In today’s edition of The Stage, Lyn Gardner takes an in-depth look at the case of Chris Goode and why such a prolific abuser was essentially being enabled by our industry for so long. Just a few months ago I wrote a piece about drama colleges enabling predators, and whilst the Goode case is an extreme example of “the genius has to be given the benefit of the doubt” isn’t it about time that we finally stop and ask why there is any benefit of the doubt given to these people, and also why have we got no safeguarding safety net in place to stop there being a repeat of this case?
In her article, Lyn talks about “the list” that was pinned up outside several theatres last year which listed 8 abusive men. What struck me at the time is that when that list started getting passed around discretely (as everybody feared a defamation claim) was how most people’s reaction appeared to be knowing.
Now I’ve written before about how all of us should be wary of jumping to conclusions when we hear rumours as for whatever reason, some people are known to have lied about cases of abuse, so we should always proceed with caution. That said one sweep through your contact list and these 8 were particularly prolific. So here’s my question – what’s happened to the other people on that list, and why are they still permitted to work in our industry?
I had assumed that they were all going to lay low, after all, those lists were seen by a lot of people – but then last year one of the people on that list contacted me in my role as the Principal of a drama college asking to be put in contact with some of my students who were seeking representation at the time. This particular person had reinvented themselves and indeed changed their name and were still trying to meet with potentially vulnerable wanna-be performers.
I can’t even remember how I worked out who it really was now, but having had a reasonable email exchange as soon as I asked the million-dollar question of was the person I was communicating with also known by this other name, the email trail stopped immediately.
I mentioned it on Twitter at the time as my concern now as it was then was that I always took time to research/vet the people that wanted to meet with my students, but I know for a fact that this isn’t the case in every drama college. So there was no way I was going to allow my students to meet with this person because I knew of this person’s reputation – but what of the young graduates that year that did meet with him? Were they all OK?
Then there are the people NOT on the list, people who are equally known for problematic behaviour, but who keep being excused and given more opportunities for one reason or another. . .but why? In my earlier blog on this topic, I wrote about the guest creative who broke our rules and took a student for a coffee, what I didn’t say is that this same person played mind games with an entire cohort. When I challenged him – he attempted to play mind games with me and told me that an entire year group were lying about him. I remained curious and I waited until there was substantial evidence before challenging him. From then on in if anybody I know has hired him I’ve warned them to be careful as he is potentially very dangerous to people’s mental health. Over the years I’ve heard that he has kept up this M.O. at other colleges, so it certainly wasn’t a one-off with us. I’ve also heard about him losing jobs because of this behaviour. . . and yet STILL I’ve never known him out of work.
So when we read about the extreme case of Chris Goode, let’s not forget that far too many people and organisations are choosing to turn a blind eye to abusers and predators all in the name of “genius”, or maybe even just to fill a vacancy, because even after just one or two phone calls to get references on these people and you would be confronted with red flag behaviour. . . and yet still people are hiring them.
As one of my graduates who was directly impacted by this person asked me just this week. . . “why does the industry let him get away with this behaviour” – and whilst this could be perceived as a naive question, surely it is also the only question that we should all be asking ourselves.
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