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Sexual Abuse and a Legend.

January 23, 2015

This is an updated version from the original; for previous versions, see the bottom of the article.

(Also, check out this Vice Sports September 2016 article detailing the sexual abuse story of Steven Mitchell.)

Recently a statement came out about a young woman who was sexually assaulted by a swing dancer. It turns out this swing dancer not only did horrible things to her, but to many women before. That swing dancer’s name happens to be Steven Mitchell, a world-traveling swing dance instructor and legend in the community.

But the fact that he’s a world-traveling swing dance instructor and legend is only important in that he has been given mentor status by swing dancers for thirty years, leading to many, many opportunities to sexually assault people.

This might be a confusing time for you, if you have a very high respect for Steven Mitchell, known to many as a kind and fun personality and a legend in the swing dance community. Steven has not denied the numerous accusations, and has admitted he had feelings for the minor and that alcohol was involved.

I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for a lone person to speak out against a swing legend in such a way, and when doing so meant to reveal one of the most private things about herself — understandably, with numerous feelings of vulnerability, humiliation, and fear — and when she knew it would probably lead to more or less the ruining of a career and in many ways, a life.

But she made that very hard decision when she realized that the truth needed to be told for herself, for those who have not had the strength to speak yet, and for those who might have come next had she not spoken. The result is a very well-written and powerful article.

There seems little room for doubt. Steven Mitchell has done some things that deserve vilification. May he take this opportunity to seek help for what he has done, and save himself — and others — from his demons.

Do not read this story for the gossip. Read it for the many things it means about our scene, and the many things we can learn from it.

Today is a sad, angry, frustrating, confusing day in Lindy Hop. But it is also a courageous day, and a day of justice. Here’s to a better tomorrow.

 
READ HERE:

https://ssullivan410.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/3/

As you discuss this topic with others, I also recommend you read this post by Alex Gaw:

https://minrblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/tools-for-participating-in-a-conversation-about-sexual-assault/
 

And, finally, a note to those out there in our scene who might have been treated similarly by Steven or other people:

If you underwent sexual harassment or assault in any form, I beg of you to in some capacity to tell your story, even if anonymously. Even if you are still unsure whether it was harassment/abuse/assault or not. Please tell it to somebody. Because if it was (and there is a good chance it was if you question it), your story can help prevent it from happening to the next one, perhaps the next dozen or more. It can help stop evil from happening.

Just because the criminal may be a person of authority, or a person who is believed to be good simply because thy are a fun teacher, or well-loved personality in the scene, try not to let that stop you from coming out with your story. Yes, some people in the swing scene who don’t want to believe it will be outspoken, but I beg you to tell your story despite them.

Remember, these things do not happen in a vacuum. Trust that those who know you will support you. Trust that those who know the accuser will remark, at the very least, that they had seen some things that didn’t quite look right. Sadly what is more likely is that where there is one, there are others. So trust that you are not alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED…TWICE.

CURRENT UPDATE:
See long comment reply below for reasoning. Also, I feel most in the scene have probably established Steven’s guilt by now, so I cut back on some of the giving-supporting-evidence stuff that seemed appropriate at the time of the article’s release, which was very soon after the initial incident.

FIRST UPDATE FROM ORIGINAL
Based on some of the comments, I made the decision to change some of the writing slightly to get rid of anything that might be taken as unreasonably incredulous (which was never my intent). I still stand behind the intent of the original, which is posted here, but felt an update of the wording and tone was appropriate.

Those who have not done so already should consider reading this account of an incident that happened in the Lindy Hop scene from a woman who was sexually assaulted by a well-respected swing dance instructor Steven Mitchell when she was a teenager.

You might not know of this woman, but have a very high respect for Steven Mitchell who is known to many as kind and fun personality as well as a legend in the swing dance community. It is reasonable to not jump to conclusions based on one story.

Since the story’s publication, further evidence has come out to support the story’s validity: Several other women have come out with similar stories about him. Steven has not denied the accusations, and has admitted he had feelings for the minor and that alcohol was involved. I have known several of these women for many years, including Sarah herself, and have no reason to not believe them. Countless other people who’s opinions are very highly regarded in the scene have said as much as well.

I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for a lone person to speak out against a swing legend in such a way, and when doing so meant to reveal one of the most private things about herself — understandably, with numerous feelings of vulnerability, humiliation, and fear — and when she knew it would probably lead to more or less the ruining of a career and in many ways, a life.

But she made that very hard decision when she realized that the truth needed to be told for herself, for those who have not had the strength to speak yet, and for those who might have come next had she not spoken. The result is a very well-written and powerful article.

There seems little room for doubt. Steven Mitchell has done some things that deserve vilification. May he take this opportunity to seek help for what he has done, and save himself — and others — from his demons.

Do not read this story for the gossip. Read it for the many things it means about our scene, and the many things we can learn from it.

READ HERE:

https://ssullivan410.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/3/

It’s a sad day in Lindy Hop; but for a better day tomorrow.

 

 

 


ORIGINAL

Those who have not done so already should consider reading this account of an incident that happened in the Lindy Hop scene from a woman who was sexually assaulted by a well-respected swing dance instructor Steven Mitchell when she was a teenager.

Since then, several other women have come out with similar stories about him. Steven has not denied the story and has confirmed he had feelings for the minor and that alcohol was involved. I have known several of these women for many years and have no reason to not believe them.

I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for a lone person to speak out against a swing legend in such a way, and when doing so meant to reveal one of the most private things about herself — probably with numerous feelings of vulnerability, humiliation, and fear — and when she knew it would probably lead to more or less the ruining of a career and in many ways, a life.

But she made that very hard decision when she realized that the truth needed to be told for herself, for those who have not had the strength to speak yet, and for those who might have come next had she not spoken. The result is a very well-written and powerful work.

Assuming the several accounts are true (and the evidence certainly points that way), Steven Mitchell has done some things that deserve vilification. May he take this opportunity to seek help for what he has done, and save himself — and others — from his demons.

Do not read this story for the gossip. Read it for the many things it means about our scene, and the many things we can learn from it.

READ HERE:

https://ssullivan410.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/3/

It’s a sad day in Lindy Hop; but for a better day tomorrow.

51 Comments leave one →
  1. Lucie Q permalink
    January 23, 2015 1:03 am

    Thank you so much, Bobby, we’re all shaken and saddened, but in every single dance community over the world, we have to face this reality. To endure and love and protect each other, our friends, our dance partners, ourselves. Especially in countries where it is harder to speak out against harrasment and rape; and sadly mine, my beautiful Italy, is one of them.

  2. Michael permalink
    January 23, 2015 1:59 am

    I am currently at Swing Camp Oz in Australia, and this news has broken here this morning.

    Steven Mitchell visited classes this morning to give what I can only describe as a non-apology apology. Having read Sarah’s story just before the class, I felt his response was totally inadequate given the seriousness of the situation.

    Furthermore, having now read other commentors to Sarah’s story saying he behaved the same way towards them, and noting his “apology” made no mention of them, his position as leader of this camp is now destroyed, in my opinion.

    I believe we should confront and refute evil, and I hope Mitchell is sent packing from the camp immediately.

    • Michael permalink
      January 25, 2015 12:44 pm

      Further to what happened at Swing Camp Oz this week.

