Be Inspired

Leading the Way with YPAD

September 9, 2020

I’ve shared before how proud to be at the helm of Youth Protection Advocates in Dance®, the organization founded by Leslie Scott Zanovitch. With a mission of educating dance professionals about keeping kids healthy and safe in dance, this cause is close to my heart!

As the current leader of YPAD and a champion of this mission, I have found myself standing up for some uncomfortable topics … particularly the topic of sexual abuse in dance. 

It’s clear though that being uncomfortable TALKING about sex abuse is absolutely no match for the pain and lifelong anguish survivors go through … and so talking about it is a MUST. We must talk about it to prevent it, and to prevent it we must be educated. Through evidence-based research and a panel of experts in psychology, social work, law, and advocacy, YPAD is moving this mission forward every day.

Last month we held a YPAD webinar for hundreds of dance professionals, focused on understanding the nature of sexual abuse and how we can be informed allies against it, working together to prevent abuse, intervene and report when needed, and to help those affected find healing.

From Katie Gatlin, social worker and licensed professional counselor, we discussed what it means to view sex abuse prevention from a trauma-informed approach (for example, using language such as “survivor” instead of “victim” and “abuser” instead of “perpetrator”). 

From Dr. Tomi-Ann Roberts, professor of psychology, we discussed the implications of our culture and media, and how our students may receive messages of objectification in their lives. We listened to her talk about just how important our artistic choices in dance are, from music and lyrics to costumes and dress code.

From Dr. Christina Donaldson, clinical psychologist, we learned about brain development and why it is essential that dance studios provide a nurturing environment in which our students can learn and literally grow.

From attorney Lisa Phelps, we discussed how to be a safe person for a child to come to, in the event they’ve experienced abuse. She advised us about best practices in listening, taking notes, and reporting suspected abuse.

From survivor and legendary choreographer Wade Robson, we learned that it’s possible to begin a process of healing after the disclosure of abuse. We listened to his profound story and understood the ripple effect we could put into action to keep kids safe.

And from founder Leslie Scott Zanovitch, we learned about the powerful combination of advocacy and education. We have to come from a place of no shame and no blame, Leslie said, and encourage survivors to give themselves self-compassion. We must understand that as dance professionals, we carry a responsibility to learn, study, and practice being an informed educator and trusted resource.

It was a compelling webinar in every sense of the word. 

I’m grateful for our panelists who contributed, and for our attendees who listened and learned. And at YPAD, we knew we could do even more, so we opened up our Sexual Abuse in Dance course for FREE, which you can access through the link below.

I want to close out this post with four key resources and ways to take action:

Happy, healthy, and safe in dance starts with us, and it starts with these uncomfortable topics. As we know better, we do better … and we all want to do better for our kids.

With love and appreciation,


Be inspired
Get inspiration straight to your inbox.
Sign up