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Teen Dance Clubs: Watch Out for Predators at the Party

A maxim of safety is to stay in public places and go out with friends, but you still can't let your guard down.

March 22, 1997|DEVA KYLE | Deva Kyle, 18, attends Monroe High School. A longer version of this article appears in the current issue of L.A. Youth, a citywide newspaper by and for high school students

I didn't always love dancing. When I was in my early teens I was too self-conscious to let loose. As I got older, though, I saw how much fun everyone was having. They were so uninhibited, it enthralled me. I knew I couldn't keep myself away. I guess that's why I love dancing now. All rules of etiquette are thrown out the door. There are some rules, of course--ones that are bound by law, but generally dancing is for letting loose, shameless flirting and innocent fun all rolled into one. The second you stop, the old rules return. It is as if nothing has changed and, more important, nothing has.

This is why I was excited to go to a club that night. It was a new medium. I had attended just about every type of party: flyer parties, raves, parties that didn't end until days later. I had boogied through every school dance. I wanted something different. All of my friends had been to (teen-oriented) nightclubs, and they told me how cool they were. Someone I knew even worked as a go-go dancer. Everyone had told me how much fun it was and how good-looking the guys were. They also told me some not-so-great things--the guys can be pushy and if you don't keep up your guard, they'll take advantage. But I was ready. I thought it wouldn't be much different than any party, so I ventured out with two friends.

I walked up the lighted steps and entered the dance floor. At first there weren't very many people there. But by 10:30 p.m., the place was packed.

Amid all the dancers, I noticed a girl. Blonde hair, blue eyes, cute, she didn't look much like a club frequenter. She and her friend were dancing when two guys came up to them. The guys looked like they knew each other yet they approached the girls separately. The men looked to be in their late 20s and the girls didn't look a day over 16.

The girl began dancing innocently with her partner yet he kept pulling her in. He would lift her skirt. She would let it fall. After he put her leg around him four times, she left it there.

A little bit later I saw them again and the girl seemed to be struggling. When she finally broke free from the man, I saw that she was crying. Her clothes were untucked and unbuckled and her angelic face was smeared with mascara and embarrassment as she ran off the dance floor.

What had happened? I felt puzzled and guilty. Why didn't I do anything to stop it? But it looked consensual until the end. If it had really been an assault, wouldn't I have known while it was happening? Besides, I couldn't watch them the whole night, I had my own problems with somewhat aggressive dance partners.

About five minutes later, my friend Lisa found us. She looked upset. We asked her what had happened and she told us: A guy grabbed her and began dancing. She danced a bit, to be polite. Before she could get away, another guy, a friend of the first, got in front of her. They had her cornered. They groped her and raised her skirt, but she got away. That is when she found us.

This was the last straw. It was only midnight, but we had to get out of that place. During the drive home we related our experien- ces. Rosie was burned by a man smoking a cigarette. Lisa told of the men who approached her. It was strange how although we were together almost the entire evening, we were oblivious to each others' experiences. All of a sudden I realized how a girl could get in trouble in such a crowded place. You are always told never to be alone with a man you don't know--always to go to public places. But sometimes public places can be just as unsafe and lonely. Especially a public place like a nightclub.

Afterward, I felt really confused. I felt a little weird about the way some guys manhandled me. At the same time, I did have fun and I didn't ever feel like I lost control. I could always just walk away from anything I didn't like.

I contacted the club about my concerns and I was invited down for a personal interview with the owner. They really took me seriously, especially the part about the girl who might have been assaulted.

The owner of the club said that he had never had any reports of serious assaults happening at the club, adding he would take immediate action if anyone at his club had a problem with anyone. "It is unfortunate when anything occurs that crosses anybody's line. .J.J. We have a very low tolerance for people invading other peoples' privacy. .J.J. That's why we have so many security guards on duty."

He stated proudly that his security policies not only result in the expulsion of anyone who is acting inappropriately, but also prevent gang members from entering the club and keep minors away from drugs and alcohol. All guests are frisked to avoid any weapons, and you have to show ID to get to the area where drinks are sold.

He noted with pride that his club is a place where youth can have fun. "Where are kids supposed to go? Kids get to express themselves. If they're gay, straight or undecided. [This club] is a safe place for kids to come out and have the wildest time that they can have, playing by the rules."

The owner seemed to care about what goes on in his club, although he may not be completely aware of all that goes on.

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