Rollerblading and a #MeToo Moment

Roskilde2014Tents

Tents at Roskilde in 2014 (Photo via WikiCommons user Knak)

 by Brian Krans

Nearly two months ago, Victoria Acevedo posted on Instagram that she was “sexually abused by an American skater” while traveling through Europe in 2014. 

In her July 15 post, she shared a photo taken of her outside the premiere for Formosa in 2018, smiling with a closed mouth and walking with her hands in her jacket pockets. 

“How can I fight so that in skating they stop supporting sexual abusers?” she wrote. 

Next was a photo of a piece of art she says she made the year after her alleged attack, a body bloodied and dismembered and violently penetrated. 

At the bottom of her post, she tagged Chris Farmer and included the hashtag #MeToo

The post was shared on “Rollerblading Rollerblading,” a popular group on Facebook. Most of the reactions were immediate: they either condemned Farmer or his accuser. Some responses were supportive of her coming forward, years after the fact. Others questioned her motives and delved into what parts of her past were easily accessible.  

The events have been characterized by those in our community with no first-hand knowledge of the situation as a drunken hookup at a weeks-long party re-written in a lens of regret, remorse and revenge. Others, however, applauded her bravery for coming forward about an incident that occurred while in the company of dozens of other rollerbladers. 

The #MeToo movement has inspired women to come forward to tell their stories of sexual harassment and abuse. It has been a simple statement that has snowballed to topple extremely powerful men, from alleged serial predators like Harvey Weinstein to reluctantly resigned former U.S. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota. 

Those accusations often stemmed from events that happened years to decades ago, when few people were listening and many women’s accusations were dismissed as part of the boys-will-be-boys status quo. 

In this case, the events in question happened five years before the allegations were made public.

Because rollerblading remains a male-dominated sport, accusations of sexual assault levied against any of us — let alone a longtime professional — should be taken seriously and be stated in more than just one-sided posts on social media, including the reactions of online commenters who face zero ramifications for their own accusations against either party. 

To my knowledge, this is the first case of one rollerblader using #MeToo against another, accusing a well-known and well-liked legend in the sport of doing the unthinkable and the intolerable. (EDIT: Since publishing this story, another skater has said he was molested from someone he met through skating, but declined to share details.)

Rollerblading comes with its risks, but being unsafe when your skates are off shouldn’t be one of them.  

If rollerblading had anything close to a traditional newsroom, I would have recused myself from covering the accusations against Chris, as I’ve considered him a friend for close to a decade.

I met him years ago in San Francisco while he was on tour. Since then, Chris has stayed at my place, sent a care package to a kid in my hometown, and greeted me with a big smile and a hug, as do many others who know him.

The accusations came as a shock, as I have never witnessed any behavior from Chris that would prevent me from calling him a friend. I’m proud to say I quickly distance myself from assholes, and I wouldn’t file him into that category.

I’ve hung out with many famous skaters before, but I’m not a woman, so our experiences will always be inheritably different.

Chris has gathered many friends and fans in the sport in the decades he’s been a part of it. His friendly attitude and unparalleled physical ability has propelled him to god status. He’s changed the sport through his unique blend of personal style and ballsy approach to it.

I have never met Victoria — better known as Vicky — but I did spend about four hours interviewing her over video messaging about the details of her side of the story weeks after she made the initial accusation, as well as following up with her about things that didn’t add up. I’ve confirmed what details I could, but large parts of this story are a he-said, she-said balanced timeline of events. 

I wasn’t at Roskilde in 2014. But neither party involved denied something sexual occurred in Chris’ tent in the early hours one morning in July that year.

The lingering question remains whether the encounter was consensual.

Again, if I were working in a traditional newsroom that covered rollerblading, I would have recused myself from the story for a conflict of interest: I’ve considered Chis a friend for the last decade and in that time I’ve never personally witnessed him being so much as rude to a server at a restaurant.

But rollerblading’s traditional news outlets have been silent on the matter, so here we are because the accusations deserve attention, considering the seriousness of the alleged offenses. 

They’ve resulted in some of Chris’ longterm sponsors dropping him, along with some deplorable comments from inside the skating community towards a fellow skater who says she’s a victim of sexual assault.  

“It’s important to tell the full picture,” Victoria told me. “I also know the other side of the story.”

There is no criminal investigation into the matter, so the rollerblading community is the ultimate judge and jury in this case. There are merely accusations and responses, the majority occurring on social media. 

“The accusations are untrue,” Chris posted to his Instagram story to his 24.6k followers weeks after the allegations were made public. “When they initially came out, I handled the matter privately and have since taken a long break from social media. I stand by my innocence.”

Handling it personally included calling Victoria the day she made the post.

Chris’ social media break is now over, and he’s back to posting clips of him skating rails in his home state of Minnesota.

