Lizzie Marvelly has today written bravely about harassment she has endured at the hands of men in the music industry. Brave, because like many abuse victims, it has taken her some years to speak publicly about extremely personal and upsetting events. And brave too, because she has placed herself at the mercy of deluded individuals who would go online as trolls and attack those who expose behaviour which perpetrators would prefer remained concealed.
She writes about an industry she knows well. The music business, despite its success resting on the talent and starpower of high-profile women performers, is dominated at the top by men. This is not to say that all of those running the business are harassers and abusers. But Lizzie Marvelly's experience, together with the courageous accounts of other artists who have gone public with details of troubling episodes, suggests that a culture persists in the industry where coercion and abuse are not uncommon.
The public seldom gets to learn of these incidents. Or if they do, it is often years after the base behaviour occurred. Lizzie Marvelly admits that she too has been afraid to speak out. Only now that she has found her voice has she felt strong enough to be frank with the public.
The reason for this is not hard to imagine. The relationship between a young female musician and say, an older, influential producer is seldom an equal one but hopefully, rarely an abusive one. But occasionally it is, and the consequences can be devastating for one of the parties. The imbalance of power clearly can intimidate a young performer from revealing harassment because they understandably fear for their career.
She is sending a message that sexual violence is not normal and does not need to be accepted or tolerated.
The New Zealander is far from alone in experiencing the dark side of the bright lights. The Canadian musician Grimes, who played in Auckland at the Laneway festival in January, says abuse of power regularly confronts women in music. She has said: "I've been in numerous situations where male producers would literally be like, 'We won't finish the song unless you come back to my hotel room'." The American singer and rapper Kesha alleged that her music producer Dr Luke had drugged, raped and emotionally and verbally abused her - accusations he has adamantly denied and for which he has never been charged. Most of the musician's claims were dismissed in court last month, but a lawsuit to end her recording contract with Luke is continuing.
For young artists the dread of jeopardising a rewarding career is the instrument of oppression that abusers wield. The challenge of confronting it involves finding ways to expose the harassment and end the pernicious abuse without causing further distress. It is not a simple task. One US study of 100 girls found that a majority of them considered sexual violence to be "normal" and that boys could not help the way they behaved. Another investigation into the lives of teenage girls uncovered a disturbing world where being sexually harassed and sexualised at a young age was considered normal. The pressure on girls was immense, and they felt there was no escape.
Lizzie Marvelly is showing one way by writing about her experiences. She is sending a message that sexual violence is not normal and does not need to be accepted or tolerated. A culture which encourages reporting of inappropriate behaviour - the very first time it occurs - should be the norm. An education system which includes lessons along these lines is a place to start. Girls need to feel confident they can be safe in an industry where so many shine.
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