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. Byron Stuart. Cease your victim blaming, minimizing of sexual assault, and your demands for details from women who have already shown more courage than you will ever know by sharing what they have. They don’t owe you anything. You are obviously not here to show understanding and support. Stop, step back from your keyboard, and have a serious session of self-examination.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Dear Satah. These scenes “in between” in the “grey zon” which show so deeply what is at stake in society – ones own power – and how difficult gender (and age/job) culture lies on top of that. These grey scenes are the ones we live in and the most important to look at and to speak up. Because in general no-one does. Because then they would come OUT of this greyness! But thats the way!
      Additional I have to say that I experienced a lisght similiar situation, but being majure helps. But even then – not always. I am so sure your story shouldn`t be the only one written here!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done Sarah for speaking out! It must have taken great strength and courage to hit the “publish” button when writing your blog.

    I’ve unfortunately had the same experience with other men in the lindy community more than 10 years ago and only now am I able to speak about it if I ever get confronted about it – otherwise I have kept it as “my dirty little secret” because I was made to believe that it was. And I was ashamed, naive and confused.

    I’m not that person any more and I applaud you for speaking out and having the courage I haven’t been able to find yet.

    I hope that you can filter through the messages and comments you receive, to find the warmth and support from your friends near and far.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. While we shouldn’t minimize the accident, we also certainly shouldn’t exaggerate it. I think what Steven did was wrong and there is no excuse. However, it is important to note that he did not use violence and coercion. Beginning of the post reads: “The words below include a description of sexual assault.” The Sarah herself mentioned that this term is very broad. So why use such a broad term instead of something that accurately depicts the situation? I read the first sentece and thought that I am possibly going to read about a rape. And I am probably not alone. So usage of this term, in my mind, is exaggerating the scope of the accident. Many responses in the comments are also very emotional and often seem to be inadequately strong. The main issue I have with this discussion is that it seems like it is about usage of violence. Steven did not use violence, did not use coercion. He immorally persuaded and manipulated Sarah. However, difference between coercion and persuasion is crucial. One is punishable by law, the other is (while possibly morally wrong) not. The sexual contact happened when Sarah was 18 and no coercion was used. Hence, all that happened among two consenting adults. Maybe this sounds to some like minimization of the accident, however, I don’t want to do that. I want for reaction to be adequate, not minimized, not exaggerated. And I feel like it was exaggerated both in the post and in the comments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I won’t address everything you wrote, but remember this: it’s not necessarily two consenting adults when one of them is drunk (and given that Steven supposedly very much helped her get drunk, the matter is made much worse).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Was Sarah forced to drink? If no, there is still no coercion. Was Steven also drunk? Following your reasoning, if Steven was also drunk, he was not responsible for his actions. Or this only applies to Sarah? Your comment exactly indicates, what I was talking about in my first comment.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It applies to you calling them two consenting adults. Responsibility of your actions (re was Steven drunk?) is a different issue. Just be clear about what consent and consenting really means.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Jamie, you are assuming you know what it feels like to be a woman/young girl in this culture. You don’t. There are a million tiny ways a female child is taught that she has less power and agency than males. Trust me on this – you have never experienced it. I know it is hard for you, who have not experienced this kind of emotional/sexual pressure/coercion, to understand how powerful the pressure is, and how difficult it is for a young girl/woman, and/or a person with lesser status/authority, to resist the pressure from a more powerful or idolized person. But that is why the community needs this dialogue – to increase understanding on all sides.

      Liked by 3 people

    3. I think it is very problematic that you are calling this an “accident.” The behaviours that occurred when Sarah was under 18 were classic, textbook grooming which is commonly used by abusers as a DELIBERATE TACTIC to make their targets dependent on them, isolate them from other supports, and thereby make them less likely to complain about whatever might be done next. (This includes emotional abuse, not just sexual abuse).

      You say the sexual contact happened between two consenting adults? Even giving Steven a lot of benefit of the doubt (e.g., that the significant age difference and his position of power in the scene no longer mattered, that he was giving alcohol to someone under the legal drinking age for purely innocent reasons, that he truly believed she wanted to go with him to an isolated area of the event, etc., all of which are questionable to say the least), he did AT LEAST two things that were clearly not consensual: on the first occasion, grabbing her crotch after she’d already pushed him off her (while suggesting something was wrong with her for pushing him off), and then, everything he did on the second occasion even though he knew, based on the first occasion, that she wasn’t interested. Were these accidents?

      You agree that Sarah was “manipulated” but say she was not “coerced”. This is semantics. Manipulation is a form of coercion. Consent obtained through manipulation is not real consent, and sexual activity without real consent is sexual assault (and Sarah said, right up front, that there are varying degrees of sexual assault).

      tl;dr: Sarah’s story is one of very deliberate, manipulative, and yes, coercive behaviour that clearly amounts to sexual assault. You say you don’t want to minimize it? Then stop calling it an accident and recognize it for what it was.

      Sarah, I believe you and I am awed and moved by the courage you have shown here. I hope that your bravery in speaking out will help our scene have the discussions and make the decisions necessary to ensure it is a safe space for everybody involved.

      Brian Gottheil, Toronto

      Liked by 9 people

    4. IT IS a sexual assault. And having doubt about that mean you have no idea how hard it is to live with that.

      how hard it is to built himself with so bad foundations

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    5. Woah. There was no exaggeration – it was sexual assault. Sexual assault is not equal to rape. This was not an accident – this was coercion and manipulation.

      It scares me that people in this community are willing to defend what has happened here. It’s one thing to question someone in terms of fact-checking; it’s another to say that the facts, though accepted, are not nearly as big a deal as the victim says they are. That’s very problematic, and opens the door to behavior equally bad – or worse – in the future.

      Liked by 8 people

    6. Jamie, I think you have some more thinking to do about the spectrum that runs from refusal to consent. An absence of force and coercion does not imply, let alone guarantee, the presence of consent. Teenagers are made vulnerable by everything from their lack of life experience to their still-developing brains, and it often doesn’t TAKE outright violence or coercion to get them to do something they don’t want to do. That doesn’t mean they consent. The federal justice department defines sexual assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” I think we can all see that Sarah, (also Heidi, and Allison) are well within this definition. Your insistence that victims conform to YOUR idea of sexual assault reeks of victim blaming, victim shaming, and ignorance. It is because of reactions like yours that so many of us post “emotional” responses to this type of brave publication.

      Liked by 1 person

    7. Coercion: The intimidation of a victim to compel the individual to do some act against his or her will by the use of psychological pressure, physical force, or threats.

      Psychological pressure: “he didn’t know what had happened to me that “fucked me up” so badly. He said there must be something wrong with me.”

      And another legal definition: http://www.justice.gov/ovw/sexual-assault

      Liked by 7 people

    8. The thing is, the behaviors that Sarah describes before her 18th birthday bear all of the markers of “grooming” and “gaslighting” behaviors, which are common forms of manipulation/emotional abuse. The perpetrator (for lack of a better term) slowly introduces touch and innuendo, builds trust and at the same time, creates an atmosphere where the target is convinced that they are crazy and they are the ones who are responsible for whatever happens next. Also, the way that Steven used his status in the community to obtain her silence is a classic marker of abuse.

      Even if you don’t feel comfortable classifying this as sexual abuse, understand that there were persistent undercurrents of sexualized emotional abuse. It is possible to be abusive to another person without ever laying a finger on them. Besides, the repercussions of emotional abuse are far more insidious and damaging than any physical altercation.

      So, no. I don’t really see a distinction in this case between coercion and persuasion. Keep in mind, I’m not speaking as a lawyer, but as a social worker who has worked extensively with intimate partner violence, sexual abuse, and incest survivors.

      Liked by 4 people

    9. Assault is defined as offensive contact with a person. How is there any question that grabbing a woman’s crotch when she has already said no isn’t offensive sexual contact and therefore sexual assault? Touching a woman in a sexual manner when unwanted is a form of violence. And yes, he was also using coercion (trying to persuade someone to do something through force or intimidation); he was just unsuccessful (in the instance or forcing her to have sex).

      Liked by 1 person

    10. Jaime, I really feel like you either did not read what was written OR you do not know the definition of the words violence and coercion. Also I think it should be clear from the others that have come forward that this was not at all accidental.

      Like

    11. Jamie you’re wrong. Child molesters usually never use violence in their rapes. All they use is manipulation. I was molested at 10 by a man who asked me to give him a hug when he was done. There was no traditional ‘violence’ in that entire event, yet the judge convicted him of aggravated sexual assault of a minor. Coercion and manipulation are tools to aid in sexual assault.