But since he made his initial statement, weeks after the accusations were made, he has lost sponsorships and partnerships from longtime friends in both Vibralux and DEAD. The companies’ statements offer apologies to Victoria and the blading community at-large.

“You all deserve better than this,” the Vibralux statement on Aug. 30 said. “Nobody wants to discuss trauma or sexual allegations, but for our community to feel like a safe and open place for everyone, we need to be better in how we handle these things.”

“we hope that Victoria and Chris are able to begin their healing process,” the DEAD statement concluded.

Below is a timeline of events pieced together from my interview with Victoria, Chris’ public statements on the matter (He declined to be interviewed for this piece, so any attribution is directly from his two statements and screenshots of messages released on Instagram), other social media posts, and confirmation from those present for events. It’s an assembly of what facts remain after time, memory and social media hysteria has played its course.

Names of many people involved (e.g. who was hosting, others at contests, etc.) have been omitted due to the sensitive nature of the accusations, their requests not to be named, and the small and reactionary nature of our community.

Berlin 2014

 

Victoria Acevedo is a Chilean rollerblader and photographer. English isn’t her first language, but neither are the many others she encountered during her first trip to Europe in 2014. Before she’d travel there, she and Chris Farmer followed each other on Instagram.

They met in person in June 2014 at Summerclash — a ramp and camp event in Berlin — which was only a week before Roskilde, so many sponsors flew their well-known skaters to Europe. Hundreds of others also flocked there. Both are hard-partying skating events that bring many people from different parts of the blading-sphere together. 

Chris says he flew in from LAX to Berlin, took a nap to combat jet lag, and awoke to many faces, old ones and new ones. That’s when he first met Victoria in person. 

“He said he had a crush on me,” she said of their first meeting. 

Victoria says he tried to get her to go out on a date, but she turned him down because she wanted it to be more than just for a slice of pizza. At one point, while trying to be around her, he brought her a bag of gummy bears. 

“He was really friendly. He was trying to get my attention,” Victoria said. “I was trying to be polite with him. I respect him the same way my friends do.”

Chris says they “hit it off and there was quite a bit of flirting going on back and forth.”

At Summerclash, Victoria says she was busy taking photos, trying to see everything and avoiding getting tied down to one group, let alone one person. After the contest, the party kept on, as they typically do, and one of Victoria’s friends warned her about sticking around, as everyone was “drunk and stupid.” She ignored her friend’s advice, staying around the campsite, eventually meeting another woman named Victoria.  

“Chris Farmer is in love with you,” Victoria recalls the other Victoria telling her. 

Chris says after the party that Friday, Victoria had said she didn’t have a comfortable place to stay that night, so he offered her a bed in his hotel room, because one of his temporary roommates was expected to remain at the campsite. 

But that changed and that hotel roommate came back. The open bed became one shared with Chris, who Victoria describes as “moody” but appeared happy to share a bed with her.

“I was sharing the bed like friends would,” Victoria said. 

As she was going to sleep, she says she felt Chris’ hand slide up her shirt. 

“Now I know why he wanted me here,” she recalls thinking. 

She says she pushed his hands away and slept with her arms crossed over her chest. 

Chris says “nothing physical happened that night.”

“I do not push on women, I give them their space and respect a woman’s right to now assume that a woman in my hotel room means that something would happen,” he said. 

The next morning, they both showered, Victoria saying she “left because it was super awkward.” 

Before the contest was about to begin, Chris split his shin open so bad he needed an ambulance to take him to the hospital“This meant no more skating for the rest of my trip in Europe,” he said.

But Chris and Victoria remained in contact, sharing where they were and the location of sessions with large groups of skaters, many of whom who planned to attend Roskilde, an event in Denmark about 20 miles west of Copenhagen that attracted an estimated 131,000 people for numerous events, mostly the various musical performances from the Rolling Stones to Drake. Rollerbladers went for the skating and partying. 

It was only a seven-hour drive from Berlin. Victoria traveled in a van with her close group of friends. Chris and others took a bus.  

Victoria celebrated her 23rd birthday in Copenhagen on June 29, 2014, the first day of Roskilde.

Denmark 2014

 

As Victoria and Chris traveled around Copenhagen with their respective groups of friends, they stayed in contact through WhatsApp, Chris sharing his location so Victoria had the opportunity to meet up wherever the session landed next. Chris gave Victoria rides on his bicycle as the group moved around the city, sharing a photo of her on his Instagram, which has since been deleted. 

Victoria later recalled the events as Chris “marking his territory… making sure I was there with him.”

That night, Chris invited Victoria out to a bonfire. For her birthday, he gave her a basket that held two beers and a cactus with a chili plant on it. “This is how I was taught to treat women and this is how any woman I’ve dated can attest to,” Chris said. 

