In a darkened studio somewhere in the UK, four women don headphones and lean into the mic, waiting to tell their stories of sexual harassment and assault to the world. One of them describes how they were forced into a reckless lifestyle that involved drugs and alcohol, while another describes a life of restrictions and marginalization.
The stories were a prelude to the UK’s new program, Stop2018, a campaign to stop and end harassment in the music industry. The program was started by singer Chloe Howl, Yasmin Lajoie, Michelle DeVries and an anonymous woman only known as “Amy.”
“We went on the show to tell our stories,” the women wrote in a letter explaining the campaign. “We wanted to let women and men know that you are not alone.”
“If you have experienced a sexual assault or have been made to leave your job because of bullying and harassment you are not the one at fault, however bad you have been made to feel. History shows that those who have spoken up have been silenced, ostracised and completely let down, usually being the ones to lose their jobs and not the perpetrator.”
Lajoie was the first to begin the campaign, reaching out to women with the intention of gathering stories. She thought she’d be hearing stories of sexual harassment, but what she ended up with was a lot worse. “What I’ve actually received are stories of rape, insisting on receiving blow jobs, seriously assaulting women, chasing them down the street, raping them in apartments owned by major music companies,” she says.
The campaign began a short time after both Sweden and Australia were rocked by similar scandals of harassment in the music industry; in Sweden, 2,000 women wrote a letter exposing the patriarchal industry they were stuck in, and in Australia, women united under the hashtag #MeNoMore, telling their own accounts of sexual predation and violence.
“You’d be hard pressed to find a woman working in the industry today who’s never been a victim of sexual harassment or abuse,” Lajoie says. “Sexual assault and abuse in the music industry is endemic.” She, along with the other three women in the campaign, set up four goals on their website in order to help reduce those numbers. These goals include safe spaces, so victims can report their experiences without fear of retaliation from higher powers; for music companies to cease working with those who “exhibit any predatory or bullying behavior”; equal pay and opportunity for advancement; and for labels and managers to not encourage or require artists to “wear provocative clothing or flirt with executives.”
The industry that represents the campaign, UK Music, is completely on board with the program. “[We take] any allegations extremely seriously,” they said in a statement, “and will always offer support and confidentiality to any complainant and do our utmost to guide them towards the help and advice they need.”
Lajoie just wants to see something change in society. “I am angry, and things need to change,” she says. “There are so many amazing careers, it would be great to be able to encourage women to enter the industry without fear of assault, harassment and rape.”
With the help of the program, she hopes that women will be able to arm themselves in the battle against misogyny.
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