with a 28 year old man who I had danced with many times. He asked me how I was doing and I mentioned that it was my birthday that week. He asked me how old I was and when I said 18, I saw a lightbulb go off in his head and he immediately asked me to hang out. He picked me up at my house and we went to a tango milonga, and afterwards to an 18+ club in DC (my first club experience). While driving he pulled over twice to the side of the road and I didn’t know why. Then he asked me “come here,” and I said “no” which he accepted and started driving again. Then at the club we were dancing and suddenly his tongue was in my mouth. I had never kissed anyone before and saw it as a status symbol so I made out with him more on the car ride home even though I didn’t like it. When I got home I brushed my teeth for about 30 minutes to try and get the gross off, and wrote some emo poetry about it (because I was a teenager). Then I called him the next week to tell him I didn’t want to go out again and that was the end of it. Again, it could have easily escalated farther than it did.

      – Alissa

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Alissa, your post made me think that unless there is an openly-stated policy around what is inappropriate from leads (be they male or female, highly-regarded or not) on the dance floor for ALL dancers to see, the “popular”, socially-comfortable females who are comfortable talking to other females will hear about the “aggressive male leads”, but the newcomers, or the shy, or socially-uncomfortable who don’t talk to others easily, won’t. And they will be more vulnerable, something a predator will sense.

        Liked by 1 person

  35. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your story. Your courage has already inspired so many and will continue to inspire many more to bring this issue out from the shadows. I’ve been a dancer for almost 15 years and the comments, discussions and ideas I’ve seen in the past 24 hours are long overdue and greatly needed by the dance community.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. I was sexually abused for years as a teenager by an older member of my extended family. In the intervening years of silence I too felt the guilt of not speaking up because it could have been happening to someone else. I now try to talk as often and as sensibly about my experiences as I can, and I applaud your courage in doing so. I believe you, and thank you for sharing because it protects us and the community as a whole.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Sarah, thank you for being so brave as to speak out about this. What happened to you is horrendous, and must never be accepted within the scene. Sexual assault must not be dismissed as ‘creeper’ or ‘grabby’ behaviour by any scene, but must confronted and called out where it is seen/inflicted. Unfortunately, it very often isn’t and so I am in awe of your bravery in so publicly explaining what happened to you. I am sending you, Heidi and Allison so much respect and support. I hope all three of you find further strength and healing through the messages of support on this blog, and throughout the wider lindy hop community.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Sarah, thank you for sharing this. Your courage in coming forward is admirable. I’m so sorry this happened to you, and I hope you can continue to heal.

    Please know that your efforts to make the Lindy hop community safer are making a difference—at least to me. I used to live in Baltimore, and Mobtown was a safe space for me at a time when I really needed one. Thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Sarah, I think it sucks that you had to go through this and I think its great that you have spoken out about it. Nobody should be made to feel like you did and nobody should be taken advantage of. It was clearly very emotionally damaging and wrong of Steven to lead you into the situations that occurred. Steven, especially given his much greater life experience, should not have attempted to help you get drunk and then try to have sex with you, even if by the time that actually happened, you were a consenting adult. He manipulated you and abused his status as a well known and respected dance instructor. That said, I’m wondering how much responsibility you feel for what happened. I’m not suggesting you should feel any responsibility, but you didn’t mention feeling peer pressured or forced to either drink or make out with him. In your opinion, do you think you were old enough to make the decision to drink alcohol? Did you ask Steven to give you the alcohol or did he convince you to drink? Did Steven get drunk, too? Do you think his intention was to get you so drunk that you would have sex with him? I think it’s important for us to understand because two adults (granted, one of which is barley an adult and not legally allowed to drink) getting drunk and making out, though maybe a mistake, doesn’t necessarily mean that one of them intends to force or trick the other to have sex with them. You didn’t have sex, he didn’t rape you and he stopped when you pushed him away. His reaction was clearly immature and insensitive, but you ended up back in the same situation again with him. I just want to understand in no uncertain terms if you believe that he was a guy hoping to get drunk and get laid (which didn’t work out for him) or if he was attempting to date rape you, but failed. Now, Steven did lots of bad things, you are not to blame, and yes, he should talk things out with a psychologist or psychiatrist, but being an immature, manipulative ass hole that abused his status in the community is not the same as being a rapist.

