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 Please do not take it personally if I do not respond quickly (or at all).


535 thoughts on “

  1. I posted something on Facebook awhile, but I’m going to add something here.
    First, does anyone else feel like we should be having the “after the fact” conversations somewhere else? Sarah used this blog for a specific reason: to detail publicly what Steven had done, and since then Heidi, Allison, Brenda, and Clara have come forward and shared their similar stories.

    I believe and support them. I agree that Steven should be held accountable; whatever that will be, but not going to go on a hunt here, I can’t (and won’t) claim the knowledge to know what that would look like. Overall, as a community we need to make sure these things don’t happen in the future.

    But is this the place to have those discussions? I’ve refrained from commenting purely out of anger while following this post (not for gossips sake, but to stay updated) because of having to read countless meaningless posts.
    To me this space should be a place where these women can share their stories and feel supported, it takes a ton of fortitude and bravery to share such a personal and obviously traumatic experience ON THE INTERNET. Why should they have to potentially scroll through posts trying to argue legalities, people demanding questions, victim blaming, and/or slut-shaming them? It bothers me to see the message being obscured.

    It’s my biggest peeve with internet discussions; there’s often too little moderation, but what I would like doesn’t matter much, what do you think?

    Just think a little before you post… Maybe send it to a close friend to help you evaluate what you are about to say.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have read this post, and the subsequent comments, in the past few days and for the most part felt sadness, empathy, pride and love for Sarah and those who have spoken out after Sarah, or shown their support for the women who were affected by Steven.

    I have never fully understood a ‘Trigger Warning’ -type message at the beginning of a post until now, as I find myself deeply affected about the stories I have read here and my mind unable to stop revisiting a similar situation I have found myself in in the past.

    So much so that I am now commenting on a person – unknown to me -‘s blog, and hoping that it provides a cathartic experience, despite my need, for now, to stay anonymous.

    I can truly relate to the situation Sarah (and others) detail, and hope that I am not out of place in sharing my experiences here. To be clear, they don’t involve Mr Mitchell (I have never met him), but another dancer who was then in my local scene.

    He is younger than I am, and this was in the past couple of years, so I imagine I would have been 26 or 27, and he maybe 23. I would, and probably still do, have considered him a friend and he is a far more advanced dancer than I was (and am).

    I always enjoyed dancing with him, and whilst our conversation was possibly sometimes a little cheeky/flirtatious, I never found him sexually attractive. A fact, I’m sure, I conveyed to him – refering to hims as “like my little brother” as they are the same age. We would dance lindy and blues, and I enjoyed the close connection with a friend, but nothing more.

    One evening, after an out-of-town class, we headed back to some friend’s house. The wine was flowing, as it always does in these situations, and soon we were all pretty drunk. I think I was probably less so – having to drive in the morning, and not being much of a party animal anymore. I had never seen him so far gone though.

    We all headed upstairs to bed; all to the spare room one flight of stairs up, the other (a further floor up) seemed too far. After a while, we two were left on our own.

    He started trying to kiss me and touch me. I told him that I wasn’t interested, but he seemed insistent that I had feelings for him, which of course I denied. I did not kiss him, but he was very persistent.

    I reasoned in my mind that he was drunk and not aware of quite what he was doing, so perhaps I needed to be clearer. “” I said, “I am saying no”.

    I said this a few times, but it didn’t seem to deter him. Now, I wonder why I didn’t just get up and leave the room, but I think perhaps I was sure that my friend was a good person, and I didn’t want to make a scene.

    I am ashamed to admit this, but in order to get myself out of the situation on the “path of least resistance” so to speak, I let him touch me. I did not kiss him, and I was not aroused, but he touched me, and entered me with his fingers.

    This is, sadly, not the first time that I have, in my naivety and inexperience, done something I have not wanted to do in order to bring an uncomfortable situation to a quicker end. (Though I am proud to say that I have identified this problem and I am working on standing up for myself through both self-development and in counselling.)
    This is, however, the first time I have been so explicit in saying NO and still felt like that was my only option.

    After he had stopped touching me, I refused to reciprocate the ‘favour’ and, apart from being labelled a “prick tease” he seemed satisfied that it was time to go to sleep.

    Since that time, we have attended dances together, had chats about lindy, geeked about musicality; the general stuff we always did. We shared a bed once more, and on his asking whether “hanky panky” was on the cards, I replied, half jokingly, “No – I’m trying this new thing where I respect myself”. He didn’t try to touch me, and nothing felt at all uncomfortable.

    We even chatted about the ordeal recently – he apologised and said he felt awful and that he would honestly never do it again to anyone; I could even tell my new boyfriend about it, if I needed to, as I had expressed my unease at lying in a new (or any) relationship. I truly want to believe him, but I feel worried that, should it happen to another woman, then I am a tiny bit at fault for not having spoken out with my experiences/concerns.

    I am still unsure whether to divulge all this to my boyfriend. I know his reaction will be anger. And The Dancer in question is new in his career and, despite his actions, I don’t want to “rock the boat”; a feeling I’m sure can be related to.

    Having read the account of Sarah, and the other women who commented with similar stories, I want to thank you all. Through this frank and honest discussion, I have felt able to open up about something that preys on my mind that I feel unable to discuss with people I know, as they know the guy involved too, and I feel ashamed that I ‘let this happen’ to me.

    I applaud your courage, because I don’t yet have it, and I applaud the discussion that you are inspiring in the scene because it is clearly needed. It is not only the young that need protecting, but the people (Women and Men) that do not feel powerful enough to stand up to this kind of abuse; I may have been older than my abuser, but it didn’t affect the power-balance.

    I hope this hasn’t taken too much of your time, and comment feed.
    I will certainly be thinking much more about whether I should take any further actions, but I am glad that I was given the opportunity, through your blog Sarah, to share my story too.

    Wishing you all best wishes for the peace of mind you all deserve.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I firmly believe that your doing so, like the other survivors who have spoken out on this thread, will help others heal and will help the community improve its handling of these problems. You do a beautiful job of conveying the myriad conflicting and confusing feelings that make it so hard to think clearly and act decisively under this kind of insistent, manipulative, gaslighting and coercive pressure.


      1. Thank you for your supportive message. It is massively appreciated. Especially in the internet age of easy insults and victim-shaming/blaming. I hope that my story inspires others and improves our community. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. this sounds very much like a UK dancer/teacher I know, who does not know his boundaries and thinks it’s ok to initiate inappropriate sexual contact because “worst case scenario you can always say sorry”. I tried talking to him after something happened but….


      1. To Anonymous sadly: This sounds like an opportunity for your local dance community to prevent a potential disaster like the one(s) perpetrated by Steven Mitchell. Do you feel able to bring up this guy’s behavior with organizers and other instructors and discuss what to do about him? I applaud your courage in speaking to him yourself, but if it didn’t make a difference it may be time to get others involved. He may already have perpetrated sexual assaults on others who have not brought it the attention to the community for their own reasons. Even if he has not yet done anything worse than initiating inappropriate sexual contact, you might be preventing future sexual assault(s) if you can work with others in your local scene to stop him.


      2. Dear Anonymous Sadly,

        Although it seems unlikely that we are both talking about the same person, I am also in the UK and the teacher I refer to is based here too.
        I am not in any way advocating a ‘witch hunt’ but should you want to talk to me (anonymously, if you like), I have set up an email – forasaferscene[at]gmail[dot]com – please feel free to talk to me about it, and I promise to keep things private, unless it is the same person and directly involves someone being at risk from serious abuse.

        In an update; I have spoken to the dancer in question, told my boyfriend and the friend’s whose house we were in. I can not tell you how much better I feel just by sharing my experiences with this blog and with the man I love. Thank you for the opportunity.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I am in awe of the courage it takes for sexual assault survivors to speak out publicly in this way. Blessings to all of you for your bravery and honesty.

    I was groomed into a non-consensual sexual relationship by a “counselor” whom I was referred to, a much-older man who, it turned out, was a sociopath and an expert at psychological manipulation.

    The behaviors Sarah describes really are textbook “grooming,” and having experienced them myself, they are extremely effective. The greater the power and age differential, the more effective they are. Secrecy is the key to their effectiveness. So by speaking out, Sarah, Alison and Heidi are helping any others who may not yet be strong enough to share their stories. They may also be helping prevent (or stop) other assaults.

    I would encourage all three of you, and any other survivors reading this, to work with a psychologist who specializes in cases of rape and incest. There are some very gifted professionals out there. I was lucky to find one, and I can tell you that I survived and I am THRIVING. I’m in a wonderful relationship with an amazing man, and we have no secrets from each other about anything (including the rapes).

    The very best revenge is a life well-lived and passionate love for your true Self. I wish you all Peace.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Like in the Woody Allen accusation, and the Bill Cosby accusations, I’m confused why this took 20 or so years to be brought up? Way past the statute of limitations for prosecution and probably for a civil suit. What is Steven saying? Is he denying it or not? If he is then it’s he said-she said with no way to know the truth. Or are there unnamed witnesses?


      1. From the comment he made here and the comment on Naomi Uyamas post on fb he isn’t denying it and has admitted he has a problem and is seeking help. I’m glad he had friends around who helped him see that, instead of making excuses for him and letting him keep hurting other people.

        If you want sexual assault and rape to be reported when it happens and not 20 years after then a first step towards creating that better world is changing your attitude. Don’t complain about that guy trying to help out someone who looks uncomfortable being cornered by a creep. Don’t try to find reasons not to believe the victims of sexual assault when even the perpetrator isn’t denying it. Don’t be a jerk. Be part of the attempt to change things to make at least our swing scenes a better place where people respect other people and their boundaries. And where, if something does happen, there are people to turn to who will believe you and take it seriously, no matter who the perpetrator is.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Heidi and Sarah – I am so sorry to hear about your experiences. I am so glad to know that this is a community that can accept this information and take action on it. Heidi, you and I have met a number of times and although I am no longer part of the dance community, we’re still Facebook friends (as I am with many dancers) and delight in appreciating it from a distance.

    I also joined the Lindy Hop community when I was very young – 14 years old to be exact. I remember being asked out on dates by individuals in the community who were 30+ years old. One time when I was 16, I stepped outside to cool off and get water with a dancer who was in his 30s at the time. He asked me to close my eyes for second and when I did, he attempted to push me against the wall and kiss me on the mouth. I remember laughing nervously, dodging him and running back into the dance event. This man is still in a regular in the community, he is happily married to a fellow dancer and they have gorgeous kids. This was the worst that I experienced, and clearly I was very lucky judging by both of your stories. I do remember being asked to practice 1 on 1 with older dancers – whether it be to play with air steps or learn new routines when CH was coming up. Often times I was alone alone with these dancers. I never felt unsafe or violated and I want to commend those instructors who kept their professionalism and were there solely for the love of the dance and being the best at what they do. Even though I only show my face at a dance venue once a year (if that), I still remember each of those incredible instructors who I remember treated me as an adult even though I wasn’t, and formed an appropriate dance-related bond with me when I was 14-18 years old. Even though the highlight of this thread is talking about what Steven did was wrong, I would love for other male instructors to comment on how they view the student-teacher bond and give the community examples of how to behave.

    I know that everyone feels upset about these situations, but I would like to say that reading these responses makes me truly miss the dance community and the tremendous amount of strength and support it stands for.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sara, to answer your question about student teacher bond, first and foremost, keep in professional. I’ve been asked out by students while they were attending my classes and politely declined. I don’t think it’s appropriate and certainly wouldn’t attempt to initiate anything beyond a professional relationship with a current student. I certainly wouldn’t want to have intimate relations with someone based solely on the fact that I’m their dance teacher.

