English

#theshowisover

This is a call to our entire industry, in Sweden, in all countries. We have gathered many testimonies; some presented here, which show that the perpetrators exist in all positions throughout our field. From the smallest companies and individuals to the largest schools, institutions, venues, big touring companies and festivals. The patterns are the same as in the rest of society. The larger institutions have worked through policy and value-based documents with some reports leading to legal action while others have been lost in poor administration.
Abuse in the smaller companies and amongst individual perpetrators is hidden behind a facade of warmth, goodwill and with a big fat lie about how the small circumstances and bad conditions are equal to all. The student who aspires for development, the artist eager to work, professional women* who are simply doing their jobs. You can be offered help with your career or studies and instead you get abused.  And the punishment for rejecting or saying no to sexual invitations are threats, harassment, persecution and exclusion from teaching, projects and jobs.

We demand zero tolerance against sexual harassment and violence in schools and workplaces.

We demand that all in positions of power stops ignoring and reacting and instead take action.

We demand mandatory training in violence prevention, power relations and sexual harassment for all responsible staff and all teachers of all schools and institutions.

We demand compulsory education in violence prevention, power relations and sexual harassment for all students in artistic education for circus artists.

We demand to be supported. Not abandoned.
We demand to be heard. Not silenced.

#theshowisover

You, the larger schools, institutions, companies and festivals, you have failed. You have the resources and power to lead the development, take the opportunity to try again and do it right this time. Educate yourselves in why your policies and instructions are not enough. How come so few victims dare to report? How come they can feel so abandoned even when you followed protocol? Investigate yourself, and break the silencing culture. You are educating and employing many. So take the lead! Be role models and lead the way.

You, the smaller companies and independents in our industry, you have failed. We will report everything. No matter how much we like you. No matter how nice you are onstage and offstage. No matter how many jobs you are offering.  We are looking after each other from now on, not you.
Now we have shared our stories with each other. We will not protect you anymore. It’s over. The shame is yours to deal with.

And all you men who are aware, who do what you can where you are. Continue. Stand up for us. Even when there are just other men around you. Stand by us. Educate the men around you. Don’t laugh along at sexist jokes. Don’t stay silent. Don’t accept work from them. It is time for you to use your inherent privilege that you were born with as a man.

#theshowisover

”At a gig, just before going out on 15 m height, the rigger is doing a safety check on my belt. As we all know the belt is attached on the front side but for some reason he strokes my bum instead. It happened very quickly and he is the one holding my safety line, I can’t take the discussion there and then. I was not afraid, but he had no right to do so. As a rigger he is power position and he abused it.”

”I was offered a job that could pay my bills for the nearest future. I had been so worried about my finances so this job really came in the right time. I did not know the man who offered the job, only that the was much older than me and a well known face in the business. He invited me to a work meeting in his home, it all went very well and I was grateful that he had thought of me for this job. After the meeting he offered me a free massage, which is a common thing to do among circus artists, other women had told me he was good. It only took a short time on the massage bench before everything felt wrong. He came too close, he had a heavy breath and touched me in the wrong way. I got afraid, I froze. He could feel that, but continued. I told him I had to leave soon but I did not dare to stop him. I kept thinking about the locked door, that no one could see me through the closed blinds. Would he take back the offer if I told him off? Or become violent? Hurt me? Rape me? He stroked my breasts for a long time and told me how beautiful I was, what a perfect body I had. When he was done, he kissed me on my forehead and let me walk. On my way home I threw up. I felt so ashamed, so naive. I did not file a report, felt it would not lead anywhere.”

“The male artists in our show spanked me and other female colleague on our bum, sometimes when we passed them in our underwear, sometimes on stage. That went on for months. In the beginning I got upset but after a while I got used to it, it had happened to so many older colleagues before.”

”I was dating one of the most popular guys at school. Everybody loved him and we all wanted to hang with him. He was very good in his circus discipline, funny and cute. But he was very abusive against me, extremely jealous, locked me up and made me have sex with him in a way that I now would classify as rape. I finally managed to get out of the relation, I found out that the same thing had happened to another girl in the school and no one had listen to her. Everybody knew, everybody looked the other way. He was so talented. It broke my heart.”