Victoria thanked him but says he seemed upset when she wasn’t moved by his gesture. “I felt bad because this is too much. I grabbed a beer, but I didn’t take the chili,” she said.

At the Roskilde festival itself, Victoria says she was at a loss. She didn’t have a ticket (They were about $212 USD) or a lot of money. She was able to get in a few times by taking her blades, telling security at the gates that she was there to skate. 

“The place was huge, but I felt like I couldn’t move,” she said of the crowded atmosphere. “Everyone was drunk and I found it more safe near my tent.”

Her tent — she illustrated by drawing various key locations at the festival — was not grouped with Chris’, rather down a makeshift aisle several yards down. But like all camping skate events, people migrated all over the place during the day and night, visiting, drinking, listening to music, etc. 

Because of Chris’ shin injury, he couldn’t skate. Instead, he judged the contests on Tuesday, July 1, the same day he went to the medical tent to get his stitches removed. 

Upon Chris coming back from the medic, Victoria asked him if he wanted to go somewhere quiet and get away from the chaos of the festival. The two went to the van and laid down and talked for a while. Chris said that included “that she felt indifferent about letting people see that there was anything between us.”

Victoria says she made it clear she didn’t want to be Chris’ girlfriend. 

“He wanted to hang out with me,” Victoria said. “I touched his hair and we did talk about life.”

Chris’ hair was in his trademark shaggy 70s-rocker long look at the time. 

The two left the van and headed back to camp. Victoria says she grabbed Chris’ hand while they walked. 

“I touched his hand to see if I felt something about him,” she said. “That day, I wanted to be more open to him, but I didn’t feel anything.”

While there are some discrepancies in timelines between Victoria and Chris’ accounts, the events leading up to what happened in Chris’ tent began with a bottle of liquor. A group of people had been hanging out and drinking, and Victoria says it was the only day she drank at the festival.

“At some point in the early evening,” Chris said, “the two of us had parted ways and separately continued our nights of partying.”

After a few hours, Victoria said she was drunk, bored and hungry, so she left the campsite and went to one of the onsite cafes. At one point, she met up with a friend who she says she always had a crush on. He kissed her. “So, obviously, I fall in love with him,” she said.

They hung out for a few hours and later had what Victoria described as a “quickie” in his tent.  

After, she returned to her own tent alone and soon went back to the cafe for pizza. Feeling “full and sleepy” Victoria says she was again on her way back to her tent when she spotted Chris. She says she felt like she was in trouble. 

“He grabbed my shoulder. He said, ‘We need to talk,’” she said. “He took me to his tent. Really slow. I was really drunk.”

In Chris’ tent, the two talked. Chris said Victoria “noticeably became upset and emotional” and told him she had slept with someone else. Victoria said Chris seemed upset with her.

“He was really curious, but also really angry because he was sad,” she said. “He wanted to be emotional with me.”

In Chris’ statement, he said, at that point, the adage “nice guys finish last was ringing true more than ever,” but Victoria disagrees with that characterization of the events. 

“I don’t think he was the nice guy,” she said. 

Chris says after talking about it “it seemed like we were both ready to go to sleep until she reached over and grabbed my genitals. I wasn’t expecting that and it honestly took me by surprise. We had not gone this far up to that point and I had been respectful of her space.”

He says he left the tent to urinate, came back to the tent and “we proceeded to have mutual consensual sex to which during the act, she stimulated herself with her fingers.”

Victoria says it Chris wasn’t respectful and it wasn’t consensual. She said he was upset she “gave the chance to a random guy” and he wanted to know who she had slept with. As she pushed him away, she says, his erect penis poked up from the top of his pants. Victoria says he left to pee, came back, pulled her trousers down and let it happen because she said she couldn’t do anything about it.

Chris says he stands by the fact that Victoria “gave no indication, verbal or physical, that it was something she [had] any objections to. If she did, even in the slightest bit, I would have stopped immediately. That is the kind of man I was raised to be and that is the man who I am today.”

When it was over, Victoria said she cleaned herself with her clothes and closed her eyes. In the morning, she says she awoke to Chris holding her. She tried to leave without waking him, but she says he reached out for her. 

“Give me my stuff,” she says she said at the time. 

Victoria says she went back to her tent, gathered some things and went to shower. 

“I took like three showers,” she said.  

Victoria says she ran into a friend and tried to tell him what happened, but he was too busy working at the cafe. She started having an anxiety attack, so she went back to her tent. 

“I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “Then I went to skate. I was alone. I felt better.”

As people started waking up, Victoria says she avoided bladers but eventually made her way to the street contest. Chris and the man she had slept with before — the person who she says Chris wanted to know who it was — were both judges, which made her feel paranoid.  

