Today’s post is written by Nicole Perry, CAN’s latest Consent Outreach Ambassador. Nicole is based in South Florida and her unique, professional background in the dance world ties right in with our mission to clearly define consent for society and in penal codes across the US and around the world!
Nicole is an intimacy director/choreographer, dance choreographer, and movement director. She is also a director, actor, dancer, and the founder of Momentum Stage, a non-profit organization providing resources for performing artists. Her credits are listed below her post.
Here’s what she has to say…….
I believe this time of physical distancing is going to make us more aware of contact and proximity when we are able to reenter the “real world.” Because of that, being able to ask for, as well as affirm or deny consent, is going to be a really applicable skill, in a different way than before.
In the world of performing arts, where I work, consent has only recently become a topic of consideration. I am an Intimacy Director/Choreographer. I create the movement for intimate moments on stage, many of which require physical contact.
The term used for my job was created in 2004 by Tonia Sina, the founder of Intimacy Directors International. My role centers around consent. The theatre, film, and opera worlds have been adding this role to their creative teams since about 2017. Even though the #MeToo Movement thrust the need for consent into the spotlight, the concert dance world is still behind. But, as last year’s scandal at the New York City Ballet shows us, it really needs to catch up.
Agreeing under pressure
Being a performer conditions us to say “yes”, even if we don’t really mean it. The myth of the Hard to Work with Actor, conveys that when the performer does not say “yes” to everything asked of them, they’ll be labelled “hard to work with,” “difficult,” or “a diva,” and will find it very challenging to get work in the future. “Yes, and…” is encouraged as the only response when conducting improv work.
In dance, a teacher models the combination, and students work to look as much like the teacher as possible. Dance pedagogy, while being very teacher-centric and allowing only one voice of power in the room, is also very touch-centric. It allows the person in power to have “at will” access to the bodies of those not in power. This creates quite the paradox:
While dancers are working to have complete control over their bodies, they are also expected to immediately surrender that control to the teacher or choreographer.
The power-differential effect
Beyond a dancer’s conditioning to say “yes”, we are also conditioned to see and respect power. The performing arts are incredibly hierarchical. The director is in charge of the actors, but answers to an artistic director and/or producers. Among the actors there are leads as well as supporting, and ensemble company members. In dance, the choreographer is in charge of the piece, but the artistic director is in charge of the company.
There are the corps or company members, but there are also soloists who rank higher up the ladder because of their opportunities, physical capabilities, and often – their paychecks. These power dynamics are part of a performer’s culture from the very first show they are in; which for many is at a very young age. All of this reinforces “yes” as the only option.
In my work, as an Intimacy Director/Choreographer, I tell everyone that the work is based on CONSENT, and “consent” is truly only “consent” if “no” is a valid answer. I assure the directors that I can make a story work and fit their artistic vision, while still respecting a performer’s boundaries. I try to ask open-ended questions to my performers, with no implied “yes,” such as, “Does it work for you if so-and-so puts her hand in such-and-such place?” or, “How do you feel about so-and-so placing her hand in such-and-such place?” in order to encourage them to answer honestly.
We are very pleased to be partnering with CAN to promote Consent Culture in the Performing Arts.
Today is a very special day. Today, we wear the color teal because it’s the day we devote to taking action to prevent sexual assault. And even though we’ve all been put on pause, there is still much we can do to bring the scourge of sexual assault to its knees!
Many of us will soon be thanking God for our ability to check into a hospital. We’ll be counting on the help of courageous, medical front-liners, who put themselves at risk to heal us from COVID-19.
As we approach the reception desk for intake, we won’t give a second thought to signing the CONSENT form that hospitals require. We’ll happily jot down our signature and scribble our initials where required. Some of us won’t even bother reading the form. Even less will contemplate the horrific travesty and social injustice Continue reading What can COVID-19 teach us about CONSENT?→
Friday- 3/20- According to the Associated Press- Toledo plastic surgeon, Manish Gupta, who also practiced in Michigan, was indicted for sex trafficking 20 female victims by force, fraud or coercion, and one count of illegally distributing a controlled substance. His case made front page news with the News-Herald, the Detroit Free Press, and the Sentinel Tribune. And 24News WNWO covered the story.
Can our first “CAN” College Chapter, Consent Awareness Network, be in the offing at Wagner College?
Yesterday, through the efforts of Wagner College Professor Patricia Moynagh, I had the honor of speaking to a group of intelligent, enthusiastic, Wagner students and faculty. Aided by my Swiss cheese umbrella, I explained the failure of a justice system fraught with legal loopholes, and why society needs our legislators to #CodifyConsent.
Their questions ran the gamut from “How does drunkenness impact fault?” to “Does tacit consent count: can consent be inferred without it being vocalized?”
