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.