      Liked by 2 people

    12. What Steven did IS coercion. Trying to seduce a 16-year-old using his position of importance to her and other adults is the very nature of coercion. Calling and texting a minor, engaging in “inappropriate” (sexual in nature) conversations is illegal. He could have been charged with “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” at the very least. Many states have passed legislation against this type of coercion via texting and calling by adults to teenagers. Although Massachusetts’ (where Sarah grew up) age of consent is 16, in many states, including CA where Steven lived at the time, 18 is the minimum age for consent. A case could be made that since the coercion initiated in CA, he was guilty of sexual assault or abuse since he engaged in sexual conduct (fondling, grabbing her crotch, etc.) with her when she was 17. If so, the statute of limitations might not even be up since she was a minor (the statute of limitations is often longer for minors).

      Yes, this is Sarah’s account of what happened. Although I don’t know Sarah, I do know how hard it is to come forward with this type of charge is extremely difficult. 1 in 3 woman are sexually assaulted in this country and 1 in 4 are raped. Most sexual abuse and rape are not reported because of the shame, self-blame and embarrassment felt by victims — exactly how Sarah felt. Teenage girls are particularly vulnerable for the very reasons Sarah described. They are trying to become adults, to fit in and be accepted by peers and adults. They have adult bodies, but are not adults emotionally or mentally. This combination presents a prime target for sexual assault and is precisely why there is a minimum age for consent in the first place.

      While I was not there, what I do know is, that if her account is true (and I personally believe her), it was deliberate. I also know that people don’t just wake up at his age and decide to pursue teenage girls — they have done it before and will do it again.

      If, after all this, you readers still insist on dismissing Sarah’s post, think how you would feel if she was your sister or daughter. I know how you feel, Sarah, because was not able to get away from my “friend” in college.

      I applaud you Sarah! Please don’t hesitate to contact me, if you’d like.

      Sharon

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you Sharon, and all of the people on this thread who have shared their personal experiences of being manipulated, coerced and abused. I am deeply grateful to Sarah for starting this discussion, and I know that every one of you who has come forward with your own experiences is making it that much easier for the next (unfortunately there will be a next) person who is subjected to this awful behavior. It is shocking how much this happens and by speaking out you are all helping the survivors heal, and helping the rest of us understand and face the problem. In the long run, I truly believe that your openness will do a lot to reduce this kind of abuse. Thank you

        Liked by 1 person

    13. Jamie, when a person is touched in a sexual way without their permission, that is by definition, sexual assault. Period. The legal definition may be broad, but the behavior described was very clearly assault.

      You say there was “no coercion” but a grown man was plying an underage girl with alcohol, so she couldn’t have legally given consent, even if she had wanted to, which she clearly did not.

      Just so you know, not all rape, or sexual assault involves physical violence. Guilt and psychological coercion can result in unwanted sexual contact, and manipulation of the kind that Steven Mitchell employed leaves similar lasting damage to what physical violence would have. Furthermore, Steven manipulated Sarah for several YEARS. So lets put that in perspective as well. Years of telling her to keep his secret, years of emotional and psychological grooming such as any pedophile or abuser might employ. Do you still think that is not coercion?

      And you may not want to sound like you are minimizing the incident, but by claiming exaggeration, and emotionality, you are. When 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted in this country at some point in their lives, we can not afford to take stories like Sarah’s for granted. We should all be taking this very seriously because every single person who saw what was going on is at least partially culpable. We should all be taking this very seriously because we stand at a cross roads where we can either take stewardship of our community and make it a safe place for all dancers; OR, we can sweep this under the rug, look the other way, say it’s exaggeration or that comments don’t count because they hit an emotional chord with the writer, and let more young dancers fall prey to sexual predators. I for one, do not want to be even partially responsible for letting things like this happen to even one more person when there might be something in my power I could do to prevent things like this from happening in my dance scene.

      Liked by 4 people

    14. “Steven did not use violence, did not use coercion. He immorally persuaded and manipulated Sarah.”
      > Immorally persuading and manipulating a young girl who is barely “of age” (this is a somewhat arbitrary line of what constitutes “of age” in the first place) IS coercion. Steven is a groomer, a predator. I find it offensive my that you call this an accident. It’s another form of victim-blaming, whether you realize it or not.

      Like

  4. Byron,

    While you’re waiting and listening, I recommend a little reading as well. Please look into: sexual assault and the breadth of crime it inhabits; the tenets of consent culture; how sexual harassment is determined; Dan Savage’s campsite rule for different age groups that date; and domestic abuse (and the emotional manipulation and power differentials that allow it to exist). Additionally, please google “how to support victims of sexual assault” . Some or all of what you read in these topics will give you a deeper understanding of what these women are alleging, how it hurts them, and why it’s no less wrong than a coital “rape”.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Jamie you really need to think about what you are writing here. Sarah was very clear in her text that she did not get raped. The point is not whether or not something illegal happened, the point is that we need to try and make sure things like this don’t happen. We need to do our very best to make sure that everyone going to a lindy hop event feels safe, especially the younger dancers. And we need to make sure that if something does happen it is safe to talk about, even when it concerns one of the international instructors. That is what is important here. Because what happened was in no way ok and even if there was no physical violence there was certainly harm done.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I agree with you here. This is not about what the law says is right: it’s about what we as a community want for ourselves. If I’m an event organizer, do I want the people I hire to be giving minors alcohol and engaging in sexual activity with them? This is someone I’ve paid to be at my event and to represent my community. If I’m a dancer at the event, is this how I want my teachers to act? I don’t care if she was technically legal: he was decades older than her and in a position of authority. A good community doesn’t let its authority figures act this way. Thank you, Sarah, for alerting us to someone who is violating our community standards.

      I haven’t had Sarah’s experience, but when I was a young and inexperienced dancer (19-20) I was subjected to an international instructor many years my senior (not Steven) paying a lot of attention to me, making me feel special and then saying inappropriate things to me. I remember well the feelings of confusion I had and I’m so glad that I never found myself alone with this person. I’m guessing that many of us–mostly females, but not all–can recount something similar. The combination of authority, hero worship, and youth is very dangerous and people revered in our communities should be aware of this dynamic.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. Just for comparison’s sake:

        There are 18 year olds in high school. Can you imagine what would happen if a high school teacher began hitting on or sexually interacting with one of those 18 year olds?

        This is basically the same thing – but with a dance teacher instead of a high school teacher.

        If it wouldn’t be OK in a high school, why should it be OK in the dance scene?

        Liked by 10 people

  6. Dear Sarah,

    I don’t know you, but I just felt I had to write and tell you how sad I am to hear about what happened to you but also how impressed I am at your bravery at coming forward with this. You are perfectly right – this conversation about the structures within the lindy community is long overdue.

    Why we should imagine that the lindy community should be free from the general patriarchal structures and the rape culture that pervades our entire society is beyond me. Of course it isn’t. Most of us know this very well. We know of many instances of sexual assault and even rape. And that there may exist a slight easing of harmful structures in the community due to a certain openmindedness is definitely counteracted to a great extent by the things that you mention; the clear hierarchy, the idolisation of very good dancers and teachers and also, I would say, male dancers in general to a certain extent.

    I would also say that these are problems that don’t only apply to teenagers or young women but to a lot of women, irregardless of age. The lindy community is after all very male centered, due to several combining factors, and it shows. I, myself, have almost stopped dancing all together because of how these factors result in a damaging atmosphere (I think the extent of this differs between differens local communities though).

    In any case, while it is wonderful if your brave actions in sharing your story helps other victims to share theirs, and while it is great that we talk more openly to women about how these things happen and how they look, so that we can help them both recognise and protect themselves, I think it’s even more important that we focus on the rest of the community – both the potential offenders and the bystanders. It’s important that we talk about everyone’s responsibility to help shape a community in which a predator isn’t afforded the chance to assault anyone. So that we don’t end up putting all the responsibility on the potential victims as we so often tend to do in these situations.

    All my best wishes to you. Know that we stand beside you in this.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Sarah,

    Thank you for sharing your story — it must have been a very difficult decision for you, but it is helping and will help so many others who have experienced, or might in future experience, this kind of horrible treatment. I believe you, and cannot express how sad I feel that this has happened to you. I wish you all the best as you continue to heal and be a leader in the dance community, and hope that others follow your lead in creating safer spaces.

