Punchy O: Northwest USA

After the Derby Central article about sexual violence was published, there were rumors on my league (Rat City) that one of our officials – Dell from Hell – had been accused of sexual assault. My knowledge is second-hand, and we were told very little because of confidentiality, but the league was told that he had been accused a few years ago of assaulting another official and WFTDA was involved. WFTDA “reprimanded” him with a list of tasks to be completed and allowed him to return to officiating. The official who was assaulted quit and, as far as I know, has never returned. Dell, however, has been officiating for Seattle-based leagues and surrounding leagues.

When the league found out about this, people were upset. Our BoD removed Dell from officiating, so they could figure out what to do. While they were gathering facts, skaters and officials on the league debated what should happen. Many people supported Dell’s return, argued that “he had already been punished by WFTDA” and “he’s a good guy” and “he hasn’t assaulted anyone since then,” so he should be allowed to return to officiating for the league.

At the next league meeting, a professional was brought in to facilitate a discussion. While I thought it would be an opportunity to discuss the issue concerning Dell, it was a vague discussion about feelings and policies. We did have the opportunity to read a message from the person who was assaulted, which basically stated how her derby life was destroyed because of what happened. There was no discussion, though, about the contents of the letter. We never talked about Dell or what we wanted to happen.

After the meeting, the league was asked to vote on whether or not to allow Dell to return to officiating for the league. I immediately voiced my concerns: “By asking in the survey if Dell can return, I feel like our priority is not about the safety of ALL skaters, but rather the safety of a majority of skaters. I feel strongly that there needs to be a different approach – that we, as a league, need to determine if the safety of all of our members and volunteers is a priority. If we all agree, then I think the question should be ‘Would anyone feel unsafe if Dell was present at league practices, games, or events?'” Another skater responded similarly. There was no response from the BoD.

Two weeks later, the results from the vote were shared: a majority of the league felt that no action should be taken and Dell should return to officiating. Again I voiced my concerns: “I sincerely hope this vote is ONLY meant as a gauge for where the league is at, rather than making a decision. We didn’t actually talk at the league meeting about what we wanted to happen. We didn’t get an opportunity to share our thoughts or feelings about the specific incident.” Again, there was no response from the BoD until two weeks later when it was announced that Dell would be returning.

I responded to the announcement. I contacted HR. I spoke with my captains. I continually stated that the BoD is not prioritizing the safety of the skaters and that I was not comfortable with having a known sexual predator in our space. No one cares and no one in a position of power is doing anything. I know there are other skaters who feel the same way, but are not willing to speak up. More people are willing to speak up in Dell’s defense, to excuse/diminish his behavior, and to support his derby career, while the person he assaulted lost her community – the same narrative that happens for white men who sexually assault and harass women in our sport.

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39 comments

  • This is infuriating. I continue to maintain that leagues have a responsibility to remove known abusers and predators from membership, and that people with a history of abuse and violence who legitimately regret their actions and wish to make restitution have a responsibility to remove themselves from the community where their abuse occurred.

    Officials, refuse to work events with known abusers and predators. Even if it means big name officials don’t like you. Even if it means you don’t get staffed at The Big O. Even if it means you have to leave your league. I promise you, from personal experience, your integrity is worth far more than your derby career.

  • Thank you for writing this and having the courage to speak out. Unfortunately there was more than one person who Dell assaulted and there is a WFTDA greivance to prove as much. The safety of the league as a whole should always outweigh that of one volunteer. While this league may choose to staff this individual other leagues are at liberty to not staff them as a visiting official or to play against the league while they continue to ref.

  • And while Rat City and Dockyard have turned a blind eye towards Dell’s transgressions, its equally infuriating when other officials protect and side with know abusers. It wasn’t without a lot of effort to force Big O to remove Dell from its tournament staffing. And while this is the most recent example, Dell has been given a pass at other events in the past and invited to participate where he shouldn’t.

    • This comment was not made by a Big O committee member nor by an ECRD member and it is simply not true. The Big O and ECRD made an internal decision about several named people in the Derby community and we took action privately and as quickly as possible for our volunteer org. All of our Big O Staff are aware of the decisions we have made and have agreed to adhere to them. If you have any questions about the Big O and decisions we have made around this topic please email bigodirectors@ecrg.com

      • I will add that ECRD acted from a place of honoring their Values and mission. Not because of any request. Once ECRD was informed, they acted.

