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Peter Martins Sexual Harassment Allegations


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4 minutes ago, Helene said:

I found a Martha Swope photo of Ellen Shire from 1964, in which NYCB was a far different company than it is now:

https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/39c27f80-6e02-0134-41b3-00505686a51c

Interesting that she says "both" dancers, when the linked article's headline refers to "five dancers."

 

Helene, what she wrote was:  "My hope is that there will be due process and that both the dancers who are accusing Mr. Martins, and Mr. Martins himself, will have their chance to be heard."  I read it as both the dancers [all the "accusers" as a group] and Mr Martins ... will have ..."  

Will this happen?  I hope this is how the decision will be made even though I think Martins's career is already over.

 

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7 minutes ago, Helene said:

Interesting that she says "both" dancers, when the linked article's headline refers to "five dancers."

 

I took that to mean both, as in the dancers AND Peter Martins, not the number of dancers specifically.

...."both the dancers who are accusing Mr. Martins, and Mr. Martins himself...."

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4 hours ago, Josette said:

Yet there are hearsay exceptions that are admissible in court.  Additionally, hearsay is not a valid objection to refrain from responding to a question in deposition, interrogatories, or other forms of discovery, as the response may lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.   

All good points.

On a slightly related tangent, this article by Dahlia Lithwick, who writes about the Supreme Court for Slate, made me think hard about how these behaviors affect the field as a whole. 

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We're misunderstanding due process (See Op Ed).  Certainly companies will want to protect themselves from unfair hiring practices but they do not need to abide by "due process." 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-due-process-assault-freak-out-is-a-fever-dream/2017/12/01/8f14cd80-d6d5-11e7-a986-d0a9770d9a3e_story.html?utm_term=.935c753f88fb

 

"Due process, first and foremost, is a legal concept, invoked to ensure that government follows the rule of law. It’s when a governmental entity disregards someone’s rights that due process’s associated requirements — fair notice and fair hearing — come into play. But corporations aren’t courts of law, and the “Today” show isn’t a government entity. Human resources officers aren’t dispassionate federal judges; they’re risk managers for the organizations they serve."

"An employer doing damage control after a lurid sexual-harassment scandal need not follow any due process apart from what’s written into its private contracts. The Constitution doesn’t oblige NBC to retain Matt Laueruntil a court somewhere finds him guilty of a sex crime."

 

"We aren’t seeing an epidemic of men being railroaded for flirting. There is no wave of false accusations washing defenseless men from their rightful careers. The cases taking over the news weren’t sparked by untouchable accusers whose pointed fingers have the power to ruin careers. Instead, we’ve uncovered systemic, ongoing patterns of abuse perpetrated by men with power against women with much less of it. The evidence isn’t scanty, and the accusations aren’t random. There is never just one victim. And due process, invoked indulgently, often allows the guilty to linger in power for far longer than they deserve."

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I found this newspaper article after the 1992 Kistler/Martins Incident


http://www.nytimes.com/1992/07/22/nyregion/martins-ballet-master-held-on-charge-he-beat-his-wife.html

What I found incredibly disturbing is this quote from the article:

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Peter Wolff, who is a member of the school's board of directors, said the assault charge was "a personal matter" and would not affect Mr. Martins' career.
"It has nothing to do with his competency or his support in the ballet community," he said.

It doesn't? This wasn’t just an “argument.”  According to Darci's statement:

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Mr. Martins "verbally abused me then he began to push and slap me." She fell into another room, she said, cutting her ankle. She said he hit her again. "I kept asking him to stop, and he refused."

 

What kind of monster does that? And that is not enough to affect his career? And he gets to work with children too? Plus, other people did document other incidents of this kind of physical abuse but the board continued to look away. Sorry, it's all too much. I really don't understand.

 

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2 hours ago, balletforme said:

Peter Wolff, in essence was saying, " This is just an emotional, hysterical female."  That's kind of the refrain that echos to discredit victims.

BUT, Darcie, in a sense gave him ammunition by dropping the charges.  Note: I judge her not. 

Again, I disagree.  What he said was that their personal lives have nothing to do with Martins' employment situation. Martins didn't inflict violence against his, and by extension, their employee in the studio or theater.  There was nothing that implied hysteria.

