50. 8/13 From Anna Stewart, Stage Right! Stage Manager
Updated: Aug 21, 2021
We were asked to share this statement by Stage Right Stage Manager, Anna Stewart. She submitted this story asked that it be published on our website.
I’ve been debating this. Re-writing it. Anxious and sick to my stomach about posting it. But I want to share my survivor story too. This is not to negate anybody’s personal trauma or story. I will be sharing this with both the “supporters” and the “survivors” websites. I hope that my story will be allowed to be told as a both survivor and a supporter and possibly bring some hope to this situation.
TW: rape, abuse
This is a hard story to tell, but it’s one about light at the end of darkness. It’s about how Stage Right helped me survive. When I was 15 I was repeatedly and brutally raped by my boyfriend at the time (18). We were both active students at the studio, and no one had a clue. Not my mom, not my sister, not my best friend. When he left for college, the artistic director, who has always been a second (or only) father to me, could tell that something was wrong. He tried to help me through it personally, but I wasn’t ready to share. I was ashamed because I didn’t yet realize that what had happened to me was assault, and I honestly still believed I had done something wrong, when really I was being repeatedly abused and gaslit by this man as a minor.
The artistic director eventually suggested that I use my senior year auto-drama as a way to work through the break up..to tell my side of the story. Through theatre I was able to finally share my truth. It was my only outlet for a story that hurt me so much to verbalize, all I could do was show it- my story about survival. It was the first time my best friend had heard the truth, that my sister had heard the truth, and that the artistic director had heard the truth. It was freeing and exhausting and gave me some closure that I hadn’t even realized I needed. Since I had already turned 18 at the time, the artistic director was not legally mandated to report this man for what he did to me years prior. It was my choice what I wanted to do after my disclosure. Still, I was urged to go to the authorities, but at that time I hadn’t even told my mom. I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone else knowing yet. Instead, with my permission, the artistic director confided in his wife and they banned this man from the studio. If he showed up at events, shows, or the studio itself he was removed from the premises. They kept me (and other possible victims) safe however they could, even when I wasn’t around. Many of you may know the man that hurt me. Some of you might still have contact with him. Some might not even believe my story. He is a different person now. A different sexuality than he presented at the time, he lives in a different part of the world, but what he did to me remains the same and will always be something that I am working toward healing. I have refrained from directly calling him out for years based on shame, fear of retribution, and honestly a need to keep my personal life private.
As a survivor of horrific abuse, I feel a sort of kinship with those coming forward to share their truth. I encourage those who truly suffer from PTSD or stories they’ve been scared to share to find their safe space and heal. The good does not negate the bad, there are apologies to be made and things to own up to. There are also things that have been addressed by the board, policies put into place, and actions taken by the board that might not be apparent to an outsider. I do not post this story with the hope of receiving sympathy or to use some sort of emotional power over the situation. I always, ALWAYS say that just because someone had it “worse” than you, does not mean that your worst day doesn’t count. A 10 on the pain scale is a 10 to you, even if it’s a 4 for someone else.
However, I do believe there are checks and balances that are not being properly implemented in this situation. I personally do not think it’s okay for adult men to be filtering these stories and releasing them anonymously to the world. I think that encouraging stories centered around an 18 year old girl, and waiting until that child’s 18th birthday to launch a smear campaign is wrong and damaging. I was both a bully and a receiver of bullying when I was in high school. I’m sure that the same can be said for every person who has called out or has been called out on the survivor page. How does continuing that cycle foster change or create more love and acceptance? How can a licensed therapist in good faith continue to post anonymous stories calling teenagers hurtful names?
I’ve been advised to remain silent on this entire Stage Right matter.
My friends and coworkers have been cut off from me. My job is at stake because of false claims made against me. Claims that have been investigated (months ago) and were ruled to be unfounded based on my AND the supposed victim’s testimony. My future as an educator is on the line right as I cross the halfway mark in my masters program, all due to a group of grown ups who not too long ago looked me in the face and told me how happy they were to have me in their children’s lives. Please, I urge you. If I ever did anything to harm your child- come speak to me directly. If I caused you personal harm or emotional distress when we were students together, please don’t believe I’m the same person I was 10 years ago and please reach out if you need closure or an apology or to talk. Send me a message. Call me, you literally all have my cell phone number. Please don’t block me on social media and then demand accountability when you won’t give me a chance to speak. I have never, not once, been personally reached out to. I’ve never been asked my side of the story. I’m not saying anyone should get a free pass when it comes to matters of alleged abuse. I’m speaking for me, and only me, after a ton of deliberation and questioning on my own behalf. But, if you say you want Stage Right to continue. If you want to make things right? Let’s do that together.