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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528 thoughts on “

  1. Sarah, Heidi, and Allison,

    I was a victim of sexual assault in my own home. Even though I do not have the courage I want you to know that by speaking out, you have given me hope that one day I too will have the courage to be able to speak. I am behind you and I truly believe you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Amanda. Speak when you are ready. Healing trauma sometimes takes a long time. Forgive yourself for not having the courage: it is a natural consequence of the sexual assault. This is not your fault. Your are a child of love. Just trust that the Universe loves you unconditionally. And please, when you can, take care of yourself and find a friend or a therapist who can help you. We need your light to shine 😉

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I believe sarah, Allison and heidi.

    I also believe anyone else that has been abused, assulted or raped by Steven. How ever you tell your story and when, it is yours to tell.

    I hope you all have support and love through this difficult time. Thank you for being brave and sharing your stories.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Allison Thanks for doing it.

      It happens in our Whole Culture, not just the dance scene culture. Maybe more in the dance scene, maybe just the same. It is just like Bill Cosby, Men Using power & relative higher authority to get what they can. Users. Women too do it too I suppose, but mostly men.

      I happened to me with the owner of a restaurant I worked at when I was 16 or 17. And it was the date rape drug and the full intercourse deal. Actual rape, though I really never thought of it that way until recently.
      I am 54 now and I hardly ever think of it, I have not forgotten, but it never comes up in my mind. It would not hurt my feelings if he were dead, he was just a low-life dirt-bag lech.
      So it is Strong brave and RIGHT for you to be open and detailed about it. It will change, maybe over decades or generations, In the dance scene as well as in the Whole Culture. It will change more quickly when you, and I, and all Bill Cosby’s victims, and anyone else who has experienced it, speaks out.
      I am sorry you had to go through it. I am sorry I had to go through it.
      I am sorry the general culture allows men to be so fucked up to do things like this.
      It is changing. It will change more. You are a big part of that change.
      thanks.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Alison, you never said yes, that is what is what we have to teach and learn. It is not the presence of a no, it is the absence of a yes that is important.

    I could go on, but I don’t know how to in a good way. I wanted to stop here, but I cannot help asking myself, how many women has this happened to, how many times? How many other men are doing it? How can it be prevented? I don’t know Steven Mitchell, I have only seen him at camps, mostly on stage, but I want to say that camp organizers around the world, please keep him away from young women, and please help each other keeping an eye on young women, the mere probability that more men are doing this is pretty damn high.

    Annie S

    Liked by 5 people

    1. A verbal yes would be nice but playing along with the activity could be considered implied consent. even if she had said yes the problem remains (as was pointed out in her post) that this person used many things (age difference, position of expertise, alcohol, secrecy, shame, etc) to unfairly manipulate Sarah. Another poster rightly pointed out that we need to stick together. We need to watch after each other. The existence of evil demands that we be vigilant.

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  4. Rape: unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by a sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim.

    Was consent given?

    If he was the one that turned you around and pulled down your pants, then I believe you were raped. If YOU were the one that turned around and pulled down your pants, that is legally considered giving consent. If you gave consent then you were not raped.

    I don’t know about the second encounter, we would need more details about what transpired in the house/room.

    Even if he did rape you it will be very hard to prove. In my opinion it’s not worth the emotional trauma. You’ve already done a lot and have helped protect future women from having similar encounters with this man. Great job! You should be very proud of yourself!

    Steven used his position in the swing community to scam on girls. He is a womanizer. He likes young women. He takes advantage of young women. He used your inexperience and ignorance to have his way with you. It depends on how you look at it, some men think this is okay. Most people think it’s not. I feel what he did and probably will continue to do is wrong and he should be stopped!

    With Sarah and Heidi he did not commit any crime. That has yet to be determined with Allison. Even if he did commit a crime with Allison it will be very hard to prove. The main thing is that he has been stopped and the world knows what kind of person he is. A similar thing happened in the West Coast swing dance community, but with underage girls. That person has since been eliminated from the community, but only after several girls came and then left the dance community because of their experiences with him. Hopefully the same thing will happen with Steven.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, the law, well, in our hearts we need to learn that as long as we don’t say yes, it is a no. Mental abuse is also abuse, only the law hasn’t caught up with that quite yet. Alison is sharing her experience to get it out, protect others and get on with her life. Well, that is what she says in the video, maybe she changes her mind, maybe she already has, maybe she never will. I believe she is strong enough to handle whatever she chooses.

      I don’t understand why you have to determine if he did commit a crime whit Sarah and Heidi, he affected their lives in i quite a negative way that no one should have to go through.

      “He takes advantage of young women. He used your inexperience and ignorance to have his way with you. It depends on how you look at it, some men think this is okay” I think you hit the nail here, some men think this is okay, I have known men who does, but I haven’t know _one_ woman, not one, who in her heart think this is okay at all.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Annie, Legal has to determine whether it’s a crime or not, because his heart is closed. When we suffer enough, sometimes we lose faith in normal human emotions and focus on something more solid, such as law. That’s why he is talking about “eliminating a person from the dance community”, and that’s also why he has this very logical scheme where “Steven likes young women”, “Most people think it’s not”, etc. Basically, Legal is using logic to decide as to what is right or wrong, whereas you can just directly feel it inside yourself.

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    2. I really abhore responding to an anonymous poster but you clearly have no understanding for what a battery or misdemeanor sexual assault is in CA as both were committed against me. Please do not to continue to post as a legal authority and give out incorrect information to people. It’s very disturbing and does nothing to help this already incredibly difficult and tragic situation not just for us women who were acted upon, sadly I’ve been contacted and there are more than the 3 of us, for friends and partners of all involved, for the community and yes for Steven who I do not want run on rail and shunned by those closet to him. He needs support in order to get the help he desperately needs, but support for him does not need to come in the tearing down of us. All of us can be supported in ways that are necessary and commiserate for how we are involved. So please stop creating more problems than necessary.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. It’s quite insignificant, but let me add my voice to Heidi’s in saying this line of questioning is absolutely inappropriate and hurtful. Please stop trying to create complications in what is, overall, a quite tragically simple situation.

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      1. Any sort of contact with the body that is not consented to is a crime. Whether it was a sex crime depends on the nature of the contact. Seeing as the purpose of the contact in these situations was sexual in nature, it is a sex crime.

        Whether or not it is difficult to prove – or whether the statute of limitations is still running – is an entirely different situation.

        It is obvious you do not have any legal background whatsoever to actually interpret the law. The crime of ‘rape’ has long since been abandoned as a catch-all offense; the terms these days legally is sexual assault. This can include anything form a butt grab to forced intercourse. In some situations, it can even cover verbal sexual intimidation or harassment.

        If you want to put these assaults in little, ‘legal’ boxes, it’s still a crime. You are flat-out wrong. Show some compassion.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. Dear Legal, I do not believe you are a legal advocate or a lawyer. Your definitions are incorrect. The first few paragraphs seem to insinuate Sarah Sullivan “asked for it” or it was “possibly consented.” Your last part of the message was not the issue. First part was horrible with all the detailing. She was given drinks, a minor, coerced, a position of figure in her community, and told to keep it a “secret.” She did nothing wrong except not tell someone sooner. She was lucky not to be assaulted and raped, that he stopped. Maybe thst was his only shred of decency. Everything he did was still wrong.

      Please stop posing as a legal person.

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  5. Legal. Your comment makes me very frustrated. I don’t wish to argue in a disrespectful way with you with any poster on any forum, if opinions are different as long as there is some basis for rational opinion. I can see that perhaps if you have a legal background , this is a black and white issue for you, but I would urge you to read your words again. Firstly , it caused me pain to read it, as it totally didn’t seem to appreciate the heartbreak and emotional distress this has caused to these women, who are to be lauded for their bravery in speaking out. It was not easy. I could feel the pain in the words and had s visceral response to Alison’s video. Yes you mention whether it is legal rape or not. That is not the point of the discussion here, it is about violation and prevention of its presence in the community. Secondly, and most incredulously I was so upset to read your flippant statement that it is prob not worth the emotional trauma for Alison to act or speak further. Even if you have had a similar experience and can speak in relation to this, it still does not mean that you can speak for her or assume anything in this situation. If you are just wildly assuming in general, it comes across so dismissive and just misses the point entirely. Please know that I am trying to show a differing of opinion in the best possible way, without being verbally violent even though I shouted at the screen reading it. I know your heart may have been in the right place and you support the coming out of these women, but words have power and these women are reading them, and please consider your tone and don’t assume anyone but them knows how they feel or what is worth their own emotional trauma.

    CN

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Just a thought: I doubt he has any legal background. If he did, he would know that what happened is still a crime. Proving a crime occurred beyond reasonable doubt is different from, if the stated facts are true, saying it is not a crime.

      What happened is sexual assault.

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  6. I absolutely swear I had no idea Steven was committing these unspeakable acts. I am broken-hearted, and in a state of shock. I completely believe the victims, and my whole heart goes out to them. As of this moment, Steven is no longer my dance partner.

    Liked by 12 people

    1. Virginie, if we all feel betrayed I can’t imagine what you must feel like. For those of us who have been in the scene a long time, we know how much Steven grew as a teacher by working with you and, we assumed, as a human being as we saw him change in so many important ways. You cannot take responsibility for his actions, but you can take credit for much good that came from him from your positive influence. For that you should be proud. We love you.

      For everyone, I have posted my own thoughts in my blog, The Zen of Dance. The post is “Legendary Betrayal” http://got2lindy.blogspot.com/

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Legal, you are totally wrong. You can be coerced into doing something through fear and intimidation and that can be purely through psychological means. The rapist doesn’t have to undress you. If they force you to have sex with them by making you feel like you have to, like you have no choice, that’s rape. Allison was raped. Period.

    Allison, I’m so sorry that this happened to you. Thank you for your bravery in coming forward and letting us know what happened. I’m shocked, sickened and deeply upset by what Steven did to you, Sarah, Heidi and anyone else that hasn’t spoken up.

    Joe, you need to stop reading between the lines and restating things I’ve posted in a way that puts words in my mouth or otherwise misstates the intention or meaning of what I’ve written. If you have a question about why I wrote something or what I meant, please just ask for that clarification, rather than judgmentally misinterpreting and manipulating my words. Sexual assault is serious and comes in many forms, some more serious than others. Rape is a form of sexual assault that is the most serious. Just like murder is more serious than physically assaulting someone. I asked questions to understand the severity of Steven’s actions, and that clarification was given. I appreciate that these women have come forward and spoken up. I’m glad Sarah spoke up about her experience being sexual assaulted, and I’m glad it prompted more people to come forward with accounts of even more serious sexual crimes being committed. I hope Steven gets help, and I hope he can actually be helped, but I also agree with other commenters that he needs to remove himself from the dance community. And I stand by my previous comment that (if it’s not too late) the victims of these sexual assaults should press charges. I don’t think people that commit crimes like this shouldn’t go unpunished or get away with a slap on the wrist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have no interest in derailing the thread to have a debate with you. As I have already said, no assumption was needed to read your comments, and they were offensive regardless of your intentions. It seems you might actually genuinely care about the people who have been victimized by Steven. If that’s the case, I hope you care enough to critically re-examine your approach and be more sensitive in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Joe, it’s time to stop trolling the comments and to go spend some time thinking productively about what this is actually about. Please stop making this about you, and emotionally freaking out on every single that posts a comment here. So far, you are seemingly throwing tantrums that both obfuscate the real issues/concerns here, and which take the attention away from the individuals that the attention should be on.

        Please engage people privately if you are unable to hold back your juvenile namecalling and assumptive attacks; it is doing little more than creating more derision in a conversation already filled to the brim weith it.

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      2. Mike, If you think addressing comments that put down sexual assault survivors and that make a space unsafe for them is “trolling”, “emotionally freaking out”, and “juvenile”, then you are a coward and part of problem of rape culture.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. This isn’t about you, Joe. I’ve said it again. This is about others. It is also not so black and white as you seem to perceive it, at least in relation to you. Steven Mitchell did bad things, I won’t forgive him, and I will not be attending his events or anything he is related to. I hope he never involved himself in our community again and I will boycott whatever he is hired for or is promoting.

        These women are terribly brave and strong, and are doing an incredible thing here–mainly in service to the community and for you and me.

        You, however, are not. You are simply responding to comments here to satiate your strange need for argumentative discussion on the Internet. You had yet to post anything productive in the comments. Just more and more and more vitriol at people who may simply be less educated than you are.

        Byron was, while being insensitive, not attacking these women and not belittling their stories or doubting the accuracy of their recountings. He was asking questions out of a place of ignorance from a context of his limited understanding of situations like these, so that he could better comprehend. I do believe you owe the man an apology, but again, this is not about you, and you ought to just not reply here any further.

        The world is not as black and white as you see it, and lashing out angrily at someone (including accusing them of supporting or defending rape culture, which is such an absurd leap to make here[and people like you mis-appropriating the term is actually lessening the impact of it for everyone elsefor not understanding things entirely from your point of view (no matter how morally correct you are]) is not a productive form of dialogue.

        It is natural for people to push back against any argument, no matter how sound, when they are being attacked. How about you first have a dialogue with someone like Byron or myself, whom you don’t know, before you jump to conclusions and make incredibly offensive remarks about them?

