Keep Our Stages Safe
NO TOLERANCE SEXUAL HARASSMENT POLICIES ARE A MUST
Theatre is a place of extreme vulnerability and creative risk-taking, more so than many other industries. In order to create a safe space for the actors, it is crucial that every member of a production knows and believes that they will never be asked to engage in any level of intimate behavior without their explicit verbal consent. It is the responsibility of the theatre company to protect its members from any danger of sexual harassment or assault during this time of vulnerability with clearly-stated policies. To ensure the safety and security of all employees and volunteers, every theatre in Central Virginia must have a public, easily accessed, strict, and well enforced NO Tolerance Sexual Harassment Policy.
TRAINING AND DISPERSING INFORMATION
Every board member, employee, contractor, volunteer, etc in a position of leadership should receive training on the policy at a minimum of once a year and as changes are made to improve the policy. The sexual harassment policy and training should be mandatory for all new hires, contractors, and volunteers acting as staff or in leadership roles at the theatre.
A No Tolerance Sexual Harassment Policy should outline a clear, direct, and safe reporting process for victims of sexual harassment and should be provided to all involved at the theatre. The policy must be reviewed with the cast of every new production at the first rehearsal. If victims do not know who to report to/trust it will result in reporting to the incorrect person, delayed reporting, or no reporting.
PREVENTION THROUGH INTIMACY TRAINING AND CHOREOGRAPHY
Each theatre should treat sexual intimacy on stage the same as they would physical violence on stage, with set and specific choreography (the arrangement and planning of specific movements, steps, touches, and patterns to counts like in a dance.) Each theatre should research the progress that has been made with the “Me Too" movement and the countless resources on staging intimacy through intimacy choreography. Just as one actor cannot be “so in the moment” they actually punch another actor during a stage fight, neither can another actor “be so in the moment” they engage in intimate behavior towards another actor beyond their choreography.
Each theatre should have an intimacy choreographer for productions that have sexual intimacy. This person will explain in detail the contract of intimacy choreography and how it cannot change at any time without explicit verbal consent from both parties as well as from the director/choreographer. Each actor will be held accountable to their choreography. If a discrepancy in choreography arises, theatres can encourage actors to try to resolve conflicts of this nature with each other first, if the offended party feels safe and comfortable to do so. If not, the theatre should immediately respond with conflict resolution. Repeated failure to respect the choreography or another actor will result in immediate termination or disciplinary action as appropriate including banning from the premise depending on the severity.
Sexual harassment investigations should be handled by an outside person/committee with no relationship to either party. This person should be well versed not only in sexual harassment and assault, but also how that applies within theatre. The Investigation should be thorough, dealt with privately, swiftly, and the complaining party should be informed in writing of the outcome of the investigation.
All board members, staff, contractors, and volunteer staff in leadership positions should understand they are under direct obligation to report maleficence or suspected maleficence according to the reporting process in the policy. Any attempts to cover-up or hide maleficence will not be tolerated and will result in immediate termination. In addition, failure to report maleficence or suspected maleficence will result in immediate termination or other disciplinary action as appropriate.
Any board member, staff, contractor, and volunteer staff in leadership positions who threatens other board members, staff, contractors, and volunteers to not report sexual harassment is subject to immediate termination, demotion, or other disciplinary action as appropriate.
It is expected that all board members, staff, contractors, or volunteer staff members in leadership positions will report immediately if they have direct knowledge that another board member, staff, contractor, or volunteer has failed to report known or suspected maleficence. This will result in immediate disciplinary action.
Retaliation of any kind towards a victim or reporting witness of sexual harassment is illegal, will not be tolerated, and should be grounds for immediate termination or other disciplinary actions as appropriate. It is never acceptable to blame, shame, or belittle someone for bringing forth a claim of sexual harassment.
WHAT IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND HOW WILL VICTIMS REACT
It is strongly advised each theatre understand the difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault. Sexual assault is always sexual harassment, however sexual assault refers specifically to sexual contact that involves force upon a person without consent. This can mean rape, but is NOT exclusively limited to rape, thus why rape has its own word.
It is important for each theatre to understand that out of every 1,000 sexual assaults only 230 are reported. That means that about 3 out of 4 go unreported.*RAINN
Any HR staff handling sexual harassment investigations should be educated in the basics of why victims delay reporting or do not report at all. They should be trained in deescalating traumatic experiences and emotions. They should never shame or blame victims or witnesses reporting.
CALL TO ACTION
The policies set forth here are necessary to keep our theatre community safe and fun for all involved. We cannot avoid sexual harassment issues by simply assuming everyone will be behave professionally and act like adults. It is not safe for anyone to work or volunteer at theatre establishments without a specific and transparent sexual harassment policy in place. We expect you will develop and implement a compreshensive sexual harassment and assault policy as soon as possible.