    Allison, you just accused Steven of date rape, but didn’t offer the level of details that Sarah or Heidi did. As a matter of fact, you said that you were in the same situation as Sarah, which means you got drunk and made out with Steven, but didn’t have sex with him. So, my question to you is, did he rape you? Did he coerce you into having sex with him? Or, did he try to rape you? Again, I just want to understand if you think his intention was to force you to have sex with him or if you think he was getting drunk with you and hoping to have consensual sex with you.

    Heide, your description of what Steven did made me feel ill when I read it. It’s disgusting. Trying to get you to have sex with him when you were drunk and throwing up. And saying manipulative things and attempting to use his status and reputation as a world famous dance instructor to get you to have sex with him is just disgusting and twisted. He clearly has a problem and now everyone knows about it and I hope he seeks help so he can realize that what he’s been doing is wrong and has hurt people. I want to know though, did he drug you? Did the doctor say you had been drugged? You elude to this, but didn’t accuse Steven of drugging you. He was sleeping on your couch and drove you to the hospital, so I’m trying to understand if he had gotten super drunk, said and did stupid things and then passed out, or if he tried to drug and rape you. Please clarify.

    I think all of these accounts of what Steven did show a pattern of misbehavior, willful misconduct, abuse of power, status and reputation, manipulation and immaturity. However, being a rapist is a much stronger accusation. At this point, Mr. Mitchell’s reputation is pretty much destroyed. Who knows if and when he’ll be hired for another gig teaching. I just think the community should know if the accusations are that he’s a sick, twisted, manipulative, opportunistic ass hole or that he’s a rapist. To me, there is a big difference. I have little tolerance or sympathy for someone who’s reputation and career is destroyed because they are a rapist, but if he is not a rapist, seeks help to understand why what he’s been doing is wrong and stop that behavior, I feel like he should be given a chance to redeem himself and be forgiven.

    Like

    1. Really out of line questioning for SO many reasons. Like, really and truly. Maybe think before you post. This is a truly traumatic experience for every one of these women and your desire to know “details” doesn’t trump their right to publicly tell as much or as little as they want. Asking at a time like this is invasive and incredibly inappropriate.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Perhaps this is not the time to ask the questions, but I don’t think it’s fair to say the community needs a dialogue and then to shut down honest questioning. Even if you believe the questions are off base, that is the point of a dialogue – to get people who don’t understand the impact of this type of behavior to realize it and deal better with it. Further, Byron is clearly trying very hard to ask the questions in a way that is not blaming of Sarah at all, and in a way that is open to learning from Sarah and others.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. I am not sure I agree with you that there is such a big difference between what Steven did and rape. It seems more a matter of degree. To me, Steven’s behavior shows a deep and ugly attitude towards women and sex that has prevailed in our society for a long time. I would not want a person who had repeatedly displayed this attitude to be put in any position of authority ever again. It would be too hard to tell if he really did, as you say, “understand why what he’s been doing is wrong and stop the behavior”. Since he tried to keep his actions secret before, I’m sure he would work even harder to keep it secret if he did it in the future, so you’d never know for sure, and you’d be risking another sexual assault on an innocent victim.

      Like

    3. Byron, this is repulsive. Actually repulsive. These women don’t have an obligation to feel bad.

      I mean, come ON. This onus is on the instructor who manipulated these young women. Would you ask an 18-year old high school student who was sexually assaulted by a high school teacher if they felt they were responsible enough to have that relationship? I hope – really hope – the answer is no. This is virtually the same situation but translated to dance-world.