We come from the world of circus, in the eyes of many an extraordinary world. An art form honoured as an open space where everyone can be themselves and where you, being different, is your strength. A place for hard physical exercise, sweat, joy, laughter and magic. A place for pursuit and acceptance.

We often speak about our art form as open minded, warm, human and with room for so-called ”strong-women”. In many ways that is true. But. We are, like all other sectors in society, part of the same gender hierarchy where women’s* subordination is maintained through sexual harassment and male violence. Where the subordination of women* and limited space of movement is accepted and normalised by the culture of silence, which is as common in our art form as in the rest of society.

#theshowisover

”I was a student. At a party an artist working at the big company where I sometimes worked as well raped me. I told the school and our employer, they told me to file a police report, which I did. While we were waiting for the verdict he was allowed to keep working, even if it was in another city with other people. No one was to know anything. Afterwards he was convicted and put to prison. I wanted everybody to know what had happened to me, that I had been right all the time, that this should not be silenced. I felt really bad, felt betrayed. Empty. I left my education even though it was my last year. I left the city and my whole circus life. It was no use anyway, I could not feel my body, could not be on stage and I could not train.”

”An influential man who has different positions in our field, in many different countries became frustrated because I turned down his offer to have sex with him. He claimed that ”we both” wanted it. In the end he told me that I was not welcome to his event if I did not sleep with him. I did not sleep with him. After that he stopped inviting me to important dinners, conversations, meetings that he before had included me in.”

”I doubted for a long time if my testimonial belonged here, since so much of the violence took place at home. I was a circus student, he was a teacher and this has so much to do with male positions of power in our business, and how the structure accepts violence. ”My” perpetrator wasn’t the only big name, the only ”genius” everyone knows to be violent, who still is allowed to continue working. The violence went on for long time. In the end I thought he was right, everyone adored him, he was so talented. They defended him: He’s just like that, just has a temper, that’s all. I learned that the best way was to let him have sex with my body when he wanted to, then he would let me live my life. And everyone around us would be spared drama as well. When he was drunk and at his worst I feared for my life. He dragged me, pulled my hair or my feet, down the stairs, over the tarmac, threw things at me, threatened me and then suddenly just changed, regretted everything, begging me to give him one more chance. I couldn’t tell anyone, no one at the school would have believed me. I had no chance to win over the others admiration for him and his colourful personality. When I finally left him, and he simply took off, I got messages from other circus students, my classmates, that I ruined everything for them, destroyed their chances of having him as their teacher.”

”It was a well known word, everyone knew this teacher used it. When he said it, the (female) student should walk over to him to get her bum whipped, as a punishment for doing something in the wrong way. Everyone knew, none of refused, none of us thought the school would listen to us. I was 20 back then. Maybe it’s nothing to tell. I just know that I cannot forget it and that it still feels like I’m gonna puke every time I think about it.”

The circus industry involves hard physical training and tough competition to get into our schools. To be employed as a artist you need to train at the level of an elite athlete, maintaining your condition every day in order to get the work that is offered. We train in circus halls all over the world, and usually feel like home when we enter a circus hall, in any part of the world. As performers, producers, directors, festival organisers, runners, teachers, managers, coaches, or researchers, we all know each other, no matter where in the world we are active. That is how small our industry is, we even sometimes call it ”the circus family”.

”After a while I managed to get rid of him. The following years I tried to commit suicide. I could not call what he had done to me  rape. It took me ten years to confess that. I still see him, he works with festivals, he still has very young girlfriends. My life is good now but every time I’m going through heavy emotional impact the trauma comes back. Same fear. Same thoughts on revenge.”

”On tour abroad. I am meeting up with the crew in the bar. It’s late, I’m staying over and a friend is offering me a place to sleep. I wake up terrified, they are having sex with me. I froze. Powerless.”

“My story is about sexism and how it is to be isolated as a woman in a male environment in a workplace. I got exhausted by the situation. I felt so lonely, for so long. I was ashamed. The structure made me think that I was the problem. I had become the silent one. I did my job, never got any recognition for my contribution. I left my love for the job at home. I tried to hide my sadness.”

“My teacher at the circus school had tried to sleep with me for a long time, I was an adult, but he was my teacher and even if I kept telling him off he kept on trying, flirting, he touched my body in ways he did not need to do as a teacher. I had to be very cautious in how I turned him down, he was my teacher and he wanted to be respected. Now as an older independent woman I can’t understand how I let this happened to me, but to be honest I have never felt so powerless. All I wanted was to develop as an artist in my discipline and be the best I could. I should never have had to experience this as a student.”