        This is not a YouTube video comment thread, so stop responding to everything here with hateful vitriol as if it is.

        This is not about you.

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      4. Funny, I don’t remember you posting anything positive. You should take a moment before you decide to align yourself with everyone in this thread who’s comments I’ve criticized (including Voice Of Reason, Bryan, and that guy asking us to give redemption to Steven). I’m afraid to ask what exactly you think is not black and white, as there is not much gray in the accounts of the women who have come forward.

        I may have been the most blunt with Byron, but there were plenty of people expressing concerns about his comments. He has yet to acknowledge what most people have criticized him for–his inappropriate line of questioning. He has also not bothered to ask me why I thought his comments were victim blaming and minimizing of sexual assault (even if those were not his intention). I would rather not talk about Byron with you, though. He is capable of standing up for himself.

        You accuse me of making this about myself, but why are you making this about Byron? Why is it more important to you that I consider Byron’s intentions and coddle him instead of considering the potential harmful impact his comments may have on people who have been sexually assaulted reading his comments.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Also, thank you for your compliment on my being more educated. But I assure you, I have never been sexually assaulted and everything I know I have learned through reading, listening, and reflecting. Not for a degree, but because I care about the inequality and injustices against women and want to make a difference.

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    2. Some quick thoughts:

      To Sarah, Heidi and Allison – I don’t personally know any of you, but am an older gentleman that has been trusted in the care/tutelage/protection of young women in your position at the time of these assaults. What Steven did you is so f’n wrong and my heart physically hearts for what you have had to endure as a result – please feel the credence, love and support we all have for you!

      Convicted and going to jail rape/assault? Maybe not, but as so many here have stated – as a community, we get to decide what we accept/don’t accept. If I was a betting man, I’d put the house on him never teaching lindy hop again, but amends and healing will ultimately decide that I guess? From this point forward however, any parent that leaves a minor alone with him is complicit in child endangerment IMHO.

      About Byron: I have the luxury of knowing him personally, so I recognize that he walked in and did a, “wait, what the fuck is going on here”, but people do need to quit reshaping his words. I’ll let him address the people that don’t like his angle, but he is an awesome guy and is asking a lot of questions that other guys are afraid to ask.

      Much love to Virginie – it appears that Steven was going through great lengths to hide this crap from her and by doing so has taken away what should have gone down as one of the best dance partnership name pairs of our time. I always appreciated her as her own person anyways, but a lot of people associated her exclusively with him and that sucks.

      Steven is a whole other story! It’s not even that he had it all and threw it away – he had it all and used it to crap all over the lives of young girls that people like us feel so obligated to protect. Usually, I take a little joy in stomping on people in his position, but this thread is about the women that have come forward and they aren’t really setting a “fire and brimstone” tone so I’ll slow my roll a bit. Steven, please do yourself an incredible service and get the help you need outside of the swing community. It might be tough without your normal form of income, but just consider it a lucky alternative to the prison time you came very close to getting. No form of apology or amends will really mean anything to these women (or any of us) unless it is accompanied by real loss and hardship on your part. It may sound harsh coming from people that liked you a lot, but this isn’t about you anymore.

      I commend Sarah, Heidi and Allison for coming forward and think that they have shown tremendous class in the manner in which they have delivered such bad news for our community.

      Liked by 4 people

  8. Thank you Sarah, Heidi, and Allison, for sharing your stories. I have never been in a similar situation, and I can only imagine the difficulties you have faced and will continue to face.

    As an event organizer & staff member and as a member of this community, I resolve to be a part of the change. I promise to be available to support my peers, and I resolve to help maintain boundaries which shouldn’t be tested.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. The lindy hop community has far more people than just Steven, who use the position of authority to groom young girls and women and take advantage of them. Some of them are already handled by the law and yet others are still to be exposed.

    It is not always clear how to handle the different shades of grey and how to confront these authority figures in the absence of solid proof. The fact that it is not always clear what happens behind closed doors, somehow makes everyone hesitate to call out something inappropriate.

    Now it seems as a community it is time to be critical. Hope those who know what happens in our world wide community either publicly or privately help clean it up.

    The community is very unhealthy with many of those in the positions of influence having similar patterns of behavior. If all the stories of the community were to come out and I think they should, only then can we truly make our way towards healing and forming a healthy lindy hop scene.

    For now everyone is in shock and there are surely going to be more revelations. I hope the leaders of this community come out and help clean this up either publicly or privately so lindy hop events gain some of the innocence and lightness, which could be a healthy for all of us.

    I admire your courage and strength and hope now that the rest of the community has a similar courage to help create a healthy scene. Peace!

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  10. This news is devastating. I applaud these brave young women for sharing their stories. Allison, your video was heartbreaking, but thank you for posting it. (By the way, Matt Jones is still an awesome dancer, though I’ve never danced with him personally.) Anyway, knowledge is power, and it’s a good thing for everybody you guys shared your stories, as difficult as it was for you to do. Peace.

    Like

  11. I haven’t read everything here, and it’s the middle of the night, i’m teaching at an event. A student just sent this to me from America. I told this student I had been sexually assaulted by Steven Mitchel. I have shared this with a few people in the scene in response to being asked if they should hire Steven for an event.

    Steven recommended me for an event that lead to connections that have lead to much work in Europe. Steven has given me advice and encouragement over the years, which has been valuable to me. Out of appreciation and respect for him, and an awareness of changing culture, and the difficulty for some to adapt, I was selective about who I shared this with.

    When asked by organizers if they should hire Steven Mitchel, I tell them what his strengths are, the benefits of his teaching and so on. Then I tell them if they choose to hire him I would recommend setting some clear conduct guidelines, as he gets sloppy drunk, and sleeps with attendees of the events, and that he sexually assaulted me, then I briefly describe what happened.

    I never knew he was preditorial towards young women, I have seen him go to bed with women at events, and even in my home, but to my knowledge they were adults, and there was consent. I have a few women I know fairly well who have willingly and happily been sexually involved with Steven, so I had no reason to think he was sexually assaulting others. Still I know about power differential, and knew he was taking advantage of his position in the community on numerous occasions.

    In 2004 Steven approached me about teaching with him, he told me Virginie wanted to have children. Because I also wanted to have children, I respected Virginie, and I thought Virginie could do both if she wanted, she hadn’t gotten pregnant yet, I didn’t know if she wanted to keep teaching or not, and I wondered how many others he may have told this to… you get the idea, I didn’t pursue this. Steven invited me to join him at Catalina Island, in Australia, to come live at his house in Pasadena, these types of invitations. I wrote them in journals at the time, recording phone conversations and messages from him. I recorded them in journals because I always left feeling confused after conversations with Steven, and I wanted to process them, and get other’s thoughts.

    I have never wanted to be thought of as sleeping my way to the top, or taking advantage of someone else’s reputation, for this reason I turned down both Bill Borgida, and Steven when they invited me to teach with them in these early years of my career. I wanted to establish my own teaching and student base before collaborating with other professionals with their reputations.

    I went to Vancouver B.C. to follow up with Steven on his invitations and see if we might collaborate on something in a professional way. He was there with Virginie. I stayed with a friend, had my own car. I went for drinks with Steven, we talked in my car. He did a lot of Jive talking I never understood what it meant. I went home still confused.

    At one point I brought him and Virginie to Portland to teach, and it was a positive and professional experience.

    Later he called me from Europe, we talked on the phone, I wrote down all he said, showed it to a friend I trusted. They explained to me that he was asking me to be his partner in more ways than one. That when he said things about going for it, doing the whole thing, helping each other, and so on that he was asking me to have a relationship. I saw that Steven was lonely and wanted the whole package of dance partner, lover, and companion that many dream of. I later found out he had found someone and was very happy for him.

    Years later a student of mine who knew my stories of Steven asking me to teach, and my confusion around that, decided to make a workshop happen with me and Steven. He did it in a safe space for me, my home town of Portland. Originally Steven was to be hosted elsewhere, but in the end he would stay at my place. I had several students in town to train with me, and take our workshop. It was quite the weekend. Steven was completely professional, very encouraging, I had a fantastic experience working with him during lesson prep sessions, meals, the classes, the dances, preparing demos. Steven coached me to show myself, to be vulnerable to the audience and students. This was helpful for me.

    The last night of the event Steven wanted a real Blues party, a basement blues party. I was exhausted and dealing with some personal emotional grief, I slept upstairs by the fire while he hosted a pretty gritty blues party in my basement. I know he had sex with one of the workshop attendees in the basement with several others present sleeping in the same area, and as far as I know it was all consensual and positive, although I felt he was taking advantage of his position.

    After that event people started asking if I would teach with Steven again in Asia, Europe, and the States. I asked Steven what he thought, he can be hard to nail down for a real conversation sometimes, and he is extremely busy. I finally saw him in Herring, and at Studio Hop where we were both teaching. It was my birthday and I was feeling very emotionally confused that day being far away from friends and family and was feeling lonely. Steven had been putting off talking about teaching together, but now he said we would go talk business. So later he found me using the internet talking to friends back home. He asked me to go take a walk with him to talk business. He brought a flask and said he saved some good stuff for us. I could see he was drunk and wasn’t interested in getting drunk. I didn’t think much of it because Steven is often drunk in my experience of him. He took me to a grassy field behind a building, we talked for a while, lots of jive talk about how I needed to let the Tiger out of the Cage, open up, and so on. He often used words and phrases that were slang which I didn’t understand the meaning of in this context. I pretended to drink from the flask, but in fact didn’t. Eventually when he was satisfied that enough was gone from the flask, we went into the building. He kept saying, let’s just do this, you know, do the whole thing. I didn’t know, I didn’t know what ‘whole thing’ he referred to. He pushed me up against a table and started humping my leg and grinding on me like a dog, I pushed him off me, thinking he was just drunk and confused and tried to finish the conversation and get out of there. We moved towards the exit, he grabbed me again and forcibly kissed me on the mouth, which I was not wanting, felt violated by, was concerned about my other romantic relationships, and was generally disgusted by. I pushed him away. He got mad, told me I just needed to open up. Said similar comments that there was something wrong with me, that I just didn’t know, was somehow damaged, that we should just ‘do this’, and so on. I was a bit scared and felt foolish for having gone off alone with him so far away from others, although I had been alone with him before and never been attacked. I left and went back to the dance. He went to bed with one of the campers. She was older and consenting.

    I was very hurt and confused after that. I worked at an event Steven was involved with once after that, but never taught with him or pursued it. After a while I started to be more outspoken about what had happened to me with certain people I trusted. I wanted to see if it happened to others, and to protect others from it happening to them. As other experienced, these incidences can stick with you over time and cause fear and trauma you don’t realize at first. This has been the case for me.

    I have been waiting for the stories to start to surface, as I figured other things must have happened with other women. Thank you to all the brave women who have shared.

    I was an adult, I respected Steven. I considered him a peer and did not feel afraid of him apart from him forcing himself at me. I was in no way interested in sexual or romantic interactions with him. Still he assaulted me. He lured me into going off alone with him to talk ‘business’. I believe Steven is lonely, and that he really did relate making a pass at me with business, because for him he wanted to see if i might be a potential partner for him. He went about this inappropriately. It wasn’t ok, or right. I never flirted with him, or gave any indication of sexual or romantic interest in the 15 years of knowing him. I hope this is helpful to some of the younger girls who are confused right now. He is preditorial, he does this to all sorts of women, and he looks for certain women he can manipulate or flatter.

    Our community is in a tricky situation of paying people to teach sensual dances at party events, wanting them to dance with students and be social, yet there is the power differential. As an instructor I find it very lonely to travel and keep boundaries from connecting sensually with the students, or even as friends. People often see me as ‘teacher’, not as an equal. I don’t feel seen as a real person. This makes it hard to connect or trust. Even women try to be my friend, but I later find out that they are trying to please me in an unhealthy way, and I find it challenging to trust that people are really able to be a peer. I feel we have created an unnatural, unhealthy environment, and I am glad to hear of people working to change that view that teachers are somehow higher status, or more powerful in some way. I run events where we do games and exercises to emphasize the value every person has. When people comment on my abilities I remind them ‘you’re good at what you do too’. Most people are passionate and successful at something. Most people have many things I envy and admire. Focusing on this in conversation helps break down the idea that I am in a position of power in some way. I think we can further help this issue by having conduct guidelines for teachers and staff who are hired at events. This sends a message from the people who write the paychecks that misconduct during paid events is not tolerated, hopefully that guideline would bleed over into other community situations.