    Amanda

    For everyone else, I just wanted to link to a post written by the lovely folks at a dance studio I used to work for in Toronto, because I think it exemplifies the appropriate response to situations like this. This should serve as a model for those looking to support the women coming forward with their stories right now, and for how the lindy hop community needs to respond to all cases of sexual violence: http://beeskneesdance.com/in-solidarity/

    Can we please stop all of the victim blaming and nastiness that is being written in the comments? If you aren’t sure how to respond to this with compassion, respect, and without making it all about you, please educate yourself on the issues of sexual assault, rape culture, and related issues.

    Liked by 9 people

  8. Thank you for speaking out. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to put all of that into words, let alone share it publicly. I admire and respect you for your openness and courage.

    Like

  9. YOU GO GIRL!
    Oh my god, you have the bravery and courage of like, a bear AND a lion put together or something equally awesome and strong.
    I hope you know how much you’re doing to help other people who have been in similar situations.
    Believe me, I know it’s hard to speak out about traumatic things. I also know sometimes it drudges up old emotions.
    Hang in there.

    Also,
    You’re also bringing a new level of awareness to the dance community. I foresee lots of seminars on appropriate vs. inappropriate sexual behavior in the future. In fact, I’m going to mention having something like that at my university club’s next board meeting. And then annoy them until it happens, because I think it’s important.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. No one sees the WHITE ELEPHANT named COMPLACENCY ? Or believe that none of the instructors he taught with for years ever noticed? Or they did notice and complacency is ok because it’s not their responsibility?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. no one wants to jeapordize their careers, if it was just some creepy old man, people would have spoken up. the chance NO ONE IN THE PROFESSIONAL COMMUNITY was aware of this is 0

      Liked by 1 person

    2. no one wants to jeopardize their careers.
      while the posts are ‘we all have to work on this together’, no one is going to hold another as responsible, just because they knew about it and didn’t make an issue, but they would have been all over average joe creepy old man.
      CHANCE OF PROS, PARTNERS, INSTRUCTOR FRIENDS, NOT KNOWING ABOUT THIS: 0

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Byron, you should be ashamed if yourself. Those type of questions, and dismissive comments, are the EXACT reason why women are afraid to speak up. Haven’t you seen the comments ‘I believe you’ ? Because, obviously, some people like you question, doubt and show signs of disbelief. It’s is apparent you can’t place yourself in these womens’ shoes, because if you did you wouldn’t be questioning them, because if you did you would understand why it can be so hard for a victim to speak out in the first place. Your comments are just discouraging those who have these experiences from sharing further. How do you not know that this may be the first time they have even said anything about their assult to anyone. By making those comments you are discouraging the conversation and braking down the safe place the lindy hop community has created in the forum. Stop, take a break and listen.

    Sarah, Allison, and Heidi. I believe you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I cannot speak for Byron, other than to say he’s one of the good guys, but I think he is wanting to know with clarity the severity of what occurred and doesn’t want to interpret statements like, ” The ER doctor had some very interesting thoughts on what had happened. ” to mean a drug was likely placed in the drink, if that wasn’t one of the interesting thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I applaud Byron for honestly trying to learn more and understand. However, as I mentioned in a reply to his original comment, my response to Byron would be to ask him to focus less on whether a “rape” occurred, and focus more on the impact of coercive sexual behavior, regardless of whether it meets the definition of rape. Let’s not try to shut down honest attempts to understand.

        Like

    2. Just to clarify…nowhere did Byron state that he doubted the truth of what these ladies claim or in any way doubted that Steven’s actions were wrong. Speaking as a lady who has been on the receiving end of unwanted sexual advances, I would not be offended if someone asked clarifying questions…in fact I would consider it perfectly healthy to open-up a reasonable dialogue. Byron has nothing to be ashamed of and is merely seeking to understand the situation fully…not just for himself but for the community.

      This issue is extremely delicate, and I understand the vulnerability that sharing these devastating experiences can cause. I encourage the strong/negative emotions that everyone is feeling right now to be channeled in the right direction though…not at the decent, caring members of this community.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. In the UK recently there has been a series of high profile celebrities and public figures from the 70s and 80s who have been involved in the grooming and sexual assault of women and minors. All of the stories that have come to light from these horrific acts reflect almost precisely what Sarah has described above. The grooming, the placing on a pedestal, the secrecy, the sexual assault, the threats and then the guilt felt by the victims.

    Through the strength and courage of victims speaking out, it has been found that the problem was much wider spread that first anticipated, because it helps others find the courage to speak out too – hundreds of victims have now come forward, with many high profile figures implicated.

    Attempting to stifle this conversation or find excuses for the behaviour is a terribly bad idea and may stop others coming forward, which is the only way these issues will get resolved. Without the courage to speak out, these sorts of atrocities will continue. Support the victims here, give them every little bit of help they need to remain brave and speak out about these predators.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Thank you for sharing. It took strength not only to speak out, but to do so with such insight and thought. That is truly amazing. Regardless of what anyone thinks about Steven as a person or an instructor, this behavior is not ok, and should not be glossed over in the Lindy Hop community.

    My questions for Sarah, what support do you feel you need from the community? How can we come together to help you heal and once again feel safe in the community?

    My questions for the community; how do we hold our luminaries accountable for their behavior? What is the best way to hold Steven accountable? Assuming he has taken ownership of his actions and is willing to be held accountable, what can he do to make amends both to Sarah and our community?

    After all, a violation against a community member is a violation against the whole community.

    I’ve been writing a lot about this sort of thing, and doing lots of work with sexual and physical assault survivors. I am happy to provide whatever resources I can to help everyone process and heal.

    My writing on this issue:
    http://www.beyondsafewords.com/accountability/

    Here is a good resource for education and community action:
    http://www.vawnet.org/
    http://www.vawnet.org/sexual-violence/summary.php?doc_id=2978&find_type=web_desc_GC

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Sarah, thank you for sharing this. You are really brave and it’s only in sharing stories like yours that other people feel the strength to come forward. People always want to believe that this doesn’t happen in *insert community here*, but it does and if no one talks about it, the people who suffer with these memories stay in the dark. I don’t know you personally (other than having taken classes at Mobtown), but I hope that this brings about some kind of change and encourages others to make sure everyone in their community (whatever that is) feels safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. No matter how you label it, it’s troubling. I don’t think anyone has the right to tell anyone else how to perceive their own experience. You felt violated by what Steven did to you, and you have every right to feel that way. It was brave of you to share it.

    I don’t think people understand how common similar behavior is/was. When I was 17, a much older man who had been dancing a long time and who was well known in the scene made advances (I think it may have even been at the same camp in San Diego you were talking about), snuck me alcohol, got me alone, and we ended up doing basically everything short of having sex. At 18, I met a well-known dance teacher when I was traveling. He was literally twice my age, and at first he complemented me and made me feel special, made me think he was interested in helping to develop my abilities as a performer and teacher. I ended up isolated, in a foreign country, in an emotionally (and once or twice, physically) abusive relationship with him for about a year. I don’t necessarily think of myself as a victim in either of these circumstances, and I certainly didn’t think of it that way at the time. But in retrospect, and in talking to other people, I have come to realize that both of these men made a habit of targeting and manipulating insecure young women.

    Those who are arguing whether or not it was assault are missing the point. The point is, we should all be aware of older, more established dancers using their status to take advantage young girls, and we should shift the culture around the scene to make it clear that it’s not ok.

    Another incident comes to mind when I was very young and very drunk, and some friends provided me an exit from what could have turned into a very dangerous situation, and I remain incredibly thankful for that.
    I think when we see these dynamics developing, we should speak up. We should recognize that young women do have the right to do what they want want with their bodies, but we should help make sure that they have an out if they want it.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. You are seriously going to ruin this man’s career, all because you made him think you were similarly interested, went with him willingly, asked him to STOP when things got too intense for you,and….*HE ACTUALLY STOPPED * ????

    And you have the nerve to label this “sexual assault”? You went with him a SECOND TIME, for a repeat session… Then again, asked him to stop, after allowing it to get to a certain point…and AGAIN, he…..STOPPED?

    Then, on your next encounter, he didn’t even make a move on you, just tried to discuss his feelings with someone he trusted and thought was a friend of several years…Oh, what a monster.

    FYI, i don’t know either of you, i found this through a friend’s FB post, i’m just a woman who has *ACTUALLY* been sexually assaulted, and it didn’t involve me telling the guy to *STOP*, and him *STOPPING *, it involved me telling him to STOP and him ****NOT STOPPING ****
    So you had an uncomfortable experience with a dude who respected you enough to stop when he found out you didn’t want what he was doing. Welcome to life. The way you and everyone else are spinning this is an insult to actual sexual assault survivors.

