Learning to DJ Ends in Rape

As a teenager I used to go to basic clubs mostly because my friends went but I hated it, the top-40 music and the club culture were the main reason to go out and to hit on girls/guys and get hooked up at the end of the night. During that time I experienced sexual harassment, abuse and a guy raped me while I was sleeping at an after party. These constant traumatic experiences developed PTSD within me.

When I found the techno scene I felt like I belonged, the dance floor was home to me and the friends I met through the scene became family. And it was amazing that the main motivation to go to a show was to enjoy the music and dancing or at least it seemed like it. I felt free and safe in this environment and I became a dedicated two-step dancer. However, by now already two times men have raped me and still a lot of the time I go to raves I experience sexual harassment. 

First time a guy raped me, I think I got spiked or just too high and ended up leaving the club with a guy who was driving us to a hotel near by and raped me, I believe he must have been sober. I tried to convince myself that it was just a drunken hook-up but I have no memories of going there and I had lost all of my stuff in the club already including my keys and phone so how could I ever have given consent in that state. I remember trying to report this; I went to my doctor and told him what happened but he advised me to got to the ER which I never went to because I had a panic attack and hurried home instead. My PTSD got triggered again and I had a manic episode for the first time. Later I was diagnosed with manic-depression which I think was triggered by that event. Despite this I still went clubbing because after all it still was like a home to me. 

At some point I got interested in learning how to mix and got introduced to an older man who was a promoter/Dj in a club and he offered to teach me. We practiced at a club he was working in. It was so motivating to get better at mixing so I kind of was blind to whatever was happening and ignored that I was actually experiencing sexual harassment from him, like touching and comments about my looks etc whenever we had a practice session. We also went out often after practicing and had drinks together and whenever he got drunk he became even more touchy and at some point forced himself to kiss me.

After that I said that I just wanted to be friends with him and distanced myself from him for a while. But I missed playing and I did not have any place to practice and could not afford to buy my own stuff so I got in touch with him again. For a while he did act normal but eventually started to harass me again. I told him again to back up and he did for a while but then it started again. It continued like that few months – every now and then he crossed the line but I tolerated the harassment from him because I wanted to practice mixing. A good friend of mine warned me about him and said that I should be careful with him. I noticed all the red flags and I always felt uncomfortable with him but again the passion for mixing and music made me ignore the problem.

Until one night it finally escalated. I went to a club with a guy I was seeing back then and the predator was there as well. We were all hanging together but he got very jealous and possessive towards me and kept giving me drinks although I was already drunk, you know like over that point you don’t notice it anymore. At some point I totally blacked out and I have blurry memories of us leaving the club together and the next thing I woke up next to him without any clothes on. Afterwards I got some flash backs about the night, that I wanted to get home so we took an Uber together and instead of dropping me home we went straight to his place and he raped me while I was laying in bed completely passed out.

Afterwards I texted him asking what happened and he got defensive right away. He claimed that there was a consent. He even said “sometimes it happens, that friends end up hooking up” and got very offended when I said I was way too drunk and do not remember anything about it. Later I blocked him but did not report what happened. I guess because we were “friends” and it was back then unclear to me what actually happened and I was questioning myself and the narrative. It was easier to cope with it by being in denial. Luckily I was already going through therapy so I instantly received help to process what happened. 

After these traumatic events, I still continue going to raves as I still feel like I’m at home on the dance floor. However, I feel like I have to be very careful, not get too drunk/high or I need to have a buddy with me to kind of look after me which sucks. Rarely straight guys have to think of these things. I also love to go dancing just by myself but whenever I go I feel tense and have to be cautious. It takes a big part of the fun out of such a precious thing to me. Luckily, some clubs and raves have succeed in creating a safe place though. These places usually are QUEER clubs/parties which have strict door policy and safety measures. I believe that the #ForTheMusic movement will raise awareness about this big problem we have in our otherwise so liberating and amazing scene and I hope it can help create safer places for everyone to enjoy music and dancing without fear.

Drugged and Assaulted

I’m 25 years old and have been active as a Dj and event organizer in my city since I was 17. I originally started off doing events because I found it nearly impossible to compete or be taken seriously. It was weird. There were male Djs my age just starting off at the time and they were able to get bookings and yet no matter how much I practiced, put out content, networked, I was constantly brushed aside. So I decided if no one would book me, I’d book myself. And thats kind of how the event planning started. In a way, I’m glad it did because hosting events has become such an integral part of my life and has given me a real sense of pride, achievement and opportunity for stuff like travel. 