    Brenda Russell
    Brenda@DanceMode.com

    Liked by 7 people

    1. My goodness Brenda our stories are so bloody similar is making me shake. I never to came on to Steven, never flirted with him, never gave him an indication that we would ever be more than friends and we had known each other almost 13 years at the time and I had considered him my peer for quite some time. We didn’t even teach at the same events. His attack was so out of what I would have ever expected and he became so enraged when I pushed him off me yelling about how he was going to take me (have me teach with him) to Herrang. The implication was if I had just had had sex with him I would’ve been in as his partner to get me back on the circuit. When he attacked me again while I was laying on the floor it was so forceful and with all his weight. I had to fight hard to get him off, punching and kicking. It was really sickening.
      Brenda. I’m so very sorry he did this to you. You and I have known each other a long time and like myself I consider you a very strong woman and I know exactly why you didn’t say anything and I too never imagined he was praying on young girls. Thank you so much for coming forward and know you are in my thoughts as have Alison and Sarah been constantly and the other women I’ve heard from.
      Heidi

      Liked by 3 people

  12. Yes, thank you for reminding us that Steven was not the first or only teacher to do things like this. I don’t know for a fact that Bill Borgida engaged in the same behavior, but I know that as an 18 year old he made me extremely uncomfortable and given the chance would have pursued an inappropriate relationship with me. As a young girl just entering the lindy hop world, all I knew was that the kids I idolized (Minnie’s Moochers) had been taught by Bill and so I was thrilled that he gave me special attention and offered me free private lessons. Thankfully, he made me feel scared and creeped out almost immediately and when he suggested that I should be his “pretend girlfriend” I never talked to him again. I was lucky that I didn’t know him long enough to build up the kind of trust that would have allowed him to take advantage of me. It actually made me sad at the time because I just wanted to dance and I know that I could have learned a lot from him, but he made it impossible.

    Obviously young dancers are the most at risk of predatory behavior because they have the least experience and don’t really know what ‘normal’ behavior is yet. Teenagers want to feel special and admired, and the extra attention from a role model can be irresistible. I should have seen red flags earlier, but because of the respect that I automatically gave to any teacher, I ended up in a potentially dangerous situation, alone at his house. I had never had a boyfriend, never been talked to like that, and never danced that closely with anyone. The fact that the only person who wanted to be my “boyfriend” was a man in his 40s made me feel disgusting and worthless, even though nothing really happened.

    Sarah and Allison, thank you for speaking out. I’m so sorry you went through those terrible experiences- it’s completely inexcusable. I hope from now on people in our scene will be more aware of the potential for these situations and offer guidance to young dancers.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. I have been in an uncomfortable situation with Steven just last year. I was reluctant to say anything because I tend to keep to myself. However, I would like to share my experience, and follow Sarah, Allison, Heidi and Brenda’s example in the hopes that other women will speak up.

    I want to be clear, I was not raped nor was I assaulted by Steven. I just want to put this out there before continuing. However, I did find myself in a very vulnerable state when I was with him, and what happened to these women could have very easily happened to me. I was reading their accounts, and I kept thinking to myself “that could’ve been me.”

    I had seen Steven at several swing events and I knew he was a big deal. I am a very shy person, and I seldom approach top dancers or instructors. I tend to admire them from afar. I was at a dance event last year where Steven was teaching. On the last night of the event, I was returning to my hotel room and I realized I did not have a key to get into my room. I was standing in front of the door to my room, and that’s when Steven opened the door to his room. He was staying right across the hall from me. He asked me what I was up to. I replied that I wanted to get into my room, but I didn’t have the key. He invited me into his room for some drinks. I was surprised, but flattered that this big shot instructor wanted to have drinks with me. So I agreed, and went into the room with Steven. It wasn’t just the two of us at first. There was another dancer with us as well.

    The three of us were sitting, chatting, and drinking. I do not drink alcohol very often, and my tolerance level is quite low. Steven and the other dancer were having a drinking game, and they encouraged me to join in. I did, but I tried to limit my intake because we were having hard liquor and I knew it would hit me hard. The other dancer then left to go to a party happening somewhere in the hotel, and it was just me and Steven. We were chatting and Steven was telling me about Snowball. I told him how I wished I could go to that event. He asked me what was holding me back, and I told him I couldn’t afford the plane ticket. Steven told me something like “I got you”. I suppose it’s a common thing for Steven to promise trips to big swing events. Hearing that he would take me to Snowball left me feeling very happy, naturally.

    Things got uncomfortable when Steven asked me to dance for him. I told him I danced a traditional dance and he wanted me to show him my moves. I reluctantly did. He told me he couldn’t see my hips and asked me to take off my skirt. Under any other circumstance, I would have never taken my skirt off. But I reasoned that since I was wearing dance shorts, it wouldn’t be so bad. So I removed my skirt and danced in front of him. Not even a minute into it, I realized that this didn’t feel right. So I stopped and pulled my skirt back up. Steven then said that I was too shy, and that I needed to open up. He then told me that I was beautiful, and that I shouldn’t doubt myself. In the moment, this meant a lot because I do have issues with self-esteem.

    We kept drinking, and Steven had a few dances with me. Those dances were always cut short by me because I felt uncomfortable dancing with a much older man that I barely knew in his hotel room. We chatted some more and that’s when the alcohol really hit me. I knew I would be sick. I had never been drunk before that night. I went to the bathroom and sat on the floor, leaning against the toilet. People were knocking on the door calling for Steven to go party with them, but he pretended he wasn’t in the room. I suppose he didn’t want them to come in and see me in the state I was. Steven then went in the bathroom, helped me up and got me to his bed. That’s when I felt really sick, and asked him for a garbage can. I threw up and laid on the bed. He then left the hotel room to go to party.

    I fell asleep, and woke up about an hour later to throw up some more, and I fell asleep again. I remember waking up a second time a few hours later shivering violently. I felt so cold. At that point, Steven was back in the room and in the bed with me. He saw me shivering and put his arms around me and started rubbing my arms. He said “oh no, you’re shivering. I’ll warm you up”. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something along those lines. I remember saying that I was fine. But he insisted. I let it be because I was quite cold, and him rubbing my arms helped with the chills and I was too tired to resist. I fell asleep, and woke up again a little while later. I felt Steven’s hand resting on my waist, close to my bra. I instinctively pushed his arm away. Steven then told me he was sleeping. I then fell asleep again.

    I woke up the next morning feeling utterly embarrassed that I got drunk and sick in this man’s hotel room. I remember apologizing profusely, but Steven told me to not feel bad, and that it wasn’t my fault. I left the room, and the thought that stayed with me was how easily this man could have done something to me, if he wanted to.

    Reading the accounts of Sarah, Heidi, Allison and Brenda sends chills down my spine because I was in a very similar situation. I was drunk, vulnerable, and alone with Steven. He could have very well taken advantage of me. Although I was drunk, and drifting in and out of sleep, I do remember the whole night and I would’ve have felt if Steven attempted anything. But thankfully he didn’t. However, I did find myself doing things (like dancing for him without my skirt and drinking way more than I should) to please him because he was such a big-shot dancer. I was placed in an uncomfortable situation where I did feel like an object in his presence.

    Sarah, Allison, Heidi and Brenda I am so sorry for what happened to you and I thank you for sharing your experiences. I had a hard time sharing my own experience with Steven, and it doesn’t even come close to what you all went through. I commend you all for your bravery.

    Sincerely a fellow swing dancer

    ** I have decided to use an alias, I hope you can understand my decision to remain anonymous at this time.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The stories that are coming out now have common threads–Steven applying pressure, tossing around ‘incentives’ (travel, trips, teaching), plying women/girls with alcohol, keeping up an invasive and unceasing commentary, making inappropriate requests, etc. My story with him is similar – pressuring me to remove clothing, telling me I should ‘get comfortable’ with my body and show it off, telling me there was something wrong with me if I didn’t want to show more of my body, pressuring me to drink (he was already, as one person noted, “sloppy drunk”). The follow ups to my refusals included out-of-the blue flirtatious messages, invitations to visit him on the West Coast, and invitations to travel to dance events together. I am sure there will be more revelations as we realize that, thanks to Sarah, Allison, and Heidi, we are not alone. It’s good to not feel alone about things like this. But it really really hurts too to realize how all of this is connected and how much more of it remains hidden by shame, pain, fear, degradation, and sadness.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. It happened to me too, though not nearly as bad as the other stories. There were drinks, dancing and then being led off to a quiet space, where telling him I wasn’t interested in anything more than getting to know him was falling on deaf ears. the language that was used was totally in line with so many gas lighting stories I’ve read and heard about from survivors of abusive relationships. I’m much older than the other girls who Steven would keep company with so it never ever occurred to me that I would have been a love interest, even just for the night. Thankfully I’ve had experience with insistent men and toddlers before so I got out of it relatively ok, though all the stories shared above HAVE made me think about just how different it could have been had I not been in (relative) control of the situation. Bravo Sarah for breaking the silence, I hope it has saved other girls the trauma you, Heidi, Allison, Brenda and so many others yet to share their voices have gone through.

      Liked by 4 people

  14. Sarah, I want to thank you so much for posting this and allowing the world to see it. Reading through this and the positive comments has helped me reexamine a very dark part of my life- a time I am ashamed of and a time that has affected me deeply. I realized that I had been “groomed” and well, brain-washed, by a much older dancer (almost twice my age when I was 19) who was well-known and respected. I had felt so special, etc. etc. I was fucked up and had to deal with major depression and an eating disorder as a result of the relationship. I’m so much better now and happy; and I want to extend my support, my thanks, my warmth, and my kindred spirit. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for helping me learn and close a dark chapter of my life.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. It took a lot of courage for Sarah, Heidi and Allison to speak up and to tell their story. The stories are so sad and horrific. I am sorry that this happened and I applaud all of you for being brave enough to finally “tell.” So brave to do so in such a public way. I hope that at some point there is healing for everyone

    Liked by 3 people

  16. First of all, ladies, thank you for your boldness in coming forward. You are believed. You are supported.

    However, aside from the obvious disgust and anger I feel while more and more narratives emerge surrounding this previously respected member of our community, I am also deeply saddened by something else.

    This centers around the fact that while reading though many of your comments, so many are laced with bickering and dissent between…each other. As a whole, I love this community that I have chosen to be a part of over the last decade. I sincerely hope that our justified emotions of outrage/anger/hurt etc. etc. are channeled in the right directions and not toward each other.

    For those of you focusing on being a positive/loving support to these ladies, thank you!!

    “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Thank you so much for your bravery, Sarah, and to others who have also shared their stories. I have shared this link on our local Lindy community page; your bravery will raise international awareness of these issues and help to make dance communities across the globe a safer place for us all. Lindy love and solidarity from Brighton, UK. xxx

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Flip side:

    Each person on here put themselves in the situation where things happened. Just because Steven made an unwanted pass at you doesn’t mean it was a sexual assault.

    Allison’s situation is different, issue of rape…. I am excluding her from this post.

    Sarah, Heidi, Brenda need to take some responsibility for they’re actions.

    Easy fix is to not be alone with any man, especially when alcohol is involved. If you have to be alone, make it clear its just about business/friends. Protect yourself before you wreck yourself. Men will make moves on you if they have the chance, no matter where you are. If you establish healthy boundries you won’t have to deal with it. None of you did which is why he tried to make a move.

    The swing scene is not some bubble of innocence. People get into dance to have romance. Duh! I don’t even know Steven that well, but I have common sense, reasonable judgment and know to avoid drinking with him and or being alone with him, not to mention he smells!

    Sarah’s, Heidi, Brenda chose to take the drink and put themselves in the situation. They made decisions that led to what happened. I don’t care if they were 16 or 46! Own up to your part in the ordeal instead of playing the blame game!

    Once professional boundries were established I would still hire Steven and take class from him. Maybe events should post signs “No student teacher fraternization” That way this rock star swing dance instructor worship groupie bullshit would stop! Seriously a lot of these instructors are super ugly, have bad breath, and dress poorly. Wake up!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your approach seems to imply that every man is a potentially dangerous animal that cannot be trusted, and that girls and women should assume this, and should tightly limit their own lives to avoid attack. I prefer to live in a society/community that teaches and expects men as well as women to treat every other human being with respect, and thereby creates safe spaces for everyone to live more freely.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. @Emotional, grabbing someone’s crotch is not an unwanted pass, and actually is, in fact, sexual assault. (To be honest, your whole post looks like a troll to me so I’m not going to bother typing any further.)

      Liked by 8 people

      1. Regarding the effect on Steven’s career – regardless of how you define Steven’s behavior, Sarah has described the facts of what he did and said. It doesn’t matter for the purposes of this forum how a lawyer or judge would describe Steven’s actions. What matters is that any rejection of Steven by the community, or any other damage to him, is a direct result of his own actions. It is nobody’s fault but his own. It’s clear he knew his behavior was unacceptable because he kept it secret. Given these facts, I have no sympathy for him when he is judged and rejected by the community and/or by the law.

        Liked by 5 people

    3. ….wth….

      So men can’t control themselves? What a disservice to the many great men out there.
      So women shouldn’t trust that when a man asks them to go on a walk for business, it will be business? What a disservice to men.
      So women are responsible for trusting someone, because that means that their trust somehow negates any issues of consent? What a disservice to women.
      So events should not permit teachers to have friends at events? What a sad, sad dance world we would live in for the pro’s who would be so isolated from all the people with serious interests, or students would be if they did connect in a positive way with a pro.

      These women did not invite assault. They do not need to hold responsibility for Steven’s actions. Steven needs to hold the responsibility. I find it sad that a proposed answer is for women to expect assault if alone or with alcohol, or that men cannot be trusted to treat them with dignity

      Liked by 6 people

    4. Emotional, what you are saying here basically is that all men are lost causes that do not care in any way for female human beings and never will. Is that what you meant?