    You make me sick.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually, YOUR comments make me sick. Absolutely sick.

      What happened to you was rape. Straight up rape. And I’m sorry for that. I hope you’ve been able to get the help you need and share your story with someone, even if that’s just a therapist. I hope your rapist was convicted and can never hurt anyone again.

      But there are a lot of different levels of sexual assault. Predators are manipulative. They know how to get inside of your head and make you reliant on them, confuse you, and manipulate you. They make you do things willingly that leave you feeling like crap, and you never would have consented to in any other situation. And these leave scars, even if they’re not physical. Sometimes they take a long time to get through.

      The ultimate goal of some predators isn’t rape – it’s the thrill of the manipulation. Or the feeling of being in charge and in control. Or maybe they just get off twisting someone’s brain up (in this case, a young, inexperienced girl). Us “normal” people will never know. But that DOES NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES make this any less of crime.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Anonymous,
      I’m sure I will have more to say to you later- right now i’m just appalled by everything you just vomited out. You obviously an asshole- but you dan’t have to be a coward. Sign your name.

      -Nina Gilkenson

      Liked by 9 people

    3. I don’t know why you feel the need to have a competition of whose pain is worse. The fact remains that Sarah’s experience had a deep impact on her and that Steven remains involved in the community that Sarah is an integral part of. The discussion that this essay starts will be beneficial for a large group of people and hopefully prevent similar things from happening to other young girls in our community.

      Your assailant didn’t stop. You’ve had to deal with the repercussions of that experience and I am sorry.

      This post isn’t meant to belittle your experience or the experience of others like you. Sarah didn’t go through the shit you did but she did go through another brand of shit and is no less offensive than what you went through.

      I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive any aggravation this post has caused you and find a path to a solidarity of purpose that makes both you and Sarah’s experiences obsolete.

      Liked by 7 people

    4. This has Internet troll written all over it. I don’t believe for one second that they are an actual sexual assault survivor as I highly doubt one would react in such a manner. I also don’t believe for one second that they’re even a woman. They are nothing but an anonymous Internet troll, and they are part of the problem.

      Liked by 6 people

    5. As others have said, this is not a competition… and it’s really inappropriate to make it into one. Also, why do you feel the need to comment if you found this randomly through another friend’s fb post? I mean, seriously!? ….This incredibly brave lady obviously wrote this with the intention of making the dance community a safer place for young women, not to solicit unwelcome judgement from bystanders who have no part in it. She said herself that she thought long and hard for many many years before speaking out. I’m sure she also thought long and hard about naming the individual, and what the consequences of that might be. He has himself admitted his guilt, and (sort of) apologized (albeit through further victim blaming).

      I am not for a second suggesting it, but how would you feel if somebody completely belittled your own horrific assault with a sentiment akin to “well mine was worse… get over it”???? Just stop and think, really think, about it for one moment. As was said before, words like yours stop others from coming forward. It encourages a stream of thought similar to “Oh well, what happened to me was nothing compared to “–––––” … I”ll just shut up and get on with it”. Is that really the message you want to send? I’m really sorry for what happened to you, you have every right to be angry about that and I hope you get the support and love you need from those closest to you. It’s well known that sexual predators gradually push the boundaries of what they can get away with… each time their offenses getting worse and worse. If some brave lady had spoken out earlier about the man who assaulted you perhaps it would have saved you. Perhaps not. But creating a “competition culture”, and silencing people who speak out, feeds oxygen straight to the flames of inappropriate behaviour which may lead to more serious offenses like rape… “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make” (Jane Goodall). So, please, think about what kind of behaviour you are (indirectly) perpetuating through your comments. And please know that these words are spoken with kindness and love & are not meant to belittle your own experience.

      Liked by 3 people

    6. Wow Anon, you’re working through some serious self-hatred right now. That’s more than obvious. I hope you get into therapy and start healing.

      Like

    7. Anonymous, the anger in your post sounds like unresolved PTSD to me — strong anger that comes out sideways rather than directed at the appropriate source. I hope you find and avail yourself of resources (EMDR, tapping, survivor support groups) to help you heal from the very real (if invisible) wounds suffered when someone assaults us.

      Like

  17. I applaud Sarah for bravely breaking the silence, particularly about someone to whom we’ve all given so much power, visibility, esteem, and money. Assault, coercion, and inappropriate sexual contact with young people have been an insidious part of the dance community for too long. I remember when in my first home scene some leads became sexually involved with a girl they allegedly believed was of age. She looked about 14 and was I think 15 or 16, but had allegedly claimed to be of age. From their comments “protesting too much” it sure seemed some of the men had had doubts about her age and had done it anyway.

    People with predatory behaviors are taking advantage of confusing dance connection feelings and power dynamics to manipulate and abuse others, including underage people who are interacting in an adult environment. As the Mobtown Ballroom community strives to, we must uphold in all our scenes a culture that prioritizes respect and consent. What happened should never be tolerated.

    So many of us learn through dance to be comfortable with our bodies, our self-expression, who we are, and how we connect to people, music, and history. It’s devastating to think that some of us have the opposite experience. Let’s create and demand a community in which that never happens again.

    Liked by 4 people

  18. Anonymous, I’m so sorry to hear that you had such a terrible experience. I cannot speak to what happened to you, but I can understand how my story would cause you to feel the ways that you seem to be feeling. I have no intention of ruining Steven’s career, and I honestly don’t believe that it’s up to me to decide. I understand the weight of what I’ve said, though, and I stand by it. This is a community that needs to look at the ways authority figures prey on children and women, and this isn’t an isolated incident. I can only speak to my experience, but if I thought that this were something that had only happened to me, I don’t think I would have needed to speak up. I wish you the best.

    Liked by 10 people

  19. This has been blown way out of proportion. This is a case of an old man that likes younger women. He made some discreet moves, but got rejected. He was persistent and still got denied. Now his career has been ruined. He should have been talked to privately, not put online for everyone to see.

    There are old men that like young women. Some people are okay with it and some people aren’t. Either way it’s legal for a 50-year-old man to sleep with an 18-year-old girl. What they did, on two occasions, was not illegal. Sarah made an adult decision to meet with Steven. He made a decision to initiate sexual contact. He stopped when asked. Sarah made the decision to meet with him again and put herself in the same situation. He tried again but it didn’t work out. He persisted in trying to have a relationship with her and she wasn’t interested. She finally stopped engaging with him and he stopped.

    The dance community can be known as promiscuous and filled with wild parties, drinking, drugs etc…professional instructors often partake in these activities. It doesn’t mean it’s right, however it is socially and professionally acceptable. Men/women are aggressive towards each other and make moves to initiate sexual relations. Some people are more persistent than others, rejection/acceptance happens, however it’s not often blogged about.

    If someone has a problem with someone else they should talk to them or maybe have someone else talk to them for them. Call them on the phone. Or write them an email. Posting about it publicly is awful and considered defamation. Steven Mitchell has been defamed and these words have caused him great professional and personal damage. He has the legal right to take action. Be careful what you say and write.

    It’s sad that so many of his friends and colleagues have jumped on the bandwagon to put him down. Or maybe it’s an opportunity for them to promote themselves and fill in a teaching spot that he will no longer be able to occupy. If people really cared about him they would advise him to not mix his personal relationships with his professional ones.

    I personally have been in three situations where drinking was involved and there were unwanted sexual advances. I denied the advances. I learned from those experiences and have since avoided putting myself in situations where something like that could happen again.

    I wonder how many other dance instructors have done similar things and/or have been in similar situations?

    I personally feel like professional dancers need to be more professional than they currently are. They’re there to teach, perform, compete, judge and social dance. They shouldn’t be drinking, doing drugs, sleeping with each other, students etc…these kind of things often compromise business relationships, professional partnerships, and student – teacher relations.

    People need to be careful about what they blog about and post on Facebook etc….there are legal ramifications for saying things about people, whether true or false. People need to think logically and not act out of emotions. And some things should be talked about privately. People need to learn from this and use better judgment in the future.

    I think the swing community needs to talk to Steven in a loving and caring manner. If you’re going to hire him, just ask him to be more professional and to avoid pursuing any romantic relationships at your event.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To quote,

      “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.”

      “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.”

      “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.”

      Like

    2. If you feel so righteous and sure of your response to this issue, why won’t you leave a real name? You know, so you can be contacted and talked to privately?

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Sexual predators should not be able to act with impunity. Losing friends and having his career ruined are natural and appropriate consequences for his actions and should be the least of his concerns right now. Every instructor who has behaved similarly should also be called out and driven from the scene. Arguing that this behaviour is okay makes me wonder if you are one of those people.

