It fucking sucks when accusations of assault or abuse are made against anyone we idolise. When the accused are a band like PWR BTTM, a band we specifically idolise for their personal liberation politics, it’s ten times as frustrating and heartbreaking and beyond shit.
And we owe it to those speaking out not to let that matter. More than that, we owe it to them to minimise this reaction in public and prioritise showing and giving support to them.
We have a responsibility to stand with those speaking out, to take what they’ve said seriously and to take their side. That means stopping supporting the band in any way – pirate the new record if you’re curious, but do so in private (and don’t you fucking dare go round saying it’s pretty good “to be fair”). Grieve about the loss of your fave in private. Talk to others feeling similarly in private. What you do about this in public, both physically and online, will speak volumes you need to be aware of and responsible for. Continuing to publicly support perpetrators of abuse and assault says to those that have suffered from assault, that we can’t trust you about shit like this, that you wouldn’t be there for us or on our side. That we’re probably right to keep quiet about it.
This time immediately after the news breaks is particularly crucial for displays of solidarity and concrete support. Speaking out about this is nothing short of terrifying and we have a responsibility to support those who do. We have a responsibility to default to believing them. No, we don’t know everything that happened for one hundred percent sure – and it’s unlikely we ever will, so this is something we need to stop requiring of these cases and making our support of those speaking out contingent upon.
Skeptics are invited here to ask themselves why the fuck anyone would make that up about everyone’s favourite queer band, when the risk and pain so terrifyingly overshadow any imaginable benefit. No-one likes learning this about someone they love, or even like, so most people’s knee-jerk reaction is one of the most hostile kind of suspicion and the utmost contempt. This reaction often goes completely unchecked. Awareness of this tendency plays a huge part in lots of peoples’ decisions not to speak out – not only do we know that you don’t want to hear it, but you’ll act like we’re spoiling your fun.
Speaking out about abuse and assault that’s happened to you takes immense amounts of not only courage but resilience and, frankly, energy, and that’s assuming you’ve fully come to terms with and accepted what happened to you for what it is. Not all of us have it in us, and, to be honest, not all of us can be bothered. Speaking out is not something it’s possible, or remotely okay, to require of everyone anything like this has happened to. This means you’ll literally never know when you’re talking to someone affected, you’ll never know who’s reading or hearing or watching your words and actions. Think about that when you choose them.
In the long term, this may be seen as the latest in a long line of incidents of assault and abuse in fan bases and liberation spaces that reveal both types of space to be long overdue a serious examination of how easy it is for perpetrators to flourish within them, when they should be nothing but safe, empowering, liberating, and fun. Fan culture clearly has the potential to be used by perpetrators as a shield from accountability, while the language of liberation politics seems easy as hell for them to co-opt to use against the very people it should protect. And this keeps fucking happening.
In the short term though, the importance of listening to, believing and supporting those who speak out (whether they identify as victims, survivors, both, or neither) cannot be overstated. Vital too is actively combatting any temptation you might have to argue with those speaking out. Because the fact is, the probability they’re telling the truth is overwhelmingly, terrifyingly high. The devil has enough advocates, while those speaking out about abuse and assault have painfully few – and it can often feel like they have none. Please, please, please, prove them the fuck wrong.
If you, or someone you know, has been affected by sexual assault and you want further information, you can contact one of the following: Galop (LGBT anti violence charity), Rape Crisis (support for women and girls who have suffered sexual abuse), or Survivors (support for men and boys who have suffered sexual abuse).