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Sexual Violence in the Break Dance Community and its Impact on the 2024 Olympics

Updated: Apr 5


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Trigger warning: rape, sexual assault, blood.

pseudonyms*: Some names have been changed to protect privacy

James*


On June 3, 2011, I was raped by Jonathan Escotto (A.K.A. B-boy Xcel) of USA Breakin. It took me a long time to grapple with the events that occurred that night, but I have finally found my voice.


I am a female break-dancer in a male-dominated sport, Breakin (also known as Breakdancing) – a sport that has gained international attention and will be included in the Olympic Games for the first time in 2024. It’s an unfortunate but true fact that women are frequently sexually harassed and abused by men in sports. Sadly, the Olympic games is no exception to this.

There isn’t a single sport that is free of sexual predators. We see examples of this with the allegations against the USA gymnastics national team physician, Larry Nassar, who was also the medical coordinator for USAG at several Olympic Games. He was accused by 130+ women of sexual assault and was sentenced to 175 years in prison. (NBC News).



More than 290 coaches and officials that are associated with United States national sports organizations have also been accused of sexual violence since 1982, many of which have never faced any kind of punishment. (Chicago Tribune).


More recently, a prominent figure in the breaking community, Crazy Legs from the Rock Steady Cru, was accused of using his position to pressure women for sexual favors, as well as share unsolicited pictures of his genitalia for over 20 years. Now that breaking has officially been recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), we have the protection of SafeSport, which was designed to protect members of US national sports organizations (NSO) from abusers like Crazy Legs and Jonathan Escotto.



Many women in the breaking community are afraid to come forward about the abuse that they’ve experienced due to the backlash they are likely to face. This is especially true when their abuser is a prominent figure or someone that they cannot avoid - such as a coach, a judge, or a fellow dancer. Unfortunately, there are many abusers that will use the breakin community to act without consequence, since it is common for talented or successful dancers to not be held accountable due to their skill level and support. I understand the women in these positions and hope that one day, they will find their voice as I have.


More importantly, however, I hope that the organizations that employ or have employed abusers will do the right thing by listening to victims and taking the appropriate action.


The Protection of SafeSport


SafeSport is an organization that the US Olympic Committee has partnered with to “recognize, reduce and respond to misconduct in sport.” SafeSport aims to respond to the following types of misconduct:


  • Bullying

  • Harassment

  • Hazing

  • Emotional Misconduct

  • Physical Misconduct

  • Sexual Misconduct, including Child Sexual Abuse


Since USA Breaking falls under the jurisdiction of SafeSport, we finally have the opportunity to make the powers that be aware of abusers in our community so they can be held accountable for their actions - not make excuses and repeatedly get away with abhorrent behavior.


We can no longer allow abusers to slink away into the shadows after coming into our lives and wreaking havoc. These perpetrators do not deserve to live comfortably in their lack of shame. It’s time for us – the survivors – to rise up and shine a bright light on their actions so SafeSport can remove them from their positions on the USA Breaking Committee. Most women in the breaking community do not feel comfortable coming forth about their abusers, just as the young athletes on the USA Gymnastics team did not. We can only begin to heal when we come together and gather the courage to speak up.


Together, we can do it.

How? By sharing our stories, utilizing the resources that are available to us, and knowing how we can protect ourselves from harm.

Today, I Share My Story


My story begins early one morning in 2011. Although this traumatic event took place almost 10-years ago, I have always had trouble speaking my truth. Not anymore, because the world needs to know my story and the role that Jonathan played in it, and how his ethics might impact the lives of other women if it is not prevented.

The story begins on the evening of Friday, June 2, 2011. I was on my way to Boston with my two best friends, James* and Nicole, to support our crewmate in a breakin competition for Red Bull BC1. We were only about a mile away from the event when the timing belt in my car broke on the highway. We had to call AAA and get a tow truck to bring my car to a nearby auto mechanic. The tow truck driver, Todd, was nice enough to drop the three of us off at the event so we could watch our friend. After the event, we were stuck in a city a few hours away from home, so Nicole called Jonathan to ask if we could spend the night since he lived nearby. He said yes. We hopped in a cab and made our way to Jonathan and his girlfriend’s apartment.


Jonathan was a club promoter in Boston. He welcomed us to come with him, but he said that we had to hurry up and get ready because he was already running late. So Nicole and I quickly got ready and then we all headed out.

Once we got to the club, we were all having fun, dancing and drinking together. It seemed as though the night was going well, despite the trouble we had earlier. Around 2 a.m., when the clubs in Boston closed, James, Nicole, Jonathan, and I all headed back to Jonathan’s apartment.