      Liked by 5 people

    4. Ok, I feel like I need to address this at it is very much out of line. It is one thing to have romantic and/or sexual relationships with a big age difference, another to manipulate and shame someone into doing something they don’t want to do. It might be true Steven tends to have feelings for women younger than himself, and there are plenty of examples of relationships like that working out fine. But the actions described in this blog post are predatory and unsafe and they are things that no one should be doing and that you shouldn’t be defending. If he did not realize how bad it was I hope he does now and changes his behavior. And I hope this conversation that is happening here can help make sure other people check their behavior before they hurt someone, or can tell someone right way if something like this happens to them.

      As someone who has been in a consensual sexual relationship with a person more than twice my age when I was in my early twenties I know what I’m talking about. If you happen to fall in love with someone where there is a power dynamic like age or a teacher/student-relationship (both in my case as well as the case described here) it is very important to be aware of that. We talked about that a lot and were both very open about our boundaries throughout the relationship, my partner made sure I was able to safely say no and there was no guilting anyone into doing anything. These are things that are important in any relationship but if there are strong power dynamics at play it is even more important as the person in a position of less power can be scared or feel pressure to do things they don’t want. It should be in both parties interest that they are both enthusiastically consenting and not feeling forced in any way.

      Liked by 2 people

    5. It seems that he has put himself in this situation. And a strong and amazing woman is so brave to write about it. It is important, so important, to make sure that other young people is not put in the same situation. Sometimes it is not even the actual age that is targeted, it is the vulnerability.

      Annie S

      Liked by 4 people

    6. Did he ever once ask her if she wanted it? Even nonverbally (ie, letting her escalate the situation, or reciprocate the sexual contact.) This is what consent culture is all about. Especially after the first time. If he wasn’t a predator, if this was truly all a big innocent misunderstanding, then after her first rejection he would have waited until she was sober and then asked her if she wanted to pursue a relationship in whatever form (friendship, makeouts, one night stand, a continuing romantic involvement, whatever,) and then respected what that answer was, and gone at her pace (the slower of the two.) If she at 18 wanted to sleep with a 50 year old rock star instructor then more power to her. But that’s not what happened. If he was truly a good guy he would have given her room to make a choice for herself, not gotten her drunk and alone and keep pushing until she yelled at him to stop. That’s not what consent is.

      – Braden Nesin

      Liked by 5 people

  20. 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 about 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

  21. What the public is saying is, the information provided is quite enough to make a proper judgement. Therefore there is no need to ask for further information, and doing so is inappropriate. If you cannot come to terms with the severity of this situation based on the accounts that have already been given, then that’s really not everyone else’s problem. He is on the verge of being shunned and blacklisted because what has occurred regardless of whether or not anything equally terrible has also happened is a perfectly reasonable response.

    Rape doesn’t become less of an offense just because violent rape exists.
    The sexual assaults mentioned here do not become less damaging and horrific just because sexual assault happens in other ways. That’s nonsense.

    Liked by 7 people

  22. Just two more thoughts. A large number of posters have accused Steven of “abusing his authority.” But that’s misleading. Steven is AN authority on lindy hop, but there is no sense in which he is IN authority (he has no real power over anyone), and it’s “authority” in the latter sense that’s relevant here. No doubt he has social cache, and that’s probably part of what attracted Sarah to him in the first place, but it’s not obviously wrong for women to be attracted to men with social cache (or vice versa) and for men to be aware that that’s part of their charm. What he did isn’t the moral equivalent, say, of a police officer sexually assaulting someone (police officers are IN authority. They have real power. Steven is merely AN authority. He’s just a well-regarded expert in his field.).

    There’s also been a lot of talk about Steven manipulating Sarah. That’s a tricky one. Flattery, after all, is a staple of many relationships. If your girlfriend asks you how she looks in a particular outfit, it might be unwise to answer honestly. If you’re dating a dancer, you might tell them how good they are and how much potential they have even if you don’t entirely believe it, just to build their self-esteem or make them feel good about themselves. Maybe all of that is subject to moral criticism. I don’t know. But the issue here is whether Steven engaged in a whole lot more than just insincere flattery. Did he actively deceive Sarah? Did he promise her things that he never intended to deliver? I don’t think we’ve been given enough information to answer those questions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like you’re missing some of the important points of this blog post that indicate manipulation. This wasn’t solely about flattery – actually, it has nothing to do with flattery. It can be hard to wrap your head around if you haven’t experienced coercion like this for yourself. But for a young, inexperienced girl who looks up to and likes a man they view as more knowledgeable than themselves – it happens. And it happens just like this.

      Anyways, quotes from the post I’m going to redirect your attention to follow. Think to yourself, “is this something that I would do/say? Ever? In any circumstances?”

      “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.”

      “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.”

      Like

      1. NoName,

        If you’re asking whether I think it’s appropriate to talk to a 17 year old girl about sex, I’d say that it can be. Where I’m from many of the girls were sexually active by 15-16, and by the time they were 17 there were few virgins. I think the problem is that we’re infantilizing teenagers, treating them like young children. A 17 year old girl is certainly old enough to have sex, to talk about it, to be advised that older men will find her attractive, will want to have sex with her, and might be willing to say just about anything to get her to agree (that might be true of younger men as well). Of course, a conscientious older man would have proceeded with caution. Steven, it appears, didn’t do that (of course, we haven’t heard his side), and for that he bears the (presumptive) blame.

        The crotch grabbing, I think, is pretty damning. Ideally I’d like to know the context a bit better and I’d like to hear his side of the story before passing judgment, but I agree that it looks bad).

        Liked by 1 person

    2. “Of course, a conscientious older man would have proceeded with caution.”

      Bryan, it makes me sick that there are people like you in the dance scene. Many people have already explained more than they should have to about why Steven’s behaviour was wrong and why it is not your place to demand information here. Nobody cares what judgment you arrive at about these events. It’s not a fucking reality TV show for you to speculate and gossip about. If you want to demand answers, go to Steven’s facebook page and demand them from him. But, frankly, I think you should be concerned more about your own ignorant and harmful comments here.

      Like

      1. This reply is to Bryan (sorry couldn’t figure out how to do that so it looks like a reply to Joe). Bryan honey, you’ve obviously missed the lesson on “how to be human”. Let us all know when you’re ready to come back from the stone age. More nicely put – Bryan I think you are missing a lot of basic understanding of male/female dynamics and the way gender and power influence each other in our culture. You seem not to have talked with (or maybe it’s that you haven’t listened to) many women about how it feels to be one. Until you’ve caught up with the rest of the commenters here on these issues, I think you should do some reading and some listening and refrain from further comment.

        Like

      2. Joe,

        It makes me sick that there are people like you in the world, so quick to join the mob and shout down even the mildest dissent. No one is demanding anything, you sanctimonious twit.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Suzanne, honey, you’re right. Only those who share your enlightened views of man/female relations should be allowed to speak. The rest of us, who are merely suggesting that we pause a moment and think things through before destroying a man’s career, should just shut the fuck up until we’ve been suitably re-educated, preferably in a camp somewhere. I’ll start packing. In the meantime, you might want to give some thought to the image of women you’re perpetuating and the role that image plays in how they deal with adversity.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. You’re talking about adult relationships. Yes, it’s all very tricky with adults. But this started when she was 16, and happend through her pre-adult years. I teach high school, and if I knew a man was pursuing one of my high school girls, I’d try to castrate him… It’s not ok, even if he didn’t actually end up having sex with her. Grooming a 17 year old is fucked up.

