In a recent letter to members, AYCO/ACE (American Youth Circus Organization and the American Circus Educators)released the details of their newest resource designed by their Health and Wellness Committee, the AYCO/ACE Ethical Principles of Sexual Abuse and Harassment Prevention. Executive director Tara Jacob states in the letter, “Circus should be a safe place for all people: a place of trust, learning, and connection,” and goes on to explain how “circus educators, organizations, and schools must hold responsibility for assessing and mitigating many different kinds of risks in order to prevent harm to students and all community members. The American Youth Circus Organization/American Circus Educators Association is committed to supporting our members and the wider circus community in securing physical and emotional safety for all.”
The document itself is a wealth of information, resources and policy suggestions that outlines best practices to prevent sexual abuse and harassment, and used together with other ACE/AYCO resources, will help to form a more complete picture for running an ethical, safe youth circus program for all. Jacob and team believe it is essential for the circus community to discuss these best practices and policies, in order to prevent harm, citing in their letter several incidents of sexual misconduct in the sector. In addition to discussing important policy and legal requirements, the document goes a step further to discuss ethical issues based around the power dynamics that are often present in coach/student, employer/employee relationships, and it lays the groundwork for not just policy, but discussions among staff, parents and students and implementation suggestions for setting the boundaries that will result in a healthier, safer environment for the circus setting.
Jacob states, “We hope that this document will be instrumental in helping educators, organizations, and schools to engage seriously and openly in creating a culture of safety, accountability, and best practice in their circus spaces.” Bravo AYCO/ACE, and thank you for outlining this essential information.