Punk Rock and Alleged Sexual Assault: A Timely Story

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Photo by Montecruz Foto/ Flickr Commons
The Casualties' Jorge Herrera
Last month, fledgling blog Put Your Damn Pants On ran a guest post entitled "I Won't Apologize for Being Assaulted."

The article's author, identified as "Beth," described herself as a "recovering scenester, 30-something stay at home wife and mom. I listen to the Descendants from the comfort of my suburban home while cooking barefoot and pregnant to Bikini Kill's 'Rebel Girl.'"

She told the story of her sexual assault, which she says occurred 16 years ago, with aplomb and searing bitterness. Her story has evoked visceral reactions from the punk-rock community.

Sadly, the sexual assault she describes seems all too familiar to too many people. Her story is different because "the singer of THAT SHITTY NY PUNK BAND WITH SHITTY LARGE HAIR AND BONDAGE PANTS sexually assaulted me when I was 16," she writes. She allows a few more onion-skin-thin references before outing her attacker as "Jorge," as in Jorge Herrera from The Casualties. Wrapping a fall tour with Negative Approach, the group stopped in Houston just five days before the piece ran.

Punk fans took to social media, spreading the story and taking sides. Which, as Beth -- yes, according to the blog's editor, she is a real person at least two of its contributors know personally -- predicted, proved to be "a total inconvenience to poor you to know something bad about a band you love."

What's ensued since says a lot about music fans, social media's role in justice issues and how modern Americans abhor even the suggestion of sexual assault.

Why did the accuser not report the incident to authorities? Who else has knowledge of this event to vouch for Beth? If the state the crime occurred in does not have a criminal statute of limitations, will she press charges? Will the band take legal action against Herrera's accuser?

I reached out to accuser and accused to discuss the alleged incident, but the biggest questions people have remain unanswered even after asking them. Beth is keeping quiet on these matters, declining to interview by phone or even respond to questions by email. However, she did give me the following statement:

I never thought my blog post would reach more than my local community and close friends. The amount of positive support the post has received has allowed the women who run the blog to start a second Web site dedicated solely as a voice to women of sexual assault and rape.

It's already had numerous submissions from people all around the world telling their stories of men and women who have made them survivors. I was able to tell my story and I hope the same women and men feel the same amount of relief by getting to tell theirs.

Since the blog ran, there have been rumors about other women being assaulted by Herrera. A band spokesperson, speaking on conditions of anonymity, wouldn't address the specific incident involving Beth, any rumored criminal actions or any possible legal action the band or its management might take.

The spokesperson gave the following statement: "We did put out a statement denying the allegations and they are 100 percent completely false; but, we do want to be sensitive to any victims of sexual assault or any sort of abuse."

While the parties involved aren't talking, everyone else is. Even without all the evidence, many have already judged and juried. There's a "Boycott the Casualties" Facebook page and a "Fuck the Boycott on The Casualties" Facebook page. People on both sides of the issue are posting on both pages so frequently, it's hard to know which page is which.

"So all you have to do now is say someone did something and it's automatically the truth? False accusations have destroyed a lot of lives," is a typical post.

"You know what else destroys lives? Rape," is a typical response.

Punk-rock news outlet Dying Scene ran a story on the allegations and later pulled it with the editorial disclaimer that "there is no evidence or charges filed to back up these claims," and said allegations "have the power to ruin lives on their own merit." It encouraged readers to research and reach their own conclusions.

By the time the tour hit Denver, many had done just that. A group of protesters blocked that show's load-in and were arrested. One protester, who identified herself as "Bailee," said the protesters and members of Negative Approach had a shouting match before the band called the police.

I asked if she had any personal knowledge that the assault in question actually occurred, wondering why anyone would spend the night in jail defending something that could possibly be a complete falsehood.

"For me, as an assault survivor, I feel that whenever a woman comes forward with her story of assault, it is best to believe than disbelieve," she explained. "Many other women have come forward with their stories of Jorge's behavior, and I tend to believe them."

Bailee said she grew up listening to punk rock and "honestly feel that it saved my life at times." She considers her local punk venues her home and "I'll be goddamned if I let a known abuser in my home without a fight."

Responding to the notion that Beth should have alerted the authorities, Bailee reminded me that police are typically not welcomed or trusted in the punk scene.