      Liked by 2 people

    4. Bryan,
      Most have addressed the other parts of your offensive, victim-shaming comment here. Steven is in a position of authority as a teacher. That is clearly defined in any policies/laws pertaining to sexual harrassment, assault, abuse, or rape. It is wholly inappropriate for any teacher to engage in the behavior that Steven has engaged in being an instructor for classes in which Sarah took part. Whether you believe her or not (I personally do, you are of course left to your own opinions), saying that this isn’t an abuse of a other relationship is actually just incorrect. He was her teacher, she was his student. The behavior was inappropriate given the differences in power, and it would be inappropriate regardless of how old she was or if the gender roles were reversed, or any other demographics of a relationship. Teachers in the dance scene have a power that they need to be aware of and careful about.
      -Nina Current

      Like

  23. Unfortunately I’ve decided to forego the first rule of the internet and I’ve read the comments on this post. Especially in an anonymous platform, the internet has allowed people to feel entitled to share their unfiltered opinions without taking any responsibility for their own words, and also without considering who their audience is. I know Sarah very well, and while it’s taken her time, she is secure enough in what she’s shared to handle criticism. Still, consider the other victims of sexual assault who are reading your asinine comments against Sarah’s statement and are now deciding that things that happened to THEM weren’t important enough or that they’re just being dramatic and they should keep it to themselves.
    I know many young dancers who idolize dance instructors, and it can be a very harmful part of a culture to stick people on a pedestal like they can do no wrong. A similar thing has happened over the past few years with the Youtube community, where popular vloggers took advantage of their influence on young people and used it for purposes of sexual harassment and assault. To be clear: sexual assault is sexual assault, no matter the amount of violence or the specific sexual acts involved.
    As a survivor myself I have been told that making the “poor choice” to get drunk means that it was my fault and that, in one incident I have been involved in, not stating a clear “no” (when I was blackout drunk) means that it was consented. I have also been told that because my assaults weren’t violent, I can’t be traumatized by them. These are harmful myths designed to discredit those who have been victims and are survivors, and it’s a serious form of victim blaming. Consent is a clear, sober, and enthusiastic thing. The fact that Sarah stopped him and he listened doesn’t make the things that happened before she stopped him consentual. I’d also like to direct you here: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_grooming)
    If you came to this page upon seeing the words “sexual assault” and were looking for a rape story (because that’s how a lot of these comments sound–like you’re looking for something messed up and this wasn’t dramatic enough for you), it’s on you to update your definition of sexual assault, and not for survivors who find solidarity with each other and in owning their experiences and telling them that they don’t count and that they’re being too broad.
    Any level of sexual assault can be traumatizing and damaging to one’s self image and self esteem. Sarah has been at the forefront of many efforts, and has been doing an amazing job at Mobtown, to prevent things like this from happening and from making sure that the response to any level of harassment is that it be taken seriously and dealt with privately in a way that protects the victims. And if your only goal is punishing people who have committed wrongs and not about preventative measures, your priorities need to be reevaluated.
    I had a conversation with Sarah about this a while ago and even then, she was wording her statements in a way that minimized what had happened. I am extremely proud of her for sharing this publicly, and it makes no difference that it wasn’t “that bad” or could have been worse. This story is still real and important and something she has been carrying around with her for years that she is now using in an attempt to protect other people and to make a change in a community that has become conditioned to let inappropriate behavior from well-known figures slide.
    There are many people, young girls especially, in the Lindy Hop scene who treat instructors and well-known dancers like they are rock stars. I have been guilty of doing so myself. Yes, a lot of that is all in good fun, but it creates a social culture wherein people feel they are obligated to deal with prominent members of the community being inappropriate because of who they are. If a dancer makes an unprecedented sexual comment, for example, some people are more likely to be thrilled to be having a casual conversation with an instructor than to be offended by the content. And all it takes is one act of complacency to reinforce that a behavior is okay.
    Sarah has done a lot of good to combat these issues, and many other overlooked issues in the dance scene. She has always made herself available as a resource to anyone who feel there are issues that need to be addressed, as have both Michael and Nina. When I explained that I had taken a significant amount of time off from dancing because I didn’t want to deal with a lead who was making me uncomfortable, Sarah’s response was, “Why didn’t you tell me? We would have dealt with it.” There is a strong example being set that other scenes and events should be enthusiastic to follow. Sarah and Michael and Nina are fully committed to not only giving the illusion of safety in their scene, but ensuring it.

    Liked by 5 people

  24. I have been asked to clarify- I was raped by Steven not Sarah- I share many similarities to her story but mine went to the point of sexual intercourse in the forest at Beantown camp as I was invited to a private lesson in the hall but when he tried to get me in the door was locked. I froze in fear as he ordered me to bend over in the dark woods and he penetrated me from behind and came in me. I bled from the experience went back home the next day to canada where I immediately went to the doctor and reported the incident and got pap tested etc there is much more to this story and m more after that I don’t want to get into here .

    I hope this clarity’s that I was penetrated and I am not saying that any other woman was.

    Allison

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Allison, you’re so strong to put all that out there. Remember that you don’t have to say any more on this public forum if you don’t want to. People may ask, or be curious, or even demand more info for the sake of Steven’s career. But you are in charge. It’s no one’s business. As long as you’re going through a process at home, hopefully with a therapist, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. The priority is your healing process. Steven will get his due. The opposite of love isn’t hate – it’s indifference. And someday you’ll get there.
      From one rape survivor to another, this is part of you, but it is not all of who you are. You can break free from the shame some day. Keep processing it, talking with a trusted group of people/family/friends, reach out for help when you need it, and some day when you can, you’ll be able to help another survivor.

      Liked by 3 people

  25. Fist, Sarah, you are a strong, brave and amazing woman. I don’t really know the word in English but I admire your strength.

    I believe you wanted a discussion about how to prevent the same kind of things happening to others, is that so? If it is I for one am open for it.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Allison,

    Thanks for coming forward and letting the swing community know what happened. It takes a lot of bravery, courage and vulnerability.

    I strongly encourage you to seek legal counsel. Posting accusations of rape online is a very serious matter. You are accusing someone of a crime. I’m not saying it didn’t happen but there are legal repercussions for doing so. Did you take any legal actions against him? I believe there may be a statute of limitations against prosecuting him now.

    It is also important that people know Steven’s side of the story and that he have the opportunity to defend himself if desired.

    Legal action needs to be taken now! Everyone in the community needs to be aware of what is going on. People need to be protected, especially our young ones!

    If there are other victims they need to come forward through legal counsel. A good place to start is with the police department. Not posting on Facebook/the Internet! Know your rights and limitations within the law! Google “defamation” before posting online. You can get you into serious trouble for accusing people online and saying bad things about people online.

    Again, Allison, thank you for coming forward please talk to your Police Department in Canada and seek legal counsel!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gotta love non-lawyers telling other non-lawyers to Google legal terms.

      Defamation is making false statements to a third party which will tend to damage the person’s reputation. Which means, as long as the statement is true, it’s not defamation.

      And Allison, I believe you.

      Signed, a legal counsel from Canada.

      ps. In any event, when you Google “defamation”, the first hit says “Under common law, to constitute defamation, a claim must generally be false …”

      pps. What I mean by that is, I’m not sure why you think it’s a good idea, as someone who doesn’t even know Allison and who knows almost nothing about the situation, to tell her that she needs to make a legal claim, report to a police department, hire legal counsel, or any other unsolicited advice. This is her experience and she gets to decide how to deal with the trauma of what she has gone through. There are lots of sad but very good reasons why many people do not approach lawyers or police officers about such issues.

      In other words, Google “why victims don’t report” before posting online.

      Liked by 10 people

      1. Thank you for saying all of that. People like ”voice of reason” are why rapes and assaults don’t get reported. For the most part when it happens to you and your abuser is someone you know, you just want it to never have happened and for it to go away.. You are angry, hurt, scared, traumatized and absolutely floored that someone you know has done this to you.. But that wars with not wanting to cause a scene.. What if no one believes you vs the man. Just forget about it and it will go away. But you know what? It doesn’t go away. Ever. So these women – they are my heroes and ‘vor’ needs to read up on victim blaming/shaming.

        Liked by 5 people

    2. I think this is neither the place nor time for Steven’s account of the events (He should but it’s not here that will happen)

      I’m horrified in relation to the possibility that Allison may have felt obligated to provide additional information. I’m sickened that people are asking for “clarification” on whether what happened to Sarah , Allison and Heidu was rape or not.

      I’m not denying Steven’s humanity but these acts as written were deliberate, violative and thoroughly lacking in empathy. Worse there appears to be a pattern in this behaviour. He has a long road ahead of him if he wants to deal with this but don’t engage in victim blaming here. If you think someone doesn’t know the consequences of falsifying a claim of rape you’re probably wrong.

      If you are his friend you still can choose to be without denying the fact that his actions have caused life long damage to these women and the behaviour as described is unacceptable. You can and should weigh it up but do it without denying others.

      Liked by 3 people

  27. Dear Voice of Reason (although it pains me to use that phrase in connection with you),
    It obscene for you to tell Allison that it’s important for people to hear “Steven’s side of the story.” The woman just came forward with a story of him raping her. She doesn’t have to consider shit, and it is a symptom of your extreme disingenuousness that you packaged that line in a post to her.
    Best,
    Michael Seguin (my real name)

    Liked by 12 people

  28. To Sarah, Allison, and Heidi:

    You are all very brave to share your experiences. I so greatly admire your courage, especially knowing the types of challenges and questions from others this would provoke

    It could not have been anything close to easy to do this.