      Mitchell visited all the classes in progress during the morning, as I said in the earlier post.

      What I meant by ‘non apology apology’ was that he expressed a level of regret that he ‘misunderstood’ Sarah’s feelings and was sad that Sarah had not felt able to communicate with him about it.

      My opinion from listening to his statement was that he did not express regret for his reprehensible behaviour.

      He certainly did not mention any other women in the statement, which makes the ‘apology’ ineffective given subsequent testimony from other women.

      At the evening dance that day Joel Plys called all attendees together to state that he had asked Mitchell to absent himself from camp activities and attendance, and that Joel absolutely categorically did not condone the behaviours that had been reported. I think Joel appeared to be shocked by the reports.

      As I write this, I feel that Joel’s behaviour was appropriate, and if it could be criticised in any way that would only be for the time delay, but at the same time the evening dance was the first opportunity where the whole camp was gathered together. I don’t know when Joel told Mitchell to absent himself, obviously that was sometime between Mitchell’s morning visit to the classes in progress and the evening dance announcement by Joel.

  3. January 23, 2015 4:49 am

    Thanks for bringing attention to the discussion. Can I point a few things out in the hopes of reflecting on the way we talk about these events?

    One is, “I’ve known these women for many years and have no reason not to believe them”. The second is, “assuming the accounts are true, and we have evidence”. That makes it sound like the victim is presumed to be lying unless someone can attest that she’s an honest person. It also sounds like a victim needs evidence in order to expect people to believe her.

    I don’t think “is she lying” is the message you’re trying to get across here, and it’s very normal to read news reports or hear people talk about things like this that way, so that’s why I’m highlighting the nuances of the words we use.

    • Bobby permalink*
      January 23, 2015 8:36 am

      You make a very fair point about language. I will continue to reflect upon it over the next few days.

      However I chose my words very carefully, and will explain my meaning: There are two people involved in this story. One has made a statement saying they are the victim of a crime. Another is being accused of committing a crime.

      This is where I feel someone *does* have to attest to them being an honest person for them to be believed. The idea of “innocent until proven guilty” is a very crucial idea to all of us. And there are no exceptions. As many process this story, it is understandable for people to give at least a tiny bit of consideration to the possibility that someone has made up a lie about someone else.

      So, ABSOLUTELY a victim needs evidence if they expect people to believe them. And especially in this case, where a person’s reputation and livlihood are at stake. Without evidence to run our belief, there is nothing to stop an innocent person to be outcast in this situation were someone fabricating a story.

      In a case like this, provided there is no hard evidence for what happened, character references are evidence. Also, stories of other people having gone through similar experiences. These are what have made me finally put my trust 100% behind Sarah.

      Furthrmore, the accused is a person that is a legend in the swing scene, whom many many people love and admire. It may very well be a natural part of their process to assume doubt based on what they know about his character — “it couldn’t be true! Not HIM!” — and I feel it is my responsibility as a writer and a voice in the scene to express the evidence I have for believing Sarah, so they know I do not post this flippantly.

      So, I currently stand whole-heartedly behind the words I chose.

      Please know these are my initial thoughts, and I mean it when I say I will continue to reflect on your point.

      • lashask permalink
        January 24, 2015 5:26 am

        All reasonable points, and of course there’s a lot more to this discussion. Will be curious if your reflections lead to anything you want to discuss more. My email is my username at hotmail.

        • Bobby permalink*
          February 1, 2015 7:59 pm

          I posted a more in-depth reply recently with updated language and thoughts. Anyway, see below for those. Thanks for your replies and comments.

    • January 23, 2015 1:12 pm

      One thing that gets lost in discussions like this is that testimonies can be evidence. Prior knowledge of the accuser or accused may mean that that evidence doesn’t shift our belief about what happened very much, but it’s still evidence if the testimony is more likely in one case than in another.

      I believe the false accusation rate to the police for crimes is about 10%, so absent any other knowledge, the fact of such an accusation is evidence of a crime.

      As Yudkowsky says in the linked article, what confuses people sometimes is the societal need to demand a very high probability of truth before we bless certain beliefs for certain uses (for example, in a court or a science journal). But that doesn’t need to apply before deciding to keep someone away from teenagers at events, for example.

  4. January 23, 2015 3:03 pm

    I’m sorry, but WHY IS THERE EVEN A QUESTION OF NOT BELIEVING HER?!!!
    (If you’re going to make an argument, I don’t want to hear it. I just don’t. –Oh, yeah, let’s question the person who claims to be a victim here, instead of the person who has allegedly committed a crime. <–sarcasm.)

    • Bobby permalink*
      January 23, 2015 3:58 pm

      (1) To answer your question: Because it is ethically responsible to do so. On a totally abstract level, just because someone makes a statement that they are a victim of a crime and name their accuser, it does not mean they are absolved from questioning. For instance, it would be ridiculous if we encouraged detectives to not question statements by a victim.

      With the situation with Steven, we have a case where a woman made a very powerful statement about what Steven did to her.

      For many when they have read the article, it is the only thing they know about the situation when they read the article. She’s not very well known, whereas Steven is widely known. And based on the nature of the crime, Steven could quite possibly never get hired for a gig again. Career, over. He also happens to be a person who has touched the lives of many as a legend of this dance — his character is well-respected in his own right.

      Based *only on this*, to simply and automatically give *anyone* the full 100% benefit of the doubt that it was all true is irresponsible. Because, as stated in a previous post, there’s an estimated 10% chance it’s not true. Then you’ve just ruined the career of a man for a fabrication, and then people in the future would have an even harder time believing victims of sexual assault.

      But then, in our case, we have many people who begin to stand up for her character: “She is not the kind of person to lie.” Steven, though he doesn’t admit to the sinister aspects, also doesn’t deny them. Then we have other people who say they experienced similar things with Steven.

      In light of all of this, it has officially passed the “reasonable doubt” clause of how we define guilt (in my opinion, at least)..

      (2) I don’t quite understand what your “if you’re going to make an argument, I don’t want to hear it” sentence means. If it means you want to state your opinion but then not hear a response, then, well, guess you won’t be reading this. If this is what you meant, it’s annoying as shit on an intellectual level to have someone who just wants to shout their opinion and then not listen to a counter argument. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that’s not what you meant.

      (3) I at NO POINT have stated that only the person who claims to be a victim here is the one needed to be questioned. Obviously a person being accused of a charge needs to be questioned.

      • Terin permalink
        January 24, 2015 4:54 pm

        This comment is absolutely calling to mind the Steubenville debacle and the media’s tendency to lament the futures of the perpetrators and their “shining careers”. Please stop doing that. It’s entirely insensitive, and is the kind of language that props up rape culture by implying that a person is more credible or valuable than their victim because of the position they hold in society. Furthermore, to correct an earlier statistic quoted in the comments. The rate of false accusations is not 10%. It is more like 2%, and of every 100 assaults, only 6 are reported to the police. http://www.sexassault.ca/statistics.htm (Canadian stats, because I’m a Canadian). For her to come forward like this, publicly, is an incredibly brave thing to do, and there is absolutely no statistical reason we should be doubting her. Please, for the love of pete, stop implying through your comments that there ought to be a shred of doubt towards her story.

