Friends and colleagues of the theatre (and elsewhere),
*THIS WHOLE POST APPLIES REGARDLESS OF WHERE YOU WORK*
More and more I am hearing about situations in rehearsals halls where women are feeling unsafe. More and more situations where women are being sexually assaulted by bosses and co-workers. More and more situations where victim blaming, slut shaming, denial of responsibility and gossip are the norm in rehearsal hall. More and more situations where people feel that they are being forced to choose between being and ally and speaking up for survivors and personal economic resources. A big mouth or a job is a rough spot to put a person in.
So there you are; in that rehearsal hall, hearing about lying sluts and family worries and benefit of the doubt. What do you do? What do you say?
First: I BELIEVE YOU.
These accusations are made because they are things that happened. Often the police are not involved for a variety reasons that are often not any of your business. But they happened. And most of us can prove it.
Second, you can do nothing. Nothing is always an option. It's not ideal but it's well within your rights. You can remain silent and hold onto your job and potentially career and I respect that; honestly, I get it.
But there are options beyond nothing.
If you see it happen or someone discloses to you. Support the victim however they ask and if they ask don't back down. Go as far as they need. Go as far as you feel comfortable.
If you don't feel comfortable holding an abuser accountable ask for the hall to be work talk only zone. Respectfully ask all your colleagues to keep their personal lives personal and not for rehearsal hours. It might not make you very popular and you might have to eat lunch alone but chances are you can find someone who appreciates the request and that way the gossip is silenced.
You can hold people accountable for their victim blaming and begging for the benefit of the doubt. Ask them why they need it? Ask them why they are talking about women this way? Say words like victim blaming and gas lighting . Challenge them when they call ex lovers crazy bitches. And do this in all situations of misogyny and slut shaming; do this when others are gossiping about survivors.
Feeling tough? What if the abuser is your friend? You are in a unique position. Sit down with them. Offer support. Offer to assist them in getting help and making restitution. Many of us are willing to forgive if real remorse and proof of change is evident. You can offer incredible support and kindness to your friend. There are many examples of this happening across the country and it is beautiful. Counselling, support and hope are available for perpetrators as well as their victims.
I appreciate how hard this will be. But we will all appreciate you doing it even more.
Are you the boss? In charge of grants or prizes or who gets access to those precious resources? Demand accountability from those you hire and when there are abuse and assault accusations reach out to the community; hire people who express compassion and tenderness in their work and in community social settings. Make abusers demonstrate rehabilitation and give space to those they hurt to feel safe in your theatre.
Holding people accountable or taking a break from hiring them will not crumble our communities. Instead we will be stronger, safer, more accountable and we will make better work. We will make better work audiences feel safe watching.
And lastly, again: believe us.