Had she testified, and had he been indicted and/or, convicted, or plead guilty or nolo, it might have made a difference, or it may have made as little difference as his drunk driving charge. But she didn't, and by refusing to follow through, she did what was considered stereotypical negative female action: either she was hysterical and exaggerated, or she was either a doormat or so naive to believe a abuser's promises that it wouldn't happen again, and in either case you couldn't help her, if she wouldn't help herself, and we wash our hands of her and leave her to the bed she made.  While those stereotypes are appalling, those are the ones in context, and, sadly, still are too often today.

Had she followed through, she would have been the woman who damaged or destroyed the institution, which was so much bigger and important than she.

The Board made it clear who was important to them, and when they refused to get involved, it played to their advantage, ie, time for this "personal matter" to resolve itself, likely as they had predicted, so they could sweep it under the rug.

And the Board's classification of  this as a "personal matter" was not only made his behavior possible for the next quarter century, it normalized it.  As early as the LA Times article linked above and continuing extensively now, people expressed shock that his career survived the 1992 attack on Kistler,  by allowing it to survive, the Board made it clear what it would take to change their minds: charges equally appalling or worse, and people willing to be on record and follow through.  He may not have been able to shoot someone on the street and keep his job, but he apparently was able to abuse and destroy at an alarming rate and remain unaccountable for his behavior.

 

And we still don't know if they'll let him survive this.

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39 minutes ago, Helene said:

the Board's classification of  this as a "personal matter" was not only made his behavior possible for the next quarter century, it normalized it.  As early as the LA Times article linked above and continuing extensively now, people expressed shock that his career survived the 1992 attack on Kistler,  by allowing it to survive, the Board made it clear what it would take to change their minds: charges equally appalling or worse, and people willing to be on record and follow through.  He may not have been able to shoot someone on the street and keep his job, but he apparently was able to abuse and destroy at an alarming rate and remain unaccountable for his behavior.

I don't follow that logic. Apparently the dancers and probably some parents knew he could become violent at work, so it's possible the board did too, but is there evidence to show so? I think all the board made clear is that an incident at home was not a firing offense. Also, not to minimize what had happened at home, but it's possible it was never repeated. It's one thing to stick with a repeat abuser and another to stick with someone for whom abuse is, so far at least, only an aberration. In other words, it is of course possible to love in a healthy manner someone who has acted badly.

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The logic is:

At the time of the Kistler incident in 1992:

  • It occurred against an employee off premises, ie, not in the studio or theater, which would have made it harder for the Board to classify this as a "private matter."  It is not unusual for people who work with someone to be surprised to find that they beat their spouse or SO and/or children, because their behavior at work shows no indication that they are beastly to their family.
  • There were no public allegations before, or as a result of, the newspaper article about Kistler's reporting to the police, that this was his behavior at work, so they had plausible deniability, at least as far as the public was concern

What the Board made clear was that a violent incident outside the theater by the boss against a spouse/employee was not a fire-able offense.  Which, based on the allegations and chronology -- Jeffrey Edwards' ignored complaint was in 1993 -- sent a clear message to the Company, and ignoring Jeffrey Edwards' workplace complaint reinforced that message.

 

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I guess this would count as collateral damage: Martins set the example for young dancers in the company and the children in the school of how to treat people who report to you. It will be buried somewhere in their memories that it is acceptable to bully and throw tantrums. 

 

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53 minutes ago, Helene said:

The logic is:

At the time of the Kistler incident in 1992:

  • It occurred against an employee off premises, ie, not in the studio or theater, which would have made it harder for the Board to classify this as a "private matter."  It is not unusual for people who work with someone to be surprised to find that they beat their spouse or SO and/or children, because their behavior at work shows no indication that they are beastly to their family.
  • There were no public allegations before, or as a result of, the newspaper article about Kistler's reporting to the police, that this was his behavior at work, so they had plausible deniability, at least as far as the public was concern

What the Board made clear was that a violent incident outside the theater by the boss against a spouse/employee was not a fire-able offense.  Which, based on the allegations and chronology -- Jeffrey Edwards' ignored complaint was in 1993 -- sent a clear message to the Company, and ignoring Jeffrey Edwards' workplace complaint reinforced that message.

Thanks for explaining. It's true Martins did abuse a NYCB employee, but that neither were at work and acting in their capacities as employees at the moment he did so. I disagree however that this would have sent a clear message that Martins could get away with the same thing at work - because in this case, the victim herself clearly forgave him. Imspear, Martins wasn't fired, but he was shamed. That's the takeaway I would think SAB students would come away with. That and that it's possible to love and forgive someone who wrongs and even harms you. Those are two possible messages, at least. 