        • January 24, 2015 5:22 pm

          Anytime anyone makes an accusation against anyone, it is reasonable to ask whether it is true. Do you really believe that the rule should be, we always, in all circumstances, believe the accuser? Because you do say there is a 2% false accusation rate for rape. And yes, that’s small, and means that in the vast majority of cases, the accusation will be true, but it also means that it won’t be true in 100% of cases. In which case to suggest that we should always believe the accuser over the accused with no question in all circumstances means that we would be in the wrong 2% of the time.

          What is your solution for that 2% false accusation rate? To simply be okay with a 2% false conviction rate? You can make the argument that it is better to have false convictions than false acquittals, but is that what you are arguing?

          • Anonymous permalink
            January 25, 2015 6:23 am

            Well, I personally was the subject of one internal investigation related to sexual harassment, and on other occasions I was a victim of sexual abuse, and also a witness of abuse. In the case when I was accused, while it can be argued that I suffered some inconvenience for playing out some crazy romantic ideas, no significant harm was done to me, and my freedom was slightly restricted for protecting another person from a lot of fear.

            In the vast majority of cases the situation is uneven, just like that.

            We should definitely not put people in prison based on just someone’s report, but you do have to understand the psychological effects of intimidation, rape or violence. If you give equal consideration to both sides of the story, victims will never speak up. It is rare for a victim to be able to coherently articulate or even think about what happened to her or him, as if one is able to logically conceptualize a story, it means that the trauma has largely healed. Most victims make an impression of being mentally unstable — because they are.

            Imagine if a group of violent gay people catches and rapes you, and after that all you are thinking about is how bad you were for having caused that, and gratitude that they have left you alone, and fear that they may come back and punish you if you tell anything anyone. Then imagine that that kind of feeling lasts for the next 5 or 10 years, combined with general anxiety, depression, dizziness, or a host of other symptoms that — doctors say — have come out of nowhere. When someone asks where have you been on that day, you suddenly feel anxious and, contrary to your best judgment, invent some kind of a story that doesn’t make any sense; and while you are gathering the energy to try to tell the truth, people stop listening and dismiss you as a somewhat eccentric person.

            Then five years later you finally try to tell someone the truth. Not directly, of course, because you are too scared, but by making subtle references. You are really afraid that nobody would believe you, and sure enough, most people dismiss your subtle descriptions as “everyone has their own difficulties”, and some, in fact, challenge you to provide evidence, arguing that it is bad to blame people without evidence. While you have believed all the time that you were, in fact, the one to blame for the accident, now you become totally convinced, so you finally shut up, and either go on with your life, or start contemplating some sort of revenge, or suicide, depending on your character.

            That’s a bit of a taste for what such an experience may feel like, and why it may not be logical or compassionate to always apply the same logic as you would apply from a legal point of view.

            • hellboy permalink
              January 25, 2015 6:55 pm

              That’s a good analogy, but Steven is definetely not a group of violent gay people who suddenly catch one of these girls. In all these stories there is a long trail of interactions, that led to the case. In cases with Alisson it sounds like he was even unaware that this event was unpleasant to her.

              It’s true that it’s very hard for victims to come out, but that doesn’t automatically mean everything victims say should be believed without check. That is leading to witch-hunting and lynch trials.

              Not to mention the false memory syndrome can distort 10 years old memories A LOT. http://www.skepdic.com/falsememory.html

        • Bobby permalink*
          February 1, 2015 8:00 pm

          I posted a general reply and an update of my thoughts and language in a long post at the bottom.

        • Another Euro permalink
          February 7, 2015 1:17 am

          Except that “rape culture” is a fabricated myth created by bloggers and writers and authors and pundits. There is rape. There is culture. There is no “rape culture” in the USA. In our society we are innocent until proven guilty and everyone gets due process under the law. Anyone can accuse anyone of anything at any time. Does that make accusations fact? No. People can and do lie all the time. That’s objective reality.

  5. staceybagg permalink
    January 23, 2015 5:34 pm

    Thank you for posting and making some very good, educated comments. I wanted to rally behind your statements to provide a balance to some of the more aggressive comments. I appreciate the thoughtfulness you show to the entire situation. I appreciate as well that the swing community is open and caring enough that these things can be shared without attacking the victim (indicter), unlike other popular online actions today, and a logical and respectful conversation can be had about the situation. And recognizing they are both real people, not symbols to be sacrificed for an agenda. Thank you.

    • staceybagg permalink
      January 24, 2015 6:53 pm

      Damn after watching Alison’s account and learning more about this dude (I’m not that far into swing culture) I have to amend my feelings – dude is not a person he is a monster. I no longer think it is unbalanced to threaten his career, he should not only be out a job but in a jail. This is very unfortunate.

  6. January 23, 2015 11:26 pm

    I appreciate you writing this, Bobby White. It is very supportive in a situation that needs it, and also well measured- another necessity. There is a lot of unpacking that has to happen here for the community, and your writing is always clarifying.
    ——–
    The title of your response here soft peddles this situation as one involving “Harassment” when it is about “Assault.” In writing this comment I had the urge at many points to soft peddle what I’ve written as “in my opinion,” etc; so I assume that you had a similar impulse. It is scary to throw your lot in with one person when the stakes are so high (involving public figures). However, in the same spirit of pushing for more clarity- this is a situation of “assault” and not “harassment.” Even if one wanted to imply that they are not yet certain of whom/what to believe, it would be more accurate to say “alleged assault” rather than “harassment.”

    I am not intending to be critical here, but to be a constructive voice in a growing conversation.

    • January 23, 2015 11:34 pm

      “Throw your lot in with one person” was a poor word choice. I just can’t come up with a better one right now.

    • Bobby permalink*
      January 25, 2015 9:18 am

      Sorry, I’ve been in the middle of the busiest weekend of my career and have not had time to check up on the blog.

      You are absolutely right about the title change; that was ignorance on my part and I should have looked up the definition of the terms before publishing. Title changed.

  7. Allison permalink
    January 24, 2015 5:15 pm

    My account https://vimeo.com/117673470

    • One normal dancer permalink
      January 26, 2015 10:16 am

      The link is empty, Allison.

  8. January 24, 2015 6:42 pm

    [Reposted from Facebook for thoroughness]

    Bobby, I have a lot of respect for you, but your comments on your blog make me really concerned about the tack you’re taking in dealing with this.

    Please see Gary Chyi’s post about “innocent until proven guilty.” This is not a court of law, and laws are not the same as ethics.

    Please also recognize that there are incredible forces in this culture that keep people from coming forward about sexual assault. False reports are VERY rare, and sexual assault is deeply underreported. Pressing charges is even rarer. Those reporting sexual assault have already lost so much, and risk losing more by revealing themselves publicly, with very little to gain.

    While I appreciate that you are trying to be logical and careful about this, you MUST take context of rape culture into account, as not doing so is irresponsible and downright destructive.

    Please also recognize that you benefit from the “hero worship” culture that exists within swing dancing. People take your words very seriously, and your words may make dozens of survivors of sexual assault think twice before speaking up, thinking that they will not be believed unless they have the right reputation or enough tangible proof to satisfy someone like yourself. That is damaging not only to the psyches of those people, but to all the people who may be further hurt by sexual assaulters, who VERY commonly have a pattern of behavior and multiple victims.