      I believe any teacher/leader/authority figure/role model should consider their actions and how their status may affect others’ judgement. I would hope if I was approaching the boundary of social decorum someone would say something. Sarah’s experience is a reminder that may not happen and that in a context where we’re an authority figure we should try and be more self aware. A big age differential just makes it more important.

      All that said, we are fallible and I can only imagine how difficult it might be for the big name folks with good intentions. To quote Stan Lee “with great power comes great responsibility.”

      I’m still in shock and trying to process all these revelations. I still think our community is pretty safe considering the intimate nature of dance but it’s clear we have plenty of room to improve.

      Sarah, thank-you for what you’ve done. It was very brave to come forward. You articulated your story so well those of us not in your shoes can at least start to understand what you and others have gone through. I wish we could have an equally tempered, thoughtful and well articulated perspective from a perpetrator so that we can truly understand why and how things go wrong and address circumstances before we have to talk about perpetrators and victims.


  5. I feel like we all need to discuss the inclusion of minors in the dance community. The predators have shown that they carefully groom the young dancers (teen girls and I’m sure there might be some teen boys out there) and when they come of legal age they try to take it to the next level. The predators think they are protected by the law and they may have misguided beliefs that the target might be interested since they have been talking for a year or two already.

    Sarah-Where was your dad during all this? Who were you entrusted to during an international and regional trips? You didn’t bring this upon yourself but the adults in your life should have protected you more. I would have noticed if an adult was giving my child this much attention.

    As a person who started dancing before I got married and now as a mother I’m wondering what parent would let their kids on the scene before they are in college? Come on, all of us know that dancing is sensual, it usually happens in bars, or if it is suppose to be a “dry” venue then alcohol is always snuck in in backpacks, there are drugs occasionally also, and there’s lots of hooking up happening.

    Bringing in new dancers is wonderful! It keeps things interesting! It keeps the scene alive! But event organizers should start making after midnight events and bar events strictly “over 21.” No sneaking in minors through the back door no matter how much of a rising star they may be. These are adult situations and only adults should be let in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. don’t be ridiculous – events “over 21”? maybe this seems to make sense for the americans, but here in Europe it could hardly be justified – when you turn 18, you can vote, drive, drink, have sex, go to the clubs, but you can’t do social dancing? I myself started dancing when I was 19, many great dancers started dancing when they were teenagers. In my country, 2/3 of dancers are under 25, many of them still in school. How do you think our lindy scene would look like if these restrictions would be imposed?
      Let’s be rational. The things that happened to these girls and women are wrong, but restrictions for the young dancers won’t solve the problem. As someone mentioned in this discussion before, such restrictions would only make the predators more cautious and careful and find new ways to keep what they’re doing in secret.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Without dis-respect to the original story, the comment thread here reeks of americanisms. Where I’m from, the age of consent is 15, legal drinking age is 16 (though utterly unenforced) and an 18-year old women would be considered an adult, not a child that needs protection from “grooming” as seems to be the norm here.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. As an American, I agree with European. Banning teens from dance events would not only be counterproductive, but would deprive young people of the joys of dancing. Certainly if an event is held in a bar, those under 21 should be excluded. Here it is against the law for those under 21 to be in an establishment where alcohol is served exclusively. However most dance events are not held in bars but churches, gyms, anywhere that has a wooden dance floor.

        Let’s remember that many of our best dancers & dance instructors started as teens, & what better way to get young people “hooked” on something than to start them early. No, the answer is not telling potential dance enthusiasts they can’t be included; the answer has to be parental interest & supervision with responsibility shared by the person (s) hosting the event. In addition, we older adults need to be aware of what is happening or may happen. We are all responsible for each other regardless of age. It is not only the young who may be vulnerable.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Anyone using this space to advocate for things girls and women could be doing to defend ourselves against sexual predators needs to honestly get the fuck out.

    Your victim-blaming hand-wringing is just another form of patriarchal violence.

    Get. Out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. *should be doing

      Those of us who have been sexually abused and sexually assaulted have already spent so much time wondering if we ‘should’ have done something different and if we ‘should’ have why didn’t we? It’s this spiral of self-blame and shame.

      It may seem like a helpful thing to do, but it just feeds into that cycle and shifts responsibility away from our attackers and back onto girls and women who are being victimized.

      Save shoulds and recommendations for changed behavior for those who are actually doing something wrong.

      It really is so repulsive to be seeing those kinds of posts in here.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Here on planet Earth its common sense for everyone to exercise basic safety techniques and learn basic self defense. That applies to men, women, and non aligned. Guys get beaten up, robbed and killed every day. Its not a gender issue. It’s a life issue. As for being impaired-people are very frequently impaired in social situations. That’s not going to change unless everyone wants it to change and everyone stops drinking. The repeal of prohibition proved that they don’t and won’t.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I am so saddened and sickened by all of this. I have been watching this unfold since the 22nd and just didn’t know what to say that would add to the conversation. I feel now that if nothing else, I can just add my support to the women and girls that had these awful experiences.

    I was groomed by a counselor when I was about 8 or 9, and fortunately something, someone intervened and he disappeared from my life before something terrible happened. I’ve lived my life on the damaged side of sexuality, from before the counselor incident, and have attributed most of the “mistakes” in my sexual life to my own stupidity. Sarah, your bravery, along with Allison, Heidi and every other woman who has found the courage to speak up has really helped me let go of a lot of that shame and misplaced guilt.

    Steven was a friend, and I’m sad for his damaged life, but that has no bearing on how I see him now. I’m so disappointed and angry. And I’m so proud of you.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Thanks for this conversation. I wanted to share a story of a follower who was manipulated into an “open” relationship with her favorite lead, where he was free to pursue other women, while she was not. She was so enamored that she helped him lure other young dancers into entering open relationships with him, all the while denying to them that she was involved with the lead. This is what manipulation does.


  9. I applaud this discussion. Even with some differences in opinions it is important that we discuss this and think about what we can do to minimize opportunities for predators. It would be nice if we could just remove them from society and go on with life without worry bt that isn’t realistic or prudent. Because evil exists, we must be vigilant. We must protect.

    I agree the issue isn’t age difference in itself, but age differences as well as other factors such as alcohol are huge factors that impair judgement and put innocence at increased risk.

    I also agree that awareness and discussions like this are very valuable to help us in this endeavor. Again, the existence of evil obligates us to be vigilant lest we become victims. God help us!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. As a male dancer, closer to Steven’s age than Sarah’s, I’d like to apologize on the behalf of decent men everywhere. This is a male problem. Unfortunately we are totally unprepared to deal with it on our own. I look back to my own history and see times where someone’s behavior (grinding obnoxiously, physically isolating women when they obviously didn’t like it) made me ashamed that I erred on the side of caution and didn’t intervene. For that I am deeply sorry.

    Just reading the comments of this post for 45 minutes, it has become clear that Steven is a full fledged monster. I hope he is taken away from the reaches of all potential victims for the rest of his days or until the (unlikely) event that his pathological behavior had been exercised out of him.


    1. Please do not call Steven a monster. We are not monsters and decent people; that kind of dehumanizing thinking is what allows abuse to go unnoticed and unchallenged.

      I think a “decent man” would be the person who DOES intervene when someone is physically isolating women, not the person who wishes they did.

      My question is: what are you willing to do to become the person who has the skills to intervene?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do agree that it is too simple to dismiss Steven as a monster, and does not help the problem. However, one of the best things about Sarah’s and others’ bravery in telling their stories here is that it is making everyone examine their past behavior. Like Stephan, I am concerned that there may have been times when I should have tried to intervene, or should have told others about an incident in which I was myself pressured so as to help others avoid his advances.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Me too, but I think it’s good to be inspired to do better. (And of course being at the receiving end of abusive behaviour is a different situation)


      3. You are probably right that’s demonizing of Steven is part of an antiquated wat of thinking and not productive. But under my paradigm, someone who could do the things he has done is painted with that brush.

        I guess my journey is to find out what a “decent man” would do in that situation. As a young man I would have confronted the situation head on. This often resulted in either a physical confrontation (which I have been on both the winning and loosing side of), or the woman cursing me out for not minding my own business, or her pleading with me to back off so not to cause more trouble. I swore I would avoid situations that could escalate into violence. That has lead me to be less of what you define as a decent man. The correct course is easy to pinpoint in hindsight, much less clear in real time.

        And I actually don’t care what you think a decent man is, I’m happy knowing that I am one, despite being confused about what to do in certain situations. But thank you for judging me.


      4. Regarding what to do in certain situations. There is one thing I (male/leader) usually do when I see someone trying to isolate someone or when I have the feeling that any sort of attention is unwanted or makes the person uncomfortable. I will go up to the person and ask her to dance. Naturally that works only if they are not dancing at the moment. And that can both ways. Asking the person being made uncomfortable to dance or the person being the “creep”. Either way, it has a good chance to at least defuse the situation for the moment. If the “creep” goes right back to the same person, continuing the questionable behavior after the dance, you have one more good indication that something is going on that probably shouldn’t and can ask if things are OK or bring to the attention of the organizers.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Chris, in other words, you’re jealous that two people are talking and you’re really into the girl so you interrupt them, , block him, play the knight in shining armor and rescue her from his evil talking. Meanwhile the guy and girl think you’re a d0uchebag. Then you ask her for her number. If I witnessed you doing that I would do the same thing to you for the rest of the night.
        “Regarding what to do in certain situations. There is one thing I (male/leader) usually do when I see someone trying to isolate someone or when I have the feeling that any sort of attention is unwanted or makes the person uncomfortable. I will go up to the person and ask her to dance. Naturally that works only if they are not dancing at the moment. And that can both ways. Asking the person being made uncomfortable to dance or the person being the “creep”. Either way, it has a good chance to at least defuse the situation for the moment. If the “creep” goes right back to the same person, continuing the questionable behavior after the dance, you have one more good indication that something is going on that probably shouldn’t and can ask if things are OK or bring to the attention of the organizers.”


    2. Stephan, it is very refreshing to hear you say that this is a male problem. I keep thinking about our culture and how our seemingly innocent cultural attitudes feed into predators going unnoticed or even being tolerated. I am thinking of all the jokes and winking, the sly comments and innuendos, and the almost total taboo (in my generation – I’m 60) against any serious discussion of any aspect of sex. I have two sisters and even between us it took until we were all in our 50s before we could seriously talk about the details of our sex lives without embarrassment. So my question to you is this – can you identify cultural attitudes that are not obviously destructive, but that contribute to the difficulties that decent men have in knowing how and when to intervene to help prevent these predators?


      1. OOps, I apologize, the above comment by “Clank347” is by the same person, Me, Stephan M. I messed up posting from another computer and put my email in there. Didn’t mean to hide my identity (I’m a dancer from Toronto and easily findable).


      2. I am also a bystander, I also often fail to do the right thing. I am not a “good person,” I am only as good as my actions. On almost every other axis than my gender, I am on the privileged end of the spectrum, and it is a painful every day process to keep myself accountable as an able-bodied, upper middle class cisgendered person who receives unearned benefits at every turn. I’m not good at it and I don’t call myself decent because part of moving towards being a real ally is messing up a lot.

