[Photo courtesy of A Voice for the Innocent]
Trigger warning: mentions of sexual assault
Music communities are supposed to provide safe spaces. If you have been involved in a music community of some sort, it’s likely that you have heard people use the words “safe space” before. Although we hear it, what does “safe space” really mean? It is inevitable that people have their own perceptions and definitions of this term, but to me, a safe space is a welcoming environment free of hateful pressures of ranging topics such as racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, etc. In a perfect world, music communities would succeed at maintaining safe spaces properly. However, in the reality we live in, inappropriate and unacceptable things still occur within these communities. Arguably the most plaguing current issue within music communities is sexual harassment and assault, coming in many different forms. To maintain safe spaces, we must fight these behaviors and support victims of such acts.
To put it bluntly and unapologetically, there is a multitude of s****y dudes in bands who believe they have power based on their platform as musicians. Males are not the only people to sexually harass or abuse in music scenes, but they are the most common culprits of such acts. It has become a trend for musical artists, especially in smaller music scenes, to use the attention they receive to mistreat other members of such communities. I have witnessed and been informed of too many scandals over the years including direct physical assault by musicians, coercion of under aged girls, unsolicited nude pictures, and inappropriate comments/language. Hearing about these cases is outraging and saddening, but if the victims are comfortable with sharing, their stories must be valued and validated in order to keep others safe and create awareness.
With this in mind, how do we address these issues to foster a better environment? There are many types of actions that can contribute to answering this question. In my opinion, a starting point is focusing on what I’ll call a “no tolerance attitude.” To concisely word it, a no tolerance attitude leaves no room in music scenes for those who exhibit inappropriate predatory/abusive behavior. In this mindset, there is no allowance of the tiring “but he’s a good friend of mine, I don’t think he would do that” type comments that occur too often. A no tolerance attitude condemns covering up inappropriate acts in order to avoid complication, and it does not allow dangerous people to simply slide by. Building off of this concept, I want to feature a few organizations and movements on small and large scales that are working to tackle this issue.
The first organization I want to highlight is a non-profit called A Voice for the Innocent. A Voice for the Innocent provides a platform for victims to “share their stories of sexual abuse and rape with a group of people who will offer support, empathy, and share their own experiences in return.” Through their website, victims can anonymously submit their stories, read stories from others, and access resources for help. A Voice for the Innocent is heavily rooted in music communities, and believes in music as a platform for change. Last year, they launched a campaign called SaveOurScene, focused on reducing sex crimes in the music industry through education. This summer, they will be on Warped Tour spreading awareness about sexual abuse and providing support for those who want to discuss such topics. In their announcement, they expressed concern at the fact that music festivals are such a common setting for sexual abuse, so they believe in having resources available in these environments. A Voice for the Innocent also volunteers at smaller events and puts on benefit concerts, staying true to their DIY roots.
Another related movement to A Voice for the Innocent is called Bands Take a Stand. Bands Take a Stand was launched February 19th, the day an exposed predator/abuser under the name Front Porch Step released his latest album. To fight his return to the music scene and to promote safe music communities, bands, labels, and activists joined forces in creating this movement. Participating bands made their albums “pay what you want” for the weekend on Bandcamp, and proceeds went to A Voice for the Innocent. Not only did this bring financial aid to AVFTI, it also strengthened the community of those fighting against sexual assault and harassment in the music scene, bringing voices and experiences together.
Lastly, I want to briefly mention Safer Scene, “an advocacy blog for the alternative music scene dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusiveness on and off stage, raising awareness on assault and discrimination, and improving the safety of the community for everyone.” Safer Scene highlights diverse artists in DIY music scenes that share their values, features related events and organizations, and posts opinion pieces generally related to music equality. I highly recommend you check out their content, for they have great insight on various issues!
In conclusion, there are many outlets for getting involved and showing support against sexual harassment and violence in music scenes. Although I have heard people tell me to “calm down” about issues like this, I stand with the belief that these inappropriate and disgusting behaviors are unacceptable in spaces we cherish. With that, I know that many others stand with me against this and will continue to vocalize and advocate for the safety and inclusion of others.
JULIA SCHWAB | *coughs* Guys in Bands Are Usually Not as Cool as They Think | KXSU Music Reporter