        • Thank you for the clarification. Unfortunately, that is not what the vast majority of people believe happened. Since the entire process was secretive, it has allowed many false rumors to emanate into the derby world. Don’t be secretive. Please tell the world when you do the right thing!

          Thank you for your vigilance Big O.

          Now we need to work on kicking out the enablers from derby now. The people who know about these things, but still continue to staff abusers.

          • not pointing at any specific party. I have to agree that many tiny derby organizations make the error of believing that secrecy is the best policy, and that’s just flat wrong. It’s a show of immaturity. Anything that is above grade should never be afraid to be open and honest. people who like to keep things secret keep them that way out of a sense of self grandeur, fear, and wanting to control power. Often times the excuse of avoiding liability for slander is used, but often falls short. There is a difference between slander and simple open communication. Secrecy hurts so many derby organizations. They lose the narrative and allow speculation to rain supreme. Far too many leagues have imploded because their leaders were too weak to have the courage to be open about policy and decision making. The white house has reasons to keep things secret. no poe-dunk derby league has ever had the need to mint a Top Secret stamp for their “coveted” secrets!

          • Also not a Big O committee member but I would like to say that it’s not the whole worlds business what’s happening behind the scenes at all times. People in derby are so quick to feel entitled to know everything. The fact is that Big O did the right thing 100%. They don’t need to air out everything they have to deal with in the meantime. People assuming things/starting rumors isn’t the Big O’s fault. Things of this magnitude take time to deal with properly. Big O & ECRD will always do the right thing on their own.

          • Thank you for the feedback. It is true we are learning a lot thru his experience and we are a small league. But we did in fact post back when this all came out stating that Big O and ECRD have been made aware and have acted. We posted our new policy as well. Perhaps we’re just too small of a league for people to follow? It was shared on the Big O page as well as our Jrs page.
            Thank you for engaging in this comment thread and allowing for truth to be aired about this part of the bigger issue. False news only hurts the cause.

  • YIKES. I’ve skated in a few leagues, and I’ve noticed some reluctance to do the right thing once group-think becomes involved. If someone popular/powerful within the league wants someone to stay, they almost always are able to strong-arm enough votes to get their way. Never seen anything this gross though.

  • This completely ignores the larger question that the roller derby community needs to address: are we taking a restorative approach or a zero tolerance approach?

    If we are taking a zero tolerance approach then let’s take that hard line for issues that destroy the lives of trans, nonbinary, people of color, and religious minorities EVERY DAY. Most leagues couldn’t exist under a zero tolerance model – line up those skaters, coaches, officials, photographers, and volunteers because guaranteed we’ve all made each other uncomfortable in some way. Let’s talk about culture shift.

    To me, the best thing that Rat BoD has learned is to give up their positions of power by bringing in people to guide these conversations for the league and to let those directly impacted lead discussions and reforms in the league. You’re doing great work at Rat with new policies proposed just 3 days ago. There is a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee forming whose voting centers the voices and votes of Trans/NB/POC members.

    I support you and I care. Saying I don’t is silencing my voice when I am dealing with my own Nonbinary stuff on this league and finding my voice in ways that makes me feel safe.

    • I think this post is about a specific incident that was not handled well. You don’t need a zero tolerance policy to remove someone who’s committed multiple assaults from a volunteer role, because that’s an appropriate response for the severity of the incidents. Based on this post it doesn’t sound like there was an option for anything restorative, just a yes or no.

    • I fully agree that there are more issues in derby than sexual violence (thank you for addressing that), and I fully support making serious changes so that our league and the roller derby community is a more inclusive space for Trans/NB/POC. There are so many issues and so much to do.

      I did not mean to silence you with my comment about no one caring. I’m sorry. I should have been more specific with my language. I meant that it feels like no one cares because no one seems to be outraged (I recognize that me not seeing it doesn’t mean that people are not outraged). Also, it feels like leadership doesn’t care because I tried to address my issues many times and gotten little to no response. Most recently, I asked them to not have Dell present when my team scrimmages, and they won’t do that. It was communicated that the situation has been handled, and it’s not up for discussion, which makes me feel powerless in trying to create a space safe.