Wagner is an educational gem perched at the highest geographic level of NY City. Its lofty location delivers an uplifting view of New York Harbor, the magnificent skyline of Manhattan, and the Statue of Liberty.
Lady Liberty provides a noble reminder of the freedoms we all deserve here in the US, including freedom from harm and justice for all. What a magnificent backdrop from which to launch a transformational change to protect every student’s sexual sanctity and provide justice for survivors!
Here’s how you can make a difference…..
If you are a student, faculty member, part of administration, or have another educational affiliation at any school, contact me to start a CAN chapter. Your mission could include fighting for appropriate sexual assault laws, appropriate regulations for your school’s Code of Conduct, and building a base of advocates to assist sexual assault victims so they do not have to navigate the system on their own.
At last! Rapist Harvey Weinstein has been handcuffed and remanded into custody. He will no longer hobble down the steps of 100 Centre Street, pandering for sympathy, as he departs the courtroom. He’s in custody awaiting sentencing on March 11th.
Although his attorneys are likely to attempt to secure his release pending appeal, they are unlikely to prevail.
Will Weinstein’s conviction change anything?
His New York based attorney, Arthur Aidala, made several important statements to New York One reporter, Dean Meminger, just steps from the courthouse after the verdict. “If his name was Harvey Jones, he would not have been charged.”
Unfortunately, Aidala is absolutely correct… but not for the reasons he suspects…..
This case received tremendous attention by the press because of Weinstein’s notoriety and because his victims were celebrities. Far from his treatment being unfair because he was singled out, it shows the failure of the system to deal with sexual assault when the victims lack private attorneys like Gloria Allred to represent their interests and are “unknowns” with no press reach or clout.
Aidala also commented that Weinstein reacted, “I didn’t force anyone. I didn’t have to force anyone,” as if “force”is the only weapon in a rapist’s arsenal. Aidala needs a lesson on “consent” and needs to grasp that “consent” is FREELY GIVEN, KNOWLEDGEABLE AND INFORMED AGREEMENT. #FGKIA!
Force, coercion and deception cannot be used to influence agreement in sexual conduct. Weinstein was not only convicted of forcible rape, but also of third degree rape which, in New York, does not depend on “force.” The “absence of consent” results when a sexual predator uses the threat of harm, including destruction of someone’s career, to influence their agreement.
Although Weinstein’s defense team argued that the victims continued their relationships with him after the events in question, they failed to recognize that Weinstein’s control over their careers motivated their continued involvement with him.
Gloria Allred spoke out
Allred addressed reporters subsequent to the verdict. Her client list of “silence breakers,” women who came forward with complaints against Weinstein, includes Mimi Hailey, the victim of Criminal Sexual Assault in this case.
Allred applauded the women who “sacrificed their privacy in the interest of justice,” and called them “role models in courage.”
Allred could make a tremendous contribution to society by recognizing that most victims could only dream of enlisting her aid. There will be no grand movements like #MeToo to focus on their individual struggles. Her greatest accomplishment could be helping to define the meaning of consent in our laws because the masses need to rely on the justice system to do the right thing. Without the meaning of consent defined by law, their dream of justice is a horrific and demoralizing nightmare.
The news coverage on the Weinstein case fails to acknowledge the importance of defining consent in our laws. Society desperately needs this information! Doing so is the critical key to conquering sexual assault. If the Weinstein case has shown us anything, it is how poorly CONSENT is understood by society and our laws. We need this to change!!
Judge James Burke charged Harvey Weinstein’s jury today.
Shortly after deliberations began, the jurors sent a number of questions to the judge. Their list included, “What’s the legal definition for consent?”
The Cosby jurors asked the same question of Judge Steven O’Neill. He responded, “You’re reasonable people; use your common sense.”
So what did Burke say?
……………………. “Use your common sense,”
Because neither NY nor PA define consent in their laws, the judges’ responses were typical. And Weinstein’s lead attorney, Donna Rotunno, didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that this question was coming.
She attempted a preemptive strike in her summation. She told the jury to “use their common sense,” to persuade them that doing so would be cause for acquittal when and if Judge Burke responded the same way.
The Consent Awareness Network (CAN) is fighting to define consent in our laws so that a clear definition guides jurors, guides society’s behavior, and holds sexual predators accountable. Leaving “consent” up to the “common sense” of sexual predators will never conquer sexual assault!
We got lucky in the Cosby case!
The foreperson for the jury, Cheryl Carmel, was a cyber security expert. She was very familiar with the definition for consent in General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is international law and defines consent.
The GDPR definition is the same as the definition I introduced in my TEDx Talk: “Freely Given, Knowledgeable and Informed Agreement, #FGKIA.” Coincidentally, GDPR went into effect in May of 2018. My TEDx Talk was presented in May of 2018.