        The reason I used clear and strong language is because men are rarely challenged to back up their intention to do the right thing with the self-reflection it takes to become a person who can. As a teenage girl, I learned to strategies for protecting my friends from assault and we did it as a matter of course. We often failed, in large part because it is mostly women who believe, support, and protect ourselves and each other. I am only asking men to do the work now that we have already had to do.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. I would like to add my support to these ladies and everyone having the courage to speak out now…I know this is something not specific to the dance arena, not specific to the Lindy arena, but in all walks of life. I am a very new dancer to both Modern Jive/Lindyhop here in the UK and have recently had a unpleasant experience being psychologically/emotionally manipulated/abused by a male dancer established in the scene here (NOT a teacher I have to add), but someone who was able to lord their talent, confidence and manipulative charisma over unsuspecting newbies like myself.
    Almost immediately he criticized my dancing at every opportunity, wanted me for all himself yet unbeknownst to me was sleeping with several other women at the same time. He silenced me and polarized myself and the other ladies so we would not talk. It wasn’t all bad- it can’t be, otherwise you would leave immediately, and manipulators/groomers/abusers are skilled at breaking you down…He was adept at giving the “victim” story about his life: women who like to nurture, care, have an open heart regarding others problems clearly buy into this, as I certainly did. When starting to uncover the other women he had slept with (and also treated in abhorrent fashion) I then realised he was operating on a “blue print” and showering us all with attention, focus, charm, manipulation, in precisely the same ways…
    There are many women he is still “friends” with (how good friends are you when you lie and manipulate people, giving them a facade of yourself and a fraction of the truth?) who cannot believe this charming, handsome, seemingly chivalrous man could do such a thing and that it must have been myself who has made the mistake about his behaviour. I have been ashamed of what I put up with: that does not make any of his behaviour acceptable and he is known for swooping in on the younger ladies- I just don’t think people are aware of the manipulation that actually goes on that makes it a lot more than “a bit of a player” in my opinion.
    ALL ladies in the dance arena in particular, there are many, many lovely guys who dance, but there are also those who seek power and control over trusting and inexperienced women. I have learnt a lot about what sociopaths are- again, not linked directly to the field of dancing by any means- please take the time to read this, it’s helped myself and others a great deal:

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I think what is important is to give young men and women an awareness of what grooming is. To say young people “aren’t listening to their parents’ would be ridiculous. I know my parents, while telling me not to talk to strangers, never explained how to identify manipulation and grooming. Something as simple as a poster in the bathroom stalls, so that IF it is happening, or if it starts happening, the would-be victim can avoid the situation/get help. Similar posters might shame wrong do-ers into re-thinking their ways (or maybe that’s wishful thinking). Its unrealistic to think that we could intervene in all scenarios, the whole point is that these are very private affairs, and the perpetrators work hard to keep it secret. I know it puts pressure on the victim, but think of it rather as empowering them to get help, giving them the knowledge that their gut feeling was correct.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Just want to say to the women who have come forward, I believe you. Your experiences were awful and I want to express how deeply your sharing has affected me. I cannot effectively put it into words.

    There is going to be a lot of thinking and discussion going on, both online and in different organisations around the world (I’m in Gothenburg Sweden and we are discussing it) and I am pleased to see it happen. I want a safe space to dance in for everyone. My hope is that through discussion of how to prevent these assaults and gross abuses of power will help to provide those safe space in which to enjoy the lindy hoppings.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. It sent early – here’s the end:

    To those who talked me through everything:

    Parker Williams, Ken Whitmire, Joshua McLean, Kevin St. Laurent, Wylie Moore and Jordan Sims.

    For those who are taking a pro-active stance regarding Steven:
    Tena Morales, Nina Gilkenson & the rest of Mobtown Ballroom, and Lindy Focus.

    Y’all remind me of why it is that I love LindyHop and still do it today. Thank you ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. A courageous post. One of the things I’ve learned from all of you is how the silence that has resulted from victim-shaming has prevented not only survivors, but the whole community, from having the open discussions needed to help the community and each of its members decide what their standards should be. Secrets are so corrosive.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Thank you to everyone who has fearlessly shared their experiences in this thread, and elsewhere, in response to Sarah’s post. You are all so brave, and I only wish we lived in a world where you felt you could have said something sooner. Let this be a lesson to all of us.

    I haven’t danced for a while, but it was my passion for years. I joined my local scene when I was only 15 years old. I was young and impressionable, and I am grateful that no one in my local community, or in the international community, ever hurt me in such a way. The worst I ever experienced was some good old teenage heartbreak. I’m saddened and angered that this ever happened, to any of you.

    However, I hope that the conversation that has been sparked by your confessions really prompts everyone in the swing scene to address problematic and inappropriate behaviour. This includes that which doesn’t constitute rape or “violent” sexual assault, but still makes women uncomfortable.


    Men who were well-known for groping, grinding, pinning or otherwise making advances or harassing women during dances were never disciplined during my years as a dancer. Women collectively avoided these men, but were told it was rude to refuse a dance if directly asked for one. The other men in the scene (our friends, our partners, our instructors) were made aware of the recurring issue, but didn’t want to embarrass these dancers by confronting them, or “assume” that the behaviour we were complaining about was, indeed, the true intention of these men…. despite our multiple accounts.

    Let me tell you, I know when I’m being groped. I know the difference between an accidental-boob-graze and a full-on, albeit well-hidden, fondle.

    And I was groped during dances. Multiple times. Often by the same men. Often by older men.

    When I voiced my concerns, I was told: “Oh, he probably didn’t mean to do that.”

    And at the ripe young age of 15, I was taught to doubt myself. I wanted to be seen as a “good follow” and a “fun partner”. I wanted to be asked for dances.

    So I shut up.

    I hope the stories aired in this thread, both the confessions of the victims of rape and sexual assault that have been so brave, as well as others, encourage everyone in the scene to take steps toward safeguarding others in the swing community, particularly young women. And I hope this gives men the courage to speak up about the inappropriate behaviour of other men.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Gabrielle: I sincerely hope I wasn’t one of the instructors you (or anyone) confided in. I don’t have any memory of being aware this was happening, but in retrospect, I probably should have done more to ensure everyone felt safe.

      I’m no longer involved in the scene, but I am watching this thread with interest to see the proposed solutions. As a tangential note, I don’t believe that offering resources to victims is anywhere near the same as victim blaming. Obviously it would be better if people stopped preying on others, but good luck winning that battle overnight (or ever). A lot more people will be victimised in the meantime if we don’t also focus on helping those who are vulnerable. Also notice that I’m keeping age and gender out of it. Older men preying on younger girls may be more common, but anyone can prey on anyone. Let’s make sure that everyone has the support and resources they need.

      In response to Gabrielle’s well-stated account, here are some potential places to start:

      – Universal dismantling of this idea that it’s rude to turn down a dance. Many instructors and organisers are already letting their dancers know that it’s ok to turn people down, but the myth that it isn’t persists. It needs to be obliterated.

      – A run down on how to respect and request/create personal space offered in every drop-in lesson and beginner series. Reminders posted around venues. This would help prevent innocent mistakes as well as empower people with the knowledge that an unwanted invasion of their personal space is not considered acceptable, and give them tools for dealing with it. Encourage people to speak with scene leaders if they are uncomfortable or concerned about someone’s behaviour. Reinforce that it doesn’t matter who is making you uncomfortable; great dancers and scene leaders are fallible human beings too, and will be held equally accountable. I like the idea of posting information about grooming too.

      – Scene leaders should have a planned response to such reports. It should involve the collection and recording of facts and direct quotes without leading questioning or their own personal inference of the situation. It should also involve investigation and a progression of warnings and sanctions. It should not matter who the perpetrator is. Dancers should be made aware of who they can go to if they have a problem with one of the scene leaders themselves.

      I’m not an advocate of insisting on space between partners (especially as certain styles such as balboa and some blues dances work better with close contact), but I want people to know that it’s perfectly acceptable to request space if they want it. Do whatever you like, as long as it’s consensual (this includes respecting the people around you, so no funny business in public). Also be aware, if you are an influential dancer in your scene, that great power comes with great responsibility. Do not abuse your status, and make sure all parties are informed and offering their enthusiastic consent.

      I think hero worship is a much bigger issue and can’t be tackled by these measures alone. In reality, I think it requires a culture shift, and I’m not sure how to accomplish that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bryn: Excellent point about training organizers and instructors how to deal with a report of inappropriate behavior. You say: – “Scene leaders should have a planned response to such reports. It should involve the collection and recording of facts and direct quotes without leading questioning or their own personal inference of the situation.” As a retired attorney I know how hard it is for anyone, especially those who know the parties involved, to investigate an incident without personal bias. Training for scene organizers in handling these incidents fairly and carefully should definitely be part of the program.


  16. A commonality of the accounts of Steven’s abuses…alcohol…That he gave to the women…That made them suddenly, immediately violently ill and disproportionately to the amount of alcohol ingested….The implications are horrifying.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. It has taken me several days to intake and process this thread in a way that can allow me to respond. I think I am ready now.

    To give you a little bit of background, I’ve been dancing since I was 15 (2000). There is almost nothing in this world that I love more than the athletic, all-out, balls-to-the-wall, high energy pursuit of lindyhop. I’m now 29 (2015), and I dance almost every night of the week, I train teams and I started a dance company in my home town of Houston, Texas to share this love of dance with others.

    I’ve known of and been around Steven for much of that time without having any negative interactions. I was lucky for that. If this had happened when I was 18 or before, I shudder to think of the consequences.

    This past summer (2014) in Herrang, I received unwanted attention from Steven Mitchell. A dear female friend of mine, and close confidante knew of my stresses with the start of the dance company, and thought an evening of unwinding was in order. She invited me to join her and Steven for margaritas in Steven’s room one evening.

    I arrived early and Steven gave me an amber liquid on the rocks. She arrived later and made the margaritas in front of me. They were stiff, but nothing out of the ordinary. I had sips from Steven’s drink and two margaritas. After a year of running dances and staying out late for drinks with company peeps, I should have had a pretty high alcohol tolerance. In a conversation that happened a few months later, the female friend mentioned to my boyfriend that I was acting “an awful lot drunker than I was”.

    Without going into too many details, the female friend and I began making out. I am bi-sexual and my boyfriend and I have an agreement that allows me to explore with other women. But then Steven joined in. I was unspeakably, revoltingly not okay with this. I have been in an abusive relationship before, and I have a strong instinct to protect younger women from attack because of it. I tried to keep Steven off of my female friend. I didn’t realize they had already been together. I thought this was coming out of the blue for both of us.

    At a certain point I became nauseous. I went to the bathroom and threw up. After two margaritas and some sips of liquor. I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve been drunk to the point of throwing up. This was the fourth time in my life.

    It was at this point I realized I was not okay with what was happening. I grabbed a blanket and curled up in a fetal position on a cot facing away. I fell asleep to the sounds of God knows what happening behind me. I had numbed out at that point.

    In morning, my female friend had already left for a volunteer shift. Steven woke me trying to do more with me. I kept curling tighter and tighter into a fetal ball until he left. Once I was alone in the room, and I was sure he was gone. I grabbed my stuff and hurried out.

    The rest of the week was a nightmare. I don’t know if the guys out there will understand this… y’all are wired differently… But when things happen to a girl and she feels out of control, one common response is to rebalance by doing things with other men where she is in control. I turned on this defense mechanism, and started to seek out male friends who would protect me from Steven.