    • January 24, 2015 7:16 pm

      I completely agree with B.Ferrebee, and would encourage readers to also listen to Alison’s words. I think Sarah and Alison are enormously brave for coming forward, and while their words may be difficult to hear, I don’t doubt them. Abuse of power is common. Abuse of young women is common. I’ve been repeatedly assaulted. I’ve been raped. These feelings, that Sarah and Alison discuss, are not new feelings to me. A community that accepts, allows, and abets abusive behavior is not a community I want to continue to be a part of.

      Bobby, I respect you. I’m glad you and Jerry are lifting Sarah’s voice, and projecting it to the organizers and dancers who need to hear her words.

      But this is not a ‘sad day in lindy hop’. What happened to Sarah and Alison and other women, years and years ago, those were sad days in lindy hop. Those were days that young women — the least powerful people in our community — were hurt, and left hurting for years, while a powerful person continued to be paid and respected by us. Those moments of abuse, where young women were drugged and assaulted were shitty, awful, terrible, sad days. This is not a sad day. This is a real day.

    • Anonymous permalink
      January 25, 2015 1:18 am

      I completely agree. False reports of abuse are very rare. Usually victims minimize the facts, even when they do speak. So very often this idea of “let’s look at the other side of the story” only supports the abuser.

      Also, a great reference for understanding the psychology of an abuser is “Why does he do that?” by Lundy Bancroft: http://www.amazon.com/Why-Does-He-That-Controlling/dp/0425191656

    • Rebecca permalink
      January 25, 2015 4:57 am

      Thank you, BFerrebee, for bringing up (rape) culture. There are many dynamics U.S. culture that silence people who are subjected to sexual assaults of all kinds. “False reports” make the news but are statistically few compared to the many reports that are never ever made.

    • January 25, 2015 5:44 pm

      Thank you, bferrebee and iariesmassage, I could not agree more with either one of you.

    • Bobby permalink*
      January 28, 2015 10:56 am

      Hey Brandi, I very much appreciate your feedback. Please know that I have come from a very busy weekend and am putting a lot of consideration into composing my thoughts and reply.

    • Bobby permalink*
      February 1, 2015 7:27 pm

      I apologize for the length of time it took me to reply to some of the comments and criticisms. I was at a very busy work weekend, then a vacation, and then on top of that came down with the kind of nasty cold that tends to happen during vacations after busy work weekends. Anyway, here are my thoughts: (also, see updated post above and comments on changes if you are interested.)

      Both the goal, and hardest part of writing, is to have what you write be *exactly* what you mean. To have it perfectly reflect every nuance of your world view and personal philosophy. And, like all perfectionism, it’s more often a case of trying to get as close to it as possible rather than achieving it.

      In this instance, not saying exactly what one means can cause a lot of concern and, quite frankly, can be dangerous and have real life consequences — If my writing were to unwittingly make a survivor afraid to come out and reveal their story, for instance.

      I have spent a lot of time exploring these comments and my original thoughts, and still think I was looking at the issue fairly, though I have updated some of my ideas since. And I definitely want to update my language because I believe the main problem was with my writing not reflecting my exact perspective (for instance, in the misuse of the “innocent until proven guilty” concept). But I will try to correct it here with this reply.

      (If, afterward, you still believe I am in the wrong afterwards, please say so, and for what reasons. In a way, I think each of us dancers has a personal journey — or several — to go through ever since they heard about Steven Mitchell. The discussion here in this comments is part of mine.)

      One criticism was that my expressing that further evidence of some kind was needed in order for me to fully commit belief in the original story is the type of behavior that scares survivors from coming out, fearing they won’t be believed.

      I want to stress that, at the beginning, I believed it was almost definitely true based on the details of the report alone. As a writer with an amplified voice in the swing dance scene, I felt it appropriate for me to wait for me to believe it as completely as possible before I wrote about it. I knew that it was probably only a matter of time before people who knew the woman involved better than I did would vouch for her character. I knew the all-too-sad-fact that where there was one, there were probably others, some of which would soon speak out. And, preferably, it would have been good to hear Steven’s response to the allegations. As expected, the support in favor of her telling of the story tipped the scales very quickly.

      Specifically for the blog, I tried to gear my post towards those who were in my initial shoes: the dancers across the world who might not know what to believe in light of this startling news involving a legend they knew and loved. I also wanted to take away any room for doubt for those (very few) readers who might have automatically distrusted the report because of their own issues with rape culture.

      There is another point I want to stress. Though I had not passed my full weight of a voiced judgment on Steven at the time of the initial report , there is absolutely no way I would have let someone be alone with him had I been in the same camp as him. Though I could intellectually uphold the ethical responsibly to allow that there was a sliver of a chance it could have turned out to be a misunderstanding or false report, I would also uphold the ethical responsibility for me to keep others safe from him in the (probable) outcome that he were guilty. But, as I mentioned, it was only a matter of time before enough support came to convince me.

      This conversation HAS made me think of how severe my reaction should be considering the situation. For instance, in the above, is it more right to say “Though I had not passed full weight of a voiced judgment onto Steven at the time of the initial report , there is absolutely no way I would teach in the same camp as him,” or “that I would suggest to him that, if he were somehow innocent of these crimes, he stay out of the swing scene until that innocence was proven.” So, I hear the concerns of those looking out for the victims and am still sorting through those thoughts.

      This is why I now see how using specifically the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” was not the specifically correct way to address the problem. After all, it is not accurate to say after the initial report that I thought him “innocent until he were to be proven guilty” but more so “probably guilty, just allowing for a small chance of error and awaiting more information before casting my final judgment.” (I read Gary Chyi’s argument on the matter, as requested, and am still processing its complex meaning and in what ways I should update my thinking, and at the very least, the way I write about it. The latter I definitely already agree will need to be updated, which I’ve tried to begin in the way I wrote these paragraphs.)

      In some of the other criticisms, I felt there were some implications that I was justifying a hesitance to believe a report mostly based on the desire to protect a well known figure in the community. Reading back over my comments with fresh eyes a few days later, I think I could see how one could look at it from the angle. Were this the case this would INDEED be unfair and an example of some of the problems involved in rape culture, like implying victim-blaming and hero bias. And that would require a sincere apology. No question about it in my mind.

      Again, I feel this can be explained as a fumble in writing. I have thought a lot about this and I still feel I would have approached the matter of personal judgment similarly were he an average dancer. What I would not have approached the same was the writing of the article. The simple fact is that to the audience of this blog, he is a well-loved swing legend, and his career was based on that opinion, so I felt it was important I take that into account in writing.

      I also realize it did not help that I left Sarah’s name out of a lot of it for my own instinctual “protection of the survivor” reasons — I didn’t feel comfortable mentioning her name all the time, so that years down the line, when someone reads this article on Swungover, she has once again had her identity defined as “The girl Steven attacked.” Looking back, the omission of her name could have implied the woman involved was not as much of a person as Steven Mitchell.

      In light of all of this, this is another place where I feel the comments and critiques and my exploring things would have produced different original outcome. Hence, I am revising the original:

      “Recently a statement came out about a young woman who was sexually assaulted by a swing dancer. This swing dancer did horrible things to her, and many women before. That swing dancer’s name happens to be Steven Mitchell, a world-traveling swing dance instructor and legend in the community. But the fact that he’s a world-traveling swing dance instructor and legend is only important in that he has been given mentor status by swing dancers for thirty years, leading to many, many opportunities to sexually assault people.”