      An 18-year-old hoping to shine in the dance world and looking up to a professional and being manipulated into feeling that he thought she was special and great is textbook predatory behavior. And, at 18, I would not expect any child to be mature enough to handle the situation and respond accordingly. Have you even *met* high school seniors and college freshmen? Maybe among peers of similar age and experience they are able to navigate (mostly), but not with a decades-older teacher in a position of power or influence.

      Liked by 4 people

    4. First off I would like to thank you brave and strong women for sharing your stories. You are heroes.

      As for you Bryon I can not even begin to discribe how truly inappropriate and insulting your questions are. I’m sorry I guess I missed the part where you are a police officer/lawyer/judge/therapist/anyone who as any right to ask the invasive questions you asked. I do believe that you were trying to come from a good place but the details of what happened are none of your business. It is completely voyeuristic! These women aren’t pressing charges and even if they were it’s not your responsibility to get all of the facts cleared up. Did you ever think that these were very traumatic incidents and they don’t feel like sharing every detail with the world? Again I really do think that you are trying to be and probably are a good guy and feel like you are on their side but just the way you went about is so invasive. Not just for you but everyone reading this you should google “the rape of Mr. Smith”. It’s fictional but it has a lawyer asking a robbery victim the same kind questions people ask women(and men) who have been sexually violated. I think it really puts things into perspective.

      Like

    5. Byron,

      Who made you judge/jury to think you have a right to ask for clarification? It’s not enough that these women were brave enough to even mention these things haooened? You feel they have to JUSTIFY their accounts so you can decide to firmly believe their accusations?

      No. Wrong. They do not answer to you, nor do they answer to the dance community at large. They are *victims* of sexual assault by a sick predator who seems to have enjoyed decades of undisclosed predatory behavior. HE is the one who should be explaining himself. And if you believe victims of sexual assault need to answer to the larger community for their accounts of assault (which may give as much or as little detail as they feel comfortable with), maybe you need to speak to a professional as well to understand your victim-blaming tendencies.

      Liked by 1 person

  40. And just to be clear, I’m not defending anything Steven did. It was all wrong. And I applaud the bravery of these women for speaking out and telling the community what happened to them. I think this kind of discussion will go a long way to preventing things like this from happening again. I just want our understanding of what has happened to be clear. It’s easy to get angry at Steven and throw him to the wolves when we read about this stuff he did and what he put these women through. I don’t blame anyone for being upset and wanting him to be punished. Hell, I’m upset and think he deserves to be punished. But, I want a clear understanding as to whether or not his victims are calling him a rapist or not.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Why do you need such a clear understanding? It’s not about you. It’s about the women who’s trust and innocence was stolen. The fact that these women need to share their experiences should be all the understanding you need. They should and do not need to explain anything to you.

      Liked by 2 people

  41. Heidi, Allison and Sarah,
    I’m pretty certain I don’t need to say this but I’ll feel better if I do and I hope I’m not out of line. I would not answer ANY of Byron’s questions here, in writing on a public forum nor any other questions trying to get more detail from you about specifics. You’ve opened a huge door here and I applaud you for shedding light on something that’s difficult to talk about and I agree that something needs to be done but I think you’re on dangerous ground here. You don’t owe anyone further explanations. Byron has some good points and I see why he’s asking for more info but I would slowly close the door if I were you and speak no further without some legal advise about what you’ve got to say and whether it’s a good idea to say it. Speaking to “what you think Stevens intentions were” or “what you feel he was up to” isn’t a good idea in my opinion.

    This man (Steven) has watched his reputation, and likely his ability to make a living in his accustomed fashion be destroyed in less than 24 hours. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing…but someone, probably many someones, will reach out to him and advise him on how to proceed. If they don’t he may seek that help out. I know I would if I was in a situation such as this. Someone may convince him to strike back. I don’t know how he could do that effectively but I’m not sure you do either. PLEASE don’t give him ammunition beyond what you already have. Be careful what you say and how you say it. There are ways to move forward but pouring everything you’ve got into a public forum might not be the best way to do it.

    I may be completely wrong here, and although I hate being wrong I would love to be in this circumstance. If I am wrong I’d love to hear why.

