Appendix, on Donau115


I had deliberately omitted details in my original statement from 25.07.23 about the exchange I had with Donau115 4 1/2 weeks before the publication. I had chosen to do this because I wanted to protect Donau115. I figured if the details came out about how reticent the owners were in terms of awareness work, including consequences, the community would only be all the more disappointed in Donau. And I had hoped that once they felt the broad support from the scene, the venue would stand in solidarity with me. And that they, after reading the statement, would hopefully finally all understand what I had already confided to one of the three owners in the presence of two witnesses.

Unfortunately, until now, things turned out differently. The external communication of the venue on Instagram was scarce and nebulous, left a lot of room for interpretation, raised further questions, and also contained extremely problematic views, as well as misinformation about how the communication in advance actually was.
After the second and final statement before the announcement that Donau would take an indefinite break, I commented under the post and also made a phone call that same evening to the owner, with whom I had had exchanges all along. I confronted him with the misinformation and the shift of responsibility away from the venue. He told me that unfortunately he had only limited influence on the final statement, where the other two owners only slightly incorporated his change requests and those of the rest of the staff.
We remained on the terms that the owners would correct the misinformation within a week. Unfortunately, this has not happened to date.

After these two very unsatisfactory statements, the three owners decided together to close Donau on 31.07.23, without further explanation or clarification, for an indefinite period of time, leaving open questions by members of the scene unanswered. Since then, there has been a shift in the discussion in the scene, in which people who were previously uninvolved in the actual discussion, and some have not even read this statement, see and/or frame things differently than they are. There was never a "petition against" Donau, but an open letter from the scene, in which Donau is very praised but also criticized and asked for a statement.

So I would like to summarize here, once short and once long, what I had already commented on Instagram under the posts of Donau115. And what I had shared on my Instagram profile on Stories on the subject, and there as a story highlight "Donau115".
I intend to correct misinformation and to refute the accusation of alleged cancel culture. And then, finally, to put my time and energy back where it belongs in this discussion: to those affected. It is up to all of us, collectively, to not further traumatize them in this discussion.

Short version

What is wrong, or was incorrectly or unclearly implied in Donau's statement:

  • At the time of the first conversation (24.06.23), none of the people present knew about Greg Cohen's scheduled concert, including me. 

  • I never told Donau what to do, and I never told the owners to cancel the gig. I told them that they needed to figure out what they could and wanted to do first, and that it made sense to do it together with a professional awareness agency before we could coordinate further on that. I made this decision consciously before the first conversation and stuck to it throughout, not telling anyone what they should do or not, or convincing anyone. Either we have the same values or we don't, and it's not up to me to make decisions for anyone.

  • I did not tell them which awareness agency to consult. I said that I thought it would be a good idea to bring in an awareness agency because, quickly, it became clear that Donau had no experience in dealing with such cases. When I asked if they needed any recommendations, I gave them several, including the email address of one of these agencies.

  • They say that reading the statement made them realize that the gig must not happen. By this, they imply that I did not give them the same information beforehand. Which is not true. I had sat down with one of the owners and two witnesses. We talked for about 3 hours about nothing but the abusive relationship and it’s context. This was 4 1⁄2 weeks before the concert. When we found out about the concert, there were still 4 weeks to go (June 28–July 26). When Donau released their second statement, the first conversation was already 5 weeks ago.

  • They say that I would have agreed to talk to the other owners only if an association, aka Awareness Agency was present, but they fail to mention what prompted me to do so, namely the problematic views and lack of solidarity from two of the owners. It was only when it became apparent that when the three owners met, the other two shared problematic views and did not show solidarity with me that I made it clear that I would not attend a meeting with the three owners without professional mediation, which again they did not agree to.

What is problematic about Donau's last statement?

  • Donau's owners do not say that they believe me, but only that they support me in my going public. Even though, in the beginning, one of the owners assured me of his full support, before and after the concert, Donau practically did not support me. On the contrary. The last statement implies and claims so much wrong that, since its publication, I am only busy containing possible misinterpretations and rejecting accusations against affected persons and allies.

  • They do not communicate why I had asked them for confidentiality, which gives the impression that I had not cooperated with them or had made this decision imprudently. With one owner, I had excellent cooperation. I had asked to have communication go through him because another owner I didn't really know wasn't contacting me either. And because the third owner was pushy in talking to me privately, while already giving the impression of feeling sorry for me and not understanding the abuse,I also knew he was good friends with the abuser. I asked them for confidentiality because I wanted to protect myself from unsolicited attempts to contact me and anyone who wanted to keep me from going public.

  • They don't share my reasons for choosing to run communications through one owner, namely intrusive and awkward behavior from one of them, including a strong sense of unconscious bias, which later turned out to be true, and that I didn't really know the third owner.

  • They said they needed further information to come to a decision. I gave A LOT of information to this one owner: Concerned people don't owe you details. We are not in court! This is about their moral compass, protecting their employees and their audience, and executing their property rights, if they come to the decision to do that. And FYI, I now know for a fact that I was not the only one affected by Greg Cohen.

  • They say they wanted to confront Greg Cohen about the allegations before coming to a decision. What did they hope to gain from talking to the abuser? That he would tell them I got something wrong? That he would tell them he was sorry? What difference would that make? What the owners don't mention in this statement, is, how they are good friends with the abuser, which is a significant detail in this matter.

  • They say that communication between me and Donau ceased in mid-July, which firstly is quite accurate (we wrote last on July 19th) and secondly leaves out how we had remained: namely, that I would be kept informed if things changed on Donau's side. Once again, I had specifically made sure that everyone knew and understood that I would release the statement at the time of the concert and that I was already in contact with the press. I even told them about the podcast interview I had done. I told them on the day I was going to release the statement that I would do so later that day. 
    I purposely didn't include a lot of information about the backstory with Donau in my statement to protect Donau and give them a chance to sort of make things right without causing further damage. Donau on the other hand, did not consult me once before making one of their statements. I only spoke to the one owner after the second Insta post, and only because I wanted to talk to him about all the victim-blaming implied in it.

  • The owners say that the concert was cancelled in accordance with the musicians scheduled for that evening. They do not say that at least two of the other musicians canceled their participation in this concert. They may have cancelled the concert by agreement with the abuser, rather than by force. For sure they talked to the abuser that day, but not to me. Not once did they speak to me before releasing one of the statements, or their decision to take an indefinite hiatus.

  • Some people in the scene concluded that I asked Donau to close the club, or that they had decided to do so because of me. This isn’t true. The decision was made entirely by the owners and without further consultation with me or anyone else. I learned the same way you did, via Instagram. In fact I wrote two of the owners that night, asking to undo that decision. For the staff, for the musicians, for the whole community, and for affected people who might get blamed for this. I didn’t recieve and answer from either of the two.

Long version

I had told a friend about my experience, and told her that I was in the process of finding a way to deal with it. I plan to go public, and still need to figure out how that can even take place. And that I had written a few versions of a statement over the past few years, but didn't currently have one that I could or wanted to publish. She encouraged me to confide in one of the owners of Donau115. The reason for this leap of faith, also on my part, was that this owner and I had attended some meetings, in which people, who want to make Open Mics safer, exchanged ideas.
These community meetings took place twice in Donau115.I perceived the owner of Donau in these meetings as very attentive, knowledgeable, and reflective. Someone who is aware of his privileges and responsibilities and who actively works to make his space safer and takes affected people seriously. In addition, the perpetrator is not just anyone, but someone who now plays in Berlin almost exclusively in Donau115, and the club and the owners, as I later understood, especially the other two owners, were also very personally connected.

This conversation took place on 24.06., and besides me, there was just that friend, who also works in Donau, and another friend present. The conversation lasted a total of about 3 hours. I spoke about my experience and was taken seriously. I felt listened to and was assured of the solidarity of the owner. I was believed. The owner said in this conversation of his own accord that if he could decide alone, it would be immediately clear that this person committing violence would no longer play in Donau115 in the future. It seemed to me as if he were aware of his responsibility, similar to the duty of care that an employer has towards all his employees.

At the end of this conversation, he asked me what I expected Donau to do, to which I replied, "I can't tell you what to do. That's not my job either, and it would feel wrong to do that. After all, you are not only acting for me, but for all of us."I said, "You want to be a safer space, so it's important that you find out together, define, and formulate what your values are. And then you have to find a way to run this place so that it is in accordance with your values. You have to find out what your options are. And I think it is worth getting professional help for this, e.g., in the form of an awareness agency. You have to tell me what you can do and what you want to do. And then we can take it from there." I made this decision consciously in preparation for the conversation: I don't tell anyone or any institution what they should do, and I don't convince anyone. Either we have the same values or we don't. Either you know what you can and want to do, or figure it out, or you don't. I stuck to it all the time and still do because I know anything else would be an invitation for victim-blaming and responsibility shifting.

We remained in such a way that the owner would contact me at irregular intervals, and we remain in exchange regarding our respective processes, but that Donau contacts me at the latest when the next booking request comes in from or for Greg Cohen. And that any initiation of further persons should only take place in prior consultation with me and with my explicit permission. Everyone thought that this was the only correct way to proceed. There was no doubt about this because everyone present was aware of the sensitivity of the information, and the protection of those affected was the top priority for everyone. I left the meeting with a very good feeling.

Four days later, on 28.06., I received an email from that owner. He became aware that said perpetrator had already booked the next concert and that this was also to take place in a few weeks, on 26.07.23. He assured me that the timing and details of further possible courses of action should be absolutely up to me, and although he regretted not having a little more time for further steps, he assured me of his support, both before the concert, and after.

In the following email of 29.06.23 I wrote again that I could not tell Donau what to do but that we could gladly be in exchange as soon as Donau knew what it could do and what it wanted to do. Also here I pointed out that an awareness agency is important for this process. Also, to accompany the other owners in their process, where I already had reason to believe that they were not as far along in terms of awareness as the owner I was talking to, and that the identity of the perpetrator together with my experience would probably cause great cognitive dissonance.

In the next mail on the same day, the owner assured me that he would support me if I decided to go into more intensive exchange with Donau regarding the planned concert in order to get things moving, or if I wanted the concert to be cancelled. But he also said that he couldn't call in an awareness agency alone, but that for this, all three owners of Donau would have to agree, and he asked me for permission to let the other two in on it.

In the email of 30.06.23 I gave my permission to initiate the other two owners and wrote that I was preparing to go public. I did not set a date in this email because it was clear to me that I would need more support from the environment for this, so I would have to have some exhausting conversations with an uncertain outcome. And because I was not satisfied with the previous versions of my statement, I still had to write the statement to be published. I again pointed out the sense of an awareness agency in this process and asked to get, in any case, legal advice regarding cancellation fees to make sure that the venue is covered for any decision by the owners. Again, I did not ask that the gig be canceled, but I wanted to make sure that the owners made a well-informed decision on their own. I wrote that I would like to know to what extent Donau would like to support me, that the publication of the statement does not depend on it, but that it does make sense to coordinate. I gave, expressly as a suggestion, the email address of a renowned awareness agency. I wrote at the end of this email, strengthened by the email of the owner before: "I feel empowered by knowing that you are willing to take action. If we can make this happen before the gig on July 26th, let's do it!"

As a result, two days later, there was a meeting of the owners. Another owner tried calling me afterward, without giving me any indication of the direction the conversation could take. Since I had found him to be a very friendly guy, but not very knowledgeable about awareness, I decided against accepting the call and instead wrote to the already initiated owner that I would like to let the communication go through him for now.

Again, two days later, the owner assured me via e-mail that everyone was taking the matter very seriously and that it was a good idea to bring in an awareness agency. He told me that I could communicate with him and that I should please send him some proposals for a meeting with the awareness agency, which I did the following day.

That same evening I was at the queer-feminist open mic at Donau, which was well attended as usual. One of the other owners was present and came up to me with a look that I interpreted as desperate, pitying, and confused. I had the feeling all the time that he did not understand what had happened and was in deep conflict regarding his friendship and loyalty to the perpetrator. Unfortunately, this feeling proved correct a few days later. He asked me if we could talk, but then added that maybe this was not such a good moment, which I confirmed.Because of how I felt, I wrote this person a WhatsApp message that same evening, saying that I would like to have the communication bundled through one person, the owner I originally confided in. I did this, as I said, for protection from possible victim-blaming and also to keep the communication effective, rather than scattered. This was understood and respected.

A few days later, I made another phone call over the loudspeaker to the initiated owner of Donau; my partner was involved in the conversation. I asked him to be present as a witness. In this conversation, the owner passed on that, unfortunately, no agreement could be reached with the other two, that they did not want to involve an awareness agency, and that they did not want to become active as Donau in any other way. Some statements from the owner's conversation were passed on, which I do not want to repeat here. But loyalty to the perpetrator was mentioned, as was the basic assumption that there was no structural problem but an individual problem. It became clear that Donau did not see itself as responsible, and that repression of cognitive and emotional dissonance, as well as implicit victim-blaming, was happening with the other two owners. I corrected the owner when he told me the others did not want to comply with my request to cancel the concert and that I had never asked them to do so. That I would most likely would act differently in their position because my moral compass is clearly aligned, but that I cannot, nor do I want to, take that decision away from them.
The owner was very disappointed in this development himself. We agreed that he would pass on the contents of our phone call to the other owners and keep in touch.

The other owner sent me a 5-minute WhatsApp voice message the same day. I wrote to him and reminded him that I would like the communication to go through the other owner for reasons (mentioned above), which I also told him. That he had also agreed to this way of communication, and that I would not listen to his message for reasons of self-protection. I asked that if he wanted to contact me, he should please do so together with the other owners via email. And that I did not want to be contacted privately by him.

The way via the initiated owner was always open; with him, I was still in exchange. Nevertheless, the other owner contacted me again via email and SMS. This disregard of my boundaries out of self-protection further weakened my trust in this person.

During this time, I spoke confidentially with several colleagues, including in a podcast interview for the scene on the topic of identity and psychological violence in music. It was clear that the silence was stressful for everyone. For this reason, among others, I was encouraged by some to publish the statement around the time of the planned concert, preferably before. I decided to publish the statement before the concert and also to give Donau the chance to make up for what had been missed so far because, from the conversations with my colleagues, it was already foreseeable how big the disappointment from the scene would be.

I kept the owner informed about this development. And I asked him to assure me that he had informed the other owners that I would publish the statement around the time of the concert, and that I would also go to the press with it. That everyone was aware of this. This was confirmed.
I had a lot of work and trouble getting the statement ready to go, and I barely made it before the concert date.
I published it shortly before midnight, on the night of 25.07. to 26.07.23 and wrote to the initiated owner of Donau before, on 25.07. at 17.50 o'clock, that I would publish the statement still in the same evening. The receipt of this message was confirmed, and we agreed that we would speak soon.

What followed this failure to support can be summarized as poor to harmful crisis management. The staff would still like to comment themselves, but they have been in solidarity with me from the beginning and throughout.

The owners closed Donau without further indication of reasons on 31.07. for an indefinite time frame. Although I was still on the phone with the owner after the second Donau statement, and we had agreed that the misinformation would be corrected, and open questions answered within a week, that has not happened to date.
My Instagram comments and my direct messages to two of the owners, asking them to reopen Donau115, and give the community back their space for face-to-face conversations, remain unanswered.

There was an open letter from the scene praising Donau as a place that is already doing a lot right. And in which Donau is also criticized for the previous omission of active solidarity, and in which it is asked to communicate its own values transparently and to stand up for them. Other voices on social media had the same content. Partly different in tone, yet always assuring that this place is loved and needed, and we all need to have this discussion together.

Contrary to what is currently presented, there was no "petition against" Donau. There was an open letter, including a lot of appreciation and love, and justified criticism.
It is not the case that Donau is being punished. It's that the community, which plays a major role in shaping this place, demands clearer communication and better handling of the situation, always under the assurance of how good and important this place already is.

That's not too much to ask. And it's for all of us.

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