      Finally, I wanted to address the use of “sexual harassment” in the original title. That was flat out failure on my part to look up definitions and understand the difference of severity. (I thought “harassment” was the broad term for all unwanted sexual verbal and physical contact.) For the revision, I went with sexual “abuse” as he has done this to minors and a string of others, which from my research seems like an accurate way of saying it.

      At this time I’d like to point out that I think there are some dangerous things being implied by some of the commenting.

      For instance, I get very, very wary when I am told I should believe something without questioning. Here there seems to be the implication that I should do so because the survivors will not come out if they feel they won’t be believed, so, therefore, I should automatically believe them.

      Survivors of sexual abuse have suffered horrible things and are deserving of support, and very understandably may have great anxiety about not being believed. I still believe that does not give *anyone* a pass to simply be believed without being questioned, or the desire for supportive evidence.

      (Also, please note questioning an argument is not the same as “believing an argument is false until it is proven.” Which, again, was my bad for using “innocent until proven guilty” in my previous statements.) I believed Sarah’s statement was likely true, just still felt it important to leave it open to question on principal as I would *any* statement in *any* situation before I wrote a post to the entire community taking a concrete stance on it.)

      In making their statements, survivors are trying to uphold the truth. They are trying to say “This thing happened to me,” (and sometimes, I imagine, so that they themselves can recognize it as a truth). However, we in turn do no justice to the truth by simply believing them without questioning. So I do think it is in fact dishonoring their cause to simply give them full unsupported belief.

      And I hope I have shown this is not a double-standard for me. I expect questioning with *everything* I say. (I do run a blog on the internet after all. To expect people *not* to question everything I say would be naïve indeed.) I do not want my students to believe a thing I say without the ability to question it. I do not want my readers to read a post or comment without the ability to question it. As painful as an experiences I’ve gone through, I by no means expect people to not leave it open to questioning before believing it. It’s an unavoidable part of life, and indeed is what allows us to make the best choices. And, those that I have convinced of a truth they have questioned it and found if believable are much more on my side than those who simply believe it because I said so.

      I take Brandi Ferribee’s arguments very seriously. She felt someone reading what I had said who very much admired me may be scared to not come forward, out of fear that they might not have the evidence to back up their story. So I would like to talk to them specifically, right now:

      If you underwent sexual harassment or assault in any form, I beg of you to in some capacity to tell your story, even if anonymously. Even if you are still unsure whether it was harassment/abuse/assault or not. Please tell it to somebody. Because if it was (and there is a good chance it was if you question it), your story can help prevent it from happening to the next one, perhaps the next dozen or more. It can help stop evil from happening.

      Just because the criminal may be a person of authority, or a person who is believed to be good simply because thy are a fun teacher, or well-loved personality in the scene, try not to let that stop you from coming out with your story. Yes, some people in the swing scene who don’t want to believe it will be outspoken, but I beg you to tell your story despite them.

      Remember, these things do not happen in a vacuum. Trust that those who know you will support you. Trust that those who know the accuser will remark, at the very least, that they had seen some things that didn’t quite look right. Sadly what is more likely is that where there is one, there are others. So trust that you are not alone.

      Finally, I’ve had a few random thoughts as I have been processing this and thought that, in the interest of continuing the conversation, I’d put them here:

      — I suspect there was perhaps a little tinge of “not wanting it to be true” in my initial response to the story; Which makes sense; I’d rather someone make up a story than actually experience that, and I’d rather a mentor to thousands didn’t have those urges that could be acted upon the thousands of women he had contact with.

      I want to stress that I still *knew* it was likely true, as I have stated. But of course my desire that it not be true was part of the emotions of the time. I still tried to act with reason when making all the decisions about posting, etc.

      — I think it’s important to know that the *only* privileges an instructor should get are privileges associated with helping their job of teaching dance. Getting their packets early, getting fed so they can eat in a day, etc. People should practice making the privilege stop there. They should check they do not automatically believe instructors in non-dance matters just because they are instructors (this is a horrible idea). They should check that they are not just laughing at instructor’s jokes because they are instructors (besides, it makes the jokes bad). They should make an effort to call instructors out when they deserve calling out — because chances are slimmer anyone else will because of their instructor-ness.

      On the flip side, instructors with self respect should be policing their character, making sure they are not being influenced into thinking they can get away with things that are not worthy of a good character. (Sounds strange to go Jane Austin about it in the language, but it’s the best way I know of to say it.)

      — Someone argued that today was not a sad day in Lindy Hop, as I stated, but that the sad days in lindy hop were the days of the original attacks. I of course completely agree that those were indeed sad days — most specifically for the survivors of those attacks. When I said it was a sad day in Lindy Hop, I meant it in the context that we have realized a mentor was a man who did terrible things; and we have realized one of our very own had been horribly abused by a leader of the scene. In a sense, our innocence was lost.

      But I agree that, in hindsight, it isn’t quite reflective of the situation. That is why I have updated it to

      “Today is a sad, angry, frustrating, confusing day in Lindy Hop. But it is also a courageous day, and a day of justice. Here’s to a better tomorrow.”

      — On the one hand, having a constant hard-core barrage of our code of conduct may scare off new dancers wandering what kind of dangerous scene they had stepped into. On the other hand, call me a cynic, but I don’t see the swing scene remembering these events five years from now enough to constantly remind their patrons of the codes of conduct. I feel there’s a perfect amount of exposure to these codes of conduct, perhaps sandwiched between encouragement that we like to have fun. Such as the code of conduct being pointed to with a smile every time someone comes in.

      Such as the MC reminding them “We have great DJs for you tonight, it’s gonna be awesome. Btw, we want everyone to feel welcome here, unless you’re the type of person that feels welcome harassing people. WE have a really good time here and we want to keep it that way, so we have a no-tolerance for harassment policy and anyone is allowed to turn down a dance without further comment necessary. Read our code of conduct if you have any questions. Now, enjoy yourselves and lets welcome back our wonderful DJ!” And saying it consistently enough that no student has a doubt over the entire run of the ballroom.

      I tend to watch television shows in bulk, sometimes watching an entire series on end. If I watch detective and cop shows (which is what I have been recently watching) then I find myself viewing life a little through that lens. The friendly man in the airport with the cowboy hat is probably going to end up the prime suspect once the police find the body — that kind of thing. The basic idea is that “In sight, in mind,” and its counterpart “out of sight, out of mind.” So, when I watch a medical drama series, then the friendly man with the cowboy hat is no longer the prime suspect in the murder trial, he is the one who’s suddenly going to have some unknown and unsuspected medical emergency on the middle of the flight.

      I mention this because, at the moment, sexual harassment is something that’s on our mind. We will be very vigilant about it, and very sensitive to it. The time we have to watch out for is a year from now, or two years from now, when it’s no longer on our mind, when we’ve begun watching a different show. That’s the time that we stop paying attention.

      — Among those who have sent me messages of various concerns, the one I have yet to in some way address is that of an older man in the scene who has begun fearing that people are going to ostracize him and his peers — and, he feels he has already begun to experience it to some degree. I don’t necessarily have answers for this, but putting it here is a way to add it to the conversation. “We ‘Old” guys have a right to feel safe in the scene too” was part of the message.

      — Throughout all of this, I’m very glad Steven didn’t deny it. That would have made the situation very hard in many ways for many people.

