A friend recently posted about the widespread sexual assault, harassment, and abuse in a community she belongs to.
I’ve learned over the years that not everyone seeks community, so let’s be clear on the definition. Community is this case refers to groups of people brought together by a shared passion or goal. Fan communities, for example, often physically come together for conventions. Often communities share virtual space as well: Facebook groups, message boards, blog circles, and other digital meetups.
Because the people in the community often share a passion, one that isn’t widely shared outside, these communities can quickly feel and seem intimate and familial.
I have never found a community that is actually safe, especially for women.
I went to my first goth club at 16. I’m shy by nature. I went, watched, and of course danced. I watched domestic abuse in the club, and I watched security do very little. I often saw women harassed. Men invading their personal space, touching them, following them around (or more terrifying following them back to their cars).
Over the years, I watched some of the more obvious stuff stop. Security was quicker to break up fights of any kind. Women began reporting creepers, and security at least gave the appearance of caring.
Over the years at these clubs I’ve been groped, including a man putting his hand inside my panties. I’ve been called all manner of names for turning down offers of drinks. I’ve been followed around the club, including to my car. I stopped clubbing for a few years.
After I returned, I saw many of the same things going on. But I heard a lot more about how it was a “community” and the goth kids “take care of their own.” And how “creepers and harassers were driven out.” None of these things are true. I dated a regular at the clubs. He’s a man with a history of abuse. No one said anything to me – one person told a friend of mine, but no one else. Maybe I wasn’t “one of their own?” I was sexually assaulted at a club.
I was encouraged to report his stalking behavior to the club owner. Long story short, unless I went to the police, the owner wouldn’t do anything. Even if I got a restraining order, all she would do was keep him out if I got to the club first. I told the head of security at the club. His words “I’ve heard this about him before.”
I’ve seen other abusive men in the scene. I see their victims disappear, but the men stay. I hear people in the scene shut down conversations about it with all the bullshit one expects. “There’s two sides,” “not my problem,” “he/she is always cool to me…”
I’ve watched those that stand up and complain get driven away or driven to silence.
For my part, I left. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t stand the gossip that I was a liar. I couldn’t take the doubt I heard in people’s comments.
Will I return to the clubs? Maybe. I’ve gone to a couple of events at a club run by other people. Do I think it’s safer? No, but no one there claims it’s a community that cares.
No one claims it’s a haven.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make communities safe, but I don’t know the answer. What I can do is spend my money in places that try to do better.