    I believe you and I am grateful because your courage will inspire others to be courageous, and the discussions and questions ensuing, while emotionally charged, in the end will serve our community by further educating us all on topics of sexual assault and sexual abuse. That can only be a good thing.

    God bless you and thank you for your courage.

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Heidi and Sarah and Allison – I am in awe of your courage. To the trolls out there, you have absolutely no idea how hard it is to first acknowledge that something like this has happened and second – name names. My actual rape happened when I was 16 (I’m almost 50 now) and I have never gotten up the courage to name the person who violated my trust. I am literally shaking I am so proud of you ladies for being so brave.

    Liked by 7 people

  30. First off all, nothing I posted indicated that I had any doubts about want anyone said about what Steven did, and Sarah was very careful to write in a clear way that left little ambiguity, though to me, the postings from Allison and Heidi raised even more serious concerns with Steven’s behavior. So, I asked all of them questions that would clarify if rape or attempted rape was involved. Second of all, the motivation of Sarah posting this in a public form, as far as I understand, is to protect the community and prevent it from happening again. I think anyone that thinks that Sarah’s motivation for posting this publicly was to seek attention or support is mistaken. It seems to me Sarah is a strong and brave person and her willingness to bring this issue forward, despite the pain it has caused her, and knowing the kind of backlash it may cause, for the greater good of the community, is showing how selfless she is. Again, I’m really glad she came forward, and I think we should all support her, but I’m asking these questions in hopes of clarifying the severity of the threat that Steven poses to the community.

    That said, I think the community needs to know if Steven is a rapist. That’s a bigger problem and more dangerous to the community than a megalomaniacal, inappropriately sexual, opportunistic, _fill-in-the-blank_ person. If there are other women that this has happened to, I hope they are able to come forward, too. If anyone rapes anyone else, I think charges should be brought against that person. I’m asking for clarification not because I doubt anyone’s account of what happened or to satisfy my own curiosity, but to assess the level risk to the greater community. I’m also not trying to downplay or diminish the severity of the things that Steven did, but understand the full extent of what he did so that the community can be protected.

    For those of you who have made assumptions about why I’m asking for clarifications (and apparently didn’t thoroughly read my comments), and particularly those of you who are calling me names and accusing me of one thing or another, I think you’re negative and judgmental attitudes hurts this conversation a lot more than it helps. I’m not ashamed for wanting to protect the dance community and understand the level of risk that Steven poses. I’m also not ashamed to suggest that the victims press charges if a crime was committed, so I’m trying to ascertain what crimes were committed here. No, they don’t have to answer my questions if they don’t want to. I just thought the clarity that those answers would provide would make for a clearer understanding of what the dance community is dealing with.

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    1. There are no assumptions needed to read what you’ve written. Your comments are harmful in themselves regardless of your intention. You are minimizing sexual assault even in this comment, while claiming otherwise, by describing sexual predators as merely “megalomaniacal, inappropriately sexual, opportunistic” and suggesting that sexual assault without penetration is less severe and less important. Most people in this thread care about the dance community, and have been able to show empathy at the same time that they’re thinking of ways of addressing the issue… all without asking inappropriate, invasive questions and attempting to rank sexual assault on a hierarchy of severity. If you really want to know how “severe” it is, read what has already been written with more empathy, instead of interrogating sexual assault survivors so that *you* can tell them how severe their experiences are.

      You are not a lawyer, police officer, social worker, or counselor. What makes you think you are uniquely positioned to advise sexual assault survivors on whether to bring charges and what charges to bring? Your apparent inability to even use the term sexual assault I think is rather telling.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. Regardless of whether Steven is a “megalomaniacal, inappropriate sexual, opportunistic” man or a rapist, I personally believe that the risk Steven poses to our community is greater than anything I would be willing to accept. I do not need details, because his actions are inappropriate regardless of the context.

      Sincerely,
      Cari Westbrook, The Lindy Affair

      Liked by 2 people

  31. Sarah, Heidi, and Allison, I believe you. I am sorry that these comments are full of such rank violence. I hope you are all surrounded by love, safety and support.

    I am a sexual abuse survivor. Thank you for speaking up. I stand with you.

    Liked by 3 people

  32. As Chris has said: While maybe valid points or not on who is right, wrong, what should and shouldn’t be said, how to handle accusations or not, I think the thread has gone beyond the point of what the post was trying to make clear. Whether Sarah, Allison or Heidi want to give details it is up to them, not us. It is up to us to take their experiences and learn how to work together as a community to help them morally, emotionally through their hard times. It is up to us as a community to show that it is alright to speak up. Not teach people to speak up, but give them the courage that these 3 community members have to confront their demons and let them speak up without judgement, without questioning the details or lack of details of whatever happened. Do the details really matter to you? They they shouldn’t. Do they matter to the person who is a victim, yes. But remember, it is up to them to open up. It is up to them to decide how much they want to open up to you. So all of you take what they said and accept it. Don’t gush over details or lack of.

    We should be here to show support, show we care for the community and learn from each other to see how we can raise awareness of not these events, but of encouraging people to stand up. AND!!! We don’t need them to stand up to us. Who they stand up to is up to them: they can tell us, the police, community organizers, family, whoever. But we don’t get to choose. However, I do think it is important for stories to go out to the community so we are aware of who might cause harm, but we can still keep the names of those harmed anonymous. Again, there are reasons why people don’t go to the police or others. We need community organizers who will listen without judgement and take care of their community. That’s what I feel these stories are about. I could be wrong, but I think it is still valid that we need to work together.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. You know – this whole thing just really makes me mad, and I just feel so terrible for Sarah, Heidi, Allison and any other women (likely) who have had any part of their lives negatively affected by this guy.

    Part of the reason people lindy hop is because it is supposed to be a safe, healthy, and wholesome activity. We’re just supposed to be goofing off, acting silly, wearing fun clothes and jamming out to great music. We’re supposed to be able to hang out with the people we meet. We trust our community not to steal our bags while we’re dancing. We trust our community to open their doors for us when we’re traveling. Our biggest concern should the bar owners getting angry when we’re not drinking enough liquor. Yet, the reality is that we really aren’t anywhere near as safe as we think.

    For people that are newer to the scene, please know that Steven is NOT the first person who took advantage of his faux lindy stardom to pray on women. Take a few minutes to look up Mo from LA, Eddie Reed (big band leader) and, of course, Bill Borgida. Yehoodi had threads on these guys. Each case was different, but there was also a lot of similarity between all three scenarios. Many women reported sleezy sexual behaviors by all three of these men in the lindy community for years before they were finally arrested. Lots of people knew that they were bad news, but never did anything about it. All three of them served (or are serving) jail time because of their inappropriate sexual behaviors.

    I don’t feel bad whatsoever for Steven. I do feel bad that our community continues to allow this crap to go on. I feel bad that women have to hide their experiences with these guys out of fear of losing respect or their own reputations in the lindy scene. I hope that Steven will get what he deserves, and that our community will finally start taking this stuff seriously enough to stop hiring and promoting these creeps. We’ve got way too many real MEN trying to get recognized for their talented teaching to keep wasting our time with the losers.

    Liked by 5 people

  34. I am trying to read everything but just haven’t had the chance as i have two toddlers and a business so I will do my best to catch up and thank u for the support. I have lived with this for years and years and it quite honestly has had many negative repercussions on my life – I just feel too overwhelmed right now to go any deeper I don’t know why it is just too much. It is painful , angering and believe it or not I feel pity for Steven. It is a mixed bag of emotions but if I go too deep right now I won’t be able to carry on with my day to day duties like my business. Sorry I will try and reply to any questions as much as I can when my kids are asleep or with their father.

    Xo

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Allison, Isn’t it weird how you stuff it down deep inside and go about your life and then something happens that makes it almost impossible to think of anything but what happened? Mine happened when I was 16.. I am almost 50 and from the moment that I read Sarah’s post I have been consumed and triggery. I totally understand when you say “has had many negative repercussions on my life” Totally Get It. Don’t even pay attention to the trolls.. they have never lived our reality so they don’t get to weigh in on how we should feel. XO from someone who doesn’t know you but feels like she does.

      Liked by 2 people

  35. Sarah, I found it painful to read your story but it needs to be told and shared with the Lindy community. It must have taken tremendous courage to disclose your identity and be so objective in your account… huge respect.

