How We Can Help
OverviewThe Safety 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 a Safety Representative, who will figure out how to address the situation. To find out who's currently on duty as Safety Rep, look on the whiteboard on the way in.
If you've got a larger issue, bring it to Safety Team by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org or filling out the Safety Report Form.
If you're uncomfortable talking to the group as a whole, or your concern deals with a Safety Team member, you can contact one of us individually:
- A. Z. Madonna <email@example.com>
- Elizabeth Timmerman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Jeff Kaufman <email@example.com>
- Lisa Keegan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
We recognize that Safety Team members and Safety Reps 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 Safety Team when appropriate.
If you have an issue where support from a trained mental health professional would be helpful, we recommend contacting The Network / La Red, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, the Rape Abuse Incest National Network, or Casa Myrna.
When we might be helpfulHere are some examples of situations where our Safety 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.
How we might be helpfulHere are some hypothetical scenarios, along with how Safety Team might respond in an effort to resolve the issue:
A dancer has a pattern of pushing others around forcefully, and people let Safety 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. Safety Team proposes to the board that we ban the dancer for six months, and the board agrees.
A dancer contacts Safety Team to report that their ex was abusive toward them, they would like to avoid being at dances with their ex, and they ask Safety Team to ban their ex. The reporter agrees that Safety Team may speak with their ex. After talking with the ex, the team meets again and decides to propose that they split the dances: one attending 1st Sunday dances and the other attending the 3rd Sunday ones. 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 Safety 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.
Safety Team gets a report by a dancer saying that another dancer has been harassing them at dances. Safety 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 decide 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 Safety 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. Safety 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 a Safety Rep sees them pushing a hug on someone who clearly doesn't want it. The Safety Rep checks with person who just got hugged, who confirms that they were trying to pull out of the hug. The Safety Rep 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.
Our ApproachWhen 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.
Supporting youWe'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 BIDA board member, Safety Team member, or Safety Rep.
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 1st Sundays, they get 3rd Sundays.
- 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 communityWhen 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 BIDA 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 BIDA. 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, Safety 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 actionsWhen 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.