Chris says after the night Victoria stayed in his tent “she said she felt ashamed of what had happened and that she was not going to drink anymore for the rest of the festival. I helped try to talk her through it and get her mind off of it by going around the festival recycling.”

Recycling is when people pick up empty cans and bottles in return for cash, but Victoria says Chris kept trying to get her attention while she did it. She says she wanted her to leave him alone. “Maybe he didn’t understand,” she said.  

At one point, as word spread that Chris and Victoria were together in his tent that night — while others had heard of her and the other skater earlier in his tent — Victoria says she sat Chris down to talk, recalling making one point clear: “We were not together. You took advantage of me!” 

“I was really angry,” she said. 

After Roskilde, Victoria went to Berlin and — according to a post Chris made to his Instagram account on Aug. 30 this year — she messaged him that she missed hanging out with him and he was “really cool.” They both wished they had more time to spend together, but Victoria wrote “I fuck it up.”

“I just wanted to hear what he had to say to me,” Victoria said of why she stayed in contact with Chris. 

Post-Accusations

 

Since my interview with Victoria, Chris has posted snippets of their conversations after Roskilde when she was in Berlin, as well as after she saw him in a skate video and later when he curtailed his conversations with her after meeting someone else while he lived in California. 

I have tried to be as sensitive and thoughtful in my approach as possible.  I posted the details of this matter to my IG story, now here’s some proof of our interactions. I want to stress that is this is just a very small amount of the hours we spent communicating through messenger,text, phone calls, FaceTime, Skype, etc… I did not wish and do not wish to attack anyone, but at this point all I can do is offer the public the opportunity to see the situation for what it is, someone who regret their actions and tried to turn it into something else. After our time in Europe, we continued as friends for years and moved on from our awkward situation until at some point our friendship dwindled off. She continuously apologizes TO ME for doing wrong and tells me that she fells (sic) guilty for what she did to me. It wasn’t until we stopped talking and I began seeing someone that that the narrative changed. I hope this helps put the matter to rest and will continue to be respectful and supportive of women and that everyone finds peace with themselves moving forward,” Chris’ full post on Aug. 30 reads. 

According to Chris’ selected screenshots of those conversations, the following March, Victoria sent him another message, this time saying she still felt bad about “what I did with you,” but she wrote that she always respected him. 

“…what I did was wrong and immature, but I think you did wrong too… I think you are nice and kind and I really miss how we talk and laugh a lot before,” she wrote. 

Chris apologized for being “flakey/non-talkative” over those last few months because he’d met someone else while living in Los Angeles and didn’t want to talk with Victoria while with his new girlfriend.

“Yes, I know the attraction was there between the two of us and I know you wanted to take things slow, which I was fully okay with, but then things happened how they did… Strange situation, but shit happens and all we can do is learn from it…,” he wrote. “You do not need to continue to apologize, let’s just move on with a clean slate.” 

Chris finished his message by saying that he couldn’t wait for the next opportunity to be around one another. 

Three months later, in June 2015, Victoria wrote Chris to tell him she saw his VOD (for Vibralux) and she thought it was “so good.”

But she said in her Instagram post on July 15th this year that seeing him on-screen during the Formosa premiere last year made her want “to throw up.”

“While watching the movie … I was thinking, How can I fight so that in skating they stop supporting sexual abusers ?, I have to talk, things have to change and I never spoke until today, maybe someone listens and positive changes are made for us the women who skate. No more Abusers #metoo” 

One difference in her reaction was that she sought counseling and finished university.

Victoria’s post in July wasn’t the first she time she’d mentioned to a fellow rollerblader about what allegedly happened to her at Roskilde in 2014, confirmed by people who have heard talk of the allegations as early as 2015. 

In her Instagram post, Victoria says the portrait she made in 2015 was a result of wine and her hands talking for her. She included in quotes, “it did not happen because of my clothes, it did not happen because of my past it was because of his ego.”

She said she decided to come forward after recently breaking up with her latest boyfriend. 

“I made the post because I was finally ready,” Victoria told me. “It felt really good. Now I can move on.”

Chris’ Instagram statement on Aug. 24 didn’t mentioned Victoria by name, but included an acknowledgement that he understands “that sexual assault is a very real and serious matter,” including seeing firsthand the effects of its traumas can have on someone’s life. 

“I’ve said all I can say… This is my truth and this is what I stand by,” Chris’ statement concluded. 

Since making the post, Victoria says other women have reached out in support to her, but the whole experience, to her, shows how people need to watch out for one another. 

Victoria initially told me that someday she wanted to have a conversation with Chris, but she did acknowledge he did reach out to her the day she made the accusatory Instagram post.

“I only wanted him to say sorry,” she said.

Chris did call her when she first publicly made the accusation, but Victoria says he wouldn’t acknowledge what she said he did. As the two were hashing it out, she says, her phone turned off.

In the end, she says, he never called her back.


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