Female comedians reported sexual assaults online and this is how the comedy world responded

Beth stellingCourtesy of Beth Stelling/FacebookBeth Stelling, a comedian who reported being allegedly abused on her Instagram.

Female comedians in Los Angeles are working together to create a safer environment for performers who have been sexually harassed and assaulted to share their stories and change the way accusations are managed in the comedy world.

In late December, Beth Stelling posted a photo on Instagram showing her bruise-covered legs with a note about the alleged abuse she suffered while in a relationship with another LA comic. Three days later, fellow comic Courtney Pauroso revealed on her podcast that she had also been allegedly abused by the same man. Though neither released his name, it was quickly revealed online, and the man defended himself with a Facebook post claiming that the accusations were “false and extremely hurtful.”

In a lengthy news report for BuzzFeed, reporter Katie J.M. Baker examined how private Facebook groups have evolved as forums for comedians to discuss the abuse they have faced, as well as the changes city theatres are implementing to address the accusations.

One comedian, Erika, told Baker that a Facebook group helped her make a case against her alleged rapist. Four women had responded to her post saying that the man had assaulted them, too.

“People always ask why you didn’t go to the police, but I wouldn’t have had a case if I hadn’t posted on Facebook,” Erika said. “That group is the only reason I had a chance.”

Members of the groups have also posted screenshots of harassing messages that they have received, which are then reported to the theatres. This has resulted in the banning of some of the accused from venues around the city.

The report found that Upright Citizens Brigade and iO West, two of the most well-known and respected comedy theatres and training centres in LA, “drew up new misconduct policies and hired new staffers to handle allegations.”

UCB hired an outside, licensed therapist as director of student affairs and “offers UCB students a limited number of free therapy sessions and other mental health services,” as well as “does its best to address allegations in a way that is fair to both the accused and the accuser.”

iO West hired a “new human resources director tasked with overseeing the theatre’s new, mandatory sexual harassment and discrimination policies, along with working on diversity outreach.”

While these are important shifts, charges of sexual assault are still rare. In the case of Erika’s alleged rapist, the district attorney hasn’t decided whether to prosecute. The detective emailed Erika and said, “Unfortunately [he] has the right to come back into the community. But at least you women have the knowledge to make sure it does not [happen] to anyone else.”

Read the full BuzzFeed article here.

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