      I don’t think that is true at all. Reinforcing those stereotypes only makes it harder for men like Steven to understand that what he is doing is wrong. But it is wrong. Lying to someone to get them alone because you know they wouldn’t come if you told them the truth is wrong. Ignoring someones body language and touching them in ways they clearly don’t want but are to intimidated/intoxicated to speak up about is wrong.

      Someone believing your lie and going with you somewhere does not mean they are agreeing to have sex with you, especially if they are young, inexperienced and look up to you. And expecting every woman to just blankly distrust all men at all times forever as the only way to fix this problem is just plain sad.

      Your comment really upset me and I’m having a hard time keeping my language appropriate here because it your kind of reasoning that makes sure nothing changes and people keep getting hurt and hurting others.

      Liked by 4 people

    5. Emotional: First I want to say that many others have already posted very good comments about your view on men and I completely agree with them, so I just wanted to say something on your idea about the posts because it scares me a little.

      Posts saying ‘No student teacher fraternization’ would probably only help the predators to get contact with girls in secret, saying something like “It has to be, see the poster, we cannot talk in public and I want to give you a private lesson”. It would also be extra special for the girls since it is not allowed, seems to be humans in a nutshell (don’t push the red button).

      Liked by 2 people

    6. Others have addressed how inappropriate and victim blaming this post is. So I’ll address just this one bit. I resent that you think we all get into dance to have romance. Some of us dance because it’s the only form of exercise we enjoy (it doesn’t bore me to distraction). And actually like going somewhere where we can form platonic friendships and not feel like we’re in a pick-up joint.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Thank you Lesley for pointing that out! If romance were the only reason for dancing I would have given up a really long time ago. I would add as well that some of us dance because dancing is what makes us happy. More specifically (and nerdy) the thrill of accelerating one’s body to really good music while navigating a crowded floor is where my happiness comes from.

        And the instructor/idol worship is something that needs to stop. It doesn’t just happen in the Lindy Hop scene. It also happens in the Salsa scene, the Tango scene, the West Coast scene, and it probably even occurs in the Contra scene. Instructors need to understand their power position and not use it (power corrupts…) and everyone else needs to remember that instructors are just normal people too (and should be treated that way!). Just remember, the best and worst dancers all (hopefully) use the toilet and it never smells like roses!

        Liked by 2 people

    7. Emotional… this is the EXACT response Steven had in my situation, blaming me. I will provide a little more detail to my story. I attended a post workshop drink with many other dancers, along with all the teachers. As the night wore on most people had left and only a handful were left behind, including myself and Steven. I’d already had enough to drink but he insisted I have more. Even when I said I’d well and truly had enough and was about to go home because I didn’t feel well he bought me ‘one for the road’… which I didn’t drink. He then offered to walk me to my hotel and I was appreciative as I didn’t feel safe having had too much to drink and it would be nice to have somebody along for the walk. The walk was not even 10 minutes, but as soon as we were around the corner and out of site he went from teacher/friend to aggressor, insisting I “wanted it”. As I said in my previous post, I’ve unfortunately had experience with both insistent men and trantruming toddlers – and he was a cross between both. A little boy who wanted to play with a toy and wasn’t allowed. He very clearly put the blame on me for his rejection – I shouldn’t have paid him so much attention, I shouldn’t have accepted his drinks, I shouldn’t have let him walk me home. He extended the rant to my dancing and compared it to the situation, telling me I needed to “let the tiger out of the cage”… something I’ve now read he said to other women in the same situation. I can tell you that MOST of my friendships are with males and I would NEVER assume that they would expect sex from me in the same situation. I have been in his shoes, were I thought I had a connection with somebody and when I’ve made an advance and they said no my response was NOT to spend the next hour trying to coerce them into intimacy and use emotional blackmail to make them feel like there was something wrong them for not wanting to let loose with me. MY reaction was an apology that I had misinterpreted their attention and laughed it off together, friendship continues.

      I HAVE spent the time since this rather uncomfortable situation feeling awful about it, convinced I HAD done something wrong. Perhaps I HAD been flirty (but I’m flirty with EVERYBODY), perhaps I HAD lead him on (I’m in a very happy relationship so I highly doubted this), I shouldn’t have accepted his drinks etc etc. His tactics and language were about making me feel like I was the bad person in this situation and that I was lying to both of us saying no, that he could tell I wanted him.

      When I read Sarah’s story all the triggers went off, and then with each of the other stories to come out it became very clear why this situation had made me so uncomfortable. This was the way he worked and it had nothing to do with anything I did.

      Your opinion that we should take part responsibility for our individual experiences is NO DIFFERENT to blaming a girl wearing a short skirt for being raped.

      For me, I’m not going to stop getting to know my teachers in social settings, I’m not going to stop drinking with them or admiring them. In all the years of dancing and drinking with my teachers and other dancers I’ve never once felt like this, and I genuinely believe that most of the people I have contact with are decent, well adjusted souls who come together for the joy of dance and connection with another human.

      Liked by 5 people

    8. @Emotional: Rape culture in full action. You are the reason why. Your post is disgusting and you are probably wondering why we say that. That’s the problem. Please stop spreading your victim blaming nonsense on a website that’s designed to support the victim.

      Liked by 3 people

    9. Should I ever find out who you are, should you ever come to my city, you will be asked to leave the venues and events I run and attend in my lindy hop scene. Your troglodyte views have no place in my community, and I know that I will be supported in your prompt and enthusiastic removal.

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    10. This post is disappointing in today’s world, which I like to think of as more informed and accepting than previous incarnations of our society. It is a classic victim-blaming post, describing that women should take responsibility for unwanted attention by not ‘establishing healthy boundaries’.

      I think there is a line too, where women should set boundaries and take responsibility (‘Oh, I probably shouldn’t have slept with him, I don’t like him that much’), but the clear pattern in Steven’s behaviour is plying women with alcohol, making moves on them when in vulnerable positions (ie. being very sick or passing out after drinking too much alcohol which he supplied them), abusing his position as a mentor with underage women (which is definitely wrong, so I disagree with ‘I don’t care if they’re 16 or 46’) and offering opportunities for sex.

      And I agree with many of the comments below that your insinuation that boundaries should be established for all men/women friendships, as this is extremely insulting to men who do not have sexual agendas. If you are flirting with someone, or leading someone on, you are welcoming advances, sure. But it is not right for these advances to be as rude or abrupt as getting on top of a sleeping/half-asleep/very drunk woman, or grabbing a woman’s crotch- that is not what you were welcoming by flirting with someone, and you are not responsible.

      I think your post is insulting to both men and women, and I am glad that most of the comments on this post have not been so outdated and nonsensical.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. There is no such thing as “the flip side” in this situation. All of these accounts are drastically similar and all involve grooming and other forms of pressure.

    It’s doesn’t become the fault of these girls just because you haven’t been educated enough on the circumstances of sexual assault.

    Liked by 7 people

  20. To Sarah, Allison, Heidi, Brenda, and the rest of you who choose to stay anonymous for now, I believe you and it’s not your fault. I pray that you get the public support that you deserve and that Steven loses the trust and respect of the community that he has clearly violated.

    Sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia run DEEP in the swing community. This impacts people’s likelihood of being targeted for abuse and likelihood of being believed. Every time I have experienced sexual harassment as a white woman and started to ask questions, I have learned that people of color and queer-identified people in my community were experiencing similar things, but often on a much larger scale. We all need to reach out to our communities, and especially LGBTQ folks, folks of color, young people, and female-identified people to make sure we are really being the allies they need. For those of you so focused on legal action, I understand the desire to DO SOMETHING or fix this. I feel it too. But this is not a quick fix, and we need to be building communities that welcome diverse voices and the realities of different people’s experiences, even when those experiences are sad or uncomfortable.

    Most of the contexts where I saw Steven – Ithaca, Beantown, Herrang – were predominately white spaces. Hearing these stories of mostly white-identified women sharing their experiences with one of the very few African-Americans in a position of respect and power within the swing community brings up my own fears. I worry that many people will be vocally supportive of these women and antagonistic to Steven not because they are true allies to women, but because in some part of our minds and hearts, this taps into our racialized instinct to protect white women from black men. My biggest fear is that we will demonize Steven and not deal with the many people in positions of power who continue to exploit people or protect their friends who do. We should not allow this community to blame the evil on one person rather than, as Sarah has clearly outlined, focus on creating safer spaces and a different culture around instructors and events. These policies should directly address the power and privilege in our society and in the swing community.

    Ithaca girl, I probably know you, and you are by no means the only person Bill Borgida targeted in this way. I believe you and it’s not your fault. I hope that Bill is another person that the swing community realizes has not owned up to what he has done and should not be given a position of authority in their community again.

    (not really a part of the swing community any more but still invested in it becoming a healthier place for all,)
    Kate Engle

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you for bringing some much needed nuances to this conversation.

      We need to use this opportunity to start to change the swing community for the better. I shared the codes of conduct from both Sarah’s Mobtown Ballroom and from Lindy Focus (https://mobtownballroom.com/code and http://lindyfocus.com/conduct.php) as a starting point in my local scene. We can’t stop at condemning Steven, we need to start to really examine the culture that makes these things possible and make changes where they are needed.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I realize this is two years later, but a tidbit of info should others come upon this blog post.

      I was a student at Trumansburg High School where Bill Borgida taught math and was the girls tennis coach. He left abruptly in 1981 following an incident with a 16 year old girl on the tennis team. Apparently whatever case was dismissed, but he was no longer a school teacher.

      Additionally I knew of several individuals who him in the dance community in that area in the very late 1980’s to 1990 or so. He had a definite reputation for hitting on female students at that time.

      He also, as you may know, was caught with child porn on his computer while crossing the US/CDN border a few years ago.

      I say all this not to denigrate him, but to reassure any of the women he may have victimized that they are not alone in this. He had had many years of practice as a predator.

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  21. Steven may have committed crimes. If you are interested in prosecuting him, contact the District Attorney in the county where the events happened. Let the authorities decide if there were crimes and if the statutes of limitations are still open. Crimes differ in different states. Statutory rape (with a minor) may encompass more than actual intercourse.

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  22. I will start by saying I have committed a rape. That is really difficult to admit to myself and took a long time to do. I wanted to start by getting that out of the way to make clear I am not minimizing what I have done or that anything below is attempting to avoid responsibility for my actions.

    Before I share the story, I am hoping those reading this can help me with the next steps. I know I am not the only one in the community that has a similar story so I am putting this out there to help guide them too.

    A few years ago I had a friends-with-occasional-benefits relationship with another dancer. It was a complicated relationship but I would say it was an overall good friendship. We spent a good amount of time together and our sexual encounters were not frequent nor the base of our relationship but they happened.

    One evening after some drinking I stayed over at their house. This is normally how our sexual encounters happened and at the time I was depressed and in need of intimacy so I was looking forward to a night hanging out with a friend and what I assumed would happen after. But they weren’t in the mood and ultimately I pressured them into having sex. Later I believe they tried to bring it up casually and I didn’t engage in the conversation I believe they wanted to have and I switch topics. The idea terrified me and I tried to rationalize it as a miscommunication. Since then I thought about it a lot and finally came to terms with what I did, how wrong it was, and I feel awful about everything.

    We actually become closer friends after this incident and had some of our most intimate encounters but I can’t help to wonder if I ruined chances of it becoming more. I eventually moved away and no longer see or talk to this person much anymore but I still care about them a lot and want to do what is right.

    Should I call them up and apologize for it? Would they even want to rehash this or would this be a selfish exercise to make me feel better? I genuinely want to do what is best *for them* but I honestly don’t know what that is. Should I just make a more general apology for the messy parts of our relationship and give them the chance to bring it up?

    I also want to say thank you to the women coming out about Steven. You are brave, strong, and it is not your fault this happened to you. I am sorry for what you have been through but know it helped me face my demon. I hope this helps other victims heal but also help people such as myself the steps to make amends. More importantly I hope this helps prevent further incidences by educating and making people more aware of this serious issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are in the wrong place. No one here can answer those questions for you, and it is unfair to ask others who have been victimized to lighten your load by telling you what to do. Perhaps it will bring peace to the person you raped to have an apology; or perhaps it will only bring back memories of trauma. No one can tell you which. It’s good that you’ve recognized what you’ve done, but they may not be ready to confront or even acknowledge their rape.

      It would also be presumptuous for you or anyone else to assume that you have worked through all of your issues and that your behaviours and attitudes are no longer harmful. I have no doubt that there are still many issues with the way you think and act that you need to work on. It might be helpful to see if there is some therapist or counseling group in your area that might specialize in rehabilitating offenders. I would also encourage you to read further on the subject of rape *as a listener*.

      If you do decide to contact the person you’ve raped, please do it in writing so that they may choose to not read it, and in such a way that allows them to choose whether and when to engage with you further, as well as allowing them to cease contact with you at any time they wish. It is vital that they are in charge of any interaction.

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      1. Joe, it is presumptuous that you think I haven’t worked through my issues. I am not saying I don’t have issues (everyone does) but I did seek therapy (for depression in general but this was discussed at a few sessions). That helped me come to terms with what I did. I polled all my other partners (there are only a few and I am friends with them all) if they ever felt pressured and they all said no. So to me it appears this is an isolated incidence. I am now a happy newlywed (my partner does know about this) who just wants to do the right thing.

