#TheStories, for better or for worse

#TheStories, for better or for worse

Jenna Simeonov

Alright. Hi, everyone.

I figure those of you reading this post are the same people who have been following #TheStories. It’s a series of posts that tell true stories of sexual abuse, harassment, and assault within the realms of opera and classical music.

I received tons of these stories, and I posted 15. That might not sound like a huge number, but let’s think on it: that’s 15 people who have stories to tell, out of the modest pool of opera folk, and the smaller pool among those who closely follow Schmopera, and the still smaller pool of those who feel inclined to re-live their experiences with enough detail to write it down in an email.

I’m still receiving stories, nearly three months after this whole thing kicked off. That’s a long time to maintain momentum, in internet land. There’s a part of me that is so proud that there are brave people still reaching out, politely inquiring if I’m still interested in hearing what they have to say. Absolutely, I’m interested. Someone has to be, after all. Part of this whole problem is that these victims didn’t think they had anyone to tell.

There’s value in sharing them, even if it makes for a messily drawn line.

But I have to put it on pause. As much as I want to lean into this thing, and endlessly press the point that #metoo is everywhere in this industry, I have to admit it’s getting to me. It’s not fun to read these stories with an editor’s level of detail. It’s not fun - for me or for the author, obviously - to get on the phone with victims and go through it all again, clarifying details and discussing whether or not to name the abuser.

It’s certainly not fun to know this shit, to know it about specific people, some of whom walk in my own industry circles. You likely noticed that most of the stories are anonymous - but that doesn’t mean I never got a name. It’s a weird mix of feeling entrusted with delicate information, and feeling laden with a secret that’s not mine to tell.

But something like #TheStories is, at the very least, worthy of some reflection. The feedback to the series has been largely positive. You, the readers, have stood in internet solidarity with these victims, with a unanimity that took me by honest surprise. It was always there, but the people who read and shared these stories have proved that the power lies no longer in the hands of an abusive few, but of a watchful mass.

Thanks for reading, everyone. What a goddamn rollercoaster.

I can say with certainty that industry norms have been officially challenged. And even more importantly, the dangerous commonality that many of these victims share - doubt that their story is worth telling, and doubt that anything could or would be done in response to their abuse - is dashed to pieces.

You may see one or two final additions to #TheStories, even after I write this attempt at closure. There’s value in sharing them, even if it makes for a messily drawn line.

And in case you read this and feel dismay at having missed an opportunity to tell a story of your own: I’ll continue to be an audience. Sometimes it’s easier to tell a stranger about the tough stuff than it is to tell a friend, and I can step into that role. I know I said it’s tough to read, but it’s not tougher than going through this crap. So, if I can help, give perspective, or commiserate for the sake of venting, please take me up on my official offer.

Thanks for reading, everyone. What a goddamn rollercoaster.

To get caught up on our #TheStories series, start with Part I.

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