  “In the curtain call, when we are all taking a bow, me in my costume that is just barely covering my butt (I had not chosen it myself) and I hear from backstage, and all over the audience, the drunken director screaming “Nice ass (and then my name), such a nice ass.”

”The last tearing down after a long tour. I am carrying a heavy stage prop and my colleague/employer/director is coming up from behind, he is pushing is half erected penis against my bum, puts his hand on my hips and tell me how sexy I am and that we have such a nice relation, it had been such a nice tour, however he is pushing himself tighter against me. I try, as I always do to when things are at stake, I try to make jokes, I don’t want to create more discomfort, I don’t understand the seriousness of the situation. Maybe I invited him to this, it was a lot of physical contact and massage during the tour. He was my boss, so who should I have told.”

Many of us move across countries and professions within the art form over the years. We might obtain our education in schools in Sweden, find a job in France for three months and then head off on a tour with a UK based company in the US and at the end of the month you are employed as a teacher in Finland. As a producer, you work internationally with promoting your show/artist or the art form as a whole. The network is worldwide but close knit. We employ and are employed by each other. Roles can change quickly. You are never quite sure whom you will depend on tomorrow. That’s why this petition is signed by women* from all positions in our sector. Furthermore, as a student, performer or artist, the understanding is that your life and career lies in the hands of your rigger, the colleague who holds your safety line, the teacher who spots you when training new and difficult moves, or your partner with whom you train and perform and have invested your entire career in. You know that you need to have good relationships in order to be safe and without injuries, to be able to train tomorrow or to continue working. Some students fall dangerously time after time, because the teacher who is there to make sure they are secure, lets them fall after saying no to sex. This is an extremely vulnerable position, both mentally and physically.

#theshowisover

“He sat down with his coffee, in front row while I was warming up alone on stage, it’s always the warmest place under the stage light. He shouted how much he enjoyed his view, his personal show. The rest of the time I hid behind the chairs in the saloon and did my warm up with three extra layers of clothes instead.”

”As an artist I have been through this so many times. Last time with a well known leader for a circus company. We had a really nice contact and seemed to have an interest in each other’s work and I had showed him that I would love to work with him and his company. We met over a dinner and he promised me that I could be a part of the upcoming project. Later that evening, one of these messages that I have received so many of before, he sent me a nude selfie. I got so disappointed, did not answer. After that he stopped talking to me. And there was no work for me in his company.”

”I was selling a big show, everyone in the team was waiting for new contracts, since no one is long-term employed in the circus industry. One night, many people from different countries met in a bar after the show and I finally got in touch with one of the most influential festival directors If he would buy the show then others would have confidence to buy it too. He seemed really interested in the show and when we finally left the bar it was just him and me there, the rest of the hotel was completely silent. The exact moment I got inside my room the hotel telephone rang. I picked up. In the other end someone was jerking off and breathing heavily. I hung up. I wonder who that was… We never got to his festival.”

”I was a circus student, we worked with a director from the theatre. At a party he wanted to dance with me a lot, he pushed himself against me, turned me around and hugged me a little bit too much. He was more than double my age. The guys in my class said that he wanted to sleep with me and that I should do that, it would be good for my career. I was disgusted but also a little happy. I did not sleep with him and I have never worked with him. It makes me so angry. Why is it never enough just to be good at what you do? Why does everything have to come down to how ”fuckable” you are. It’s so humiliating and I’m so tired of this.”

#theshowisover

We demand zero tolerance against sexual harassment and violence in schools and workplaces.
We demand that all in positions of power stops ignoring and reacting and instead take action.

We demand mandatory training in violence prevention, power relations and sexual harassment for all responsible staff and all teachers of all schools and institutions.

We demand compulsory education in violence prevention, power relations and sexual harassment for all students in artistic education for circus artists.

We demand to be supported. Not abandoned.
We demand to be heard and listened to. Not silenced.

#theshowisover

We speak with one voice and we will not comment on the content of this article. Not everyone that has signed this petition has been abused but stand behind it.

* The petition concerns women, anyone who identifies as female, and non-binary people.

 

 

 

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