We need to pray that Weinstein’s jury has researched the meaning of consent.
They could find the consent provision in Model Penal Code, or the definitions in Nuremberg Code, GDPR, and my TEDx Talk. Without the actual definition for consent, a jury’s ability to convict is seriously hampered.
Forcing or coercing a victim is not consent because consent must be freely given, knowledgeable and informed. The use of force, threat, (such as negatively impacting a person’s career or livelihood), and trickery, are absolutely not consent.
Without clearly stating the definition for consent in our laws, locking up sexual predators is a crap-shoot. Some juries will be aware. Some will not. Let’s hope this jury is aware.
But don’t despair if they’re not aware……
I’m crossing every finger and toe…. and sending countless prayers up to the heavens….. that Weinstein gets convicted. But without a clear definition for consent and defense council insisting that he had consent…. he may not. And we need to be prepared.
In NY, coercion is a crime in and of itself. If this case ends with a hung jury, the prosecutor’s next attempt should additionally indict Weinstein for coercion. Coercion for sexual contact is a Class E Felony. and it is specific that coercion includes making someone fearful about their career or income. The sentence for Class E Felonies is 2 to 5 years. If there are multiple victims, the sentences do not have to run concurrently. The statute of limitations is 5 years. However, if he is acquitted, double jeopardy would apply unless new complainants step forward with cases that occurred within the past five years.
The unthinkable is likely
Unfortunately, even though I’m totally convinced that Weinstein did everything he was accused of, I don’t think the case presented by the ADA, without a clear definition for consent, is strong enough to convict him. For that reason, I’m hoping that at least there will be a hung jury, which would give the ADA an opportunity to enlighten the next jury about coercion and acquiescence and bring coercion charges against him.
Important considerations for the jury
Some of the current Weinstein jurors could understand consent while others may not. Some could grasp that a victim who suffered the grotesque humiliation of defilement would not want to add the added loss of their career to their suffering by going public or reporting the incident to the police. After the fact, coming forward against a man who their industry revered, and risk being blackballed, would be an imposing obstacle.
Weinstein picked most of his victims because of their career interests. He knew how much they could lose by accusing him of his hideous deeds. They might never have worked in their craft again. They would not only have suffered the harm of defilement, but the exponential loss of their dreams.
Society and sexual assault victims deserve better!
A not guilty verdict would not be a testament to his innocence. Rather, it would be a testament to society’s confusion about consent. If he’s convicted, it’s because at least this jury got it right. But what about the next one?
Just before 1 PM today, Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi had the last word on locking up accused rapist and sexual predator, Harvey Weinstein. Her three hour summation was an effort to focus the jury on the important facts. She painted a picture of Weinstein as a sexual predator, not a victim of the #MeToo movement, as Donna Rotunno, his lead attorney, had claimed.
Rotunno’s summation, which took place Thursday, accused the prosecutor of creating a fictional universe in which women were stripped of “common sense, autonomy and responsibility.” She totally ignored the impacts of coercion and force.
Ironically, as my “court buddy” Adjunct Law Professor Jim Petzke of John Jay College of Criminal Justice pointed out, her summation plagiarized Atticus Finch’s closing from “To Kill a Mockingbird,” while she reamed Illuzzi for creating “theater.”
As Rotunno marched down the corridor toward the courtroom this morning, the press strained to get her comments.
“How do you think it went?” one shouted.
It went great,” she responded.
“Yeah, great if you’re Atticus Finch,” I quipped.
In the press conference that followed today’s hearing, Rotunno took another run at casting Weinstein’s sexual conduct as “consensual.” She based her entire argument on what happened after, not during, his sexual contact.
Previously, Illuzzi had produced compelling testimony from highly regarded forensic psychologist Dr. Barbara Zif. She pointed out common rape myths about how people behave when they’ve been raped. She included that it was common for victims to continue relationships with the accused. Let’s hope the jury was listening!
The jury will receive their marching orders from Judge James Burke on Tuesday morning after the long, holiday weekend. For sure, the jury will ask what consent means. His response could make or break this case.
Illuzzi mentioned Weinstein’s use of “trickery” in her closing. She claimed the victims were tricked by “luring.” Luring is neither a fraud in the factum nor a fraud in the inducement. It’s not a “fraud in fact” that would make sexual contact a crime. Luring his victims got him, or them, through the door. Coercing vitiated their consent.
Coercion is a crime. And Weinstein continuously used coercion to induce sexual contact. Coercion is the threat of harm. In fact, threatening someone regarding their career is considered a crime in New York, even without sexual contact. It’s a class A misdemeanor.