  9. Anonymous permalink
    January 25, 2015 1:14 am

    Please, let’s try to support Steven (while taking the necessary measures) instead of “eliminating him from the community”. By doing this we’ll make it easier to heal the community, and will make it more likely that other stories come out to light.

  10. dancewithgina permalink
    January 25, 2015 3:31 am

    Assault, Bobby. Sexual assault, not just harassment. You owe it to Sarah, Allison, and Heidi (and who knows how many others) to change the title.

    • Anonymous permalink
      January 25, 2015 6:03 am

      Good point; I didn’t notice the title. Or “sexual abuse”.

    • Bobby permalink*
      January 25, 2015 9:19 am

      Sorry, I’ve been in the middle of the busiest weekend of my career and have not had time to check up on the blog.

      You are absolutely right about the title change; that was ignorance on my part and I should have looked up the definition of the terms before publishing. Title changed.

  11. One normal dancer permalink
    January 26, 2015 10:01 am

    Well; I guess that is it. Everything that is on the internet has to be true.
    Wow, what a great bunch of investigators we have here! Thank god you’re all here to help the true to triumph… and yes, this is sarcasm!

    Look at the news, you may have interest in that one too, hbusse. http://www.theonion.com/articles/man-reserving-judgment-on-best-actress-nominees-un,37778/

  12. January 26, 2015 10:43 am

    Thanks for updating the language, bro. I was just about to write a comment calling you on it, and then you’d done itself. Ace.

    …but then I read the other comments on this post and I wanted to claw my eyes out. I can’t even begin to wade into this shitfest. Victim blaming, rape culture denial, even some bullshit about false memory syndrome. This surely is bat country. And I can’t stop here.

  13. Mister Earl permalink
    January 27, 2015 1:26 am

    Steven Mitchell was banned from certain places around 15 years ago. From what I’ve heard, this is not new behavior.

  14. Georgiabrown permalink
    January 30, 2015 7:36 am

    I’m sorry to say but many of you are missing the point here. I’ve read comments about how this instructor should be “supported” and other people talking about how this is a good time to talk about “harassment” or “unwanted attention”. I think such talk trivializes the gravity of these allegations. If true, they constitute assault and would be quite illegal if proven in a court of law. Not only is that instructor putting himself in danger of legal consequences but the dance schools/scene organizers could face vicarious civil liability. There is a big difference between unwanted attention at a dance by an ordinary dancer and physical or sexual assault by an instructor.

  15. January 30, 2015 8:56 am

    My partner, Patchie, wrote this as a facebook comment in another discussion, but I think it is helpful even out of context:
    “I’m saying, most rapists don’t think what they do is rape. They don’t believe they are violent people. They believe they are behaving appropriately to a situation.

    It is difficult to rehabilitate a person who does not believe what they are doing is wrong when they are surrounded by peers and authorities who defend their behavior.

    They aren’t broke people. They aren’t psychopaths. They aren’t hurt people lashing back against a warped perception of the world as, say, a person caught in an abusive cycle might be.

    They are well functioning people, following the path provided them.
    It is the path that is broken and violent. It creates exceptions and excuses based on internalized ideas of entitlement and domination. Ideas that women “ask for it”. That women are “unstable”. That men are sexually dominant and women are enticing and coy. That is offensive for a woman to reject a man. That under certain circumstances, women OWE men sex.
    Our courts uphold these ideas and defend the broken path these kinds of men walk.

    Many dudes are aware of this and deviate from the path. Many dudes are never introduced to that path. But way too many dudes are groomed their whole lives to walk that path and will not be punished for doing so.

    Even in a world where sexual assault is no longer considered tolerable or masculine behavior, there will still be violent individuals who use sex to hurt others for one reason or another.

    They aren’t in the same camp as the former. And we can offer a great deal more help in rehabilitating those people when we correct the normalized sexual violence committed by the former.”

  16. Bobby permalink*
    February 1, 2015 7:29 pm

    (Note: This is also the reply given under Brandi Ferribee’s original message, though ti concerns several other replies.)

    I apologize for the length of time it took me to reply to some of the comments and criticisms. I was at a very busy work weekend, then a vacation, and then on top of that came down with the kind of nasty cold that tends to happen during vacations after busy work weekends. Anyway, here are my thoughts: (Also, see updated post above and comments on changes if you are interested.)

    Both the goal, and hardest part of writing, is to have what you write be *exactly* what you mean. To have it perfectly reflect every nuance of your world view and personal philosophy. And, like all perfectionism, it’s more often a case of trying to get as close to it as possible rather than achieving it.

    In this instance, not saying exactly what one means can cause a lot of concern and, quite frankly, can be dangerous and have real life consequences — If my writing were to unwittingly make a survivor afraid to come out and reveal their story, for instance.

    I have spent a lot of time exploring these comments and my original thoughts, and still think I was looking at the issue fairly, though I have updated some of my ideas since. And I definitely want to update my language because I believe the main problem was with my writing not reflecting my exact perspective (for instance, in the misuse of the “innocent until proven guilty” concept). But I will try to correct it here with this reply.

    (If, afterward, you still believe I am in the wrong afterwards, please say so, and for what reasons. In a way, I think each of us dancers has a personal journey — or several — to go through ever since they heard about Steven Mitchell. The discussion here in this comments is part of mine.)

    One criticism was that my expressing that further evidence of some kind was needed in order for me to fully commit belief in the original story is the type of behavior that scares survivors from coming out, fearing they won’t be believed.

    I want to stress that, at the beginning, I believed it was almost definitely true based on the details of the report alone. As a writer with an amplified voice in the swing dance scene, I felt it appropriate for me to wait for me to believe it as completely as possible before I wrote about it. I knew that it was probably only a matter of time before people who knew the woman involved better than I did would vouch for her character. I knew the all-too-sad-fact that where there was one, there were probably others, some of which would soon speak out. And, preferably, it would have been good to hear Steven’s response to the allegations. As expected, the support in favor of her telling of the story tipped the scales very quickly.

    Specifically for the blog, I tried to gear my post towards those who were in my initial shoes: the dancers across the world who might not know what to believe in light of this startling news involving a legend they knew and loved. I also wanted to take away any room for doubt for those (very few) readers who might have automatically distrusted the report because of their own issues with rape culture.

    There is another point I want to stress. Though I had not passed my full weight of a voiced judgment on Steven at the time of the initial report , there is absolutely no way I would have let someone be alone with him had I been in the same camp as him. Though I could intellectually uphold the ethical responsibly to allow that there was a sliver of a chance it could have turned out to be a misunderstanding or false report, I would also uphold the ethical responsibility for me to keep others safe from him in the (probable) outcome that he were guilty. But, as I mentioned, it was only a matter of time before enough support came to convince me.

    This conversation HAS made me think of how severe my reaction should be considering the situation. For instance, in the above, is it more right to say “Though I had not passed full weight of a voiced judgment onto Steven at the time of the initial report , there is absolutely no way I would teach in the same camp as him,” or “that I would suggest to him that, if he were somehow innocent of these crimes, he stay out of the swing scene until that innocence was proven.” So, I hear the concerns of those looking out for the victims and am still sorting through those thoughts.