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18 minutes ago, kfw said:

Martins wasn't fired, but he was shamed. That's the takeaway I would think SAB students would come away with. That and that it's possible to love and forgive someone who wrongs and even harms you. Those are two possible messages, at least. 

In reality,  that Martins was shamed temporarily, and then continued his abusive behavior is the take-away.  That shame didn't prevent much for long, if the allegations from students and dancers across a quarter of a century are true, and it doesn't replace the oversight responsibility of the Board.

The second is not the primary responsibility of the workplace or school to teach, and it should never be a trade-off at the expense of safety and healthy messages of respect.

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Uh not making excuses for the board but it really was a different time back then. When Nicole Simpson was murdered after many years of an abusive relationship/marriage, it came out in the wash that the police were well aware of OJ's violent tendencies and had gotten calls to the house a number of times. I remember my hair curling listening to one of Nicole's 911 calls as you heard OJ screaming in the background. But his lawyers were still able to convince 12 jurors that the domestic violence and pattern of abuse didn't mean he killed her because it was a "private matter." 

Today I think police are much more pro-active about arresting abusers if they're called to the home, and some states have laws that require charges to be pressed even if the victim declines to cooperate. 

If anything, the #metoo movement has shown that times have changed and what was considered tolerable is not considered tolerable anymore. Harvey Weinstein, Bill O'Reilly, Charlie Rose, Roy Moore, James Levine, Larry Nassar (the USAGymnastics doctor), Kevin Spacey, and others brought down by #metoo charges had been behaving this way for decades. It's only now that people feel empowered enough to speak out.

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28 minutes ago, Helene said:

In reality,  that Martins was shamed temporarily, and then continued his abusive behavior is the take-away.

If Martins has been beating up on Kistler in the decades since, we don't know about it. As far as we know, there were no repeat instances. It is possible that Kistler has maintained silence on such repeated abuses to protect her husband and it's also possible that the Martinses moved on from the incident. We don't know.

 
Quote

We're misunderstanding due process (See Op Ed).  Certainly companies will want to protect themselves from unfair hiring practices but they do not need to abide by "due process." 

 

balletforme, I think many people are using “due process” not in its strict legal sense but as a way of saying that a process should be in place for the handling of such charges and the accused should retain some rights in that process, even if the process is not a legal one. You don't have to hold any brief for the accused to be concerned about this. It is quite true that American private employers can and do fire people quite freely. I’m not sure why anyone aside from employers would regard this as a net plus.

In most of the cases that have become public recently, it is true that the rights of the accused haven’t been much of a concern.  The conduct is egregious or worse, multiple accusers come forward with detailed and believable accounts, often dropping anonymity,  the media report it in some detail, so the public have at least a general idea of the offenses committed, and the offenders admit the conduct, straightforwardly or tacitly. The accused are often powerful men worth millions, amply able to defend themselves against any unjust charges. 

It seems to me that in this particular matter, the Board is doing the appropriate thing. Martins has denied the claims and will presumably be able to defend himself.  He has taken a voluntary leave of absence while what appears to be a thorough investigation goes forward. (We may never learn the details of that investigation, as sidwich noted earlier.)

 

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1 hour ago, dirac said:

If Martins has been beating up on Kistler in the decades since, we don't know about it. As far as we know, there were no repeat instances. It is possible that Kistler has maintained silence on such repeated abuses to protect her husband and it's also possible that the Martinses moved on from the incident. We don't know.

I wasn't writing about Kistler:  I was referring to allegations of physical abuse in the workplace made public since then, including Jeffrey Edwards' complaint in 1993 (only public now), Kelly Boal's description to the Washington Post, etc.  My point is that the lesson was that not addressing this enabled him to escalate to the workplace, where it also wasn't addressed.

The underlying question in the comments that people wondered how he survived post 1992 is "What will it take?"  And, until now, few were willing to find out.  Edwards was particularly brave in 1993 to file any complaint on the record, and nothing came of it.

[Consolidating responses]:

 

1 hour ago, canbelto said:

Uh not making excuses for the board but it really was a different time back then

And that is why there are so many commentaries and warnings about thinking that if Weinstein, Martins, Levine, Louis CK, Rose, etc. are gone, it doesn't change the broader issue, which is that these attitudes and behaviors are structurally imbedded, and we're not "done."