        I was not directly asking the victims for advise, the comments here turn into a community forum about these issues so it seemed as good of a place as any for advise.

        The contacting in writing is a good suggestion to allow them to read, respond, or ignore as they wish. I am not sure when I would see them again anyway but we are still friends and occasionally exchange emails.

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      2. Did you come here just to chastise or could you try to support people trying to do the right thing? I want to own what I did (why I posted in the first place) and do the right thing for my victim. I was simply trying to show that I have taken steps to better myself and address the issue and am in a better place now.

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      3. As someone who has committed rape commenting in a forum for sexual assault survivors, you should be a lot more humble than you are now. No one here needs to put up with you. I hope you are continuing your therapy sessions.

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    2. Amend “read further on the subject of rape *as a listener*” to “read further on the subject of rape CULTURE *as a listener*”. That would be more helpful, especially if you’re doing a Google search.

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    3. This is a tough one and there are no clear right or wrong ways to act. Could be they’d rather you didn’t contact them again. Could be it would be helpful for them if you recognize out loud that what you did was wrong and abusive. Whatever you do, don’t ask that they forgive you and don’t make it about you and how bad you feel or want to be friends or whatever. Those are a given I guess, but I felt it should be written out. It’s really important that you work out your own feelings about this before potentially making contact and work out why you want to talk to them about this. Look for therapy, call a hotline for sex offenders. Find the resources you need to change, grow and move forward.

      I can share some of my experience in case it’s helpful. I had a partner for four years. A steady and good partnership for the most part. We were best of friends and he also helped me a lot in my process of healing from the grooming and sexual abuse that I went trough as a teenager, almost a decade prior to meeting him. We were a great team for four years and the main reason it worked out for so long was that felt so very safe with him. I totally trusted him. When the relationship started to end, however, bad things happened. I had moved away for my studies and was home over the weekend, to visit him and perform in a nearby city. I arrived on a Friday evening. That night he wanted to have sex with me. I was tired, not in the mood and falling out of love. I told him I didn’t want to have sex with him. We went to sleep, or at least I did, until I woke up to him raping me. It was an incredibly confusing moment. He was such a good person. He would never want to hurt me? It had to be a misunderstanding? The next morning I explained to him that it had not been consensual, that i was sleeping, that it was not ok, but he was just angry and dismissive.

      He came with me to my gig, as he often did. He used to be really good support and helped me keep track of time and gear and such. During the event he was drinking a lot. He never used to drink around me, because it made me feel uncomfortable. For some reason I had gotten the idea that if we could just have consensual sex (or rather “consensual”, since I would pressure myself) that night it would all be ok, it would somehow negate the rape and all would be fine. Now he got absolutely plastered instead and I couldn’t even have a conversation with him. When we got back to the hotel he just crashed on the bed. I was upset at the time but now I’m thankful in a way, because it saved me from pressuring myself to “make it ok”. After that moment, my mind completely blanked the rape. I didn’t remember that it happened. I remembered him getting drunk, though, and me feeling unsafe. What I had left of my attraction to him was gone, which I attributed to what I remembered: the drinking behavior. After a couple of months or so I broke up with him. I think it was some time after, but before we had cut ties, that he brought up the rape. He never called it a rape, but he recounted what happened, in response to me talking about the drinking incident. I guess he was explaining why he was drinking, but I don’t remember really.

      The only reason I remember or know any of this is because I had written it down in my diary after that conversation, as a way to process this difficult information. After that I repressed the rape again. I guess it was because it was just too hard to face that, while he was the best partner I had ever had, a good and kind person, he was also a rapist, who hurt me and broke my trust. A few months ago I was looking through old diaries and found this. It was quite a shock and still really hard for me to reconcile the realities. I had him on a pedestal and always looked to that relationship as the one good, working relationship, even if it wasn’t perfect. By that time, though, I had finally had some therapy so I was strong enough to handle what actually happened without repressing. It helped that I could talk to my therapist about it. In my case who knows if I would have ever remembered if he hadn’t brought it up all those years ago. I’m glad that he did.

      That’s the only one of my three rapists who has at least partly admitted to doing something wrong. I’m still angry at him for what he did, but I respect him more for at least trying to own it and I’m thankful that he helped me remember what happened.

      This is my story. YMMV for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for the thoughtful response. I am sorry that you were put in a similar situation.

        We are still in contact with each other (by email every few months) so I don’t think they want to never speak to me again (they often initiate the conversation). But you are right that it isn’t about me at this point which is why I am conflicted if I should bring it up or not. Given that I believe they tried to discuss it once but I stupidly shutdown the discussion I don’t think they would try again. But I agree, this is about them and not me and if/when we do talk about it my intention is to apologize, own what I did, and listen carefully to what they want to say to me and take it to heart.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I sent an email and their response was unexpected. They said they felt the same way I did, that they felt like I had a lot to drink so that is why they didn’t want to have sex because they didn’t want to take advantage of me while I was vulnerable but eventually gave in to my persistence. When he tried to bring it up it was to apologize to me but didn’t push it when it was clear I didn’t want to speak about it.

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  23. I have been in the swing community since 1994 and can say that the swing community is full of teachers who are rampantly use their position to get girls and the same is true of some women teachers too, but not as much as the men. Dance camps are a major meeting place for those opportunities for teachers and it is easy for them to meet many dancers who are in awe of their fame and talent.

    To really prevent assault, we have to start by looking at how widespread is this culture of using position and power to create opportunities to have sex.

    In the lindy hop scene, how many teachers are there that have not used their postion to get laid? How many?

    If we make a list of all the international touring couples, there will be just a few who are clean.

    It is indeed a sad state of affairs.

    Steven is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I’m really glad I don’t have to be rational about this

    Any of you who are supporting this troubled person who desperately needs to get help for his problem are in for many verbal assaults when I see you next. You are part of the problem. ENABLERS. I love how removed I am from the situation cause I will torture you all to no end. Don’t come to any of my classes, don’t come to my bands shows. Fuck it, don’t come to an event In at or anywhere near me. Know that I’ll be trying my best to toss you enablers out of our community as well. Fuck you

    Know that I’m coming for you

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Putting people down never does any good to anybody. This goes for those who are put down. But also for down-putters. It’s just the start for the next grief to happen. When this happens, usually innocent people and by-standers also get hurt.

      If there’s anything to learn frome these unpleasant events, it’s this: speak up if you feel uncomfortable. Take yourself out of the situation as quick as possible. Get help to do so, if you cannot manage for yourself. Confront those who have given you unpleasantness, and give them a chance to react – hopefully to the better.

      Best help is to create an atmosphere, where talking about unpleasant feelings feels welcomed. Any kind of aggressiveness is a strong enemy of this feeling.

      Plus: Don’t ever idolize someone for being who they are. Admire what they do or have done, their skills, talent. If you feel like it. But the only personal idol you should ever have is you, your well-being. Teach this to people who doubt this and tend to idolize others.

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  25. This man sounds like a dangerous individual- I applaud you for speaking out Sarah and the other ladies who are now coming forward- please get together and go to the police. His pathetic sorry, we should have talked: REALLY!! Sorry for now being exposed more like! Disgusting, horrifying, sickening: what I actually think of people like this contains far too many expletives. Good for you Sarah in writing this- I wish you all the best. Steve to me sounds like a complete sociopath.
    PS to Byron “It sucks you had to be sexually assaulted” does it?! I found your comments sickening-how DARE you ask how much responsibility young women felt for being groomed and manipulated by the man! “His reaction was clearly immature and insensitive, but you ended up back in the same situation again with him” – Byron do you know anything about abuse, manipulation, grooming? Clearly not. How about, he was a completely abusive fucking arsehole, trying to have his way with young women by force and emotional abuse and mindfuckery? God knows how many other women this has happened to and whom he actually MAY have raped- how the hell you would react if your mother or sister recounted the same story to you- would you be quite as questioning? Sickening that you try and lay the blame in part with young women- it says something very odd about you to be honest!

    Liked by 4 people

  26. Sarah
    I have spent a considerable amount of time reading most of the comments concerning what happened with you &Steve Mitchell. I Don’t expect to add anything new or enlightening, however I will repeat what many have said about your bravery in relating these terrible incidents.
    I have worked with teenagers since I was one (I am 68 now) & know full well the impact that anything an adult in power say or does has on a young person.
    This said, I cannot forgive Steve Mitchell. What he did was a betrayal of trust that cannot be forgiven. I consider his apology almost an insult. How do you truly say you are sorry for action that could affect one for a lifetime?
    I have always taken for granted that the dance community at large, &my smaller dance community here in the Mid Hudson Valley of New York was a safe haven from reality. I should have known better; now I do.
    If any good can come out of this, it’s the dialog you have opened. As a man appalled & disgusted by the actions of another man, I hope we can heal each other.
    Ron

    Liked by 5 people

  27. Welcome to this brave new world, where a man *not* having sex after a woman said no is still rape, and where 18 is the legal age to shoot pornographic content but a man’s career can literally be flushed down the toilet within minutes for attempting to have sex with someone who is *not* a minor.

    I used to be a prolific dancer and I quit the scene years ago now. Part of the reason why I quit the scene was exactly the things I’m reading here: I have known of so many followers going to camps “aiming high”. As a young male dancer, I had much scorn for the behaviour…

    Sarah, I truly hope that you did the responsible thing and spoke to a lawyer and/or councillor about what happened to you. It didn’t seem to me like you did, but I hope you simply omitted that in your write up. Because if you have not done so, what you did here was the height of irresponsibility. There are many statements you made which I outright disagree with, but my point isn’t to win an argument here and let me point out that it is entirely impossible to have a reasonable debate on this forum which has turned into a witch hunt.
    My point is that you’ve turned the public sphere into your own therapy session. You will not get true resolution out of this as you think you would by getting positive peer feedback…

    Sue the guy proper, or if you talk to a lawyer and he says you don’t have a case, talk to a councillor about what happened and get some resolution. And only after that – after having exhausted all of your options – come to the community and make a statement about the practice of the community as a whole and *if you must*, single out Steven Mitchell because you believe he is absolutely unique in this respect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Re: your first paragraph, Sarah said, “Let me be clear. Steven didn’t rape me, and we didn’t have sex.” I suggest you read her post again.

      If someone is an ass, you don’t need to go to a lawyer before you tell people about how much of an ass they are. The law does not act in the interests of victims, it acts in the interests of the state.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Okay I’m going to try to not get angry in response to what you’ve written. Clearly you’re angry. I can point out the obvious which is the fact you’ve referred to an entire gender as “followers” which I’ll go into greater detail later on and that you’ve started your reply by attempting by deliberately attempting to play semantics and mud-sling.

      One that first statement is nonsensical. Unless of course you’re suggesting that what happened to Sarah wasn’t rape. That’s been addressed. Secondly obviously just because someone is of legal age does not make them instantly consenting.

      You talk of the followers (by which you mean women?) ” aiming high” for which you as a young male dancer had scorn for.

      This along with the previous words suggests a deep level of misogyny and with the latter words a deep sense of envy, jealousy and entitlement.

      You denying their agency if they were consenting and in your own way (feel free to disagree) denying the actions of the perpetrator in grooming/intimidating/bullying those that found themselves unable/unwilling to consent.

      Can you explain what you mean by posting if this is not what you meant because personally that’s what I’m reading and I don’t think I’m the only one.

      Liked by 3 people

  28. Thank you so much Sarah, and all others who have shared their stories and support. It’s incredibly brave to start this conversation by sharing so much, including both your name and his.

    I was also groomed and sexually abused by a public figure at around the same age, though not in the swing community. I find it especially hard to talk about since if I let people know who he is, I’m afraid the story won’t belong to me any more, that it would belong to the public, become gossip. That I’d be called a groupie or other derogatory terms. I’m afraid of the embarrassment, the humiliation, of not being believed. Of being told I’m exaggerating. You are being quite heroic here. And, I must say, most of the community is pretty damn supportive. It makes me hopeful.

    In my case I was a lonely teenager, starved for attention and approval. He gave them to me and then he took so much I don’t think he has any idea. He took my sexual innocence and curiosity, my trust, my youth, my playfulness. Gave me PTSD instead, that still impacts me 16 years later. I first met him on a lovely sunny day. My family and I were walking to the pool. I remember wearing a light blue cotton dress with daisies. I saw him checking me out outside the entrance. I was flattered and thrilled. Maybe I didn’t have a lot of friends, but at least boys and men had started noticing me in the last three years or so. Now even someone who would impress my friends. A couple days later he came over to talk to me at an event where he was performing. He got the number to our summer house and groomed me over the phone during the summer, including sending me a birthday present, making me feel like finally someone like-liked me. I’d had a bunch of one-sided crushes, but never any romance, never kissed anyone.

    When I came back home we started some sort of “relationship” that basically consisted of him pressuring me to be sexual with him and not caring if I didn’t want it. When I finally ended it after a few months, he was even asshole enough to suggest we could at least see each other sometimes to have sex. This experience has messed up relationships for me ever since. I have come a long way, but I will always hate him for the years of misery he has given me, years that should have been my prime.

    This has been some really hard days for me taking in all of this, because it brought up my feelings and history a lot. I’ve been in therapy now, but not until the past couple of years. Still this brought it up in a new way. I haven’t talked to anyone else who has been groomed by a public figure, not even online, so this whole conversation is very therapeutic and hard for me. Thank you again.

