Features

On Addressing Sexual Violence in Punk and Hardcore

From Jim Hesketh of Champion to Zach Dear of Expire, one outcome of our subculture being forced to reckon with men preying on women is that women are rightfully taken more seriously than ever when they speak out against their abusers.

As part of a broader cultural shift, for the first time there may be more shame in being an abuser than a survivor. Yet the band Seizures’ recent dissolution after survivors courageously brought several members’ sexual assaults to light indicates that men must not only listen to women when they speak about sexual violence—women and non-binary folks without the power or social capital to make their abusers face any consequences have been listening to each other all along—but also play a proactive role to address their male peers’ sexual misconduct.

While bands have broken up or kicked out abusive members, these actions have only been reactions to survivors’ testimony, which puts the onus of redress on the women who suffered in the first place. After the traumas of abuse, women are expected to ignore the justice system’s pitiful track record on sexual violence, and hope that their cases will be the exceptions where the abuser faces any consequences.

If women forego the legal route but still desire any semblance of accountability for their abusers, they must publicly resurrect their private horrors. And if they want to take action to prevent others from enduring their own harrowing experiences, they know exceedingly well that they will be questioned, mocked, belittled, and humiliated by uncouth anonymous dipshits, not to mention the possibility of facing their abusers’ legal threats.

Is it any wonder that many women feel reluctant to speak against their abusers?

It’s time for men in our subculture and beyond to stop simply reacting to accounts of their peers’ abuse and take meaningful actions to stop it before survivors have to speak up. We should push for a future in which bands hold their own members accountable on their own volition.

This would mean an end to our status quo of sitting around in perfect complacency, interrupted only by the menacing lash of public opinion, which seems to emerge only after survivors do the difficult work their band members should have been doing all along. Survivors have already gone through too much, and these dark histories only continue because of our complicit silence. 

It would be a bit too convenient to act as if I’ve always been above the destructive complicity I’m now criticizing. The point of this piece is not to call attention to my own virtue, but instead to initiate a discussion on men’s roles in relieving survivors’ burden going forward, and taking steps toward a future which doesn’t see bands imploding because of their members’ sexual abusiveness.

This problem is much bigger than individual bands. This is a collective failure, and I’m part of that collective. As long as we live in a subculture where well-earned nicknames like “Forced Kiss” are laughed off, the men that allow this insidious violence to continue have a lot of work to do, which starts with holding our peers accountable.

This piece takes much from The Mother of All Questions and Whose Story Is This? by Rebecca Solnit, both of which are highly recommended.

comments powered by Disqus