After my first ever event, I ended up getting booked in a nearby city by one of the people I had hired to do the lighting/ mapping. I was ecstatic. I was not even old enough to be in the club and I was booked peak hour. I remember feeling so happy. I could not stop smiling the 6 hour greyhound bus ride there. While playing, near the end of my set, I was handed a drink from the organizer which had Ghb in it. Long story short, I was lured out of the venue and assaulted in his car. I didn’t know anyone in this city so I just collected myself long enough that I could get on the first greyhound bus back once I was feeling better. I never came forward because this person was loved and well connected in the community. I just felt this social pressure to shut up about the entire experience. I also panicked after the fact and it happened so many years ago that it would just be his word against mine. 

What I find sad is that when I talk to my fellow female artists, so many of them have similar experiences. It’s frustrating to know that to start off, we not only need to work that much harder but then on top of that we need to deflect all these unwanted advances and work that much harder to keep ourselves safe.

I kind of took that experience and realized that as an organizer I now felt I had the responsibility to watch over others and keep them safe especially while under my roof. There are a lot of young inebriated people who come to my events. It’s important to have people there who have the one responsibility to keep an eye out. I also make sure that my line ups are balanced in terms of gender. And not for the sake of novelty. There is a lot of talented hard working men and women out there. If I can give everyone their opportunity to shine, well then I feel like I’m doing what I need to be doing.

Harassment On The Dance Floor

It was 2018, like every Saturday I went to dance with my friend. I was really excited, Amelie Lens was playing! I was so anxious that I arrived an hour earlier and stayed close to the front by the DJ Booth all evening. There were many people, we were all very close to the point that you couldn’t see the floor. Suddenly I felt a tap on the shoulder, it was a girl. She said “honey, be careful!”, I looked around and saw nothing. I continued to dance and have fun. A few minutes later, the same girl pushed me, I thought she wanted to hurt me but in reality she was just dodging me from a “man” who had pulled out his penis and was touching himself, right behind me, while looking at me. 

Security intervened after about a minute, after I started screaming like crazy. Fortunately the bouncer saw me right away as I was very close to him and I managed to get noticed. The point is that if I had been in the middle of the dance floor maybe he would have harassed me and no one would have noticed. I felt so small and helpless at the time. I was scared, but the biggest fear was realizing that the worst things happen right in front of everyone’s eyes.

Harassed, Assaulted & Raped

I can distinctly remember wanting to make a career switch from a big corporate trading company to music because I wanted to work in an industry that was more sustainable, did more good for the world, and celebrated love and creativity. When I started as a junior music professional almost ten years ago, I was passionate, eager, and committed to being part of something beautiful. I had just completed my masters degree and landed a job at a distribution company as a junior assistant. I eventually started to work as a sales manager, signing record labels and artists and their master catalogues. 

The first time I was sexually harassed by a client was at IMS. I was overwhelmed and it took me some time to feel comfortable enough to share this with my superiors, because the entire management team of the company was made up of seven men. I remember trying to get over it because I was afraid I would be more hurt by sharing this, and no formal action being taken by my employer, and I felt ashamed. By that time, I had been an employee for two years. 

The second time was more severe. I was sexually assaulted whilst on a work trip to London, traveling there alone, and by a man working for another large independent distributor. He followed me to my hotel and I was too afraid to be loud about his unwanted physical approaches in the elevator. I remember running down the hotel corridor to my room, and locking all door locks and holding my breath listening if he had followed me and whether he knew what room number I had. He somehow had my phone number, although I had never given it to him and continued to text me that night to “just let him in and just have one drink”.  I later learned he didn’t even stay in that hotel. When #metoo ignited, I showed these texts to the CEO, because I finally didn’t feel alone anymore and I felt brave enough to bring both cases forward. 

The third time, I was drugged with ghb in my water bottle at a festival in Amsterdam, and sexually assaulted for four hours long, backstage behind the main stage by someone who had a reputation of drugging and assaulting young women. My body was paralysed and I couldn’t even sit up straight let alone protect myself. I had to sit it out. 