    This is an incredibly destructive behavior pattern, and one I should have been able to recognize in myself and avoid. The things that I did that week hurt a lot of people. I take full responsibility for the pain I caused, and I have apologized and spoken with everyone affected. At the time, I didn’t know of another way to process the emotions I was dealing with.

    I am better off than most of the women he has done this to. I have two loving, amazing parents who will be there for me without question, and will also call me on my bullshit so that I keep developing and growing as a human being. I have a boyfriend who has been understanding, forgiving and supportive through this whole process. I have an amazing group of people working with me on my company who all stayed despite what I was dealing with.

    That’s not to say I didn’t suffer. I was called names by many, including slut, prostitute, liar, cheater, etc. I had gossip circles around me. To this day those who are not in my inner circle will probably have a hard time understanding. And it wasn’t all rainbows and roses in my relationship either. As any hot-blooded male would be, my boyfriend was angry and sad and upset at first – he was trying to understand. It was agony watching him suffer and not be able to do a damn thing about it because I was suffering too. We did extensive fighting, arguing, chatting, reconnecting, hand-holding, crying, etc. before we were both able to finally process the experience. It speaks to the amazing of our relationship that we are still together, and stronger than ever because of what we have had to go through.

    To those of you out there who are doubting your experience with Steven or not yet comfortable coming forward, it’s okay. It wasn’t you. And he was still up to his shenanigans as late as July 2014. If you need to connect with someone, please find people to talk to about your experience and get the venom out. You are not alone.

    To those that have been there for me as I sorted out this incredibly upsetting experience… For believing in me when I couldn’t even explain why I was worth believing in… And for the countless hours of conversation needed to sort this out, thank you: Parker Williams, Ken Whitmire, Joshua McLean, Kevin St. Laurent, Wylie Moore and Jordan Sims.

    To those in the scene who are taking a stand about this to ensure it doesn’t happen again, thank you: Tena Morales, Nina Gilkenson and the Mobtown Ballroom, all the LindyFocus peeps, etc.

    You all remind me daily why I love LindyHop. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I hate to be so cynical, but are you absolutely sure that your female friend who knew you were bi-sexual had no part in arranging some sort of ‘set-up’ as a friend who would procure for the dance legend? Sincerely hope not, but sexual manipulation is not the exclusive domain of men.


  18. I am inspired by your courage and candor. This took immeasurable effort. I intend to share this article with my younger siblings who have daughters in various activities/venues with parallel potentials. You may never know how many people you have helped. Peace ~ Julia

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I just want to say thank you to Sarah and each of the women stepping forward to share your experiences. Your bravery in speaking up publicly is incredible. Your voice, your story, matters greatly. Thank you for your courage, which is already having a tremendous impact.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. This makes me sick. Sometimes it feels like the spectre of sexual violence if f***ing everywhere.

    First, for everyone who has shared their stories. Thank you. I know how terrible it can be to speak up and speak out, and you are helping our community through your bravery and determination.

    I have been a victim of sexual assault (by a doctor) and both my parents were victims of sexual assault. I have so many feelings regarding this thread both regarding the stories here and the personal accounts of many friends. Please forgive me if my post is rambling, it is hard to think clearly, and one of the rape victims above is a friend of mine and I just read about her assault a few minutes ago. Also I want to be clear I am not victim blaming, the subject of consent and body autonomy is clear throughout all these stories and I hope I have the language to talk about it without making anyone feel any guilt or blame. I am NOT victim blaming, if my language fails me, please know that I apologise for any misunderstandings.

    The biggest thing that comes to mind in reading this is both the need to promote affirmative consent and to promote boundaries and normalize rejection. In the accounts above, and amongst the stories my dancing and non-dancing friends, so many women I know have been in sexual assault or uncomfortable sexual situations because they didn’t feel they could say ‘No’, or that saying ‘No’ was in fact more dangerous than going along. So many women say ‘no I didn’t want to have sex with him, but I couldn’t say no.’ WTF. What can be done to teach women (and men) that they have possession and autonomy of their own bodies at a younger age. Politeness, is about the weather, not about being molested, raped, or uncomfortable situations. Deference to authority should never make you feel unsafe. And even if ‘No’ doesn’t work, then belief in bodily autonomy can at least go a long way, in emphasizing the fact that nothing inappropriate was in anyway their fault and empower individuals to come forward quicker. It is important to note and empower women (and men) to acknowledge even if they start something, they are NEVER under any obligation to proceed. When you’re drunk, when you’re sober, when you’re alone with a man, you NEVER lose your right to your own body. Being molested by a doctor, lead me to realize I had absolute ownership of my body…of course that’s now. But how can we help women (and men) develop these boundaries prior to sexual assault and years of therapy?

    Dealing with sexual assaulters
    I often am of the personal opinion damn em all. However, having spoken with a number of sexual assault victims, a key factor that keeps them from speaking out is the perceived fear of ruining a life/career. How can we encourage naming people who are guilty of sexual impropriety if we have a damn them all to hell attitude? I don’t have an answer.

    Steven is clearly a sexual predator. But I think there are a lot of individuals/ in our scene that may or may not be not sexual predators, but are quite sexually inappropriate, which could easily slide into sexual predation. A couple of teachers come to mind who have hit on me in clearly inappropriate ways, and I called them on it. They are also friends and lovable idiots, but I also have friends who would never feel empowered to do rebuff their advances, that have taken jokes and interpreted them as harassment, which makes it harassment. Many dancers myself included promote affirmative consent on and off the dance floor, but so many men (and women) HONESTLY think a lack of a ‘NO’ is a ‘yes’… that sexual enthusiasm is something that happens in porn, not in real life… Whilst we would like to trivialize this as insane (which it is) I think many of us can acknowledge this is a disturbingly prevalent view on sexual consent especially amongst men.

    If you feel uneasy about anything, please talk to someone. If someone violates you, even if you don’t want to use that language, if you are uncomfortable speak up. We are here with you, to support you. And if you couldn’t speak up then, please feel like you can speak up now to a counsellor, to the community, to a friend. Keeping secrets is poison and I believe healing can only really begin once you can open up with someone you can trust, a therapist is a wonderful thing.

    On the dance floor:
    My dance partner and I think a lot about consent, and I always, emphasize that dancing is a conversation, and that no one has to do ANYTHING EVER, it is all a choice, a Lead gives an invitation and a follow decides whether or not to take him up on it. We also teach non-verbal and verbal nos. Including how to physically protect yourself from unwanted close embrace (toning up frame, etc). I won’t lie, a lot of my teaching language is designed to promote positive body image and solid boundaries. I always emphasise that we are humans and that we should ‘USE OUR WORDS’ A friend teaches an entire dance class rotation where everyone says no to each other to normalize rejection and take the sting out of rejection and the perceived pain of saying ‘no’ in the first place. I think I will be doing that from now on as well.

    Despite being a blues dancer, I personally hate being lead in Balboa when I ask for a Lindy dance. It feels tawdry-I didn’t ask to be chest to chest with a stranger bouncing at 220 bmp. So I speak to my Lead…but so many follows would never say a word.

    I lead blues and normally always verbally ask when I go into close embrace for the first time. Earlier this week I forgot and It took me thirty seconds to notice that my follow wasn’t keen (it was crowded), so I put her into open for the rest of the dance. She never said anything and I’m sure she wouldn’t have said anything for entire dance—or after—which she didn’t.

    I’ll leave you with a quote from a storytelling podcast I was listening to today ‘Of course, I went with him- I was from the Midwest. I didn’t know how to say No.’

    *for those who are inevitably going to call me a victim blamer. The women here would still be sexual assault victims, even if they had said no verbally and repeatedly. But so many women say yes when they want with all their souls to say no, to know they own themselves. I know many women who don’t understand this and have gone along to get along and that is why I wrote this post, for women who are being sexually assaulted, but don’t dare call it that because they never said ‘no.’

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Please help. For which part am I supposed to accuse you of victim blaming?

      All the questions you’re asking basically amounts to, “How can we address rape culture?” Part of the message of rape culture is that the lives and careers of men–even rapists–are more important than the lives, careers, safety, and health of women; and also for women to expect and accept abusive behaviour from men.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Lucky you are so fit that you can dance lindy 220 bpm for a usual 4 minute song. Most guys at that speed are resorting to Bal to save their strength, not grope you…


  21. I speak from the experience of a dancer who suffered and thrived after a similar kind of abuse that happened outside the dance world.

    It would have taken a great deal of emotional intelligence (call it maturity or self awareness) for a woman to have spotted Steve as a potential abuser, women are not educated as girls on the psychology of abuse, red flags, grooming, love bombing, and they are not educated to see through the cognitive dissonance that is to be presented with things that don’t feel right but they feel right for everyone else (cognitive dissonance). We are not educated on psychopathies.
    It would have taken a strong healthy personality to see that within all the good that Steve had, there was huge evil and reject his advances. But abusers don’t prey on these kind of women, by default they seek women with a need to be chosen, with poor deep self confidence and a need of external approval.

    And this is where Organizers become facilitators of abuse….on backing up someone and providing a pseudo moral reference (implying this man is safe otherwise he wouldn’t be here), on not being actively aware of the consequences that a ‘womaniser’ on a position of authority would have on his victims. On tolerating a man engaging in such a revolving door of sexual relationships and assuming that the women knew what he was like and it was all consensual. Organizers who also failed to see the harm in Steve’s actions and tolerated them as philanderings of an old man… not understanding that behind his behaviour there was a strong possibility of abuse (there was already evidence of both sex and alcohol abuse). Organisers that might have witnesses Steve make impossible promises to women, a different woman every day, (those conversations must have been witnessed by many)… They erred if they assumed that Steve used women with no consequences… maybe assuming that it was a highlight of the camp for a woman to be selected by Steven to spend a night in his bed….that it was harmless, that emotionally silly women deserve what they get, because this is how they behaved by tolerating his behaviour.

    The way I see it, the man is a walking billboard for a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, consumate actors and experts at manipulation….they get away with it while young and handsome…but towards the end it becomes very sad …. they are not womanisers, they are abusers. The problem is that they are not abusers to everyone, only their victims (emotionally dependent sexual partners) and they can be extremely popular and loved by others. It is very hard to see and hard to explain, thanks girls for your efforts that explain why this left you with such emotional damage, I do understand well. The concepts of re-wounding would be too long to explain.

    It is very naive of people to expect that Steve will just have a few sessions of therapy and change…if his personality disorder is not borderline but a true psychopath, this is not actually possible. He doesn’t need to change, you cannot change someone unless they want to change themselves. What we can do is keep someone like him away from our events, not under our watch. His talents are true and he can take them to those who want to learn and want to risk this in their patch. Choose the moral code you want to have in your events, bring Chivalry back!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. “The way I see it, the man is a walking billboard for a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, consumate actors and experts at manipulation….they get away with it while young and handsome…but towards the end it becomes very sad …. they are not womanisers, they are abusers.”

      This is exactly how I have put what I saw in Steven to others privately as well. I get the sense that he actually believes every woman wants to sleep with him, and that if they don’t there is something wrong with them. He needs to believe every woman wants to sleep with him, and that by sleeping with him when they are hesitant that he is somehow healing them. That repeated behavior women keep mentioning of him grabbing their crotch is such an unusual sexual grope from man to woman, buttocks or breast is so much more common, but it reminds me of a holding one does for healing in daoist practices, and the way he does it has the attitude that he is trying to heal, or open the woman. Grabbing and saying “what happened to you”, as if only a wounded woman would resist him. Some woman may experience it as exactly that, healing, opening. Others who don’t want it are left with a very different effect, as we see in these posts.