    I have told all of my partners throughout life about this abuse, because otherwise I couldn’t feel safe with them. Interestingly enough the only one who didn’t really seem to understand, or understand the gravity of it was the one who also ended up gas lighting me throughout our relationship and sexually abusing me several times. (A very charming and well liked dancer, btw). I was too busy being kind and understanding, to see it for the red flag that it was. He did seem to genuinely want to understand, and maybe it was just hard because he hadn’t been in a similar situation? (rather: maybe he just lacked in empathy and I should have stayed the hell away). Now I know it was a red flag. I also know he abused at least two of his previous girlfriends.

    Sometimes I feel guilt for not pressing charges or telling these stories openly, naming names, for the sake of other potential victims, but I haven’t found the strength and courage to do so. You all are extremely brave for doing just that. Maybe one day I will too. Who knows. This is very inspiring and strengthening.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Survivor L you sound like a true survivor and I applaud you- i cannot imagine how difficult your experiences must have been- you should not feel any sense of guilt or shame- things can take time for any individual and you are clearly working through things now and processing what is essentially, trauma… I am really heartened by all your honesties (that isn’t a word, but hey 🙂 ) as well as being so so angry at these individuals, these facades of human beings, preying on young, vulnerable, impressionable women…wish you all the best in your healing and journey xx

      Liked by 1 person

  29. I would also like to thank those of you who won’t leave the awful, victim-blaming, comments unchallenged. I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to do that right now, but I’m grateful that there are a bunch of you out there, trying to help maintaining a relatively safe space for an open commentariat.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Steven Mitchell also is liar and fake when his dance career is concerned. He claimed to have learned from Al Minns which is a lie. He never did. He claimed to have choreographed for Jiving Lindy Hoppers which is a lie. He never did. You know the rest.

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  31. fuck you Mike Faltesick or however you spell your pussy ass last name. Your band sucks I would never go see you, and your dancing stinks even worse.if I had a dance club, event, anything Swing related I would have a mug shot of your ugly face and dorky glasses so that you be banned from entering anywhere.

    Everyone can express their opinion but to act like a tough guy, which you clearly are not you skinny ass bitch, is absurd. I wish I lived where you live so that I could school you in person and put you in your place, but I’m not threatening violence. You sound like someone that needs to be put in check, verbally. Maybe I will come up there, where do you live? I think we need to have a chat Man to man.

    How about we jump on another bandwagon and accuse you of doing the same things but only with hard drugs?

    Do us all a favor and shut the fuck up!

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    1. Yeah super scared of an anonymous internet troll who uses words like “pussy” to try to insult me. Masoginist. Oh no you insulted my dancing! Oh no my music! Haha. Why is it again you are anonymous? Tell us your name and I’ll come find you and save you the time. I never threatened physical violence to anyone, another thig we shouldn’t tolerate in our community. It seems you are likely an enabler in that way as well. People like you need to be ostracized from our community .

      Get the fuck out BAMF, nobody wants you here or wants to dance with you or be your friend

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Bamf,
      I’ve never yet met a bad ass motherfucker (bamf) who felt the need to cloak himself in anonymity, and I’m pleased to see that the absurdity of the name you hide behind suitably equals the inane content of what you write. You expose the rest of the rape apologists posting here for what they really are. When you have your “man to man” chat with Falty, count me in. My name is Michael Seguin. Look me up.

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      1. Those who start to threat others with physically or verbally are not any better individuals. Please take this into your consideration.

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    3. BAMF I’ve got to ask what were you trying to achieve by posting this? If you had issues with what Michael posted possibly it could have been phrased better.

      I’m also disturbed by the last part. Just to check are you actually stating that Michael has engaged in sexual assaulting someone or was that just an poorly chosen put down?

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  32. THANK YOU for speaking out and sharing your awful experience. Thank you for taking the risk, for reliving, for bringing the too common reality of predation and sexual assault to light. It is so important for us to listen, to believe, and to support you and anyone else who has been taken advantage of. It’s a shame to think we need graphic reminders that we live in a misogynistic society, but we still do. Thank you forbeing brave, for using your experience to educate the swing community…this happens here too, and we are all complicit. We all have a responsibility to speak up, to watch out for each other, and to call out those who prey on the vulnerable for their disgusting behavior. We can, together, make this a safer community for everyone. Thank you again for putting the at the forefront, for inspiring what im hopeful will be many productive conversations, and a positive change in how our community operates. The swing community can and SHOULD be better than the culture that allowed what happened to you.

    I believe you. You are brave and awesome and a role model. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Kudos Sarah … Healing begins when the truth is expressed and exposed. Stand Strong and Dance on. FYI to the rest of you… this happens in a variety of other ways whether you are a man or a women, straight or gay… if your aware of it, you’ll see it. If you see and keep quiet about it your no better than they are. It’s one of those things that society still grapples with because it holds each and everyone one of us to be accountable. It’s amazing that in 2015 we still have these issues, we haven’t seemed to have evolved much. So trust your instincts, talk it out before it becomes a problem. Parents watch your children. If you feel something is wrong…your probably right. Do something about it! God Bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Bamf: I actually in the process of starting up a dance club, where we will host our own event and do some other things that are swing related, and I just wanted to say I also would never hire Mike Faltesick, or actually anyone with such a pussy sounding last name. That’s like our number one thing we want to avoid.

    Are you interested in investing? I’m all about helping people put their money where thier mouth is!

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Thank you to all who have come forward. You did not destroy Steven’s career. He did that himself. Period.

    Thank you to all who have shown support to the victims. The reason we do not see victims come forward quickly are myriad, but lack of support and an overload of questioning surely is a contributing factor.

    A plea to all: while this has focused on Steven, it doesn’t matter who the person is that has made unwanted sexual advances. Report them. No one is above scrutiny. Show love, compassion, and kindness to yourself, and when you are ready to come forward, please do so.

    Lastly, if you are here talking about how Steven is being attacked, how the law is being trampled, or what the technical definition of consensual sex is, knock it off. This is neither the time nor the place. Save those discussions for your own blog, your own Facebook page, or your own Twitter feed. This is about supporting the victims who have come forward, supporting the victims who still do not feel comfortable coming forward, and supporting the community at large that is in shock and disbelief, as well as searching for answers in how to stop this thing from happening in their own scene.

    If you’re here to argue, support Steven, or question the validity of these stories, we will shout you down and not lose a second’s sleep over it.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. I’m certainly a peripheral member of the larger community, but I do have one or two things to say.

    To all the women who have spoken out, I hope it can’t be said too many times – I’m truly sorry for the incredibly traumatic experiences you endured. I really can’t imagine what you’ve been through. Please know that my prayers are with you.

    I do want to start the process of discussing ways forward, and since we know sexual assault to be a cultural phenomenon, I say the raising of cultural awareness is a great place to start.

    So here are some things I’ve been grappling with in my own life:

    Are the following words part of our vocabulary?

    As I begin to write this list, it occurs to me that the people on here who have gone through these experiences might not want to review a list of these words right now. They have some venom to them. You know which words I mean. There are plenty of them, especially for women and their body parts. Quite a few for men as well.

    Do we use these words in our everyday conversations? What do we convey when we use them?

    Do we watch porn?

    The porn industry is an epidemic of rape, sexual abuse and coercion. Read up on it. Even when we watch for free we’re still channeling advertising dollars to the porn industry. No child dreams about growing up to a career in which she sells her willingness to be abused. An equal consideration is: What do we feed in ourselves when we bathe ourselves in the products of such an enterprise.

    What do we see on TV and in the media in general, and what does it tell us about women and men?

    It’s clear to me that the media, among many other things, help to train men to think of women as prizes and conquests, while it trains women to discard their own agency (read: to believe it’s not OK for them to say “no”). Let’s see between the lines – talk about it, decide whether we want to expose ourselves or our children to it.

    For the dance scene specifically, how about a non-profit that supports organizers from any and every scene in incorporating support and prevention measures into their organizing. Off the top of my head here, it could be anything from the making of rules of conduct, to incorporating verbiage into their PR, to letting new dancers know who they can talk to about emergent issues without fear of disbelief or retaliation. The merits of various strategies will need to be discussed, but you get the idea.

    I support Steven’s departure from the community, and I hope he finds the healing he needs as well.

    I hope my comments here will be useful to you. Thank you all.

    -Luke Templeton, Albuquerque, NM

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You make some really great points. Another possibility might be for dance organizers to routinely request feedback after each event. This could be done through some kind of followup survey/questionaire, etc. The feedback requests should specifically ask whether any dancer felt any type of sexual coercion, pressure, etc. at the dance. Also perhaps dance camps could include short educational sessions on what is and isn’t consent (I get the sense from this thread that some folks sincerely want to do the right thing but aren’t always sure what that is).

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  37. Clare, attacking me by starting out with a misquote doesn’t actually help you make your point. What I actually said was, “Sarah, I think it sucks that you had to go through this and I think it’s great that you have spoken out about it. Nobody should be made to feel like you did and nobody should be taken advantage of. It was clearly very emotionally damaging and wrong of Steven to lead you into the situations that occurred.” If you’re going to paraphrase and reinterpret, at least don’t put quotes around it.

    So once again, we have someone negatively interpreting why I asked those questions. So, I will just say this: The questions I asked are just that, questions. They were not statements. They were not rhetorical questions. They were not intended to make the victims feel at fault. They were just normal questions asked to clarify things that I thought were a unclear. I asked them because these accounts of sexual assault are being posted on a public forum and the community should have a complete understanding of the gravity of the situation, which I think is important to determine how to proceed. I realize that posting those questions was a bit insensitive, but I really think in matters such as this, it’s of the utmost importance to have as crystal clear of an understanding as possible. Allison gave a far more detailed (and heart wrenching) account then I ever expected in response, but I’m glad she came forward and gave a full account of what happened so the community could understand the full extent of what Steven did. Nothing I wrote was blaming the victims for anything, but rather trying to understand completely the full extent of what Steven did. If I made the victims feel blamed or negative in any way, I apologize for that. I want the victims to feel like they’ll be supported if they choose to press charges for all crimes that occurred in hopes that it prevents others from becoming a victim in the future, and I want the dance community to be able to take appropriate measures to protect students and keep our events fun, happy and healthy places to be.

    Luke, I think your idea is great, but perhaps an actual non-profit entity isn’t even necessary. Codes of conduct for social dancers and event attendees are a great start, too, some examples of which have been posted here, but drafting some kind of literature about what’s not appropriate for instructors at dance events and putting it in a public place, perhaps in the form of a manifesto that can be signed by both event organizers and instructors and included in the information for their event on websites and printed packets, is a good idea. I think Ben would probably be willing to host a page for this on dancecamps.org. If not, I’d be happy to find a place for it. I think if organizers and instructors agree on a common set of rules of conduct for both students and instructors, publish it and sign it, it could really help bring awareness of the issues and educate the members of the dance community.

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    1. That’s a good idea – a written flyer, containing not only a code of conduct but some basic education on these issues, and what to do if these problems occur. It could be put out on the table at every event.

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    2. I know that dakarsuzanne and probably many others want there to be less bickering and for people to focus on the positive, but there are some things I need to point out because so, so much of what you’re doing parallels the behaviour of an abuser. And I think your comments are more harmful than any of the misogynist rape apology in this thread.

      You surround your disgustingly offensive behaviour with nice ones to garner support and to give yourself plausible deniability. You dismiss all criticism and avoid accountability while acting morally superior. You demand that people judge you by the intentions you claim to have instead of by your actual behaviour. You contradict yourself to keep others confused. You state your disapproval of sexual assault at the same time that your are minimizing it.

      The reason you insist on the right to play detective and interrogate sexual assault survivors with invasive and victim blaming questions is that it gives you a sense of authority and power over women.

      I’m smacking myself upside the head for taking so long to realize that you are gaslighting us. I will no longer be engaging with you, as you have demonstrated that you either have no intention or no capacity for critical self-reflection. You have pretty much embarrassed everyone who’s commented saying that they know you and that you’re a good guy. The fact that you are able to have people coming to your defense despite your appalling behaviour is disturbing in itself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Joe, I’m not sure how you’re able to breath. The air must be so thin up there in the clouds on that horse. I think it’s too bad that you think it’s ok to be a judgmental prick and point out how I’m this or that when you don’t know me. Anything you say about what my intentions are in my posts is purely conjecture. You read my comments in a negative way because you are clearly looking for any excuse to cast the first stone at anyone. I don’t think you’ve posted a single positive comment on this blog. You just keep up the barrage of negative comments as if you think its your job to police the blog and let people know when you don’t like something. How about being part of the solution? How about letting the focus of the blog be on what happened, who it happened to and what to do about it?

        I accept the criticism that my questions were insensitive and offensive, even ignorant, but if you know me, you know that I’m a sincere person and quite blunt, albeit sometimes to the point of insensitivity, which is why I apologized if I offended Sarah, Heidi or Allison. I don’t need to restate my reasons for asking probing questions. I’ve already done that.

        Joe: “You surround your disgustingly offensive behaviour with nice ones to garner support and to give yourself plausible deniability. You dismiss all criticism and avoid accountability while acting morally superior.” No, I’ve admitted that the questions were insensitive and explained that they were not mean to put blame on the victims. I’ve accepted the criticism and apologized. If anyone is acting morally superior, it’s you. You’re in denial if you can’t see that.