I always felt safe when I was with Nicole and James. They are my best friends, my right and left hands! I felt comfortable letting my guard down because I knew that nothing bad could happen to me while these two people were around. Jonathan was my friend and mentor. Plus, my friends trusted Jonathan enough to sleep in his house, so I thought I didn’t have any reason to feel unsafe.


When we got back to Jonathan’s, I quickly became tired from such a stressful day and late-night, so I took to the pull-out sofa on the first floor while James, Nicole, and Jonathan went upstairs to break for a while. At some point, James and Nicole decided to go to 7-Eleven to get a snack, and they asked Jonathan if he wanted to come. He said that he just wanted to shower and go to bed in his room, located on the second floor. Apparently, Nicole asked me when she came downstairs if I wanted anything, but I was asleep, so I didn’t respond.

The next thing I knew, I was jolted awake by Jonathan’s body pressed up against me. I was startled and said, “Jonathan, what are you doing??” I asked over and over again were James and Nicole were. He just kept saying that they had been gone for over an hour and a half – an impossible timeframe considering how close 7-Eleven was. It seemed as though he had waited for my friends, my protectors, to leave so he could make his move.

Jonathan pushed my tank top up and removed my blue shorts. I had my period, so blood got on him and the bed when he went down on me and penetrated me – without protection. He finally said, “If you really want me to stop, I’ll stop.” I looked at him with shock and desperation in my eyes and shouted, “YES, I WANT YOU TO STOP!”

By the time James and Nicole got back to the apartment, I had locked myself in the bathroom and Jonathan was just standing downstairs, casually eating a bag of white cheddar popcorn as if nothing had happened. Letting it slip his mind Jonathan wiped his hands on his shirt trying to dispose of the leftover residue from the popcorn, but unbeknownst to him, he had wiped my blood on his shirt. James took notice and asked what the red stains were in which Jonathan replied, “It’s just the popcorn dust.”


I begged Nicole and James to get me out of there, so we went to a nearby hotel that had a vacant room. I was still in shock and it was hard for me to process what had happened and if I wanted to get the police involved… After all, Jonathan had a girlfriend and a daughter who would be affected by this. I found myself thinking about how Jonathan’s actions would affect everyone, except me! Even when James offered to defend my honor, I was worried about what would happen to him, because he also has a daughter that could be affected by legal ramifications if James became involved in any conflicts.


The next day, we had my car towed from Boston to Connecticut, where I live. I felt so disgusted with the situation that I contemplated committing suicide. Suddenly, something clicked, and I realized that I was NOT ALONE. That it was NOT MY FAULT.

My friends and I went back to Boston and filed a sexual assault report. I got a rape kit and talked to a few different women who explained my rights to me and that I was the victim in the situation. Unfortunately, this was not the first time Jonathan had been accused of sexual violence. He knew how this worked and what to say so that he could get out of it. The detective on the case said that there isn’t much he can do because Jonathan said that we had consensual sex. A load of bull.


It is crystal clear that Jonathan has no respect for me or some other members of the breaking community. He proved this to be true when he was asked to not attend my crew’s anniversary event, and he showed up anyway - with friends. Jonathan had to be escorted out of the event by other members of my crew, all of whom were very upset that he had exhibited such a lack of respect on a day when we were supposed to be celebrating together.

Protecting Other B-Girls


After I was able to collect my strength, I brought this information to my fellow b-girls. I wanted to warn them about Jonathan so they could be alert and take extra precautions if they ever found themselves in an uncomfortable situation with him. To my surprise, all eight of the girls I told said that they had some kind of issue with Jonathan too!


I also reached out to a few b-boys that I knew had girlfriends, so I could warn them as well. I wanted to spread the message as far and wide as I could to shrink the chances of this ever happening again.

These other women and I found strength within each other, and I have now collected all the information that is necessary to bring to SafeSport against Jonathan. Thankfully, SafeSport takes these matters very seriously, and now that breaking is an official Olympic sport, Jonathan, being the vice president of USA Breaking, is expected to abide by their rules and regulations. I and all of the other b-girls out there have protection from Jonathan and other people like him.

I will use my voice, my strength, my power, to protect myself and my b-girls. I am no longer a victim of rape, I am a survivor. If my message just helps one woman then I have done what God has called me to do.


Nine ways to Protect Yourself from an Abusive Situation


1. Acknowledge when you don’t feel safe and don’t ignore that feeling. Trust your instincts.


2. Remember that NO means NO. Even if a person you have had previous sexual contact with is initiating. You are allowed to say NO whenever you want.


3. Be aware of a person’s past before being in a vulnerable position with them. – are they habitual abusers? Do they have unhealthy relationships? How do others in your community view them?


