Feel Safe and Be Safe in Toronto’s Swing Scene

February 8, 2017

Content Warning: This post contains discussion of sexual assault.

We, the partners, teachers, and staff at Bees’ Knees Dance, stand together with any and all survivors of violence in the Lindy Hop community. The recent stories of sexual assault shared by brave women in our community have shocked and saddened us. You can read more about the recent events here.

We want to take this opportunity to formally acknowledge the disclosures of violence and thank those who have come forward. Additionally, we want to declare our support for any survivors who may be remaining silent and let them know how much we value them and respect their personal decisions.

To the survivors of the recent perpetrator in the Lindy Hop community, we believe you, we support you, and we owe you a debt. As dancers, we all have a responsibility to make our spaces as safe as we can, and we all need to act now.

An important point in this current discussion is how many people had an encounter with the perpetrator where he displayed behaviour typically seen on the spectrum that has the potential to develop into sexual assault. We now know that a number of people have been physically victimized by him, but countless more have seen him be inappropriately flirtatious at dance events or witnessed him advance his attentions on people he presumed to be new and young female dancers in the Lindy Hop scene. This is not uncommon behaviour, and our scene is not immune from the ills of society.

Many dancers, on hearing that this person had sexually assaulted others, reacted with only a small amount of shock. They knew he had a reputation for behaviour that was “a little off.” All of those moments where he behaved inappropriately in public were opportunities for the rest of us to speak up. When we see something, we have an obligation to take whatever action we can. We need to check in with the dancer who seems to be fending off unwanted advances. We should introduce ourselves to new dancers so they know they can count on us if they need a friend to talk to. We all have a role to play in making our dance scene safer and the time to start working harder at this is now. We need to fight to make our spaces safer.

At Bees’ Knees Dance, we want all dancers to know that if anything happens at an event in our local or international scene that makes you feel uncomfortable… we have your back. We encourage you to reach out to us, we want to support you however we can. It doesn’t matter if the person who makes you feel uncomfortable (or is violent towards you) is an internationally-acclaimed dancer, a new beginner, or a pillar in the local community. We will always take your feelings seriously, and your safety will always be more important than anything else.

We have recently appointed a designated Safe Spaces Representative (Reesa) at the BKD Partnership level. You can contact her anonymously through email and she will respect your privacy as she does what she can to support you. You can reach the Safe Spaces Representative at safespaces@beeskneesdance.com. Further details to be released very soon.

We want the Lindy Hop community to be a community of allies. We need to look out for each other. We want everyone to feel safe from harassment at all times, whether you are asking someone to dance or declining a dance, we should all feel safe at Lindy Hop events. Be safe, and help others feel safe out there.

In solidarity,

The BKD partners (Shannon, Reesa, Kris, Jasper, Phil); Teachers (Ashley, James, Caitlin, Arthur, Stephanie, Basil, Ari, Nicola); and Staff (Victor).

Created with the assistance of Teacher and Anti-Violence Worker Ashley Bratty