Coercing someone for sex is a Class E Felony punishable by 2-5 years of incarceration. Yet the prosecutor did not identify coercion as the weapon that Weinstein used to demand sex. Nor did she prosecute for the crime of 2nd degree coercion.
Friday, 2/7/2020- In an effort to impugn the memories of terror and outrageous attack, sworn to by Harvey Weinstein’s victims, his defense trotted out a highly established expert on memory and cognitive perception. Distinguished UC Irvine Professor and Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, testified to how memory can become “distorted.”
Even before her testimony began, a battle ensued between the defense and prosecution without the presence of the jury. Judge James Burke set ground rules for the testimony he’d allow. The concept of “gist memory” and specifics of memory related directly to the sexual assault of victims in this case were ruled off limits.
Loftus supplied the typical perceptions of memory fading with time. The prosecution reminded the jury that Loftus was not a medical doctor. In fact, when shown a diagram of brain sectors, she declined knowledge of how memory was stored, and the diagram was removed.
Countless times, she used the word “can,” not “shall,” or “will,” to describe possible impacts of Post Event Information (PEI) . She could not supply data on the likelihood of memory becoming tainted by any specific circumstance except the use of Valium. Her statement drew Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Osborn’s intense ire.
While “expert witness” testimony was allowed in order to provide overall knowledge of how memory works, inclusion of “Valium” seemed coached and specific to a victim who had testified. Loftus acknowledged she was aware of the use of Valium by one of the victims and that she shaped her remark because of that knowledge. She also readily admitted she was being paid $600 per hour for her expert testimony.
When Loftus referred to military testing on soldiers who were being trained to endure the harshness of captivity, and how the researchers conducting the experiment were able to distort their memories, Illuzi-Osborn was able to secure her admission that these subjects knew their lives and their safety were not actually in eminent danger. She pointed to the difference between real trauma and staged events in which the actual danger did not exist.
Ultimately, Loftus had to admit that core memory for trauma could be stronger than for other types of non-traumatic events.
If weighed on the scales of courtroom justice, it seemed that the prosecution made the stronger argument.
I was honored to be a speaker at this year’s Women’s March NYC, and was overwhelmed by the audience support for the Consent Accountability Rhyme.
Anyone, at any age, can learn and understand what “consent” means. This poem makes the definition for consent crystal clear. It is part of the Your Consent for Kids YouTube cartoon that every parent should watch with their children to grow a Consent Aware generation! As well, sex education classes can include it in their programs. It’s free!
We’ve had Generation X, Y and Z. Let’s create Generation “Consent Aware” for our developing kids!
Consent Accountability Rhyme
The words, “You Can,” mean “I consent.”
You say so with your voice.
But it’s not consent when you’re forced, or tricked,
Burdened by helplessness, hopelessness and defilement, scores of #MeToo sufferers exposed offenders who destroyed their lives. Their efforts were aimed at restoring their self-worth and protecting others. But they were hit with the ultimate wallop…… an offender who manipulates the justice system to drown them in a whirlpool of defamation and cyber-stalking charges, destroying the little bit of equilibrium they have left. Continue reading How to Prevent Your #MeToo Truth from Drowning You→
The American Bar Association (ABA) recently attempted to provide recommended wording for “consent” in order to get the states and territories across the US on the same page. You’d think I’d be jumping for joy, but unfortunately, I’m not. And the reason is not because their attempt failed, but because their attempt so woefully missed the mark!
September 18, NY- Flanked by a jubilant Mira Sorvino and Julianne Moore of #TimesUp, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo signed extensions to the statute of limitations for reporting rape crimes throughout NY State. First degree rape victims have no statute of limitations. Second and third degree rape victims will have 20 and 10 years respectively.
Mira Sorvino made a heartfelt statement thanking the Governor but overlooking the most obvious and transformative change that’s still needed to actually conquer sexual assault….. enacting the correct definition for #Consent into the laws of New York: “Freely Given, Knowledgeable and Informed Agreement, #FGKIA!” Continue reading Cuomo & #TimesUp Extend Limitations on Rape Cases→
In the US, states often attempt to define the word “consent” by what it’s not instead of what it is. And our system of justice ironically changes “consent” depending on what you’re consenting to.
Regardless what antiquated, inaccurate penal code tells you, whether consent is applied to cyber security, theft, medical treatment, research experiments, sexual assault, etc., consent is always the same….. #FGKIA, Freely Given, Knowledgeable and Informed Agreement.
In contrast to last year’s Hay Festival… the annual literature and arts festival conducted each year in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, comedian Jo Brand gave rousing support to the #MeToo movement. As reported by The Guardian, she stated: “I feel it is something we need to keep pushing at. It was going in the right direction until certain people said, ‘Oh they’ve had their say, can they not be quiet now?’” She blamed most of Continue reading Hay Festival- What a difference a year makes for #MeToo!→