Sarah Sullivan is a lindy hopper who has been dancing for 11 years and co-organizes a popular swing dance venue the Mobtown Ballroom in Baltimore, MD. Yesterday Sarah posted on her personal blog a shocking story about a well-known older dance instructor Steven Mitchell, and his long history of inappropriate and unwanted sexual advances directed at her, beginning in her teenage years.
I'm so saddened by the story, but also inspired by Sarah's strength in telling it. She eloquently, clearly and carefully details the whole sordid tale. Please go read it right now.
In the comments, Steven responds with his own apology. This unfortunately is followed by allegations by at least two other women who said that they were mistreated in a similar manner. It's just a fucking mess.
I don't know how this situation is going to shake out. But I'm encouraged by the incredibly supportive tone that I've witnessed in the comments on Sarah's blog and on Facebook. And I'm reminded of the steps that event organizers and others have already taken to make sure that unwanted sexual advances and sexual predation don't happen at their events, such as the new code of conduct at Lindy Focus.
I believe we can do more. At my museum I work at, there are many levels of protocol, policy, guidelines, and staff in place to make sure that we are a safe place for minors especially, but all of our audiences and staff. Schools, libraries, youth non-profits, women's health centers, and others have pioneered years of practices in how to ensure that minors and women are not the subject of unwanted sexual advances and violence. We can learn from all of that experience.
But first we need to own up to the problem and face it head on. Thank you, Sarah, for bravely setting the example for all of us. We've got some work to do.
Pictured: My friend Nicole Z, staffing the "safe spaces" booth at Lindy Focus 2014