    • This is a dog whistling bullshit response. Of course there’s more issues than sexual violence in this community, those of us who have experienced racism/sexism/transphobia/homophobia/fatphobia/ableism in derby have been saying this for many years. We’ve never stopped saying it, most of y’all who these issues didn’t effect just weren’t listening. This isn’t about one singular issue but how the community responds and how the community supports and who they support.

      • Yes, there needs to be a system to address this. Now is not the time. This is talking about one man and his abusive behavior. This is about why the derby community would rather just let people who have been victims disappear and allow their abusers to thrive. Victims are tired of being gaslighted and ran off because of the cowardice of derby leaders. WFTDA is cowardly. Rat City’s leadership is cowardly. Dell From Hell should be 86’d from derby all together.

  • DyDD has has three situations in the past year or two and have handled them all differently and all poorly. More shocking was the number of rape apologists and enablers who caused even more trauma for the victims and the entire league at that point.

    • This is SO true. So many of us left because of the boards inability to take a stand against abusive behaviour.

  • Repeat offenders are a liability, for individuals and the league. This “restorative approach” puts the safety of women officials at risk so that a male repeat offender can participate in the WFTDA.

    Victims are forced to work with and under their offenders if they want to continue officiating, especially if they want to move up the ranks and become certified. The same is true for all women who want to officiate in this environment, whether they have been victims or not – they must now take a risk on their safety and work with known offenders in order to advance in officiating.

    So, the “restorative approach” is restorative for whom, exactly? Definitely not the victims. Definitely not for women officials who must take a calculated risk to officiate.

  • “Please give those brave enough to tell their stories here the choice of if, how, and when to share their experiences.”

    This is one of the guidelines for commenting on this post. How about having the same guidelines for the original posting?

    This article and the grievance it stemmed from served to retraumatize the victim. You thought you were giving the victim a voice, but without their consent you effectively stole their voice to push your agenda.

    Thank you “ithappensinderby” for allowing a safe space for VICTIMS to speak up.

    • Right. Even months later some of us are walking away after hearing about this instance and how it was handled. What’s sad is people quit the first time this all happened and Rat seemed to forget and think no one cared.

  • Knowing nothing about Dell other than his reputation as an official I just really hope for all of our sake that he really is guilty. I can’t say either way, was their a legal case brought and convicted? I don’t know. But how can we ruin anyone’s life, accuser OR accused, without getting to the bottom of it.

    Seems like the only group with all the info is WFTDA, and BoD. No way for us in the public to know one way or the other.

    It is simply horrible that this even happens at all, criminals are criminals and should be punished [severely], but public opinion can destroy lives too [just as thoroughly as a victim’s can by an act of sexual violence].

    • There was a referee who witnessed one of the assaults. Not that this is needed to believe a survivor.

      There are a million reasons why people choose not to file criminal charges or make criminal complaints, so asking that question also misses the point.

      You either believe survivors or you don’t. Speaking from experience, there is nothing to be gained by making up accusations of sexual assault. As soon as an accusation is lodged, you (the survivor) open yourself up to public scrutiny. It isn’t fun. In fact, it’s awful. I cannot imagine a reason why anyone would want to put themself though that for a false allegation (which, by the way, account for about 2% of allegations).

    • What on earth does it matter if the public has all of the information??? The victims have a right to privacy. There were a number of eye witnesses and Dell got due process through WFTDA. His certification was stripped as a result of their investigation and ruling, so clearly there was ample evidence.

      The victims had no reason to make false claims and their lives have been changed forever by this. No one is “ruining Dell’s life” – he sexually assaulted two women and there are consequences for his actions. Do we stand with victims or offenders?

      • There is one documented complainant. Not two.

        Info shared in the original post, and in many of the comments, is opinion, not fact…and, in some cases, flat out inaccurate.

        • One documented complaint does not equal one victim in that complaint. No one said there were two separate complaints to WFTDA.

          Also, the one public statement from one victim is enough. That anyone would play apologist and argue that he gets access to women officials and has a place in this community is extraordinarily disappointing.

          • Nor has anyone actually involved at the time suggested there was more than one case to consider. According to people on both impacted leagues who actually saw the relevant paperwork from WFTDA, only one incident/victim was mentioned.

            I’m not defending anyone, just not a fan of those who spread unsubstantiated information to support their own agenda.