        Joe: “You demand that people judge you by the intentions you claim to have instead of by your actual behaviour.” No, I have not demanded anything, I’ve simply explained my intentions in asking some questions. Behavior has nothing to do with this.

        Joe: “You contradict yourself to keep others confused. You state your disapproval of sexual assault at the same time that your are minimizing it.” No, I’ve made no contradictions whatsoever. I posted some probing questions that some people have read into as an attempt to blame the victims, when I was simply trying to understand the severity of the sexual assaults. I haven’t minimized anything. I’ve stated that there are levels of sexual assault, rape being the worst, and I wanted to know exactly what happened so that people don’t interpret or read between the lines.

        Joe: “I will no longer be engaging with you” If only I could be so lucky. I only hope it’s true. You’re so full of yourself, I’m actually amazed that you’d have any friends that could live up to your lofty expectations. Now, why don’t you focus on helping these women and the dance community deal with what has happened instead of filling this blog with your negative, judgmental attempt at authoritarian rule over this blog post.

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  38. To preface, yes this is another woman coming forward to talk about her experience with Steven Mitchell. But the fact that he sexually assaulted an appallingly high number of women is already abundantly clear, that is not why I am choosing to share my story. I am not asking for sympathy or recognition. I am choosing to share my story to raise an issue that is not being talked about nearly enough – affirmative consent. I keep seeing people say, “no means no.” If you ask me, the more important question is not whether I said no, but if I was given the choice. To me affirmative consent is about everyone involved having made a deliberate choice to say yes, knowing that they could just as comfortably choose to say no.

    I too am, I suppose, a victim of Steven Mitchell. Somehow to say that feels wrong, I don’t feel like a victim, up until four days ago I considered myself his friend. Had no one ever come forward about this, I suppose I would have continued to consider myself his friend. Now I am finally being forced to acknowledge some very unpleasant truths about a friendship I valued, a friendship that was very formative for me as a person and as a dancer; some truths about a person who I had considered a mentor and admired. But the most painful part is that these are truths I knew a long time ago and just refused to acknowledge because they were inconvenient. For the most part my friendship with Steven was very positive and so I let the things that made me uncomfortable continue to slide. In that way I feel that I too have contributed to the problem and I apologize for not speaking out when I should have.

    I suppose that had it been someone less well-known and well-respected I would not have ignored the initial red flags in Steven and I’s interactions. But at the beginning I was a seventeen-year-old girl – an inexperienced seventeen with a strong instinct to believe the best of people and a lot of drive to be good at dancing – and Steven was a legend and was respected by a lot of people who I knew and trusted. It started with dancing; I was in Herräng for the first time and taking a lot of solo jazz with Steven. I got in the habit of staying to ask questions and he kept telling me I was letting thinking get in the way, that I needed to let go and stop trying so hard. By the next year in Herräng I felt pretty comfortable talking with Steven, but I was definitely still very star-struck. I remember how special I felt the first time I went to have a drink with him. It was the first time I got really drunk. It was also the first time I chose to ignore something inappropriate that he did to me. For the most part it was fine, we were just sitting drinking wine, talking, listening to music, then once I got pretty drunk he said now we should dance, that dancing drunk would help me loosen up and let go. It didn’t, it just made me throw up. I ended up lying down on his couch and eventual dozing. At some point he came and lay down on top of me and started to grind, muttering something about how we would just dance horizontally now since I was too drunk to dance vertically. I was very, very uncomfortable with the situation, but I was also incredibly drunk and incredibly tired and I just couldn’t muster the energy to do anything, I felt helpless even to say anything and so I continued to be half a sleep and just waited until he left me alone. The next morning I woke up and dashed off to my volunteer shift and the incident remained unmentioned as if it had never happened.
    I didn’t see Steven again until he came to Houston (my home town) for Lindyfest the next March. At Lindyfest we had a great time hanging out, talking and going out to eat. I tried not to be star-struck, but I couldn’t believe that of all the amazing dancers at this event Steven wanted to hang out with me. I remembered what had happened in Herräng and I felt a little nervous, but he was so nice and respectful that I just wrote the whole thing off as not a big deal, as us being drunk, as “what happens in Herräng stays in Herräng.” That Lindyfest was amazing, he seemed so genuinely caring, and interested in who I was as a person, and by the end of the weekend when I did find myself alone and drunk with him in the middle of the night, I thought what the hell. We had a certain amount of sexual interaction that night, but it was fine. He asked for consent and as soon as I said no he stopped, no questions no pushing. The only reason I am even talking about that weekend publicly is because it set up a strangely incongruous precedent in Steven and I’s relationship that resulted in many, very uncomfortable encounters with Steven or over the next couple years. I came out of that Lindyfest with a sense of trust, a sense that my voice would be listened to, that Steven would ask if I was comfortable. But I also had a sense of guilt, a sense that I had done something wrong by having sexual interactions with someone old enough to be my father, maybe even my grandfather. I decided that I was very uncomfortable with the whole thing and in the future when I hung out with Steven I wouldn’t let anything sexual happen. I guess the precedent that was set up for Steven was that I had given consent to some sexual interactions once and anything was now fair game, he continued to pursue or escalate the sexual encounters every time I saw him from then on. It is the kind of complexity illustrated by this paradox in precedents that makes it easier to ignore things that make you uncomfortable sometimes, that make it easy to overlook the true nature of a situation, and for the past two years that is exactly what I have done.
    Since that Lindyfest I have spent plenty of time with Steven. He has been very supportive of my goals, he has been genuinely interested in my theater projects, and has even asked to read some of my writing. We have hung out every time we are at an event together and have done a lot of really fun things. In this sense he has been a truly wonderful friend to me, which is why it is so hard to acknowledge the other side of things. But the hard truth is that trade off for this friendship has been accepting a lot of unwanted sexual advances and sexual interactions, frequently paired with a guilt trip and pressuring and always in a state of inebriation I rarely achieve in the rest of my life.
    There is no call to detail our whole friendship, however, something that happened right after Herräng this summer was actually quite damaging and I think is worth writing about. I was feeling quite sick the last week of Herräng and decided to leave early and go stay with Steven in Stockholm for a few days. We were both kind of a wreck after Herräng and enjoying just relaxing and catching up on a months worth of sleep. The last night we where there I made a nice dinner and we ended up drinking really a lot of wine. I was very drunk and wanted to go to bed, but Steven came with me. He started touching me but I was too drunk to really care enough to stop him. But then he started to penetrate me. I said no. I said you aren’t wearing a condom. I said please stop. But he kept going for a few minutes. I don’t know why I didn’t acknowledge it was rape, but I didn’t until I started trying to write it down. Instead I blamed myself, I thought I hadn’t been forceful enough about my no, I was so used to having to say no all the time that this just seemed like another moment of me not wanting to bother to say no.

    After that one time at Lindyfest Steven had never asked for consent, he had just seen how far he could go before I put a stop to things. Other than the last time he had never refused to stop when I said no, he had never technically done something against my wishes. The problem with no means no is that no is often very hard to say. Accept

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “The problem with no means no is that no is often very hard to say.” Your story is so spot on with my experience as a young girl/woman. I am 60 now but came of age towards the end of the hippie movement in a milieu saturated with sexual pressure. The kind of gaslighting, guilt-tripping bullshit that girls and women are subjected to is so pervasive, and we are given so little support for saying no to anyone in our lives about anything, that a (seemingly simple) “no” or “stop” can be very hard to say. This is the point that so many sincerely good men I know cannot seem to understand. This is the essence of privilege – when you’ve never lacked power it is unbelievably difficult to really understand how it feels in these situations to be belittled, criticized, guilt-tripped, manipulated, etc. I know that as an educated white woman I have my own types of privilege and that I can never fully understand what it means to be a person of color, a person who identifies as LGBTQ, a disabled person, etc. I have to humbly ask when these issues come up. I really really appreciate the many men on this thread who have taken that supportive and humble approach to the women who have survived these awful experiences.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Hi Clara, I dont know you, but your description, the first part, about friendship and interaction with Steven was so familiar to me and you said everything I have been conflicted about and am coming to terms with. Thats actually what brought me to finally post something on this blog. The actual sexual interaction is not something I experienced but i am so sorry you were violated in that way by someone you trusted. Im actually shaking thinking about it. I support you in recovering and processing this experience.

      To all other women, sarah, heidi, allison, brenda I am so sorry this happend to you as well. I stand in solidarity and support you. No more. Not in our house. Not anywhere. Thank you to the men who are also speaking out and making a change. We can not do it with just one side of the coin. This needs to be a community-wide effort.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Clara, I am so sorry about this; thank you for sharing it. You eloquently describe a persistent problem that I have experienced for far too long, and other women as well – the idea that if consent to anything sexual is given once, it can be seen as comprehensive, permanent consent to anything sexual (of any sort) at any future point.

      Liked by 2 people

  39. It’s great for all this discussion. Women need to know about Steven and other instructors that abuse they’re power. There needs to be more education about consent,
    an how to say no, avoid bad situations, and exit stradegy.

    Ignorance is often taken advantage of and people are exploited frequently. Let’s rise up and educate members of the dance community on how to protect themselves and others from unwanted sexual advances, assaults and rape. A

    We are an international family and need to take care of eachother!

    Like

  40. I’ve been struggling a bit with this discussion. From all of the testimony, it’s obvious that he has a problem and needs to deal with it. From personal experience, I vividly remember attending one of his workshops and getting a creeper vibe off him when he was around my girlfriend. She was 19 or 20 at the time and she laughed it off and enjoyed the attention, but I’m sure there are many others who didn’t. Unfortunately there are lots of guys like that in the world so I think at the time I saw him skeevy but harmless.

    On the other hand, it’s hard for me to get my head around the fine line between willing and unwilling partners. I think as men, sometimes it can be hard to tell what is real resistance (sexual assault) and what is a desire from women to be led into sexual escalation. In the recently reported cases some of those lines are vividly clear, but others are pretty grey. There are a lot of poorly calibrated guys in the swing scene and I think we need to balance a desire for punishment with an effort at education and reform.

    Maybe we should bring back the old “That’s harassment and I don’t have to take it!” campaign from the early 90’s. Some guys really do need to be scolded like puppies for creepy ass behavior. We should all collectively be trying to help these guys realize what they’re doing is wrong in the moments they’re doing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is no gray here, and the line is actually quite thick. What many men think of as gray area is actually the line. We get confused because of the message we get rape culture. I recommend doing a bit of research on “affirmative consent”, Andy.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Excuse me? “as men, sometimes it can be hard to tell what is real resistance (sexual assault) and what is a desire from women to be led into sexual escalation” “REAL resistance”? What you think – women put up FALSE resistance for fun?! Please tell me you are over 70 and that’s why you have this unbelievably stone age attitude. This is the essence of the problem – men who think they can read a woman’s behavior, and then feel free to act on it in the absence of her clear consent. If you can’t tell the difference, ASK for god’s sake!!

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    3. The problem is, predators can hide behind the “I’m just awkward” banner. By and large, they know what they’re doing isn’t acceptable, but they do it anyway.

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    4. Sorry Andy, I got a little carried away with my last comment. Seriously, any woman worth her salt will be thrilled to be asked. I have known so many men who think they are supposed to act as if they already know everything about sex, as if it’s unmanly or unsexy to be unsure. I think that is part of the stereotype that men are taught to fulfill, and I have seen it oppress men as much as female stereotypes oppress women. But I (and other women I have talked with) find it wonderful (and sexy) to have a man directly ask. Let’s all try to stop fulfilling the stupid gender roles we were raised with, and start assuming that each person is an individual that may or may not fit our expectations.

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    5. I’m glad you brought this up because you are probably not alone in thinking that way.
      If you ever feel unsure if someone is willing or not, ask them. If you think someone is holding back because they enjoy playing into old fashioned stereotypes or something, ask them. Don’t ever assume anyone wants to “be led into sexual escalation” because you will most likely be wrong.

      As for the girls that do resist because they want to be led into it, if they even exist. They are just going to have to learn that that sort of behavior will get them nothing because men will respect what they say and do and not push it.

      It doesn’t help that we have hits like Baby it’s cold outside still being played as sweet and romantic.

      Liked by 2 people

  41. I’ve had a few of those should-have-said-something moments while watching people on the dance floor. I’m trying to train myself to be less concerned with awkwardness and uncertainty, and just ask questions like, “I saw that; was that okay with you?”, “Are you okay?”, “Do you need help?”.

    I am also reminding myself that the follow’s reaction isn’t necessarily indicative of the offensiveness or harm of the lead’s actions; people are often paralyzed by abusive behaviour and smile when they are confused or scared.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. “Sarah, can you think of any general information you could have been provided with beforehand, that would have prevented this situation? (I don’t see the point of providing people like Steven info because I’m pretty sure they already know that they are doing something wrong).”

