I have lots of BJJ friends. By this I often mean people I don't know well at all, but I am friendly with, because I figure anyone who loves BJJ can't be all bad. People I may only know briefly in real life, if at all, or people halfway around the world that I have never met. I still call them friends because I'll be anyone's friend until proven otherwise or given reason not to.
I had a friend in town (a few years ago) who was a BJJ guy with a purple belt. His name is Paul Saucido. He moved to California to work for Rigan Machado and help with administrative duties at Rigan's academy. Last year he moved back to Austin as a brown belt and started his own academy, Zen Jiu Jitsu, as a Rigan affiliate. Haven't seen him since he got back into town, but I considered him a friend. When he started planning a Rigan Machado seminar in Austin, I promoted it here on the blog and with my academy. All well and good.
But then several people independently brought to my attention that in fact, this friend was accused of rape a few years ago, and had been convicted on a plea bargain of a few lesser charges. This made me really upset and unhappy. Aside from the obvious sympathy for the survivor (who was passed out drunk at the time) and distress that I could have been friends with someone who could do that... the other disturbing thing was--
How do I handle this and remain consistent with my principles?
It's not the same as Lloyd's deal, to me. For one, Paul's done his time, he's on probation now, and will be a registered sex offender for another twelve years. He's not lying about it, nor is he buying www.PaulSaucidoRape.com sites.
For a few days I kind of sat on it, pondering. I emailed with him a bit to verify the essentials (yes, it was him, and yes, he was convicted, and yes, Rigan knows about it.) Pondered some more. Was on the brink of just letting it go-- not promoting his seminars and not recommending his academy, but kind of shrugging my shoulders because he's trying for a second chance and everyone deserves to be able to make a living.
BUT... today I realized I was doing a disservice to the ladies who might consider taking jiu jitsu at his academy. How lame would it be as a rape survivor to be taking self defense from a rapist without even realizing it? Unbelievable. Unacceptable.
So don't blabber at me about "but he wasn't convicted of RAPE, he pled to indecent exposure and unlawful restraint!" Because I am a prosecutor and I know how plea bargains work. You often plead down cases that are strong enough, on the evidence, to win the higher charge if it goes to trial. Why? To spare the survivor, especially in cases like this. If the survivor is agreeable, that is. Just because he ended up being nailed for waving his willie and holding her down doesn't mean he didn't stick it in her while she was passed out drunk.
So. My erstwhile friend, who lives in my town and teaches jiu jitsu in my town, is a rapist, in my eyes. And I can't get behind that. I can't support his academy, his seminars, etc. Sure he deserves a second chance but I don't think he should be teaching jiu jitsu to women who don't know his background.
I'm not taking out ads in the paper, picketing the academy, or passing out flyers. I'm just taking a stand here, in Austin, as a woman and a jiu jitsu fighter and sexual assault survivor, because I think that's what's right.
Edited to add: I sent this message privately to Rigan Machado via facebook. I will post here whatever he replies.
I apologize for bringing this up, but I wanted you to be aware of a
blog post I wrote recently about your student and representative here in
Austin, Paul Saucido. I originally promoted your upcoming seminar on
the blog, but then was made aware of his criminal history. I pondered
what to do for some time, but I had to take a stand. I hope you agree
with me and I hope you will reconsider your support of his academy. Not
entirely-- but at least insofar as he is teaching women without their
knowing his history. I think it would be an appalling public relations
NIGHTMARE for a rape survivor to discover she is being taught self
defense/ BJJ by a rapist under your aegis."
Edited to add, on Saturday June 29: Just received this message from Rigan on Facebook at 12:01pm CT: