Arts groups distance selves from ‘contractor’ accused of sexual grooming

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TWO organisations – the 2 Cents Movement and the Bocas Lit Fest – in separate statements have distanced themselves from an individual alleged to have been involved in sexual grooming of minors.

The 2 Cents Movement aims to assist and promote young spoken-word artists. In a post on its website and Facebook page, the 2 Cents Movement said that after taking action over the allegations, it decided to re-engage the alleged offender, whom it described as a “contractor,” on a project basis.

It said that was after 18 months with no complaints to the authorities and after consultations. Saying it was aware and mindful of allegations against it, the 2 Cents Movement apologised to members, staff and stakeholders for any hurt or discomfort that may have been experienced in connection with the incidents.

The movement said it does not condone sexual misconduct of any kind, and has developed strict policies to deal with such matters.

“We continue to offer love and support to all persons that may have been affected by this situation,” it said, adding that when allegations were first made in 2017, it took the matter to the police and that the person accused was suspended from the organisation.

The suspension was on the basis of the allegations received to facilitate independent investigation from direct complaints to the police.

“We took action to ensure preventative measures were in place. We organised team training in three areas – youth work best practice workshop, a boundary setting and safeguarding workshop, and risks and protocol workshop hosted by the Children’s Authority. We created a mandatory contract with safeguarding guidelines that all contractors were required to sign before engaging in any further work,” the group said.

But, it went on, “It has come to our attention that this situation is unresolved, evolving and may be affecting the well-being of our community. We are no longer working with the contractor in any capacity and we have offered and provided counselling services to the aggrieved. We have been engaging further with our stakeholders to thoroughly address the matter,” the group said.

For its part, the Bocas Lit Fest said on Thursday that it was aware of reports in social and traditional media, over the past few weeks, of serious allegations of misconduct by members of an organisation in the local spoken word community. It did not name the group.

In a post on its Facebook page, the festival said it was “truly saddened” to learn of these developments, and “our thoughts are with the survivors during this difficult period.”

The allegations are “in totality, the antithesis of the core values of the Bocas Lit Fest as a literary arts development organisation,” the post said.

“The Bocas Lit Fest would like to take this opportunity to make it clear that we do not condone sexual misconduct of any kind. As an organisation that is committed to creating and nurturing a community-centred safe space, inclusive of young women and men” in TT, “through our innovative awards, partnership opportunities and signature events,” it said it recognised “an ongoing responsibility to improve the lives of young people.”

As a result, the post added, the Bocas Lit Fest had severed its relationship with “the third-party organisation and members in question…

“We also continue to work diligently with all stakeholders to protect the lives of all members of the wider community, particularly the most vulnerable,” it said.

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