      I am all for rehabilitating, and agree that requires remorse, apology, acknowledgement of the wrong committed, and the misunderstandings that lead to it, and a desire to reprogram, or learn how to see the problem and relearn social appropriateness. In the couple of cases I experienced with Steven and Barry they didn’t admit fault and seek help. I still hope they will. Another case in Seattle seems to be going well, and rehabilitation may be happening. And yet another perpetrator in Seattle goes unnamed. I’m still waiting for the victims to come out, as I know there is a long list of women who have disclosed feeling manipulated, and in some cases statutory, and date rape. This man still dances regularly in Seattle.


  22. I keep hearing questions about how we can promote cultural reform to reduce the frequency of sexual violations. As many have noted, this is pervasive well beyond the incidents and individuals that have been bravely discussed in this blog, and removing known perpetrators is unlikely enough. I have one idea – it is small, but I think important, and hopefully it, combined with many, many others, can help us all evolve. This is long, but I am writing it anyway, as I hope it contributes.

    I think that many people in the community – particularly new dancers – become indoctrinated into a strong cultural norm that it is improper, rude, or looked down upon to say no to someone when asked to dance. It is a tremendous and fundamental human need to be accepted by one’s community, and the perceived norms of the community carry huge psychological weight. When I was a young, I felt a strong pressure to say yes to anyone who asked. If I had to say no, I felt I needed a “valid” excuse (need to use the restroom, wait this song out) and would be obligated to dance if asked by that person again. Sometimes I would try to avoid being asked by moving or hiding or avoiding eye contact. Sometimes I would dance with someone, but resent them for asking.

    This strong norm was slowly and subtly conditioning me to accept not having agency about who I touch and share myself with. I believe the conditioning is especially strong for follows, given their role in the dance, and especially true for beginners, who may not be able to exert as much influence over the nature of an accepted dance. This norm was also conditioning us all, subtly, that the act of asking is really more of telling. That the best way to avoid unwanted contact is to avoid the situation, avoid getting asked. Horribly unhealthy thinking, but very powerful repetitive conditioning.

    It wasn’t until I was 26 that it *occurred* to me that I could decline a dance without an explanation. This may sound insane, but I promise you I was not the only young follow (or more generally, person) of this mindset. In a wave, it hit me that my feelings were no less important than the feelings of whomever was asking. I decided, as an exercise, that I would politely say “No, thank you” to at least 5 people who asked me to dance that night. No explanation, just a polite, “No, thank you.” The first few times, my heart was pounding, and I felt the anxiety of breaking a perceived cultural taboo. But then, I felt a wave of freedom , empowerment, and agency. And my non-conscious perception of a question as a demand started to change.

    What strikes me about many of the stories women are bravely coming forth with is that many (not all) times, the women did not directly and verbally say “no” until well after she felt violated. In some cases (but not all) the perpetrator *did* stop when directly told no. I am NOT blaming these women in any way. I am not suggesting they “should have” verbally said no earlier. I am not suggesting that a “no” is enough to stop a sexual predator. I am suggesting that, perhaps, if we break the strong nonconscious group conditioning of both genders at dances that “a request is a demand” and reinforce that “a request is a question” that perhaps, even if only a bit, the quantity and severity of violations might decrease.
    tl;dr; I think one small step in good direction for cultural reform is to have teachers and community members emphasize in words and example that it is perfectly ok to say “no” to a request to dance, i.e., have someone touch you and move with you.


    1. Great points here about social conditioning.

      If you’re community hasn’t been clear about the “exceptions to the rule” you could be like me, and considerably older before you felt it was okay to say “No” to a request to dance. (And I think excuses should only be given when they ARE valid, but that discussion belongs on another discussion forum.). I agree with being polite, and inclusive, but not at the expense of informing people there are times when it is fine to decline.


      1. Lesley, I couldn’t help but note that even as you are explicity agreeing with me, the unhealthy conditioning still seems to be refelcted in your words. IMHO, new dancers should not be taught, explicity or implicitly, that “there are times” when it is fine to decline. It is ALWAYS fine to decline. Any time, for any reason, or no reason. Asking someone to dance is a request, not a sentence. Letting someone else (whether a stranger or a friend or aquantance or teacher) hold you in close proximity, lead you through movements (possibly sensual) that they initiate… is 100% a choice. Even though dancing is generally considered innocuous, it sets a strong habit of mind, an automatic reflex of agreeing to allow access to your body when asked, without considering your own wants. I feel very strongly about this. I think I would have been much more assertive of my boundaries in my youth if I had come of age in a culture that supported actually considering whether you wanted to agree or not to a dance request and valuing your preference.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi Jane.

        [It looks like I’m replying to me, instead of to your comment on my comment]

        Thank you for the observation. The conditioning in my wording is part conflict. It comes directly from a desire to make newcomers welcome, so I’d accept a dance request on those grounds even though I’m not especially keen to dance with the person. However I acknowledge, that is/was my decision.

        Also there was one time when being kind to the newbie ended up with getting unwanted attention from someone. And I finally did say “No thank you” to his request. Unfortunately it didn’t quite end there. When I told some friends I wouldn’t be coming along to the pub with them because he would be going. I got told that they hadn’t seen anything untoward and that I needed to be more inclusive! Please be assured I stuck to my guns, and let it be known I felt the advice was out of line.

        I am angry, that in my local community we have been told we should say “Yes” to a dance unless we’ve got a genuine reason not to, and not even with any mention of personal safety coming first.

        Away from the dance environment I am quite vocal, when I’m feeling imposed upon, but the message I got within the scene was to allow it! So I have to agree with your words:

        “I think one small step in good direction for cultural reform is to have teachers and community members emphasize in words and example that it is perfectly ok to say “no” to a request to dance, i.e., have someone touch you and move with you.”


  23. Why I am posting: I am a Lindy Hopper, a teacher, an event organizer and a victim of sexual assault. These stories have triggered memories of my own assault, which, while similar to the stories posted by Sarah and Allison, did not happen within the dance community. As a survivor of sexual trauma, I feel compelled to address certain things here, not only to offer insight to survivors and their supporters but also as part of my own healing process.

    Why didn’t we just say NO?
    There is something that happens to your brain when the unthinkable is happening to you. It is as if a switch has been flipped and you are paralyzed and mute, unable to process what’s happening and at the same time unable to do anything about it. We often think of fight or flight as instinctual responses to fear, but there is a third response- FREEZE. I believe this is why, when confronted with a situation so egregious, so far beyond what we would ever imagine possible, some of us are rendered incapable of speech and/or movement. Realistically, even if we did say no, our attackers would probably have ignored our pleas. Fighting might just make our situation even more violent, and flight may simply not be possible given the surroundings. So, we are frozen. It is TERRIFYING. To this day, on the rare occasion I have a nightmare, it is always a situation in which I am in danger but cannot move or speak. My voice has been taken away. My control has been taken away.

    Unfortunately, without the knowledge that this is a valid response to trauma, many of us spend years feeling shame and confusion over our response. We are consumed with questions. Why did I react that way? What could I have done differently? Maybe I did want it to happen? Sometimes the truth of what happened is such a shocking, mind blowing betrayal that we are simply unable to acknowledge it for a time. We may even continue a relationship with our attacker- I did.

    If you are a survivor, please know that the way you responded is ok. In fact, however you responded – its okay. You don’t have to explain it or justify it. You survived it and that’s what matters.

    If you are offering support to a survivor, please don’t ask us why we reacted the way we did. Please accept that we reacted the only way that was possible for us to do so at the time. Please let us know that our response was ok. Please keep reminding us that our attacker is the one that did something wrong. Please hold our hand. Please let us cry on your shoulder. Please tell us we’ll get through this.

    My fellow survivors- there are many twists and turns on the path to healing. Personally, I waited almost 15 years until I sought help from a therapist. Why did I wait so long? Many reasons. Because I thought it would mean I was broken. Because I did not want to tell my story to a stranger. Because I thought I would be told I had to forgive my attacker. (By the way, I wasn’t told that and I didn’t.). While time on its own provided me with some healing, I do wish I would have sought therapy sooner. I would have avoided several years of anger and mistrust. But, at the same time, I accept that where I was in the process was where I was. I no longer judge my past self. I’m happy to say that while I will always have triggers, I am past this. It does not define me anymore. It does not hinder me anymore. I lead a contented life filled with work, dance, friends, family and a healthy, happy marriage.

    To anyone that is suffering, know this: You WILL heal from this. Wherever you are in the healing process is where you are. Its okay. However you’re feeling about it is okay. Healing from this is not easy. But it is possible. Embracing your sexuality and having meaningful, wonderful, intimate relationships is possible!

    Sarah, Allison, Heidi and all those that shared your/our stories- – Thank you for your strength. Thank you for your authenticity. Thank you for creating an opportunity for us to be HEARD.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right about the Freeze response. I experienced it with Steven…

      Sarah said, “He told me I was different from other people, that he didn’t usually trust people, and that he could talk to me..” Though not a crime as I am well into my 30s, the words he used with Sarah were the exact ones he used on me last April.

      Let me be clear, nothing happened beyond his awkward invasion of my personal space by putting his head on my chest for an uneasy amount of time while telling me how emotionally connected we were. Earlier that night he had told me that he was a loner, that no one understands him and he doesn’t really have any close friends, but he could trust me. The physical advance took me off guard and I responded by FREEZING my body in place. He picked up on my stark uneasiness and nothing more occurred. The next night he wanted to spend time alone, but I told him I needed to get home. He wanted me to visit him in San Diego but I mostly avoided his texts and phone calls. It wasn’t until several months later that I responded to his friendly -natured texts again. I wondered if I had overreacted, though I was still strong in my resolve to not put myself in a position to be alone with him any more.

      In all of the stories given, I see a similar strong thread of deceipt. Deception like this is wrong, and I am glad to see our community agree that this behavior should not be tolerated. This conversation is a good start, it should be continued and shared not just in our lindy community but for others as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Steven also got my dance friend Anna from Germany pregnant several years ago, but of course does not support or stay involved with this child.


    1. When did this pregnancy happen? Makes me feel ill reading all of these things and wondering if many of the more recent sexual assaults and inappropriate interactions happened within the timeframe that he was living here in Perth and engaged to a well known swing teacher who is a friend of mine between 2010 and 2013. I worry for her health and mental well-being now that all these awful truths have come out.


  25. Some years back at Lindy Diversion during the introductory teacher’s dance, Steven Mitchell was watching Naomi Uyama dancing and publicly announced “If I were only a younger man…” . At the time, I thought that comment to be gallant, if not odd. It was the oddity that made me remember the situation so vividly.


    1. Ed, regarding Steven’s comment (“if I were only a younger man”). I think this is a great example of how difficult it is to separate out the creepy/objectifying aspects of our culture from the harmless or even gallant ones. I guess it rests so much on context – how does the person being talked about, and those around the speaker, receive the comment? If these kinds of comments were frequent and not leavened by comments that were genuinely respectful of Naomi and of women in general, I could see how they could be insulting and offensive. I also imagine a woman saying that about a young male dancer – would we consider that offensive? Again, maybe, depending on the context and the rest of that person’s behavior. Clearly, manipulation, grooming, gaslighting and coercive touching are something different. But it can be difficult to determine whether a one off comment like this contributes to a culture that might encourage those coercive behaviors. I guess that’s why I think these topics should be discussed and debated regularly and openly in the community.