    This is why I now see how using specifically the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” was not the specifically correct way to address the problem. After all, it is not accurate to say after the initial report that I thought him “innocent until he were to be proven guilty” but more so “probably guilty, just allowing for a small chance of error and awaiting more information before casting my final judgment.” (I read Gary Chyi’s argument on the matter, as requested, and am still processing its complex meaning and in what ways I should update my thinking, and at the very least, the way I write about it. The latter I definitely already agree will need to be updated, which I’ve tried to begin in the way I wrote these paragraphs.)

    In some of the other criticisms, I felt there were some implications that I was justifying a hesitance to believe a report mostly based on the desire to protect a well known figure in the community. Reading back over my comments with fresh eyes a few days later, I think I could see how one could look at it from the angle. Were this the case this would INDEED be unfair and an example of some of the problems involved in rape culture, like implying victim-blaming and hero bias. And that would require a sincere apology. No question about it in my mind.

    Again, I feel this can be explained as a fumble in writing. I have thought a lot about this and I still feel I would have approached the matter of personal judgment similarly were he an average dancer. What I would not have approached the same was the writing of the article. The simple fact is that to the audience of this blog, he is a well-loved swing legend, and his career was based on that opinion, so I felt it was important I take that into account in writing.

    I also realize it did not help that I left Sarah’s name out of a lot of it for my own instinctual “protection of the survivor” reasons — I didn’t feel comfortable mentioning her name all the time, so that years down the line, when someone reads this article on Swungover, she has once again had her identity defined as “The girl Steven attacked.” Looking back, the omission of her name could have implied the woman involved was not as much of a person as Steven Mitchell.

    In light of all of this, this is another place where I feel the comments and critiques and my exploring things would have produced different original outcome. Hence, I am revising the original:

    “Recently a statement came out about a young woman who was sexually assaulted by a swing dancer. This swing dancer did horrible things to her, and many women before. That swing dancer’s name happens to be Steven Mitchell, a world-traveling swing dance instructor and legend in the community. But the fact that he’s a world-traveling swing dance instructor and legend is only important in that he has been given mentor status by swing dancers for thirty years, leading to many, many opportunities to sexually assault people.”

    Finally, I wanted to address the use of “sexual harassment” in the original title. That was flat out failure on my part to look up definitions and understand the difference of severity. (I thought “harassment” was the broad term for all unwanted sexual verbal and physical contact.) For the revision, I went with sexual “abuse” as he has done this to minors and a string of others, which from my research seems like an accurate way of saying it.

    At this time I’d like to point out that I think there are some dangerous things being implied by some of the commenting.

    For instance, I get very, very wary when I am told I should believe something without questioning. Here there seems to be the implication that I should do so because the survivors will not come out if they feel they won’t be believed, so, therefore, I should automatically believe them.

    Survivors of sexual abuse have suffered horrible things and are deserving of support, and very understandably may have great anxiety about not being believed. I still believe that does not give *anyone* a pass to simply be believed without being questioned, or the desire for supportive evidence.

    (Also, please note questioning an argument is not the same as “believing an argument is false until it is proven.” Which, again, was my bad for using “innocent until proven guilty” in my previous statements.) I believed Sarah’s statement was likely true, just still felt it important to leave it open to question on principal as I would *any* statement in *any* situation before I wrote a post to the entire community taking a concrete stance on it.)

    In making their statements, survivors are trying to uphold the truth. They are trying to say “This thing happened to me,” (and sometimes, I imagine, so that they themselves can recognize it as a truth). However, we in turn do no justice to the truth by simply believing them without questioning. So I do think it is in fact dishonoring their cause to simply give them full unsupported belief.

    And I hope I have shown this is not a double-standard for me. I expect questioning with *everything* I say. (I do run a blog on the internet after all. To expect people *not* to question everything I say would be naïve indeed.) I do not want my students to believe a thing I say without the ability to question it. I do not want my readers to read a post or comment without the ability to question it. As painful as an experiences I’ve gone through, I by no means expect people to not leave it open to questioning before believing it. It’s an unavoidable part of life, and indeed is what allows us to make the best choices. And, those that I have convinced of a truth they have questioned it and found if believable are much more on my side than those who simply believe it because I said so.

    I take Ferribee’s arguments very seriously. She felt someone reading what I had said who very much admired me may be scared to not come forward, out of fear that they might not have the evidence to back up their story. So I would like to talk to them specifically, right now:

    If you underwent sexual harassment or assault in any form, I beg of you to in some capacity to tell your story, even if anonymously. Even if you are still unsure whether it was harassment/abuse/assault or not. Please tell it to somebody. Because if it was (and there is a good chance it was if you question it), your story can help prevent it from happening to the next one, perhaps the next dozen or more. It can help stop evil from happening.

    Just because the criminal may be a person of authority, or a person who is believed to be good simply because thy are a fun teacher, or well-loved personality in the scene, try not to let that stop you from coming out with your story. Yes, some people in the swing scene who don’t want to believe it will be outspoken, but I beg you to tell your story despite them.

    Remember, these things do not happen in a vacuum. Trust that those who know you will support you. Trust that those who know the accuser will remark, at the very least, that they had seen some things that didn’t quite look right. Sadly what is more likely is that where there is one, there are others. So trust that you are not alone.

    Finally, I’ve had a few random thoughts as I have been processing this and thought that, in the interest of continuing the conversation, I’d put them here:

    — I suspect there was perhaps a little tinge of “not wanting it to be true” in my initial response to the story; Which makes sense; I’d rather someone make up a story than actually experience that, and I’d rather a mentor to thousands didn’t have those urges that could be acted upon the thousands of women he had contact with.

    I want to stress that I still *knew* it was likely true, as I have stated. But of course my desire that it not be true was part of the emotions of the time. I still tried to act with reason when making all the decisions about posting, etc.

    — I think it’s important to know that the *only* privileges an instructor should get are privileges associated with helping their job of teaching dance. Getting their packets early, getting fed so they can eat in a day, etc. People should practice making the privilege stop there. They should check they do not automatically believe instructors in non-dance matters just because they are instructors (this is a horrible idea). They should check that they are not just laughing at instructor’s jokes because they are instructors (besides, it makes the jokes bad). They should make an effort to call instructors out when they deserve calling out — because chances are slimmer anyone else will because of their instructor-ness.

    On the flip side, instructors with self respect should be policing their character, making sure they are not being influenced into thinking they can get away with things that are not worthy of a good character. (Sounds strange to go Jane Austin about it in the language, but it’s the best way I know of to say it.)

    — Someone argued that today was not a sad day in Lindy Hop, as I stated, but that the sad days in lindy hop were the days of the original attacks. I of course completely agree that those were indeed sad days — most specifically for the survivors of those attacks. When I said it was a sad day in Lindy Hop, I meant it in the context that we have realized a mentor was a man who did terrible things; and we have realized one of our very own had been horribly abused by a leader of the scene. In a sense, our innocence was lost.

    But I agree that, in hindsight, it isn’t quite reflective of the situation. That is why I have updated it to

    “Today is a sad, angry, frustrating, confusing day in Lindy Hop. But it is also a courageous day, and a day of justice. Here’s to a better tomorrow.”

