Brendan Ekstrom, the guitarist for the band Circa Survive, has been performing for over 20 years and he's never walked off stage during a song. But that changed last week when Ekstrom spotted a man in the audience who appeared to be sexually harassing a woman.
During a show in St. Louis on July 21, Ekstrom says he became distracted by the behavior of a man in the crowd.
“For almost a whole song I watched a guy stand a row behind a girl flirting and then trying to kiss her. It was hard to tell what was really happening," Ekstrom explained in a Twitter thread. "At times she seemed ok with his advances but after the second time of watching her push his face and hands away and try to turn back to watch the show I asked the security guard to go check on them. He couldn’t see what I was pointing to and it was still happening I left the stage and walked straight for them, my mind an emotional blur. Security followed me.”
Security took it from there and Ekstrom rejoined his bandmates on stage to continue the show. In his Twitter thread, Ekstrom made clear that he didn't know all the details of the situation. He said it was possible the two were in a relationship, but he couldn't stand by and watch disturbing behavior that sounds a whole lot like sexual harassment.
“[W]hat I saw from stage was disturbing to me and completely removed me from the mindset I need to be on stage. It wasn’t cute. It was alarming," the guitarist continued. "I’m almost forty and flirting doesn’t look like that. Maybe It’s that I have a daughter or that I’m older. I really don’t know but it made me furious to watch a girl forcibly remove someone’s hands from her body multiple times."
Ekstrom's actions and his subsequent explanation are so important because forcible touching and other forms of sexual harassment are often dismissed as "minor" and something that women are just expected to deal with every time we enter a public space.
Furthermore, it's easy for people to look the other way or hope someone else will handle it when they witness a woman being violated. By leaving the stage mid-song, Ekstrom set a powerful example of what it looks like to actively push back against rape culture and all forms of sexual violence. He certainly deserves a standing ovation for his actions.