    Given your background, I feel like an idiot saying all these things to you Heidi.

    Shake-Boy (Paul K)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I think this is very good advice, regarding the specifics of what happened to you. However, I do think the community can have the larger discussion of why these things happen, whether and how forgiveness is possible, and how to prevent them, without having to put out specific details of one or another person’s behavior.

      Like

  42. Byron,

    Your concerns are well founded, but I think it may be worthwhile to pump the brakes here. You are asking people if they were raped. It is good to remember that 1. they don’t have to talk about it with you (even if they have posted publicly about it) and 2. when you ask someone about being raped, it is unwise (and not very empathetic) to be too demanding about it.

    I recommend patience. There is a lot happening right now and many people are processing a lot of stuff. You processing how to feel about this – that is just low on the priority list right now. Again, you’re not crazy to ask/wonder, but getting your answers is low on the list.

    I see that you are looking for clarity, and that you see yourself as on their side, but when you are addressing these women please remember that they are the ones dealing with the hard thing – not you.

    I anticipate that we will know things with more clarity soon enough and I think folks have been commendably clear about things so far. Sarah was prepared to share her story, and neither Heidi nor Alison had the same time to prepare themselves to deal with all of this.

    If you’d like to hear more, please keep this a place where everyone can feel comfortable sharing what they are able without feeling that they might be “doing it wrong.” This cannot be easy to talk about at all.

    Maybe consider your questions logged for now, and just sit back and listen.

    -P

    Liked by 13 people

  43. Byron,

    Your concerns are well founded, but I think it may be worthwhile to pump the brakes here. You are asking people if they were raped. It is good to remember that 1. they don’t have to talk about it with you (even if they have posted publicly about it) and 2. when you ask someone about being raped, it is unwise (and not very empathetic) to be too demanding about it.

    I recommend patience. There is a lot happening right now and many people are processing a lot of stuff. You processing how to feel about this – that is just low on the priority list right now. Again, you’re not crazy to ask/wonder, but getting your answers is low on the list.

    I see that you are looking for clarity, and that you see yourself as on their side, but when you are addressing these women please remember that they are the ones dealing with the hard thing – not you.

    I anticipate that we will know things with more clarity soon enough and I think folks have been commendably clear about things so far. Sarah was prepared to share her story, and neither Heidi nor Alison had the same time to prepare themselves to deal with all of this.

    If you’d like to hear more, please keep this a place where everyone can feel comfortable sharing what they are able without feeling that they might be “doing it wrong.” This cannot be easy to talk about at all.

    Maybe consider your questions logged for now, and just sit back and listen.

    -P

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Guys,

      I don’t think that Byron is asking for specifics just to satisfy his own curiosity. A man’s reputation and livelihood are crumbling before our eyes. He’s on the verge of being shunned and blacklisted. Under the circumstances, it’s reasonable to ask his accusers to state their accusations clearly and to give the accused a chance to respond. The consensus however, seems to be that it’s inappropriate to question his accusers and, indeed, that Steven should refrain from making public comments on the matter. The prevailing view, it seems, is that we dispense with the judge and jury and move straight to the execution.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Neither you, Byron or anyone else has the right to question these women or demand clarifications. To do so, especially with almost forceful insistance, IS rude and inappropriate. It took Allison – a dancer from my community whom I’ve always profoundly respected – fifteen years to write these few lines and most of us will never have any idea how much it hurt. Have some dignity.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. So very, very wrong. This is not a place to judge anyone. This is a space to show support for Sarah and share experiences to hopefully lighten her load. I think there should be no doubt that something horrible has happened. Like it or not, questioning it by “wanting more specifics” is blaming the victim. I don’t think that Steven should have commented on here for the sole reason of giving Sarah her space. Judging will come. But like I said. Questioning the event is very hard to not confuse with doubt, I you, Byron or anyone else doubts Sarah, that’s ones opinion. It has absolutely no consequence on Sarah’s experience, reality and emotions. If you are not willing or able to be compassionate or supportive don’t post here.

        Liked by 1 person

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