  26. How could this happen? It reminds me of how our community reacted to a similar situation about ten years ago.

    During the 00’s, our Lindy scene had peaked and was on the decline. Twenty piece bands became five piece bands. Crowds of hundreds became crowds of one hundred on a good night. The best dancers moved away or found better things to do. The mentality of our scene became something like that of a doomsday cult. Lindy hop was dying and there was only one question: who was to blame?

    Local instructors brought in a big name instructor (not Steven) for a week or two in the hope of inspiring and revitalizing our scene. We quickly found that this instructor took a special interest in our youngest and prettiest dancers. They always seemed to need extra instruction after every lesson for some reason. His obvious behavior creeped all of us out yet no one publicly said anything. Remember, our local instructors went through a lot of trouble to get this man to come here. Defaming him publicly would make our scene look bad nationally and make it impossible to get other big-name instructors to visit and help revitalize our dwindling scene. He would surely spread the word of what a bunch of ungrateful liars we are. We would know who to blame when Lindy hop died.

    To our relief the guy appeared to be striking out or running out of conquests after a week and started spending his free time sitting alone at a bar. We heard nothing that even suggested attacks or heavy manipulation but now I wonder if our defensive scene discouraged women from saying what had really happened. Many of these women were new to the scene and we didn’t know them very well. Some of them dropped out of his classes after only a few days. In any case we found the instructor as inspiring as a drill sergeant.

    As for Steven, all I heard from other guys that was he got laid at every event. Why would he have to aggressively hunt women like this? Yes, we guys were completely clueless about men like Steven. If he was lonely, it was by choice.


  27. I am truly astounded by the bravery of all those who have shared their stories- I can only imagine how difficult it was for you all. Thank you for doing so, I believe you all and wish you all the very best.

    I am a Lindy Hopper in the UK and whilst I have sat and read the original blog and subsequent comments I found myself increasingly wanting to write a response, even though despite being in my mid-30’s have never blogged or replied to a blog ever before (!).

    What compelled me to post was that although I have not been directly been targeted myself, sadly I have been the confidant of others who have been the victims of sexual assault within the community. They have not felt able to report it either to scene leaders or others for their own reasons- but some of those reasons include the prominence of the figures involved and the newer/younger dancers initially feeling flattered/being made to feel they should appreciate the attention (initially friendly) of these ‘senior’ figures in the scene (am being deliberately non-specific as I do not want to reveal someone elses story when they may not wish it to be public).

    Very early in my dancing experience there were rumours about prominent members of the community circulating, that seemed to be being passed onto me as a new member of the scene as a friendly/casual warning from longer serving members of the scene, i.e ‘just in case’ these guys have been known to do ‘x y and z’ kind of advice. At the time I didn’t put much stock in it given the very casual way the rumours were put to me/being so new to the scene/not really knowing enough about anyone in the scene to absorb this information too thoroughly; they were ‘just’ rumours after all.

    It saddens me to think that some of these rumours have subsequently proved true- I only know this because I was confided in but to my knowledge no wider disclosure has been made of any of these incidents on the UK scene (although I see some comments specifically from the UK have started to be posted now).

    I want to thank you for bravely speaking out and for the impact that has already been made. You have already;

    – encouraged others to feel able to come forward- and I truly hope more will if they are able (including those I know of)- by confronting it as a Lindy Community, hopefully we can do something to protect those in the scene and offer support to those already affected. If they are not able to come forward, hopefully they will find strength in knowing they are not alone, i.e. the community is behind them.

    – encouraged a much wider conversation about the safety of dance scenes, the responsibilities of those involved (organisers, teachers and dancers alike) across the whole international community. Already there as many a healthy debate springing up across UK scene leaders about what best to do- and forcing what some have called a well overdue look at how the scene operates. From the comments posted here, it is good to see debate about preconceptions/where the line is/acceptable behaviour versus ‘too far’ within the Lindy and wider community- by debating we learn and perhaps understand why this has happened (e.g. victim-shaming) and is potentially continuing to happen

    It has made me personally sit up and think about my own experience of the scene both in the UK and in the wide international community (having danced across Europe at many of the dance camps mentioned by victims including Herrang), and question what I personally can do to assist in changing our community- for it is clear it is a community wide issue, not confined to our respective local scenes.

    I hope this continues to inspire real and valuable change and encourage us all to look at how we can all make a difference to our community.

    Thank you -LH UK

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Hey, people.
    I’m not English-speaking, so sorry for grammar and other mistakes in advance.
    I decided to write here, because this topic made sound in whole world. It’s a source. And it’s hard to answer in all topics on FB and other resources.
    I’m deeply upset of this witch-hunt, public flogging. Especially when all the “good friends” turned out from Steven, they don’t even tried to talk with ex-friend to hear his story. Even in a court indicted has right to be heard. I read Steven’s short reply in this topic – he was absolutely shocked that he hurt Sarah, he was shocked and sorry. His speech was not surrender. It doesn’t mean he is perpetrator.
    I can’t understand, why Steven in the Sarah’s story called as molester. Why Sarah called herself as victim, as child-girl? That’s because therapist said, that all Sarah’s problem is because of Steven’s guilt, as a parental figure? What about real parents?
    Don’t tell, that 17, 18 – it’s a child’s age. It’s not true. But if it’s really child’s age – how could Sarah’s parents, her father to let her enter the full-night long adult-parties without control?!
    In my country, 18 – is the full age of consent. Ok, I understand, that I’m not in US. I googled and found, that in Massachusetts the age of consent for girls is 16. Massachusetts – it’s because Beantown, as far, as I understood, is in Massachusetts. So letters in 17, being in private at 18 – it was normal and legal.
    This way, the only problem – Steven was fully wrong that he gave possibility to Sarah drink an alkohol. And I do agree with it – it was absolutely wrong. Sarah, did he forced you to drink an alkohol?
    How many people from you, dancers, never ever tried to use alkohol before your 21?
    Did Steven forced to use alkohol someone?
    Absolutely drunk people are unpleasant. I think Steven Mitchel is not special in this case. Drunk people can do strange and unpleasant things and to not even remember them after becoming sober. So if you don’t want to have surprises – don’t drink unknown alkohol drinks to control situation. Don’t let drink a lot to someone with who you are in private. And there is difference between drinking 2 glass of beer, and 2 glass of pure brandy, 2 glass of unknown to your body alkohol mix.
    I do not say Steven was absolutely right in all these stories. No, he was not. He made mistakes, he is not holy. Steven love to drink, probably, he is an womanizer. But is he really such a bastard, as some people want to show? For me, Steven is kind of Peter Pan – he love life in all its variations. He love to move, to dance, to sing, to make music, to make a parties and fun for everybody. That’s why he was so loved by people – he gave fun.
    When people says about Steven was an idol for others and he used his status – I want to say it’s a bullshit. Steven was one from the simliest and opened to everybody “stars” of swingdance society. I’m not even sure he understood how high was his pedestal for some people. So who made an idol? Who is responsible for idol-status of Steven in his own mind?
    In HDC2005 I invited Peter Storm to dance. He was so kind to agree! 🙂 And during whole the dance with me, he talked to his friends over his shoulder. I felt like he dances with empty place. It was really impressive dance for me – I do remember it till now ))). Did I decided something wrong with me? No. He was not my idol – I have no idols. And I made an recap: Peter, probably, is a good dancer. But what about human kindness and elementary upbringing – is a question.
    Some people says, that it’s abnormal age difference between Sarah and Steven. Then tell it to Celine Dion and his husband Rene. Their difference is 26 years. They started their relations, when she was 18-19 years old, in 1987 (she was born in 1968). They are still happy together. Sophie Loren met Carlo Ponti when she was 16. Their difference is 22. There are other pairs.
    I’m a girl. And I had situations, when my friendly feelings were understood by males in the wrong way. It’s unpleasant – to explain to the man, that you don’t like him as a man, as a sexual partner. But it’s normal situation. It’s normal, when man tries to involve the girl he likes into relation. He can try – it’s his right. Your right as a woman – to say “no” if you don’t want him as a man. If you in age of consent and you can not to say “no” to any request (to drink, to dance, to kiss or to make sex) – I’m sure that it’s your problem, not invitor’s. It’s your responsibility do you use drugs, alcohol, do you have a sex or no until someone make you do this with his force.

    So now Steven took down from the pedestal, but there is a new stars on it. Holy place couldn’t be empty. Interesting story for really good therapist.


    1. I considered writing a long response explaining why I find your comments incredibly stupid but I decided not to. Your words really speak for themselves. I suggest you educate yourself. A good way to start would be by reading all the other comments to this blogpost.


  29. I would not have started this comment had I not known Steven a little and had I not been impressed by the overall public reaction to this post. I first met Steven at a small private party in St. Petersburg. We ate simple food, drank vodka and talked. Steven seemed to me a very pleasant, open and easy to get along with personality. Only later I found that he was a dancing ‘superstar’. I am convinced that if someone worships Steven and sees in him ‘Elvis or something’, it is not his blame or problem, but of the one, who created and idol.

    Concerning the age of sexual relationship, and this surprises me the most: the age of full sexual maturity in most countries is 18-teen, and the age of sex on consent is even lower – correct me if I am wrong. Was this age picked by chance – I seriously doubt that. This means that at this age a person is considered mature enough not only to have free sexual relationships, but is also capable to refuse/reject the unwanted partner. A man is usually a straightforward personality. He tells or shows in in some way to the lady that he wants her and expects her reaction. It may be: ‘yes, I’m yours’; strictly and distinctly ‘NO’; or ‘maybe, conquer me, let’s play…’. As I understood, Sarah did not clearly and distinctly refused Steven. On the contrary – she accepted his intimate proposals by going to some remote places, kissing him, etc. As a man, I would say this behavior means rather ‘yes’ than ‘no’. Ah, you will again say that she was a very young tender and unexperienced teenager. Let me remind you, for example, that Romeo and Juliet were 14-teen and 16-teen. Did we degraded in this respect so dramatically over a few centuries? I will let you know a somewhat extreme story of meeting my wife. It happened on a hiking tour, and I was 21. I met a lovely girl, who seemed to me quite developed and mature, and we had all possible intimate experience. Only later I was scared to find, that she was 15-teen and our relationship was illegal. She never complained. Over time we got married and still together. We have two wonderful teenage children. Did I commit a ‘sexual assault’ on her? Ask my wife. She will laugh and say: “it’s a big question who assaulted who then”. It is not a good example to follow, but I am convinced that if an 18-teen or 19-teen year old lady is so easy to manipulate, that is a problem, and a problem in her.

    Steven is certainly not an angel. He is Casanova, philander, whatever you like, but NOT a criminal. He did offer alcohol, but not forced to drink. He made sexual advances, but did not rape anyone, did he? If a woman could not strictly and clearly say ‘NO’ and continued to respond to his intimate game, whose responsibility is it? I am severely distressed at this prosecution of Steven. When I was an exchange student at the US, I was amazed at this ubiquitous problem of ‘sexual harassment’. Dear ladies, with such policy in a few generations you will have to overtake the active part in starting sexual relationship and will probably really have to ‘sexually assault men’ in order to ever have sex or make children.

    P.S. Excuse my English – not my native, but I did my best.


