On January 22nd, 2015, a woman in the Lindy Hop community on the East Coast (not in Los Angeles), created a blog which had only one entry. In it, she detailed how she was sexually assaulted by a prominent, nationally-known Swing dance instructor (who has taught and performed in LA before). She was only 18 at the time of the incident, and the instructor was much older.
She wrote with much eloquence and honesty. Although she was not raped, it was heartbreaking to read.
Shortly after she posted her story, two other women came forward with very similar stories of sexual assault by the same instructor. One involved rape, and she told her story in a heartfelt Vimeo video before it was recently taken down (I do not know why it was removed). Subsequently, even more women have come forward.
I don’t know what I can add to the hundreds of comments on the blog post and on Facebook now, other than to support the brave women who stepped forward.
The women told their stories in the hopes that future events like this could be prevented. As a blogger in the Lindy scene here in L.A., I felt compelled to say something about this topic, even if I do not want to identify the instructor involved. (I don’t want to focus on the punishment for the instructor. I am in no moral position to judge anyone.) But, I could not sit on the sidelines and without saying something.
By bringing up this topic, I hope to honor the wishes of the women and add to the dialogue of how we can make the Swing dance scene safer for women, both under-age and adult. The fact that this woman had the courage to tell her story publicly, naming names, undoubtedly has some folks worried now.
People in the Swing scene need to know that this behavior will not be tolerated. Victims need to know that they will be supported and believed. Organizers and venues should have a code of conduct, and should make it clear that sexual harassment and assault will not be tolerated. I have heard from too many female friends in the Swing scene of incidents involving some “creepy guy” who tried to grab her in an inappropriate way or something. Venues need to make it clear that that people engaging in that type of behavior will be asked to leave (or other appropriate action will be taken proportional to the complaint).
For my small part, I will not list events involving this instructor on LA Lindy Hop again, but that is probably moot. His dance partner has disavowed him. It’s unlikely that he’ll be teaching Swing dancing again any time soon. For what it’s worth, he has apologized and says he is seeking help.
Overall, I believe that Swing dancing is a very wholesome hobby and pastime, and that it is a very positive force in the lives of most people who participate in Swing dance events. Unfortunately, it’s not perfect.
I welcome comments that you have on how we can prevent such incidents in the future.