Author Topic: Handling Assault in the Company  (Read 9285 times)

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Handling Assault in the Company
« on: Mar 20, 2017, 05:42 pm »

For the majority of ballet companies, the artists are contracted season long. Friendships naturally happen, romances blossom and there are cliques. For any of us who have worked in ballet, we've seen it all. But what happens when couples break up, cliques get violent, dancers show up drunk - or worse? I've been around the break ups, the violence, drunk and on drugs, but I've never dealt with this:

Last week, a male member of a ballet company sexually assaulted a female co-worker. He texted her repeatedly to be allowed to come into her apartment. She said no and went to sleep. He texted her roommate, also a coworker, and told her that he couldn't reach the other girl, but she had said he could come over. The roommate lets him in and tells him to sleep on the couch, as it was 4:30am. Instead, the man goes into the first girl's room, sees her in bed and starts to rape her. She wakes up during the act and tells him to stop, which he does and he leaves. She then goes to the police with her story and he gets arrested. When questioned by police, he does not deny the assault.

When this happened, the company was about to go on tour. The male dancer is in jail, so he's removed from the company. But he's plastered on the local papers for the tour, and the show opens the evening after the assault. My mind is racing with what that company is going through on several levels. I feel awful for the female dancer. She's been violated, in a place she felt safe, by someone she's known for 7 months, someone she sees every day at work. The male dancer also has a girlfriend in the company, who must have mixed feelings on this. The company performed the night of the assault and performed the following night. Granted, in ballet, there are several casts, so casting has obviously been worked out as performances continued.

I can only assume the male dancer will be let go, as I can't see how he could be brought back into the company. I've noticed nothing on Facebook on the male dancer's page nor the company's page. No mention of cast changes either. (I used to work with this dancer at a different company.) The company has obviously done very well in keeping things under wraps, but I'm curious as to what other stage managers would do in this situation.

Like I said, I've dealt with violence, drugs and drinking - the drug use during performances was handled with firing the dancer immediately after the curtain came down, even though we were mid-run. Violence was handled with verbal warnings and notes in HR files. Drinking cases resulted in write-ups that just about went no where. When you don't have a large number of dancers in your company, it's hard to suspend someone or fire them, because you can barely make a show happen without them.

Knowing that upper management/artistic staff/HR are doing the heavy lifting in this situation, how do you, as the Stage Manager, handle this?


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Re: Handling Assault in the Company
« Reply #1 on: Mar 22, 2017, 12:57 pm »
Sexual assault and harassment are more common than anyone wants to believe. Given that Stage Management is generally not empowered to hire or fire employees, and in many cases is simply an instrument of upper management in imposing any discipline, I would respond that the best course of action for Stage Management is to proceed with a super-abundance of caution. Do not, under any circumstances, give legal or pseudo-legal advice to any of the involved parties. Do not speculate publicly or in print on the possible outcomes of the assault, the legal or HR discipline that is pursued, or the emotional status of anyone. Do not be alone in a room with company members when the topic comes up--even if that means walking out of the room. Finally, because daily show/rehearsal reports are often how creative personnel learn about the happenings of a company (especially on tour), do not use this forum to announce any past, current, or potential future legal happenings related to the case. Indicate only show-related matters: "XYZ was released from contract," not "XYZ released from contract for sexual assault/arrest/unable to make bail." It's funny (kinda) when someone is late because they were caught speeding in their ancient car, and it's sad when a person leaves a show due to illness, but neither of these things belong in the report any more than an assault or an arrest.

After all of that "not doing," if I were the SM, I would sit down with the HR team, company management, and housing folks, and do a thorough review of the housing contracts and company policies governing safety, security, roommate behavior and assignments, and keys/duplicate keys.