    More importantly, is there anything that scene members and leaders could do to help keep this sort of thing from happening? I understand Anonymous’ point that people who do wrong things know they are doing wrong things so why talk to them about it, but that’s a little too easy. People sometimes do wrong things and don’t let themselves realize how wrong they are, or convince themselves that it’s common, or the effects of their bad actions are minor or fleeting. People do wrong things sometimes because they consistently get away with it, and if it were really that bad someone would stop them, right? Sarah brings up the issue of culture, and I think that’s one we should certainly focus on. People who do things like Steven did, for as long as he did them, get away with it because they are in a culture that enables it. Peds, in relating her account, mentions a roommate who leaves. That person, whether they knew it or not, whether they let themselves know it or not, is complicit. They didn’t abuse or assault anyone maybe, but they removed themselves from the situation so that Steven had the privacy to do what he did. They probably thought they were being a good wing man.

    So far, barring some fucking shitheads who persist in blaming victims (like “Emotional” above, and Daveola, who liked that fucked up post), this scene seems to have done a good job of voicing belief and support of victims. We still need to watch out for putting the burden on potential victims to protect themselves. Members of our community should be able to have fun and be comfortable and feel safe regardless of the situation. They shouldn’t have to constantly assess their surroundings to see who might be trying to prey on them. The swing scene is not a back alley. It’s a community with leaders and friends. Just like anywhere, it’s up to individuals to make sure they aren’t acting inappropriately or taking advantage of someone, and it’s up to scene leaders to monitor and look out for people.

    We are always bitching about getting people into the scene, nurturing it and helping it grow. You know what would make people want to join up? Feeling reasonably sure that there’s a really good chance they’re not going to get fucking assaulted, and that if they DO get assaulted they’ll get support instead of blame and criticism. We can’t afford an everyone-for-themselves attitude.

    Ahem. So, to my question. What can we do, beyond pontificating (check!), to foster an environment of safety? More than just a published, enforced code of conduct, which is obviously a good start and for which there are several good examples.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Sarah,

    Thank you for being brave and using your voice. My boyfriend shared this blog post with me because your story reminded him of what happened to me.

    I was sexually assaulted by Barry Douglas in July 2013 in Portland, OR during a private lesson at a blues dance event. Despite saying no and resisting him physically, I was blamed by Barry for “seducing” him after I confronted him the next day about what happened.

    Reading your story gives me courage to speak up about what has happened to me. I hope other women are equally inspired to speak up about the injustices that they have suffered in the dance community.

    Thank you for reading,
    Lis

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for sharing this Lis, I did not feel it was my place to share your story. It was advocating for Lis that made me realize I had been assaulted by Steven. I always knew it was wrong, but when those words “sexually assaulted” were used in regards to what happened to Lis, I saw that the exact situation had happened to me, and because i minimized my own situation, I was not prepared to fully support Lis.

      This is the reason why I am not currently teaching with Barry, there was an intervention by our staff, and Barry did blame Lis, and over the following year our organization went through a painful and confusing time that resulted in our not working together.

      A few things I don’t think many reading these posts fully understand are…

      First that someone who has been groomed or attacked in the past will be a more likely target for these occurrences, unless they have done a lot of work to see differently. Something happens where a person shuts down and goes into the fear state they have gone into in the past. Someone groomed as a child or adolescent may be triggered back into a compliant state.

      Also white women in America are culturally taught to accommodate men in general, and can be targets from men of other cultural backgrounds. I have witnessed this time and time again in salsa clubs, blues bars, and so on. An African American or Latino man would never attempt to treat an African American or Latina woman the way he does the ‘white girl’ in the club. This may be specific to where I am from, but I have seen this in Portland for decades. I have seen that certain ‘types’ of women also are more likely to go to bed with certain men in the dance scenes.

      When a woman is sexually assaulted she doesn’t know if she will be raped. Rape is an act of violence, not sex. Men can become perpetrators at any time in their life with no prior history or impulses. Things like divorce, unemployment, grief can trigger a behavior in a man that he might never have entertained before. So as this can be very unpredictable, and can come from a trusted man, there is a negotiation that goes on. Every woman in that situation either complies or fights, or a combination. She may comply with sexual activity to avoid violence, this doesn’t mean she wanted it, but that she is taking the lesser of two evils, conscious of it, or not.

      When I was sexually assaulted by Steven, I had been sexually assaulted by a man I was a nanny for prior to that incident. In both cases I was surprised, had been alone previously with these men, and didn’t know what would happen, if I would be raped, or worse. When a man puts his weight on you and you are reminded he can easily over power you, you don’t know what he might do, and a common response is to placate him. This does not mean you want it.

      When an assault happens often times all the past assaults come up, it compounds the effect on the victim. you can see from the responses to this post that many are triggered by reading this. Women are writing me every day disclosing their own stories about Steven and others, the entire community is in a state of shock and trauma, not just from Steven, but from all of the past incidences with everyone who has experienced or held witness to other acts.

      I hope this is taken as an opportunity for a tremendous amount of healing to occur, and that we will all grow and forward culture to be a safer place.

      I know both Steven and Barry grew up in America at a time when some of these behaviors were socially acceptable. We all adapt and learn what is and isn’t ok, people smoke less in doors, use different words to refer to various races and cultures, and treat each other differently. Watch a 70’s or 80’s show or film and look at the way women are regarded. We have come a long way, and still have a long way to go.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Brenda,
        This is unspeakable. I really don’t know what to say to you. I’ve known you for some 15 years. I’ve been nothing but your friend, mentor and confidant and here you are dragging me through the mud. And I love the way you infer that inappropriate behavior is cultural. That it is common for Black men in my age group, in general, to be inappropreate. How totally racist of you.
        I’ve trained you, consouled you, help you, encouraged you, endorsed you and hell, at one time loved you and now you can’t work with me because I kissed a girl.
        And just for the record it was never acceptable to force a woman to do anything. My father and my grandfather before him taught me to love, honor, respect and above all protect the women of our family. Your problems with me go way deeper than Lis. I don’t know what it is but I do know that it was in play long before Lis and I ever met.
        Also for the record I’m not “blaming” anyone. I am justifying my actions based on Lis’s behavior towards me. I see no wrong doing on either side. If you will remember even you said she was saying one thing and doing another.
        I have seen much wrong in my lifetime. I have been wronged many times. I grew up in the slums of Detroit. My family is from Alabama. So I have seen much pain in my life. I must say that this has hurt me as much as any wrong could.
        (Sorry if this post is a bit scattered but as I said I was speechless)
        Through it all Brenda I wish you well. Always have, always will.

        Like

    2. Wow, so here we are. In the heat of conversation about sexual misconduct in the community and low and behold my name is thrown into the ring.
      First of all Lis lets recount what really happened. You started a dialog with me not only about dance but about life. Your personal growth. During our time together you came on to me twice. I asked you to stop doing that to me because it wasn’t fair to me. You continually made yourself available to me even though you said you weren’t inerested. During a lesson you plugged into me again so I kissed you. I’m sorry, but you kissed me back. Passionately. We were interrupted by my next student.
      You said you didn’t want that from me and it never happened again. I never touched you inappropriately.
      I never fondled you or forced you to do anything. Now you’re telling everyone I “assaulted” you and that’s just bullshit. So I’m back to my original statement. WOW…….
      As a man, especially a Black man in this White Blues subculture, I have always carried myself with the utmost respect. Respect for myself and respect for all. Even though I have lived through great racism I’ve always been an advocate of total equality and lived my lIfe in a way to help others to the same point of view. I would never do anything intentionally to degrade or demean another human being. Especially a woman. If following my sexually after being tempted to do so is assault then I’m guilty of assault.
      I wish you well Lis. Always have, always will.

      Like

      1. I don’t think this public forum is the place to drag this out, so i won’t say much. Barry I love you, and I appreciate you very much. We don’t always see things the same way, and I accept that. I am sharing from my own personal experience. I had never known you to be predatory or disrespectful to women in the 15 years I knew you.

        I believe you sexually assaulted Lis Baker. I believe that if you told a judge that Lis energetically plugged into you, and so in your temptation you had to kiss her, even though you were in a paid professional session, and that she had come to you for spiritual and emotional help, not just dance lessons, and you are a healer selling services as a Healing Arts professional, that the judge would see this as assault. The text messages alone show a clear threat and intimidation that is classified as assault where this took place. The comments to Lis that I was trying to come between you two, that I was a witch and wanted to train Lis to be my little witch princess, and that I didn’t want you stealing her away from me was classic manipulation. Trying to get her to not trust a woman who was there to help and support her.

        I told you she had dropped out of our dance camp because she was uncomfortable around you. I asked you to stay away from her. You said “if she is uncomfortable around me, then why was she hanging out with me all night last night?” When Christine and I took her to get food that night after Duff’s she broke down, it was like coming out of a trance, she was uncomfortable around you. She actually chose to avoid events you were at and cancelled private lessons with you because she felt confused. I saw it, I warned you, you chose to see something else, to believe something else, and that is where the problem lies. You were her teacher, her teachers teacher, her mentors mentor, an older man, a strong man. The Power differential, and the texts you sent, which are too explicit to post here, are enough alone to be sexual assault.

        You have said it all in your last two posts. You asked her to stop coming onto you, that it wasn’t fair to you, yet you continued to encourage her to pay you for private lessons. You said she continually made herself available to you. Yes, she trusted you . You say she (energetically) plugged into you, that you were tempted. You psychically sensed she wanted you while in a paid private lesson with you as her teacher, so you thought you should respond by grabbing her and kissing her without her consent, and if that is assault you are guilty of assault. Yes Barry, that is assault.

        Like

  44. Such a lot of emotions this post is bringing up for me — everything from deep sadness that women (myself included) have to deal with being targets of predatory men, to pride at being part of a community that is speaking openly and (for the most part) reasonably about a very sad situation that is replicated too often wherever men and women interact, all over the world.

    Regarding comments about the law, we humans make the laws we live by, be it professionally by passing a bar exam and thereby being given the right by other humans to make the difficult decisions that laws codify, or individually, every day, when we decide what we say no to, or yes to, for ourselves and for others in our communities. Discussions such as this inform and improve those decisions.

    I salute the efforts of everyone on this blog who is looking at themselves and their actions closely, trying to understand what happened and what their part in it was, what is another person’s responsibility to take, and what constitutes a healthy response to an unhealthy situation. Those who are responding in anger and/or pointing the finger at other people, notice that there are three fingers pointing back at you — your own fingers, with your own lessons to learn. May you be as brave, considered, and responsible as the women who have told their very difficult stories here.

    And may we all, in this worldwide community I love, find the strength to continue this conversation responsibly, to learn and grow from it, ALL of us, including Stephen, who has herein been thrown a gauntlet, an opportunity for learning and growth bigger than most of us ever have to consider. May he find the strength to fully understand the damage he has done (and that may have been done to him, since too often abusers have been abused themselves), and to get down on his knees to the women he has hurt, and ask their forgiveness (this comes from a powerful process Cloe Madanes has written about to help domestic abuse victims — and their abusers — to heal…). Whether or not these women are able to give such forgiveness to him, I believe it is the only way out of the hell he has created for himself, and for them.

    As Cloe Madanes points out in a brief video she did about the impact of violence, the worst damage is the spiritual damage, done to our souls. To me, part of the strong draw of Lindy is that it touched my soul; it is a dance of the spirit. This sad situation is the flip side, the dark side of the joyfulness that is inherent in this dance we love. Something I have learned is that often the dark side has the most powerful lessons to teach us. May we each learn and grow into better human beings out of this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  45. What to do with Steven Mitchell:
    Let me preface this comment by saying that I am hardly a dancer. I’m new, know little about your community, and don’t think I have deserved a place in it. The names in these stories are unfamiliar or simply youtube names to me. I don’t have authority in your community, but I have thoughts about it:
    Sarah has said that she doesn’t want this man’s career to be over, and I am surprised that Steven hasn’t jumped on that opportunity to attempt amends. I think the only way he should be able to re-join the community is by asking the community what he can do. If I were the voice to answer, I would say: join AA, never touch another drop of alcohol because you obviously have a problem, go to counseling and then we’ll talk. Maybe then you can be permitted to attend events again (not teach, attend). (On a personal note, my grandfather had severe drinking problems that almost ripped my family apart and he hasn’t touched a drop of alcohol in over 20 years now because my family stopped tolerating it…so healing is possible)
    On the flip side, I think that as a community forsaking him and kicking him to the curb is not the best way to handle things. I think that if the victims of his actions approve, the community should say that it will support him in his healing process and even stand by him. If a community is anything like a family, ostracizing is hardly effective. If he is lonely already, I think his issues will only grow worse with being stripped of his career and community. Besides, could the community not hold him accountable? Help keep him from doing it again by helping him heal? Because what if he does heal? What if is able to become a better person? Wouldn’t that be better for everyone? I think the ones to decide if that is appropriate are those who know Steven and those who he affected. I just wanted to put the idea out there.
    Also, thank you to those who have shared, and my heart goes out to you for the inappropriate comments I have seen peppered in the mix. If mine is thought to be one of those please let me know so I can take it down if I can.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t said anything in this discussion yet, but this comment really got me. I’d support him being in a jail cell if found guilty in court, which I see as the only viable resolution. I don’t see any welcoming him back so he can do it again as soon someone isn’t looking. With this much collaboration on telling the story, I think the conviction would be all but predetermined. I hope that process is already under way. Thank you to all of those who have spoken out and will speak out in the future. We are listening and we care.

      Like

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