    For those that haven’t seen, Steven has admitted he has a problem in response to Naomi’s Uyama’s post on FB (https://www.facebook.com/naomi.uyama.7/posts/10204883480900306):

    “Steven Mitchell – Naomi thank you for your post. I do have have a problem. And after reading your post, and talking with a few people it has helped to see and realize this fact. I will seek help as soon as I get home. I’ve been so blind and on a road of destruction for some time now. I will clean up my life . Thank you”

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  36. Sarah, Heidi and Allison.

    Wish you peace and a way to find peace and harmony after revealing what you have been holding on to for such a long time. I admire your strength and wish you peace.

    Thanks for bringing what has happened to you to light, so others may be safe. Hope this helps your healing.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. There have been people like this, in the Lindy hop scene for a long time and some have been revealed and many not. A lot of the time it is hard to pinpoint what could be going, but you have a gut feeling that something seems is amiss. The people in the social circles, of teachers and organizers surely notice more and see more, but that rarely comes up until some brave woman comes out and even then the people who see and know choose to remain quite.

    Some of the active predators are still around and active and considered the main stars of the Lindy hop community. For the community to truly feel safe, it would be healthy to hear the teachers and organizers come out and clean house. In the name of being diplomatic and discrete and protecting their business and teaching careers, I am sure we won’t hear of most of the ‘unhealthy’ people in the scene. And that is the sad state of (not just) the Lindy hop scene. It is a common patters in any scene that has ‘Stars’ and hierarchy and business involved.

    I stopped going to Herraeng because the organizer is one such creep. Now it seems I have to re-consider my visits to the other festivals.

    Dancing is supposed to give us joy. We can’t be joyful if we don’t feel safe. We can’t be blind to these people and their behavior.

    Thanks for the courage in speaking out Sarah, Heidi and Allison.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Thank you everyone for having the courage to share painful experiences, personal thoughts and feelings.

    I’ve been in the dance community for over 10 years. It is clear after reading these comments that there is a lot of collective pain in our community. I myself am feeling some version of this very acutely and though I’ve attempted to stay above the fray for several days, I’d like to contribute some thoughts to the discussion.

    I feel awful about so much of what I’ve read here. This includes not only the destructive decisions and actions of Steven, but also the incredibly violent ways people in this thread are speaking to others who share different opinions than themselves. Why are we so quick assume that we have the moral high ground? Why are so many doing this? There has been a lot of pain expressed, a lot of compassion and support, but also tremendous verbal violence.

    Let me make myself clear: I do not condone Steven’s actions. He has clearly caused a lot of damage. I think he has a problem that he needs to address. But I don’t think the situation is as cut and dried as some have made it out to be.

    It’s been intense to read these experiences and reactions. Yet I’m left wondering why there has been little discussion about what the healthiest way is to deal with someone who transgresses against a community? I’m not a Christian, but I wonder what Jesus would do. You know what I mean?

    It seems that the general approach taken by the commenters here is immediate rejection, public condemnation and humiliation, and summary permanent ostracizing. Is this all we can do? I know it’s hard to have compassion for someone who has wronged you or someone you love. I know that love of community triggers tribal and visceral protective instincts in those we JUDGE (I’m purposely not saying ARE) as predetors and harmful to that community.

    I don’t mean to minimize the damage that has been done, but I want to be a voice for hope in tragedy. Can there be no path to rehabilitation, forgiveness, redemption? Isn’t this at the heart of so much spiritual practice? Or are these transgressions irredeemable?

    I have never met Steven, but it’s clear he has some things to deal with, and that he has provoked the rage of a community. I can also see that he has inspired and taught so many people and has many gifts to offer.

    Anger, hate, and protectionism make so much sense in cases like this, and yet they are not ultimately ways “forward”. Perhaps once the dust settles a bit on this discussion we can all consult our hearts for what “forward” looks like from here. In my heart ostracizing doesn’t feel right. Perhaps we can be inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth_and_Reconciliation_Commission_(South_Africa)

    I just know that there is a LOT of pain here, both by the “victims” and the “perpetrator”. They ALL need all of the love that the people who care about them can muster.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. This is just precious. You traipsing along, undermining the accounts of sexual assault survivors and trying to protect a rapist from the consequences of his actions, and telling us that it’s wrong to be protective of the people he’s hurt.

      It’s amazing how much passive aggressiveness is in that comment, wrapped up in pseudo-spirituality and pseudo-concern for humanity. And funny how you choose to use the word “violence” not to describe the sex offender but the people defending sexual assault survivors.

      This is not South Africa. If every single sex offender outs themselves, stops victimizing women and girls, and places themselves at the mercy of the people they’ve hurt, then we will have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for them. In the meantime, people have been talking about ways of moving forward. If you weren’t so wrapped up in your concern for Steven, you would see that.

      Like

      1. It is okay for a sexual assault survivor to be angry. Anger is part of the healing process and part of the process for change. No one is responsible for the redemption of offenders but the offenders themselves and their maker.

        Like

    2. I believe part of the healing process for Steven has to be to leave the swing dance world for now. If he does understand what he has done he will understand that his presence will make people feel unsafe. That is something he has to deal with and it will be hard but it’s not something we can help him with right now, other than to be very clear about the fact that he has done some very terrible things.

      I don’t think I would ever feel comfortable dancing with him in a closed embrace or taking classes the way he has taught them before. That is just fact. It is the consequences of his actions. If he does come back it would have to be in a different role and he would have to stay far far away from young dancers.

      I’m glad he is getting the professional help he needs.

      Like

    3. “but also the incredibly violent ways people in this thread are speaking to others who share different opinions than themselves.”

      First, I haven’t read anyone posting anything “violent” against anyone they disagree with. Maybe you need to look up the word violent.

      Second, I’m not a Christian either, so I really don’t care what Jesus would do, but I’m pretty sure he’d forgive those passing judgement over Steven more quickly than he’d forgive Steven.

      Like

  39. Dear Sarah,

    I’ve read this post and many of the following comments and discussions on facebook. Thank you so much for sharing your story in the interest of making our community safer.

    One reflection I had was that my initial reaction, I am ashamed to admit, was a moment of disbelief. Worse still, this reaction happened when I was reading the part you called the most upsetting part of your recollection. This made me think about the experience that so many people have of reporting sexual assault and abuse, that these actions are so clearly and unequivocally wrong, that we think they can’t happen. I do believe you, though. These things CAN happen.

    Which brings me to another reflection.. I am so glad to see so many other people who believe you and are being supportive. I think part of this is your extremely articulate and emotionally astute account that you’ve written, and part of it is the wonderful people who make up this community. One thing I hope all these readers consider, is that assault and abuse can happen to people who are not particularly articulate, who may not fully understand what happened to them or use appropriate terminology, who may not feel like they’re part of a supportive community. We need to listen to and support them as well.

    So thank you, so much, for sharing this, which has led me to think more deeply about these issues, and what part I could play in building a safer community and society.

    I’m sure though, that you have much better ideas about what we could do, and I would love to hear them if and when you’d like to share them. Particularly, you say that every individual dancer, not just leaders and organizers, have a responsibility and can do things to make the scene safer. I agree, but I’m not sure where to start. I hope to hear your thoughts on this. In the meantime, thank you so much for what you’ve done already.

    Wishing you all the best,
    Laurel

    Liked by 2 people

  40. Erin Millard writes in response to Steven Mitchell’s comment on Naomi’s wall.

    Steven Mitchell. First, let me say that I am glad that you are coming to terms with yourself and your previous actions. I very much hope you are able to find comfort and clarity as you head down the path of realization, hurting, and healing. I really do.
    However, this apology, like the rest of the copy and pasted apologies, are not enough. In fact, they leave one feeling like they were issued more for damage control than for regrettable despair and remorse. Which is the only thing I could imagine one in your place should be feeling.
    This community will never forget how you helped to build it, your dedication to Lindy Hop, the magnificent teaching, and exciting events and competitions you forged. The thing is, we will also never, ever, ever forget the circumstances of which you exited this community.
    I know that many of these people are your friends, and I encourage and expect for those people to help you and support you through your upcoming struggles. That’s what friends do.
    Starting over is extremely hard, as I’m sure the women you had inappropriate contact with can attest to. I think it is important for you to realize that starting over isn’t going to happen here, and although I hope you are successful in your healing process I have no problem saying to you that I will personally raise my voice, boycott events you are hired for, and do what I can to ensue you are never accepted into this community again. Let me assure you, I AM NOT ALONE. And because of Sarah Sullivan, neither are the women you hurt.

    Like

  41. Thank you Sarah for talking about this. I admire your courage and recognize the strength it must take. You are making the world a better and safer place for all. Again, thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

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