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3 hours ago, Helene said:

And that is why there are so many commentaries and warnings about thinking that if Weinstein, Martins, Levine, Louis CK, Rose, etc. are gone, it doesn't change the broader issue, which is that these attitudes and behaviors are structurally imbedded, and we're not "done."

A few days ago, NPR had an interesting report about how the different generations view this matter:

Are There Generational Differences When It Comes To Sexual Harassment At Work? [I recommend listening to the audio podcast version]
https://www.npr.org/2017/12/12/569181017/are-there-generational-differences-when-it-comes-to-sexual-harassment-at-work

'Typically baby boomer women — some of whose careers predate the 1964 civil rights laws barring sex discrimination — say they "just put up with it," Arellano says. "Smiled, giggled, and just moved on and tried to get your work done and avoid any embarrassing situations because the only other recourse was to leave."'

"The site's founder, Georgene Huang, says the most disturbing finding is that — despite what news reports about top executives might suggest — women are more often sexually harassed by their peers (57 percent) than by their bosses (about 36 percent). And the harassers are predominantly men under the age of 40."


 

Edited by pherank
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4 hours ago, Helene said:

In reality,  that Martins was shamed temporarily, and then continued his abusive behavior is the take-away.  That shame didn't prevent much for long, if the allegations from students and dancers across a quarter of a century are true, and it doesn't replace the oversight responsibility of the Board.

The second is not the primary responsibility of the workplace or school to teach, and it should never be a trade-off at the expense of safety and healthy messages of respect.

Continuation might be too strong a word for what sound like isolated incidents. And as far as we know the shame, or whatever, kept him from abusing Kistler again. Forgiveness should not be offered at the expense of safety, no, but I don’t think it’s clear it was.
 
ETA: I see you've more or less addressed this. We just disagree, but it's possible more will come out and shed more light.
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2 hours ago, pherank said:

A few days ago, NPR had an interesting report about how the different generations view this matter:

Are There Generational Differences When It Comes To Sexual Harassment At Work?
https://www.npr.org/2017/12/12/569181017/are-there-generational-differences-when-it-comes-to-sexual-harassment-at-work

'Typically baby boomer women — some of whose careers predate the 1964 civil rights laws barring sex discrimination — say they "just put up with it," Arellano says. "Smiled, giggled, and just moved on and tried to get your work done and avoid any embarrassing situations because the only other recourse was to leave."'

[If it's inappropriate to link to this article, please just delete this post.]


 

Thank you for posting this. I am not too happy about the quoted phrase "smiled, giggled, and just moved on..." especially since the speaker seems to be talking about a very wide range of women responding to a very wide range of behaviors.  Not all of which inspired giggles (nervous or otherwise) even when people were moving on... Anyway it was a baby boomer who was responsible for an earlier watershed moment on this issue, Anita Hill.  (And I suppose you could almost argue that Shakespeare wrote a play about it with Measure for Measure.)

The article does quotes "twenty somethings" saying they wouldn't put up with what older generations put with ...but I can't help wondering about how to interpret that..."Twenty somethings" often are dubious about what they judge to be the compromises of older generations--and rightly so.  But, for example, in some cases they haven't been in the work force that long, nor are they as likely to be supporting families as older workers are etc. So what if some of their surprise at what people have "put up with" may have to do with lack of work experience not changing norms?

[Edited to add: the issue of peer harassment raised by article just aggravates my pessimism. I recently had a discussion with someone I have mentored in the past where just this issue came up.]

I am not saying something new may not be happening here. But I don't think we know that yet, nor what the consequences will be. Especially since many signs and, more importantly, government policies are going in quite the opposite direction -- eg the Department of Education hitting the pause button on Title IX enforcement ...I could go further on legislative and healthcare issues, but I'm thinking I'm over the edge of the no politics rule as it is.

Edited by Drew
grammar
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4 hours ago, canbelto said:

Uh not making excuses for the board but it really was a different time back then. When Nicole Simpson was murdered after many years of an abusive relationship/marriage, it came out in the wash that the police were well aware of OJ's violent tendencies and had gotten calls to the house a number of times. I remember my hair curling listening to one of Nicole's 911 calls as you heard OJ screaming in the background. But his lawyers were still able to convince 12 jurors that the domestic violence and pattern of abuse didn't mean he killed her because it was a "private matter." 