    — On the one hand, having a constant hard-core barrage of our code of conduct may scare off new dancers wandering what kind of dangerous scene they had stepped into. On the other hand, call me a cynic, but I don’t see the swing scene remembering these events five years from now enough to constantly remind their patrons of the codes of conduct. I feel there’s a perfect amount of exposure to these codes of conduct, perhaps sandwiched between encouragement that we like to have fun. Such as the code of conduct being pointed to with a smile every time someone comes in.

    Such as the MC reminding them “We have great DJs for you tonight, it’s gonna be awesome. Btw, we want everyone to feel welcome here, unless you’re the type of person that feels welcome harassing people. WE have a really good time here and we want to keep it that way, so we have a no-tolerance for harassment policy and anyone is allowed to turn down a dance without further comment necessary. Read our code of conduct if you have any questions. Now, enjoy yourselves and lets welcome back our wonderful DJ!” And saying it consistently enough that no student has a doubt over the entire run of the ballroom.

    I tend to watch television shows in bulk, sometimes watching an entire series on end. If I watch detective and cop shows (which is what I have been recently watching) then I find myself viewing life a little through that lens. The friendly man in the airport with the cowboy hat is probably going to end up the prime suspect once the police find the body — that kind of thing. The basic idea is that “In sight, in mind,” and its counterpart “out of sight, out of mind.” So, when I watch a medical drama series, then the friendly man with the cowboy hat is no longer the prime suspect in the murder trial, he is the one who’s suddenly going to have some unknown and unsuspected medical emergency on the middle of the flight.

    I mention this because, at the moment, sexual harassment is something that’s on our mind. We will be very vigilant about it, and very sensitive to it. The time we have to watch out for is a year from now, or two years from now, when it’s no longer on our mind, when we’ve begun watching a different show. That’s the time that we stop paying attention.

    — Among those who have sent me messages of various concerns, the one I have yet to in some way address is that of an older man in the scene who has begun fearing that people are going to ostracize him and his peers — and, he feels he has already begun to experience it to some degree. I don’t necessarily have answers for this, but putting it here is a way to add it to the conversation. “We ‘Old” guys have a right to feel safe in the scene too” was part of the message.

    — Throughout all of this, I’m very glad Steven didn’t deny it. That would have made the situation very hard in many ways for many people.

    • Rebecca C. permalink
      February 6, 2015 5:33 pm

      To the “old” guys, no, you don’t have the right to feel safe. Not if you’re going to be the person grooming a teen for sexual abuse or touching your Follow inappropriately on the dance floor. Not anyone who’s going to gaslight a victim of sexual abuse. BTW, you old guys are statistically more likely to be raped than to be the victim of a false rape allegation, so if you’re a veteran of the scene, and especially if you’re a White man, hold yourself to a higher standard. Hold your fellows to that same standard

      ~30 yo long time big band fan, ex-jazz musician (high school), new Follow, always feminist

  17. Gayle White permalink
    February 2, 2015 3:13 pm

    I think you may be leaving out one element of your own background: you worked for two years in a newsroom at a major metropolitan daily newspaper where you and everybody around you were trying to keep personal opinions and feelings at a minimum in your writing. I think some of that professional journalist sensibility was evident in your original post as you hedged your language a bit. That’s how I read it.

  18. Marcia Goode permalink
    February 12, 2015 6:56 am

    I have encountered Steven Mitchell for decades. I kept a distance from him. He did, however, never miss an opportunity to encourage other men to pounce on me.
    I never ever was available for anything but dance. Steven was insulting and objectified the women at Dance Camps.
    All women need to be alert. Sometimes the “mess-around” is more than a styling step.

  19. May 22, 2015 5:24 pm

    Steven Mitchell should be in jail or at the very least a registered sex offender – but you people here on this comment thread are too narcissistic, self-indulged and scared to acknowledge a fundamental aspect from the foundation of your “social” dance.

    This man was ONLY interested in one thing from the start of his cult movement, very much like the cult movement of the 60’s; Getting rich white girls to open up. As he begged you to “Open Up” he might as well be asking you to please turn on, tune in and drop out of your inner inhibitions of morality and values. His goal? To destroy these women’s lives and families by confusion. This dance taught by him, allowed him to deduce to you “women” his promiscuous male whore of a man. Any authority figure that can bring these walls down in the mind of young naive females knows that they have their subject in their hands. Books like “the game” have been worshiped by these type of men in recent years for its use of NLP. This is not new. Male Rock stars, male movie stars, etc, like this type of authority for one reason, and one reason only – to get women to sleep with them. Guys go to dance because they want to get women they “lead” to soften up and follow while bringing down the inhibitions that “women’s rights” spent years to build. How? By getting women to “open up” to his moral relativism.

    Read his words from the book American Allegory: Lindy Hop and the Racial Imagination, by Black Hawk Hancock: Assimilating African American cultural forms into white communities by altering their aesthetic and style leads to a whitewashing of the dance from its original context. This process of whitewashing goes on not only in the performance of the dance, but in everyday social dancing as well. In an interview with Steven Mitchell, he commented,

    “But without the connection it looks like this wild dance. That’s why black people don’t like it, because there’s is no connection in it – there’s no spirit in it – there’s nothing in it now. Mind you, it’s better now than it was before. But what’s missing in the dance is the love, the love and – i don’t know – if love is enough, it’s just because love means different things to different people. What’s missing is the sensuality. There’s no sex in the dance – think we are afraid of using those kinds of metaphors. Maybe we need to say those things that are missing in the dance – come on, ladies, dance with this man like you’re making love to him. We say, Oh, I need this, I need that, and we’re afraid to day, Can you just gring the hips more? I don’t know if that’s the thing to say, but it seems that those are the things that are missing. There’s no sensuality in the dance at all. What’s wonderful about this is that you have a man dancing with a woman, but there’s nothing when you don’t feel it.”

    This notion of the sexuality of the dance, the blackness of the dance that has been removed, is a result of the white mode of engagement that simultaneously desires the dance and yet hlds out reservation in its execution. Just as the racial imagination conceptualizes blackness as more sexual, it negotiates boundaries by denying the sexuality of the dance in whites’ enactment of it. When asked if this could change Steven replied:

    “I you never felt the Blues then it is hard to get people to feel the Blues, it is hard to mime something you never felt, part of the problem is that if you have never felt these things before, it is hard for me to convey to you and have you move to it, if you don’t know what that feeling is… It really is about the feeling. I’m not saying it’s impossible. Why would i teach if i thought it was possible? It just takes a long time to get people to get into expressing themselves in ways they are not used to at all. It is one of the biggest challenges, to get open up. People are just so constrained and tight. It’s like people are scared to express themselves. Once you start hesitating and being self-conscious, then you lose the feeling. Sometimes it just makes you wonder why?”

    BACK TO ME HERE:
    All this subjective, irrational language about connecting your mind and soul is the same language used and many forms of collective mind steering. Wake up people!

  20. David permalink
    January 22, 2017 4:14 pm

    And now Max Pitruzzella

Trackbacks

  1. Lindy hop, codes of conduct and sexual assault | Name and Nature
  2. Szexuális bántalmazás és biztonságos terek | Ribizliswing
  3. An Open Letter to Young Women at Their First Swing Dance | Contemporary Contempt
  4. Jeepers, peepers, what to do with your creepers. | The Home of Happy Feet
  5. Posts in Order of Publication | Swungover*
  6. How Swing Dancing Faced Its Sexual Assault Scandal - YPAD

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