JERKS: Come to Seacoast Contra Dance ready to be awesome and respectful to everyone. If someone complains to an organizer that someone else is being a jerk, one of our organizers will talk to that person about it. We reserve the right to ban jerks from our dance for being jerks.
WANT TO TALK?
You get to choose how you dance. You don’t have to feel uncomfortable. You can speak up. We encourage you to do it. Here are a few of the ways to reach out:
1) Email, call or text a Seacoast Contra board member
2) Talk to a Seacoast Contra board member or dance manager at a dance
If you need anything, if you have concerns, if you feel uncomfortable — talk to us. We’ll listen and take you seriously.
How We Can Help
The organizing team is here for you: If someone or something is bothering you, we want to help. Here’s what we can do:
- If something needs dealing with right away at a dance, talk to an Organizer, who will figure out how to address the situation. To find out what organizers are currently on duty, ask anyone to point us out.
- If you’ve got a larger issue, bring it to Organizing Team by writing to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you’re uncomfortable talking to the group as a whole, or your concern deals with a Organizing Team member, you can contact one of us individually:
Roy – email@example.com
Patricia – firstname.lastname@example.org
Kent – Oklawrence@juno.com
Deanna – email@example.com
We recognize that Organizing Team members are community members, and are friends with dancers throughout the contra dance community. If you find yourself discussing a safety issue informally with any of us, please make it clear whether or not you expect us to address the issue formally. That way, we can make sure your concerns stay confidential, are handled in ways you feel comfortable with, and are communicated to the rest of Organizing Team when appropriate.
If you have an issue where support from a trained mental health professional would be helpful, we recommend contacting New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse the Rape Abuse Incest National Network or PFLAG New Hampshire
When we might be helpful
Here are some examples of situations where our Organizing Team might be able to help:
- You notice someone keeps staring at you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Your partner keeps holding your wrist too hard and pushing you into flourishes you don’t want.
- Someone keeps asking you to dance after you’ve told them to stop asking.
- Someone dips their partner, whose feet come dangerously close to your head.
- Someone has abused you, physically, verbally, or emotionally, and you’re worried they might be dangerous to you or other dancers.
In any of these situations it would be reasonable to either bring it up with the dancer yourself or come talk to us. People may not be aware that what they’re doing is harmful, and getting feedback from other dancers can help, but if you don’t feel ok talking to them, or you’ve tried and they haven’t listened, that’s what we’re here for.
How we might be helpful
Here are some hypothetical scenarios, along with how the Organizing Team might respond in an effort to resolve the issue:
- A dancer has a pattern of pushing others around forcefully, and people let the Organizing Team know that they’ve been hurt. The team talks, and decides to talk to the offender, ask them to be more gentle, and let them know we’re considering banning them if they don’t shape up. Despite the warnings, they continue injuring the people around them. The Organizing Team proposes to the board that we ban the dancer for six months, and the board agrees.
- A dancer contacts the Organizing Team to report that their ex was abusive toward them, they would like to avoid being at dances with their ex, and they ask the Organizing Team to ban their ex. The reporter agrees that the Organizing Team may speak with their ex. After talking with the ex, the team meets again and decides to propose that they split the dances: each attending every other month (opposite months). A member of the team talks to both individually to discuss the proposal. The ex denies being abusive, and they both assert that they shouldn’t have to give up attending half the dances, but the Organizing Team stands by the proposal: as long the two of them are looking for a solution through us, this is the most we can offer.
- The Organizing Team gets a report by a dancer saying that another dancer has been harassing them at dances. The Organizing Team talks with the reporter, and the reporter isn’t willing to share any more details, have their name disclosed, or let the team talk to the offender to get their view. We decided to keep an eye on the offender, watching for negative interactions. We don’t see any, but keep a note in case future issues come up.
- Someone keeps hitting on people at awkward times, like asking people out while passing them in line, making lots of other dancers uncomfortable. Some of these dancers let the Organizing Team know, and we have a talk with the offender. After the offender gets a better understanding of how they had been making other dancers feel they change their behavior.
- A dancer reports a problem where someone keeps touching them in unwanted ways: holding them too close in swings, “missing” their hand on courtesy turns, and trying to hug them after dances. The Organizing Team meets with the offender, describes the reported behavior, and makes clear that this behavior is making the other dancer uncomfortable and that it needs to stop. At the next dance an Organizer sees them pushing a hug on someone who clearly doesn’t want it. The Organizer checks with person who just got hugged, who confirms that they were trying to pull out of the hug. The Organizer asks the offender to leave immediately. Before the next dance the board meets and agrees to ban the offender.
Real situations, however, are more nuanced than can be conveyed in short paragraphs. These examples are intended as just that, examples, and we approach each situation individually.
While we hope situations like the ones above don’t come up at our dances, we want you to know that we’re here for you if they do.
When you bring a report to us, we have two main goals:
- Support you: Find out what you’re looking for from us, and determine how we can help.
- Protect the community: Figure out whether the person who harmed you is likely to harm others, and if so, figure out how to prevent or mitigate that harm.
We’ll start by listening to what you want to tell us. This can be over text, a call, or in person. You’re welcome to include a friend for support, as long as they’re not a Seacoast Contra Dance Organizing Team member.
Our default assumption with anything you tell us is that it’s confidential and for our information only. The exception to this is if you tell us about plans to harm yourself or someone else, in which case we may need to bring in others.
If we think that it would be helpful for us to get more context by talking to other people, we’ll ask your permission first.
We’ll ask what you’re looking for from us, and can describe some things that have been useful to others in the past. Often people who come to us are looking for a way to avoid a person who hurt them. Some sort of splitting dances can be helpful, which could mean splitting by:
- Day: You get odd months to dance, they get even months to dance.
- Time: You get until intermission, they get after intermission.
- Space: You get the set by the windows, they get the set by the doors.
If what you’re looking for is something we’re able to do, we’ll work with you on the details of any proposal before going further with it.
Protecting the community
When you bring a concern to us, we’ll also consider whether this person might be a danger to others. We’ll want to speak to them and hear their perspective. We’ll also look for evidence of serious misconduct or long-running patterns of harmful behavior at Seacoast Contra or elsewhere. Your safety still comes first, however, and we won’t do anything that might risk your confidentiality without checking with you.
If we find this sort of behavior, there are a range of actions we could take, up to and including banning someone from Seacoast Contra. A number of these potential actions are described in the examples above. In the case of people in organizational roles, such as board members, callers, musicians, sound people, Organizing Team members, etc, we may ask someone to step down even if their behavior wouldn’t warrant a ban.
Protecting the community, however, doesn’t happen only through removing people who harm others. Part of our role is helping community members learn how to act in ways that support the community and help everyone feel comfortable. A major way we do this is by giving people feedback and holding them accountable.
Interpreting our actions
When we propose a split, ban someone, or take another action, this is not a punishment. We’re trying to find ways to avoid future harm, not making up for past harm.
Similarly, if a dancer is affected by a split, it does not necessarily mean they’ve done anything wrong.
We make decisions based on the best information we have, and when new information comes to light we may revisit past decisions. As humans, especially as part-time volunteer humans, we may make mistakes. If you feel that we have made a mistake, please let us know so we can reconsider.