Today I think police are much more pro-active about arresting abusers if they're called to the home, and some states have laws that require charges to be pressed even if the victim declines to cooperate. 

The O.J. Simpson case was complicated for many reasons, but legally, the fact that Simpson physically abused Nicole Brown Simpson really doesn't have any bearing on the question of whether he killed her.  (As an aside, a lot of criminal defense attorneys feel that as a case, it was going to be very difficult to win given the circumstantial nature, the forensic technology available at the time, and the public's understanding of DNA evidence.  Marcia Clarke also made some profound jury selection mistakes, misunderstanding the racial dynamics at play.)

But unlike Simpson, Peter Martins is not in any way under criminal investigation. Personally, the way I look at it, this is really a question of whether he can go forward and carry out this duties effectively.  Will he really be able to go out and raise the funds that NYCB/SAB needs? Does the Board really want him to be the face going out and asking potential donors to write checks?  What about maintaining relationships with high-profile creatives?  How many of them are going to want to have photos standing next to him at galas?

And then of course is the obvious question, what's the liability NYCB/SAB and the Board would face if ANYTHING happened to a minor at SAB that even might hint at abuse at Martins' hands?  There's just no way that the Board could say they don't know the potential danger on a going forward basis.  

 

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41 minutes ago, Drew said:

Thank you for posting this. I am not too happy about the quoted phrase "smiled, giggled, and just moved on..." especially since the speaker seems to be talking about a very wide range of women responding to a very wide range of behaviors.  Not all of which inspired giggles (nervous or otherwise) even when people were moving on... Anyway it was a baby boomer who was responsible for an earlier watershed moment on this issue, Anita Hill.  (And I suppose you could almost argue that Shakespeare wrote a play about it with Measure for Measure.)

The article does quotes "twenty somethings" saying they wouldn't put up with what older generations put with ...but I can't help wondering about how to interpret that..."Twenty somethings" often are dubious about what they judge to be the compromises of older generations--and rightly so.  But, for example, in some cases they haven't been in the work force that long, nor are they as likely to be supporting families as older workers are etc. So what if some of their surprise at what people have "put up with" may have to do with lack of work experience not changing norms?

I am not saying something new may not be happening here. But I don't think we know that yet, nor what the consequences will be. Especially since many signs and, more importantly, government policies are going in quite the opposite direction -- eg the Department of Education hitting the pause button on Title IX enforcement, ...I could go further on legislative and healthcare issues, but I'm think I'm over the edge of the no politics rule as it is.

I've been thinking a lot about these same things every time I watch one of the old Hollywood films on TCM - there's an extraordinary amount of scenes that depict sexual harassment of varying degrees. And it's often true that the female characters deal with these unwanted advances with a "smile" or a "giggle". Much of the plot content revolves around male and female "interaction" of course, and this interaction often has a nasty edge to it. However, the "hero", for example, a Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire, are usually rewarded for their unceasing harassment - 'because that's just what males do'. The films of the "swinging", "mod", "hip" 1960s are often creepily misogynist in focus. And that was 'just the way they made movies' then.

 

41 minutes ago, sidwich said:

Personally, the way I look at it, this is really a question of whether he can go forward and carry out this duties effectively.  Will he really be able to go out and raise the funds that NYCB/SAB needs? Does the Board really want him to be the face going out and asking potential donors to write checks?  What about maintaining relationships with high-profile creatives?  How many of them are going to want to have photos standing next to him at galas?

And then of course is the obvious question, what's the liability NYCB/SAB and the Board would face if ANYTHING happened to a minor at SAB that even might hint at abuse at Martins' hands?  There's just no way that the Board could say they don't know the potential danger on a going forward basis. 

I agree with these points, and hopefully those are exactly the things the board is giving real consideration too. I have to think Martins is too tainted to continue as the face of NYCB.

Edited by pherank
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56 minutes ago, Drew said:

But, for example, in some cases they haven't been in the work force that long, nor are they as likely to be supporting families as older workers are etc. So what if some of their surprise at what people have "put up with" may have to do with lack of work experience not changing norms?

There are also many reasons -- demographic, geographic, educational, physical, debt-related are just some -- why many many people cannot just get up and leave for something better.  It is a privilege to have the means to do that.

There are also professionals like ballet where there are lots of people ready to take your place if you don't like it, plus the culture of ballet that pressures dancers to be compliant.

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