    1. The last part is almost funny. “you will have to overtake the active part in starting a sexual relationship”. The whole point is that a sexual relationship between two people should have two active participants. Not one active and another who may or may not be interested but it doesn’t really matter as long as she is to scared or surprised to say no with actual words.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You are certainly right. Normally both parties should want the interaction. And the most tricky part is how they express their will once something has started. Having looked through the comment history I always found stories of women/girls suffered from man’s sexual assaults. Is it because men are too modest to confess? Hello, are there any abused men there? No, I guess it’s because the initiative in starting such relationship is still traditionally with a man at least in my culture.


  30. Dear Lindy Hop Community,

    When I first read Sarah’s touching confession and read through comments and other ladies’ stories I was shocked, emotionally touched and full of anger and sympathy for the ladies.

    It took me several days to digest this news, different points of view and considerations to come up with my attitude towards it. I share my point of view not to insist it’s 100% right, but to provide food for thought for those who want to dig into details and look at the problem from different angles rather than get into immediate emotional reaction.

    The conclusion I came up to when my brain chilled off a bit is that all we have is only one side of the story. If we don’t get emotional and try to understand what happened it does not necessarily sound that bad. I mean it CAN be that bad, and it CAN be not that bad.

    Like, I mean, all girls were together with Steven drinking either in his room or in their places, after drinking he made some steps to get close to them, they refused, he backed off. What’s the problem? Sometimes he said “What’s wrong with you?” which is kind of rude but can be somewhat a logical question if a girl, for example, sits in your room, drinks with you, smiles to you, you know her for a while, how do you know she doesn’t want you unless you touch her? If she refuses you could ask her why, what’s wrong? Or if you’d been chatting about sex for 2 years, she goes with you into the woods, makes out with you twice (!) and doesn’t stop it…but she refuses to go further… well… you could ask that question to the girl provided the circumstances. I mean if we could listen to both sides of the story and understand we would have a better position to judge was it really something or was it nothing but 4 unhappy ladies out of maybe thousands who were quite happy with Steven for all these years…

    I certainly don’t approve of sexual assault or pressure of any kind, but in these situations what do we hear? “We were drinking together, I felt bad, he started touching me, I said stop, he stopped”. Did he use force? No. She said “no”, he – “ok”, and went to look for another girl to the dancefloor (in one of the cases). To be clear, I surely don’t like the attitude towards women like lying, active seduction and one night stands but it’s definitely not a rape or sexual assault. And since we didn’t even leave the chance to the guy to speak up but blamed him the whole world all together I think it’s not fair to judge like that and it can be a huge mistake of exaggeration that are making as we heard only one emotional side of the story.

    They say “He proposed me to drink”. If you know Steven he proposes to drink with him to each and every person around. He likes drinking, that’s the way he socializes and that’s partly why we like him as an easygoing party animal. Ladies say it was his strategy to get their consent, but that’s how they saw it. It doesn’t mean it was really such a well thoughtful plan of seduction. Though even if it was, as guys sometimes offer drinks to ladies hoping it will help them to break the ice and become closer (which is nothing wrong as long as it’s consensual, right?), when ladies said “Stop”, he stopped. His approach was to propose himself actively looking for consent rather than get them by all means including his force regardless of their consent.

    About Allison. Unfortunately I didn’t see her video which disappeared (why?), but I read only her small comments (maybe not all). I understood that they went together into the woods then somehow they had sex, she let it happen and then he came into her and didn’t use a condom. All right… then it’s not nice, off course, but it’s not a rape, do we agree? If I understood it correctly. Because if the girl doesn’t want sex she uses all her means to save herself: she screams, she makes good use of her nails, she runs. If you don’t want to have sex with someone even if it’s the guy with authority for you and he orders you to turn around and bend what will you do? Obbey? I don’t think so. Happily it doesn’t work that way. I think she let it happen because she rather liked him but probably she expected more respect and attention to her feelings, etc. And what promised to be an adventure with a celebrity when she was drunk in the evening converted into her feeling of being used the next day when she became sober. Which means Steven was not nice to her, but it has nothing to deal with rape.

    About Sarah. Yes she was young (though 18 is an age of consent in many countries but still). And yes he surely should have thought twice before chatting with her about sex and making steps towards her. But let’s check the chronology. They meet, they start chatting about everything including sex for 2 years (!) – meaning, she likes it, probably feels herself a grown up, then they go to a party with alcohol – she takes it, thus she likes it again – partying with adults (I wonder if it was the first time ever she got drunk, I bet it wasn’t, but ok), then he proposes her an intimate walk into the woods, she follows (no force involved), she makes out with him (!) – she likes it again, otherwise she would stop his attempt to kiss her…and she does all this twice (!!). But she decides that she doesn’t want Steven as her first lover – fair enough – she says “No”, he stops. Both times. So is it such a big deal? It can be or it can be not, depends on point of view. If she keeps looking on all this as a victim that was used, seduced, drugged with alcohol, etc. – then yes, it sounds terrible. If she takes responsibility for her actions and sees herself liking that adult game but not liking the ending – then… she stopped it where she wanted to stop, she liked the guy, his attention, being in a “private” teachers’ club with him, but she didn’t want to have sex with him. Fair enough. But where is sexual assault? That’s the problem of us hearing only one side of the story and getting too emotional into it. Do I approve Steven’s actions in this situation. No, I don’t. Do I see sexual assault? Honestly, not really…it would be more clear if we listened to both sides, but still it looks like him being more a self-centered womanizer rather then cold-blooded predator.

    Thus there’s no action without consent in any cases as far as I understood (correct me if I’m wrong).

    So that’s the bottom line, we have a legendary dance instructor and musician who’s sometimes not nice to the girls.

    And I ask myself – is it a fair punishement – to kick him out of the dance and culture that represents all his life and that appeared to a certain extent thanks to him? Or maybe it would be more appropriate to tell him “You know, Steven, sometimes you’re not nice to the girls, they feel upset, it’s not good for community and atmosphere, so please don’t break hearts, behave, Mister, you’re a public person closely looked after”. And he would say “I’m so sorry, I didn’t think about it, you’re right”. To me, that would be more appropriate reaction to all these cases.

    Provided we’re talking about free adult people, who can judge for themselves who they want to deal, drink, chat, smile, have sex, etc. together. It’s not summer camp for children. It’s dance parties for adults. I assume many people come here to meet some new people of the opposite sex, and that’s fine, right? You wouldn’t have all this scandal if it was about some DJ in Ibiza picking up girls, right? So is the difference that huge? Do we have to establish ethics control and rules of conduct like in summer children camps or do we stay adults who are responsible for their lives and actions? That’s another thing to consider. I don’t have a 100% answer. I just say that the verdict of the community doesn’t seem 100% right as well.

    In no way I state that I’m 100% right or I want to impose my opinion or approve of any unfair treatment of any person (both women and men), but I would like to share my thoughts as long as they could contribute to a more thoughtful decision. Especially to those who want to see themselves rather on the rational and forgiving side than on the side of emotions and throwing stones to those who demonstrate weakness. As we all have our own.


    1. The cultural elements of gender, gender roles, sexuality, and heterosexuality are clearly pretty complicated. People who rape or assault do not always use physical force. People who are raped or assaulted do not always get the chance to say ‘no’ or ‘fight back.’ It is so much more complicated than you’ve rendered here, and the testimonials of every single assault/rape survivor here (there are many testimonials) makes that clear.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Each certain case of such sexual harassment is absolutely unique and is to be considered as such. A certain girl at 16-teen may turn out to be more mature than the one at 18-teen. About a chance to say ‘no’. I have another extreme example: when I was a student there was a girl at the University with extraordinary natural endowments beyond description. And there was rumor that she could not say ‘no’ to practically any man. The rumor quickly spread, and half of men’s population of the campus used their chance. I am trying to say to ladies, that there is nearly always a chance to say ‘no’ providing you are conscious and your mouth is not blocked. And a ‘normal’ man will hear you. If you are too young/scared/surprised to say ‘no’, you risk to end up like the girl I mentioned.


    2. To Alexsey: While I respect every person’s right to express their opinion, I could not disagree with you more. As you point out, each culture has its own context. The fact that you were not brought up as an American makes it impossible for you to understand the deeper cultural context of these incidents and this discussion. Your viewpoint is probably very relevant in your own culture, but I don’t think you know enough about my culture to really understand or judge the situation.


      1. I give up 🙂 Your argument is absolutely overpowering. I can only say that I spent some time in the US and even had intimate experience with an American girl, and I did not find any extraordinary cultural differences. However I remember that a problem of ‘sexual harassment’ was so much discussed that a stranger would think it was one of the biggest national problems in the US at that time (1995). I even recall taking part in an experiment on ‘s. h.’ as an Elementary Phycology course student. Then it seemed to me that any advance of a man toward a woman could be regarded to as ‘s.h.’ from a certain view point, and I heard a lot of real stories of successful accusations. That thin I could not understand and will hardly ever do. So I recognize that my judgment here is probably irrelevant because of different cultural background.


    3. Dude, there is nothing culturally equivocal about slipping someone a ‘mickey’ to overcome anticipated resistance. Also nothing American-specific about the grossness of kissing someone who is in physical distress & throwing up. That seems more about ‘territory marking’ and dominance behavior than mutual enjoyment. Some of the other actions are possibly lesser confirmations of the pattern. Ladies may want to consider the buddy system if going to lindy hop / blues in St. Petersburg if this is not an isolated perspective.


  31. Ok, here is where I unsubscribe to the comments. Some seriously scary rape-apologetic comments coming in lately and it’s way too triggering.

    Before I leave though:
    For those who do not understand that this is sexual assault, please read more about sexual assault and how it works. Learn about the reactions to trauma: the 4Fs fight, flight, freeze and fawn, where the freeze and fawn reactions need to be talked about a lot more. Learn about the effects of manipulation such as grooming and gaslighting. Learn about how to be a part of the solution instead of part of the problem. A person who doesn’t understand in this case can be a very dangerous person. Writing it off as cultural differences won’t do. I am no American either. Besides, if sexual assault is more normalized in a culture, that means we should work more there, not less, to change it.

    I have written a lot in the past week, while processing this. I hope to share it some time in some form. In the mean time I want to again thank the brave women who have shared their stories. You are helping us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your story and for being an inspiration for the dance community. Thank you to Allison, Heidi and Angela as well for coming out with their stories, too. It breaks my heart to read about abuse and especially in the community that I came to know as open, safe and caring. Reading the comments here reassures me that this community is exactly that, safe for individuals whose life path led them to become predators and assaulters.
    I am incredibly sorry for what happened to you four (and others) and also want to express that I believe you and think what you are doing is courageous and will help the scene and social spaces beyond to become more open and hopefully safer in the long run.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. I am seeing two quite different points of view expressed in the comments.

    According to the European perspective that I see expressed in a handful of comments, a young woman above the age of consent is mature enough to take care of herself in almost any situation except when actual force (or actual fraud) occurs. A power differential is not grounds for claiming harassment or rape. According to this European perspective, the US women who say they were harassed (or raped) simply failed to say no or to just leave.

    But according to the US perspective, a woman is not under an obligation to explicitly say no or to just leave. Instead, it’s the man’s responsibility to query the woman and make sure she clearly says yes. And a man in a power position should take responsibility for a woman’s failure to say no or leave.

    In keeping with the above, I recall a podcast I heard only recently, which described a survey in which women in the US and in France were asked: If your boss (a man) asked you if you wanted to go on a non-work-related weekend trip with him, would you consider that harassment? Most US women said yes, it would be harassment. Most French women said no, it would not be harassment. Apparently French women feel free to accept or decline as they prefer.