      • What if the abuser was female. It happens and because they are the star it’s acceptable. It’s happening. We are quick to judge the men but look over it even more if they are female. Being a sexual assault victim/survivor, it’s nobody’s business about what happened to me. Did you ever think y’all pushing for info is uncomfortable for the victim. It’s none of your business. Plus there have been cases of false allegations in derby with legal actions taken against the person who made them. What about their lives?

  • So you decide the best way to deal with this issue is to publicly bash your own league? Your volunteer run league who has zero experience dealing with these issues. This is an issue that is new to the derby community that absolutely needs to be addressed. But this post does nothing but harm all of your league mates by painting Rat City in a negative light. Rat City is an amazing place that is trying their best. While I agree with most of your statements, I don’t believe this was the best way to go about it.

    • This is NOT a new issue to derby. However, being vocal and standing up against it is pretty new. If you are embarrassed by this, do something about it instead of asking whistleblowers to silence themselves. Want your league to look “good”? Demand that your league do the right thing and call them out when they don’t.

      • I was raped back in 2013 and have been vocally speaking out against sexual violence in roller derby since 2014. Sex assault is not new. Sex assault in derby is not new. And even if it were, the only way to gain any traction is to call out the offenders and hold them accountable.

    • Honestly it’s the only way left to deal with it. She went to the board and nothing happened. Change needs to happen so that the league can be a safe space.

      It is also helpful for officials and skaters looking to avoid sexual predators to know who they are and what leagues support them. I’m not in the NW but now I know that if I’m traveling that way I should avoid Dell and Rat City as long as they continue to support him.

      • No. That was not the only way to handle this situation. Punchy was not authorized to speak for the victim in this case. The only person who should speak for the victim IS the victim.

        How do you define “safe” space? How do you define “predator”? This is such a broad and subjective topic. There is absolutely no way to please everyone. If we are going to immediately and automatically remove people who commit lower level acts of sexual harassment without allowing any sort of restorative steps, then we need to treat other forms of harassment the same way. For example, in my time playing this sport, I have dealt with bullies, or people who are consistently rude. There are people who are consistently assholes on the track. There are people who consistently misgender people. There are acts of transphobia. Most of these acts go unchecked, despite complaints. I feel all of these offenses create a negative environment which some might deem unsafe. If the intent is to banish people who commit acts that make others feel unsafe, after their first offense…even if those acts happened YEARS AGO…we need to be consistent. And there will be no more leagues or communities left. Because everyone messes up on occasion. Having a zero tolerance model and treating all offenses the same is not reasonable.

        Again, I’m not condoning harassment of any form. Offenders absolutely should be held accountable for their actions. Rat City is a volunteer run business, without expertise in conflict resolution. They did the best they could in the past and recognize they need to do better in the future. They are working on that, despite accusations to the contrary.

  • As long as leagues and tournaments (including WFTDA Recognized Tournaments and WFTDA organized tournaments) continue to staff known offenders, even having them staffed in positions of authority, as long as people continue to look the other way so they can get their precious tournament experience or look the other way to grant higher and higher level officiating positions or look the other way because it’s silence is easier than conflict, abusers will remain in derby, will continue to be placed in positions of authority, and will continue to make other people feel unsafe, unwelcome, and unheard in this community.

  • I am thoroughly disgusted with the rape apologists commenting on this thread. As a sexual assault survivor, I am telling you I would have filed a civil suit against this sexual assaulter and the offending leagues, and I would have won handily. He is a liability and makes all of us who are survivors feel unsafe, unbelieved and lesser than. There is no question that he is a sexual assaulter. Believe his victims and remove the threat. I will never spectate, skate or officiate with him or his enablers.

  • Roller Derby is a space that is intended to be a safe, empowering and inclusive… however it does not have a magical shield around it that protects us from injustice. We obligated to do our best, and seek guidance in areas of uncertainty.
    My opinion, In order to adhere to the overall mission of our sport, there should at least be zero tolerance for criminal behaviour that Is of risk to our community.

    Not knowing the details, I cannot imagine why your league would continue allowing said individual to officiate without explanation; especially after voicing very specific concerns… it is painful to hear that After clearly expressing your opposition they were welcomed to officiate at your scrim. Outrageous.

    Sounds like it’s time for a Leadership shift, with an open conversation with the league about their feelings and concerns.

    Question: If you can turn an official away for beer on their breath… why are we welcoming one who’s sexually assaulted one of our community members? Given the choice, I’d certainly choose harmless beer breath.

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