"Why is it that the cops or legal system have to be involved in order for people to take women seriously when they say someone assaulted them?" she said. "Our words should be good enough."


Story continues on the next page.


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18 comments
burningthemdown
burningthemdown

Interesting how the email and story appear to be written by different people. The story had a lot of grammar and punctuation issues but the email did not. She doesn't provide any details to solidify her story in the email like who The Casualties played with, what tour they were on and what state the venue was in -- nothing! Oh wait, maybe that's because anyone could trace their footsteps back to where they were at that time and that could give the singer an alibi.

Michael Terry
Michael Terry

She is costing the band gigs/money by saying something that she can't prove. The right thing for the band to do is lawyer up and demand a retraction unless they have something to hide, if that's the case they should sacrifice the accused.

Francisco Muñiz-Belmares
Francisco Muñiz-Belmares

She was not really reporting. I don't think. More of a testament to a general audience. And people not reporting a rape is not entirely uncommon. Sad.

Eric Walls
Eric Walls

Who waits 16 years to report a fucking crime?

Francisco Muñiz-Belmares
Francisco Muñiz-Belmares

The whole punk rock scene is just an overall laughable subculture. I hope that if her accusations can garner some sustainable evidence, that she can see some form of justice. But it seems as though she herself has learned to live with it in some way. So perhaps it ends here? Just a sad rumor and a sad culture. The fans will be fans. I don't think that can be attributed to the punk rock scene, solely. Just look at R.Kelly..or a particular football player who has been accused of some heinous crime. Even hip-hop has the whole "Free XYZ". But, whatever, "Anarchist till the end, man! Fuck the system".... right?

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Excellent story, Mr. Sedejas. It's easy to point the finger at Punk Rock shows, or rap shows, or Woodstock 99--and to defend them, than deal with the ugly truth. Is there a current of misogyny to some punk songs/acts? Sure. Listen to Johnny Cash, sometime. And Johnny Cash fans will take a baseball bat to you for calling out his songs.     

Anse
Anse

It's always amusing to me to see folks, in the midst of a frothy outrage, wondering why a girl hasn't reported a rape to police, as if the controversy isn't proof enough. It's like the Islamic radicals who burn cars and beat people up and threaten to kill infidels to protest being described as violent. 

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

That easy, huh? Well, if I were the accused, I'd be availing myself of the best attack lawyer I could find and suing the doors shut on this ugly, viscious--what's that? more women coming forward? Never mind...

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Sixteen-year-old children who don't want to be attacked for reporting it? Also, the statute of limitations is way over this and probably was when she came to terms with what happened to her.

burningthemdown
burningthemdown

@Anse  "as if the controversy isn't proof enough" Yeah, its not like controversy isn't proof or anything. Maybe you should read up on Brian Banks, the West Memphis Three, the Central Park Five or the Scottsboro Boys before saying stupid shit. Controversy means dick in the land where evidence is king.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Excellent point.

eudemonist
eudemonist

@Anse I'm not sure I understand this comment.  Which controversy is "proof enough" of what?

burningthemdown
burningthemdown

@MadMac Depends on the state. Many states offer limitless statutes. And what about all those other victims? Why don't they take advantage of the statutes and do something about it instead of creating internet drama? Oh, probably because they're all full of shit.

burningthemdown
burningthemdown

@MadMac  Did I insult you? No. Logic and reason point to a thing called basic human rights which just so happens to be the presumption of innocence until proven guilty as stated in the universal declaration of human rights. Oh but I guess that fucks up your narrative. You know, for as many people claiming they were victims or knew this was happening its really amazing to me that no one has even bothered to make a formal complaint or get a lawyer as if a cop wouldn't love to arrest a Hispanic male punk rocker. Please, get real. Cops beat the shit out of punks and arrest them for no reason. Sorry, MadMac, you're out of your league when it comes to logic and reason. Can you prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did it? Oh, no you can't and neither can anyone else. Hey, if he's guilty then cut his balls off but until then this is just another rumor like all the other rumors floating around the punk scene. I once heard from a girl that Dave Dictor of MDC was a pervert and tried to hve sex with her. Little did she know that he's fucking gay.


Imagine this situation had the cameras not been there.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Oh, well that changes everything. How can reason and logic stand up to slinging insults? Composition and rhetoric much?

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