During Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court in the fall, many people spoke up for sexual assault survivors. They said that we must believe them. But far too many of those same folks react differently when it concerns a local sexual assault, and this happens in communities all over the nation.
I will give you a personal example. I reached out to almost 50 theater companies in my local area about my concerns about a particular actor and his connection to a sexual assault that almost killed me one night. (Note: I don’t live in the Kansas City area.) The response I’ve received has been underwhelming.
I’m truly grateful that most of those who have responded have been supportive and have wanted to hear my concerns. However, only eight of those theater organizations contacted me.
The actor in question sent me a letter of intimidation to try to silence me from speaking out about the sexual assault. Even worse, this actor is married to one of the three perpetrators in the assault.
I’ve been fortunate to have a great group of First Amendment lawyers get involved and work to try to stop this actor from any further attempts to threaten or harass me into silence.
I don’t just need the lawyers, though. I also need those actors and the theater people to stand with me.
This is not Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, or Bill Cosby I’m talking about. The actor is known only in my part of the world. But it should not matter. The #meToo movement is not just about famous people. It is about each human being. And it is about taking back our lives where we live and work.
I’ve reviewed social media posts and pictures from dozens of our area’s actors and theater directors. They are filled with the rallying cries and symbols of the #meToo movement. This advocacy effort made itself heard when Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of attacking her while they were in high school. She testified about her experience in Kavanaugh’s September confirmation hearing in Washington for the Supreme Court.
But I’m not getting the same outpouring of love, hope, and support from the theater community here.
Some people in this tight-knit community have told me that it makes them uncomfortable to get involved. Good. I hope my concerns about this local actor make many individuals uncomfortable. That’s how we know we’re making change.
Theater is about the freedom of expression. And this actor is trying to censor me and my ability to tell my story. He is trying to take away that freedom of expression, just as many celebrities did to the people that they sexually assaulted.
Theater shares important stories like Angels in America and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? despite the controversies and censorship efforts when they premiered.
If the artistic community in my city largely stands by and does nothing while one of its own tries to prevent a sexual assault survivor from speaking out and sharing his story, then I ask: What freedom of expression do we really have?
It’s easy to be brave from a distance. This isn’t just about Washington, New York, or Los Angeles. We can’t stop at mere words from several months ago and hundreds of miles away. What will you do when all of this comes to your Kansas City neighborhood? And it likely already has.
Remember the powerful and chilling ending of the well-known poem called “First They Came for the Socialists,” which is about the Holocaust: Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.
It’s a slippery slope for my community’s acting and theatre community to ignore the dangerous actions of this actor. At some point, “they” may come to try to take away your freedom of expression, too.
Believe your local Kansas City survivors. Stand up for them. Our communities’ collective health and well-being depend on it.
This healthy article about standing up and speaking out is brought to you by Ron Blake. He can be reached at [email protected].