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July 10, 2014

Sexual Harassment and Belly Dance…How to Handle This Dark Reality

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Since belly dancing for special events such as weddings and Birthday parties in Orlando, FL for the past 7 years, there have been a couple sad “moments” where I have been sexually harassed by clients and most recently a vendor!

What do You Mean Sexual Harassment?

sexual-harrassment-in-belly-dance.jpgSexual Harassment involves an unwanted sexual advance or obscene remarks. Now before any one automatically says “oh she asked for it”, let me clearly state I am not one of “those” types of dancers. I have always been professional and respectful when belly dancing for the public when working restaurants or shows and by respecting myself and being elegant, it wins the respect of audiences and clients in my opinion.

Anyways, no one should EVER lay a hand on a dancer unless it is a high five, hug, to tip her in the designated spots she allows, or to line dance, period. The three occasions I can remember being violated were:

1. I was dancing with a woman at a restaurant and out of nowhere she grabbed my bra cup (boob area). Because she was a woman she thought this was harmless and funny. I looked at her, told her that was unacceptable and left. The managers were stumped on what to do (part of the reason why I eventually left that venue) so I ignored her table the rest of the night.

Lesson 1 for Audience: No matter what your sexual orientation, you DO NOT grab a dancer, ever! Let me be clear if I wasn’t already. It is not funny at all, and not ok even if it is woman to woman, ever! So disrespectful!

2. I was dancing with a few elderly men at another restaurant, we were having a great time and they seemed sweet and harmless like most of the elderly clients I have had the pleasure of dancing with over the years. All of a sudden as I was doing a slow turn I feel a pinch on my glute area. Really? I MARCHED to the d.j. and manager that night and told them to kick the entire table out, and they did.

Lesson 2: Age is deceiving. No matter how old or young a client may be, never be too comfortable in the notion that it makes them “harmless” if they are in their golden years.

3. Very recently I was working with a D.J. at an event and my clients designated body guard for me (yes my clients are that awesome) was already warning me upon arrival that she was annoyed with the D.J. as he was drinking and seemed tipsy! Of course I said “no problem “and had her pass my cd along to the D.J. to be safe.

The show went amazingly and at the end everyone had picture time as usual with my 30 minute package. Well… as I was going to leave the party, the D.J. interrupts his conversation with one of the guests and asks me if we could take a selfie picture together.  Of course I said yes as people ask for this all the time.

 The guest took a step aside and I went next to the D.J. The D.J. extends his hand out with the camera to take the selfie and right after the flash I feel a major butt squeeze. I look at the D.J. and said “excuse me that was not ok”. The guest I assume did not see this happen, as before I could unleash the latina FIRE in me the guest began asking me if he can book me for a future event. I tell the guest to give me a moment as I need to find my client and explain a little something to her and get my business card for him (my excuse to leave).

I couldn ‘t find my client so I went straight to my body guard who was looking for me and explained to her what happened.

Lesson 3: Never let your guard down with another “event professional”. This D.J. was drinking on the job and the client later tells me he became drunk and after further hearing my account will make sure he is never hired again where they live.  Event professional or not, never let your guard down belly dancers. Who would have thought the D.J. would be getting drunk at the event!

Always Be Make Yourself Respected!

Let this be a lesson that should you ever be sexually harassed, never let it go unheard and unaccounted for. Ensure restaurant owners promptly kick the party out. It doesn’t matter if it is their best table or client, the right thing is for the manager to respect and trust you enough to know that is not to be tolerated and kick them out. If not, you should not work there, period.

If at an event, make sure the situation is handled by telling the event organizer first who at the end of the night will tell the client and the “event professional” can be penalized in pay, then given a 1,2,3, verbally and told he/she will not be hired anywhere by anyone they know again.

Shocking:

Even with keeping my distance, using elbow frame techniques when dancing with clients and etc…you just cannot let your guard down for one second. Instances of sexual harassment have occurred to too many a dancer, and I am so sorry for anyone who has gone through it, and for the husband/boyfriends, who have to deal with their distressed partners after the fact. They support us so much, but stuff like this makes our partners feel uneasy when we leave to perform and do our craft every night.

It should never be that way. I perform for huge events full of families and women and children, so it’s shocking when something like this happens. Take care, and to learn more about me and my views on performing visit my “About This Belly Dancer in Orlando” Page.

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