On Saturday, July 4th 2020 I hosted a conversation on Instagram that addressed sexual misconduct & violence within the Toronto dance community & beyond. I am deeply grateful for all who showed up to listen, learn, & support.
You can watch it on my IGTV here:
It's about 1.5hrs total.
My notes from the talk are below, in addition to resources I found helpful in my planning.
This conversation is ongoing, & will continue to be, until all feel safe in our community.
A Conversation on Sexual Violence & Misconduct in the Toronto Dance Community & Beyond
Trigger Warning: this conversation is about sexual assault & harassment
No graphic details, personal stories, or names will be mentioned
As we move into this conversation, I encourage you all to listen with the intent to understand vs. respond. To listen with humility & the willingness to admit wrongdoing. When we know better, we do better. This is the beginning of learning to know better.
Thank you to all who have come forward, who have stood beside survivors with love, support, & respect.
Thank you to everyone who has shown up here today.
A Few Statistics:
31.7% of college men would have sexual intercourse with a woman against her will “if nobody would ever know and there wouldn’t be any consequences”.
50% of men ages 18 to 34 agree with this statement: “If your partner is willing to kiss you, she must be willing to do other sexual acts.”
80% of the time, the survivor knows the offender; they are not a stranger
70% of rapes occur by someone who knows the survivor
On average, an American is assaulted every 98 seconds
False reports of rape average just 2%
Sexual violence is not gender-specific: while I am presenting this material from my own lived experience as a cis, white-presenting (ish!), female - we still have major work to do in regards to supporting male survivors of sexual violence & the 2SLGBTQA+ community
What is rape culture?
While the majority of individuals might agree that rape is wrong, it's through our continued use of words, action/inaction, & the normalization of sexual violence & misconduct that allows rape culture to remain part of our societal structure.
How do we counter rape culture?
Confront toxic masculinity: this is where violence and dominance are seen as “strong” and “male”; women and girls are less valued; men can’t share/express feelings or emotion; non-sexual touch, etc. Take a critical look at what masculinity means to you and how you embody it. Does your definition of masculinity prioritize your needs & wants over others? Does your definition of masculinity keep you trapped in patterns of behaviour that are harmful to yourself & those around you? How can you shift your beliefs, thoughts, & behaviours accordingly?
Call bullshit on victim-blaming: an attitude that suggests a victim rather than the perpetrator bears responsibility for an assault. When discussing cases of sexual violence, a victim’s sobriety, clothes, and sexuality are irrelevant. Instead, counter the idea that men and boys must obtain power through violence and question the notion of sex as an entitlement.
Rape is never a funny punchline. Rape jokes delegitimize sexual violence, making it harder for victims to speak up when their consent is violated. Humour that normalizes and justifies sexual violence is not acceptable. Call it out. & question it! "I don't understand why that's funny. Can you explain it to me?"... push the awkward. Challenge the norm.
What is sexual violence?
Sexual violence exists on a spectrum: from comments, messages, & advances, to touching, to rape.
It is anything of a sexual nature done without an individual’s consent
Sexual assault = unwanted sexual activity, including touching and attacks
Sexual harassment can encompass discriminatory comments, behaviour, as well as touching. Sexual harassment may take the form of jokes, threats, comments about sex, or discriminatory remarks about someone’s gender.
What is consent?
Without consent, any sexual contact is sexual assault.
Consent needs to be enthusiastic and ongoing.
It is given with a clear “yes”, affirmative words, and positive body language.
Based on the Canadian legal definition, consent cannot be given in a situation that involves an abuse of trust, power or authority. Anyone who is unconscious cannot legally give consent. Anyone who is under the age of consent cannot give consent.
The Canadian legal age of consent is 16. For additional information, click here.
Where do we start & how do we begin to address this issue in our community?
Listen to understand, not reply. Breathe deep & challenge yourself to truly understand the other person's experience.
Educate yourself & others. Reading this little post is a good start! Knowing what sexual violence & misconduct are is the first step to taking action.
Consent = crucial. If you start with one thing, let it be clear, indisputable consent. Ensure that your intentions are clearly communicated. If you're interested in dating someone, ask them on a date. If you're interested in being physically intimate with someone, be upfront & honest. Do not use dancing, under some pretense of an intimate concept video or improv session, to bypass necessary conversations of consent.
Recognize & challenge victim-blaming. Stand up & educate those around you on what you've learned here & engage in the tough conversations to support survivors & place responsibility on the offender.
Hold perpetrators accountable; not doing so reinforces the belief that their behaviours are acceptable & allows it to continue without consequence.
Challenge inequality: the belief that one group or person is better than another contributes to violence
Engage in tough conversations with friends & peers. Question them. Question yourself. Question where & how your current beliefs come from & if they are just & appropriate. Talk about what you can change, where you've gone wrong, & what you can do differently.
Centre the survivor’s experience & wishes. This is major. If someone opens up to you about experiences they have had, it is they - & they alone - who get to choose how they move forward with their healing & action. The best role you can play is to hold space & ensure they feel heard, seen, & believed. & to remind them that it is not their fault.
Watch out for DARVO: deny, attack, reverse victim-offender
What can organizations or workplaces do?
Ensure you have a clearly defined sexual harassment & assault policy for your institution.
Ask yourself: What preventative measures am I taking to educate staff & faculty? Do I require background checks & references for my instructors & staff? How do I ensure all students & clients feel safe & supported in my space? What protocols are in place for handling experiences & reports of sexual misconduct? Who do survivors report to? Is there a clearly stated zero-tolerance policy communicated to all faculty, staff, & clientele?
How do we address this in regards to our community as a whole?
Keep talking about it. Don't let this die down. Don't let this just be a moment or a trend.
Dive deep into why & how these behaviours occur & continue
My current - personal! - thoughts:
Create a list of requirements for all dance organizations & workplaces: required training for staff & instructors; set protocols for supporting complaints or reports of harassment; a clear zero-tolerance policy for offenders, etc.
Develop a workshop for all dancers, with a focus on male-identifying dancers, to learn more about toxic masculinity, consent, positive action, etc. This could also be a certification of sorts or something that could be added to one's resume.
Create a central system or organization for dealing with issues of harassment in the dance community. This organization would also include: resources for survivors on how to move forward with justice & healing; some way to know who the offenders are & keep record for casting, funding, etc.; some way to ensure perpetrators are held accountable for their actions in a way that reflects the survivor(s)’ wishes & is appropriate for the level of harm caused; not be limited to instances of sexual misconduct, but also verbal, emotional, or physical abuse.
Where are we at re: the above?
Molly Johnson is working hard to gather info on who is doing what/working on what elements currently, where the gaps are, & how to address them.
Giulia Tripoli is working on a plan! Reach out to her directly to learn more - @giulia_tripoli on IG
I'm... tackling all the above & figuring out how to move forward.
IF YOU WANT TO BE INVOLVED:
Please email me email@example.com & I will keep you informed of next steps
IF YOU ARE WORKING ON SOME STUFF:
Please email me firstname.lastname@example.org so I can connect you to others who are working on similar elements of this issue, if possible, & ensure that you are supported & promoted!