Updated: Aug 14
Given the graphic nature of the language in story 70 and our decision to redact the language, we wanted to share a bit about our thought processes as we published and then edited that story. It is important to say that the redactions should not be seen as a retraction. The decision to eliminate the most explicit language was made solely because of our fear of minors accessing explicit content. Our original decision to publish the story intact was because of our commitment to respecting the integrity of the survivor’s story, and our later decision to redact was to protect children. We stand by them both.
We are completely uninterested in what consenting adults do in privacy. This isn't about approving or disapproving of sexual behaviors. It is concerning to us, though, that one of the participants was a former student and was also the employee of the two other participants. While all 3 participants were consenting adults, the significant power differential between former student/current employee and teacher/boss is an important part of the story and the overall pattern of behavior at Stage Right!
Regarding the explicitness of the language, our policy has always been to allow the people who share stories to speak as openly and with whatever language they choose. Uncomfortable language can be important because there are things worth feeling uncomfortable about. Victims of abuse have had their voices silenced, and we do not want to be complicit in silencing their voices. That is why we originally decided to post the story with its original language. Ultimately, however, after hearing the feedback we have received and also spending the day with our discomfort, we did decide to make very minor changes that keep the story intact but make it less explicit.
It is also important to note that this story is not an isolated incident and that the photos were very publicly available on any internet-enabled device. While the story is shocking in its detail, the overall nature of the story was not shocking to any of us. Numerous of us knew of this website and of students that had seen it through the years, but until this story was shared we had not heard from anyone with firsthand knowledge of it willing to speak publicly. Several of us though had reported what we knew to the authorities before we got this story. Flicker does have an option to keep an account private but this account was not private. Anyone with the URL and handle could access it. In posting the pictures the participants chose to make them publicly available. There have also now been accounts of students seeing these photos on Stage Right owned devices (see story 14 in addition to story 70). When a student at a school sees pornographic images of their teachers not only on the internet but also on school owned devices it is no longer a private issue.
Survivor stories are sometimes hard to read because they make us feel uncomfortable. The truth is, we should feel uncomfortable. And our discomfort should then spur us to action.