4. Stay alert at all times, especially when around new people. Do not let your guard down. Don’t attend practices, jams, or competitions alone, especially if you’re a female. Go with at least one friend that you trust! Most women feel afraid when they’re alone in strange places while few men do. It’s sad that women have to always be on the defense, but it’s true.

Survival mode in a male-dominated scene will help you do just that: survive.


5. Stay with a trusted loved one at all times. Do not let them out of your sight or vice versa.


6. Report any and all behavior that makes you uncomfortable to the appropriate authorities.

It’s always best to have a paper trail if you need to build a case later on down the road.

7. Do not take drinks from anyone that you don’t trust, not even one sip!


8. If you receive harassing or threatening messages online, do not interact. Screenshot the message, report it to the host (you can do this on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Gmail, Hotmail, etc.), and block the sender. Keep the screenshot in a safe place to show to the authorities, if necessary.


9. If you are a victim who has filed a police report, you have the right to call the police department and ask for an unredacted report. It will show you every word in the report with nothing crossed out.

Resources for Survivors


Organizations that can help you if you are a survivor of sexual assault:


• Me Too Movement / RAINN

• SafeSport - (720) 531-0340

• Protect NYC Dancers

• Youth Protective Advocates in Dance

• DanceSafe

• All The Ladies Say

• Bgirlherstory

• Homeboy Industries

• Break Safe

Therapeutic Resources


• Better Help online therapy

• PTSD Chat

• Crisis Text Hotline: 741-741

• Handbook of Sexual Assault and Sexual Assault Prevention

• Understanding Violence Against Women

• The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.


In acknowledgment of the abusers:


It’s important to know that most people who are abusers are often acting with an abused soul. In other words, they have been abused too. This doesn’t mean that they are allowed to lash out at others or be excused for their actions. It means they need to be held responsible for their actions and afforded the opportunity to get help and STOP the cycle of abuse.

Taking accountability first

Larry Nassar, the disgraced medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics, put himself in a position to make, alter and bend the rules that were supposed to be in place to protect the athletes that he was abusing, and today, Jonathan is in the same position. He has been promoted to DanceSport VP and has been appearing as if he is completely against and willing to defend athletes from the same abusive behaviors of which he himself is guilty of. Here is an excerpt from Jonathan’s announcement that named the newest members of DanceSport:





“USA Breakin' DanceSport VP, Jonathan "Xcel" Escotto, announces the members of the USA Breakin’ DanceSport Council. The athletes of the DanceSport Council represent the Breakin' athletes in the competitive endeavor. The purpose of the DanceSport Council is to interact with the Breakin' Community and provide athlete representation to ensure a direct line of communication between the athletes and USA Breakin’ BOD. The Council functions to advise on the best interest of athletes, recommend and protect the rights of athletes, provide an athlete perspective on the USA Breakin’ Board and committees, identify and select athletes to provide representation on USA Breakin’ operational committees which impact athletes, identify and develop athletes as future representatives within the organization, advocate Safesport and anti-doping values within the Breakin’ Community and organization, communicate and explain the reasons underlying USA Breakin’ BoD decisions to the Breakin' Community, and to make recommendations to the Board regarding athlete related policies, rules, and procedures.

DanceSport Council members.”



Jonathan Escotto has shown his true colors and proved that he should not be in a position that is meant to look out for others. His actions go against everything that DanceSport and SafeSport stand for. He must be removed from his position and held accountable for his actions.


I’m sharing my story today to let other survivors of rape and sexual assault know that their experiences are not their fault. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve had to drink, what you’re wearing, what your job is, what your hobbies are… You are allowed to walk in your divine light without anyone disturbing your peace. It is sad and unfortunate that someone has disturbed your abuser’s peace, but their actions are not your fault. They are in control of themselves and they CHOSE to prey upon you.


I ask you to take my hand and walk in the light with me; to choose to stop the cycle of abuse by calling out abusers and holding them responsible. I am here for you. The b-girl community is here for you. We are survivors and we will thrive.



Special Thanks to Bgirl Michiko, Miguel Teck, Bgirl Trinity, Jane L., Bgirl Rokafella, Papa Glyde, my Cru, and of course my family, and everyone who supports survivors in finding their voices.


Legal Counsel from Frank J. Riccio Criminal Defense Attorney



SIGN THE PETITION GET XCEL REMOVED/CLICK THE LINK: http://chng.it/ScjFC8d2QR



READ BLOG IN SPANISH/CLICK: https://www.ntegrityinmotion.com/post/violencia-sexual-en-la-comunidad-de-break-dance

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NINE WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR SELF FROM ABUSIVE SITUATIONS:









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