    I’m not going to argue about whether or not I have accurately summarized the European and US perspectives. If you see my descriptions above as inaccurate, by all means substitute your own. My point is that there seem to be two quite different perspectives here: one that assumes that a woman above the age of consent bears a high amount of responsibility for whatever happens to her, and another that assumes that a woman above the age consent bears a much lower amount of responsibility for whatever happens to her.

    The European system seems to result in much less harassment than the US system, or so the commenters seem to be saying.

    In the European system, the official age of consent (around 15) seems to synchronizes with the age by which women are actually mature enough to be able to take care of themselves.

    In the US system, it appears that women above the age of consent are not always in a position to take the same amount of responsibility for themselves.

    How can we fix this in the US system? I think we have three options.

    First, we could ask men to be more cautious and considerate. The problem here is that most men are in fact cautious and considerate, and the ones who are not are unlikely to change their ways any time soon.

    Second, we could ask US women to be more assertive, to say no, or to leave, any time they are in an uncomfortable situation. But this would be an example of blaming the victim. So let’s not do that.

    Or third, we could figure out by what age US women are actually able to be assertive enough to take care of themselves the way European women do. And we could raise the age of consent to that number in the US. For example, perhaps the age of consent in the US ought to be raised to, say, 22.

    And a woman above the age of 22 should then be expected to be assertive enough to say no, or to leave, as soon as she finds herself in an uncomfortable situation.

    (All this assumes that an excess amount of alcohol, e.g., 4 or more drinks, has not been served to a woman with a deliberate and harmful intent. But if a man and a woman are both drinking together as equals, then they should accept equal responsibility for any consequences.)

    Conclusion: We should raise the age of consent in the US to some higher number, e.g., 22.

    It doesn’t have to be 22 exactly. Let’s discuss what it ought to be.


    1. Allow me to point out the number of women who have posted about being sexually assaulted who are well over the age of 22…..

      Also allow me to point out the totally disconnect between physical age and maturity, the diverse nature of maturity. For example, I am generally a very mature person I coach children, teach writing, Stage Manage shows and am good at handling all the inherent responsibilities. I have an easy time handling most social situations, am able to carry on mature conversations with my college professor, host parties, interact on a generally mature, adult level with the world. But up until this year I was relatively immature when it came to sex simply because I did not have much experience. Unfortunately, the path to gaining experience means experiencing a lot of uncomfortable situations, and in my case sexual assault. Of course, now I have the experience and know how to handle myself and say no. I had to experience the things that should not be okay, not knowing that I had the right to stand up for myself and say no and had the right to expect my boundaries to be expected. But ideally, I would live in a society where I would be taught what kind of expectations I should have when it comes to sex. And those expectations would be that I be treated with respected, that I ask affirmative consent, and that my partner would ask me for affirmative consent and my no would be accepted without questions and would not reflect negatively on the quality of the relationship. In an ideal situation (i.e. in a culture of consent, rather than a culture of rape) those expectations would not be that I need to protect myself, that the borders of what is and is not okay in sexual relations are ambiguous, that my partner and I need to guess our way through things without talking about them, that putting up with a certain amount of discomfort is normal and that if I was uncomfortable it was probably my fault things went to far.

      I absolutely disagree that this is an issue of maturity. It is an issue of education, and social expectations and dialogues about sex and consent.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Your proposed solutions “I would be taught what kind of expectations I should have…” and “It is an issue of education, and social expectations and dialogues…” are just my options 1 and 2 restated in different words.


    2. Your analysis is flawed in a few ways. One is that very few of the commenters have actually stated where they’re from and it has obviously messed up your idea of what Europeans think. I’m from Europe, from Sweden. And I very much disagree with the victim blaming crap some of the people claiming to speak for Europe were saying. And I know there are a few more of us here in the comments.

      Another thing is that you are focusing so much on age. This isn’t about age, it’s about power dynamics. So, even though the age of consent is 15 here and teenagers do have consensual sex with each other, it is still a problem for an adult far older than that to be pressuring and manipulating a 15 year old into a sexual relationship they don’t want. Because that adult is in a position of power over the 15 year old. The same would be true of a 15 year old pop star pressuring a fan who is the same age to do things they don’t want and never said yes to, because the power dynamics makes it hard to safely stop the situation, knowing you probably won’t be believed and you’re supposed to be happy about the attention.
      That is also why an employer trying to get an employee to go on a trip that isn’t work related is probably a bad idea and can be harassment, if saying no might mean loosing your job and saying yes implied things to happen on the trip that you’re not comfortable with.

      And the most important thing that you are missing here. Sex isn’t something that men do to women if women let them. It is something two(or more) people do together. Because they both want to. Consent is not a gendered thing, it applies to everyone. If the person you want to have sex with doesn’t want to have sex with you, don’t try to trick them into doing it anyway. Everyone owns their own body and nobody else gets to decide what happens to it.

      You are probably right that there is a difference in culture about these things but instead of wanting to change the places where people are talking about harassment and consent we should be changing the places where that conversation hasn’t started yet. In the aftermath of these revelations here I found out that my mother didn’t know she got to have her own sexuality until me and my sister were all grown up and talking about it in a way that made her re-evaluate her own life. It is incredibly sad how women like her have gone their whole life with assault being completely normalized, like it seems to be in some other parts of Europe still.

      I agree with Clara that it is an issue of education, and social expectations and dialogues about sex and consent.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Regarding your statement “it has obviously messed up your idea of what Europeans think”, that’s actually not really important here. Instead of saying European perspective and US perspective, let’s just call them perspective A and perspective B. I think we can all agree that there are two different perspectives that have been expressed in the comments. One perspective assumes that a woman above the age of consent bears a high amount of responsibility, and the other assumes that she doesn’t.


      2. This is a reply to Bob, for some reason I couldn’t reply to his answer.

        I don’t agree. There are some people here who are focused on age. Either saying people under 18 or 22 or whatever it may be shouldn’t be allowed to go to the dances at all, to protect them. Or saying people over 15 can say no and make sure never to be alone with the opposite sex ever. Both of with doesn’t address the actual problem at all.

        And then there are some of us, actually I think most of us until recently, who instead of focusing on age and gender like you do focus on the concept of consent. If you stop being so stuck on what the man does and the woman does and just think of people, regardless of gender you might be able to follow my reasoning. A person is responsible for their own actions, but nobody gets to decide what happens to another persons body, and that is true for all ages. So if you want to be doing something involving another persons body that person has to want that to, if they don’t and you do it anyway then you are responsible for those actions, and possibly responsible for committing a crime.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Note to A: I think you’re mistaken where you say “So if you want to be doing something involving another persons body that person has to WANT that ….” Emphasis added.

        “Want” and “consent” have different meanings. You can consent to something without actually wanting it.

        (And sometimes, vice versa too.)


  34. I have been reading all of this for the last couple of weeks and really refrained from saying too much, but I do have a question for the survivors and the community at large.

    As a community, shouldn’t we think about passing all of these Internet findings on to the police? Steven has admitted to these assaults. If the option of the community is to remove him from the scene, what about other scenes? He may never hurt anyone else in the dance community, but what about others?
    I realize that this problem is bigger than just his deplorable behavior, but should he not be treated like anyone else who commits a violent crime? If it were a highschool teacher victimizing a student, he would lose his job AND go to prison.
    I do understand that these women have been through a great deal of suffering already, but part of the reason for coming out was to save others from these awful events. Thoughts?


  35. I sympathise with this girl because her suffering is evident. I sympathise with this guy as well.

    In my opinion this has nothing to do with how Lindy classes and events are organized.

    People of all ages mingle in every day life. Like averywhere else, there are all kinds of people in Lindy Hop communnity.

    Dancing is like life.


  36. To Sarah, Heidi, Allison, and all the people who have talked about re-remembering things they thought they had buried, people having shock reactions, and for those trying to understand what the fallout is from what Steven Mitchell has done, I want to raise something I’ve not yet seen discussed on this thread, and that is PTSD*.

    When it was first suggested to me that I might have PTSD in my 40s, I was surprised. I knew what had happened to me when I was a teenager. A close male family member tried to persuade me to sleep with him, I refused. He tried a second time on another occasion, it was even easier to refuse. End of story, right?

    Except I always lacked self-esteem, couldn’t seem to find or function in a healthy romantic relationship. For a long time it felt like everyone else had the answers and I just couldn’t find the right question, that everyone else had a right to be on the planet and to their opinion, but not me. Literally I once had friends over for a meal, and I felt like they had more right to be in my house. Weird, huh?

    I’d done a lot of personal development work, from self-help to therapy, all throughout my 20s and 30s. So when this friend suggested to me in my 40s that I might have PTSD, I was stunned. Fortunately, this was someone I respected highly. Plus, a lot of the personal development work I’d been doing no longer seemed to be working, so I decided to listen to what she had to say.

    Many years of working with an EMDR** therapist later, he asked me a very simple, yet to me crucial question — what did I think my parents knew, and when?

    Which is when I learned was that neglect — the “mere” absence of attention — from significant care givers was enough to give me PTSD. Even tho they’d loved me and given me a solid, comfortable middle-class upbringing. I would never have believed it.

    However, when I asked my mother what she knew when, and heard her response of “you essentially just faded into the background”, something shifted in me. I could literally FEEL the change, that I was no longer trying to figure out what the hell had happened to me, what was I missing. For the first time I knew that I understood the issue, and that the rest of my journey was (and is) about healing.

    It is incredibly hard, even now, for me to go public with this — I’m crying as I write. I can only imagine what the women who have posted their difficult stories here have gone through emotionally, because my story is relatively mild. What many of the women (and probably some men) who are posting and/or reading here have experienced are traumatic events that happened when they were vulnerable, in secrecy, with large amounts of shame and confusion attached to them. What they (you?) are experiencing may not be PTSD from having been in a war or a tsunami or a terrorist attack (which is what I always thought caused it), but it may be PTSD from an emotional (and in some cases physical) attack.

    Judith Herman, in her book _Trauma and Recovery_, talks about stages of healing from trauma. One of the latter stages of healing is being able to “normalize” the experience, meaning to talk about it publicly, within our communities. That is part of what Sarah has started by writing her very courageous post, and what others are doing by their equally courageous, honest responses. The predatory, coercive, abusive events that happened to too many women who interacted with Stephen (I mean think about it, what kind of person tries to force a someone to kiss him on the mouth when she has just thrown up??), happens to too many women with too many men; sometimes to women with other women; it even happens to men with other men and/or with women.

    Abuse of any kind is a difficult topic, but nonetheless important to talk about, educate ourselves about, figure out ways to deal with by talking about it with each other. And just because it is more prevalent or accepted in other cultures does not make it right.

    So for any of you experiencing feeling triggered, unexpected amounts of anger, disrupted sleep patterns, or confusing, unusual emotions as you’ve been reading this thread or afterward, that might be a sign that you have PTSD.

    If you think you might be, find people you can trust to talk to, google it to find out more, find a good therapist or other trusted advisor. I also have put together a list of resources that I’m happy to share with anyone who thinks it might be useful to them.

    There is fallout when this sort of thing happens to us, and that fallout can last for years, as many women here have attested. However, when we are able to finally break the silence, we are first and foremost healing ourselves. We are also helping change the ignorance of those who think it is acceptable for one human being to abuse another, we are helping educate ourselves and each other. We are ultimately helping make this a better community — a better world — for us all to live in. And that, in my book, is what this journey of being human is all about.

    *post-traumatic stress disorder
    **eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing

    Liked by 2 people

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