All three times, the assaulter was someone I knew and all three times, I eventually did share my story. Twice with my employer and once with the festival organisation. All three times no action was taken. To this day, both men remain clients of my former employer, and the man who drugged and sexually assaulted me, is still a backstage regular at parties “because there was no proof”. 

I had eventually become numb to these things happening to me. Shortly after the third “more severe” assault, I had a burn-out and collapsed at the office. I started to cry and couldn’t stop crying for two weeks straight. I was sent on sick leave and not promoted anymore the following (and final) two years I worked there.  Today, I don’t feel helplessness or fear anymore. But I have found inspiration in fighting for a safer workplace for women and minorities in the music industry. And I will never stay silent or feel shame anymore. 

A Music Magazine and the Predator Within

In my very early twenties I worked for a well known music and culture magazine for my formative years straight out of university – writing and working on fancy music, fashion and art events with famous names and faces I had previously never dreamed I would meet.

It was so exciting to do so well so young and to land a job before I had even graduated. My work crossed fashion, art and music and included co-running big events that were featured in newspapers. I booked and took care of famous DJs and musicians and everything felt overwhelming, exhausting and very very exciting. When you think this is your break and you feel like you have hit the professional jackpot you don’t want to focus on the very wrong things that are happening to and around you. You get tough. You don’t crack and you think like this you will be safe.

I felt uniquely tough and smart and had no real work experience to compare. The further up and in I got the more blurry and disturbing things became. The music industry is so male dominated and my segment was predicated on a currency of celebrity, power and network. This all makes it near impossible for young people to call out violation and wrongdoing . Who would care firstly, who would do anything and most importantly, but not proudly, what would it do for my career? Without a clear meritocracy it is never disclosed why/how to get ahead and if you highlight a problem you become the problem and are then easily expendable. This much was clear.

Whilst at the magazine I witnessed many things but one haunted me – one night at a private event at a London venue with tons of famous musicians performing and celebrities attending I had to go backstage to get my boss out to give a speech with the head of a big fashion label who were our sponsors. I walked in on him in the midst of an assault on a blacking out doped up (young) teenage model. I calmly and firmly extracted him from the situation, I told no one and did nothing else. I didn’t know how or think that there was anything I could do. I doggedly determined to protect as many people as I could alone. I was pleased I had stopped something from happening and didn’t dwell on what would have happened if I had not walked in.

I protected a colleague at work who had become a target of his, even once rescuing her when he drugged her at his apartment after luring her there early morning purportedly for some professional purpose. I got a call and headed there before work and got her. We then went to the office and told no one, for years afterwards we barely even spoke of it as I knew she didn’t want to face what had happened. We didn’t have the words.

After that morning, he arrived in the office later that day wearing his sunglasses. I stood in front of his desk and glared at him silently. I was 23. I stared at him and he knew then that I knew. I thought that was enough. We then went for discreet help from senior women in our organisation who shrugged their shoulders and left us to protect ourselves. I still cannot understand how they could do that.

Later on I left and moved overseas. Within two months of my departure our boss had begun a ‘relationship’ with the friend I had so zealously protected. She was manipulated and not in any position to fully consent to a relationship within that kind of power dynamic. It ended and she was given comfortable and elevated positions whilst kept out of the way until leaving. I felt I had let her down and was bereft.

The stench of male bad behaviour clings to the junior staff who surround them and so for years I would protect the dignity of my female coworkers who were denigrated for supposedly having slept their way to their positions. Nobody ever blamed the men who abused their power, who lied and contrived to bed their female subordinates. Women in our industry were quick to tarnish the young women who were trying to start their careers and very slow to condemn the men who were in charge who had cultivated this disgusting and abusive environment.

I left the industry haunted by the teenage models and coworkers I might have almost saved and wondered often what more I should have done. And then years went by my career took off in a different direction and I tried to leave my concerns behind.

When Harvey Weinstein was the subject of an expose in the New York Times his modus operandi was so similar to the men I had worked with that I sat frozen reading the story and then wept. I felt complicit and disgusting and I still didn’t know what to do.

I see the magazine now profiting from the current cultural movement that supports feminism, non binary and diverse identity and I feel bile rising in my throat. The company was entirely built on the exploitation of young women -financially, physically and emotionally and had no regard for including models who weren’t white despite myself and a few others voicing objections – to the ridicule of our management. To see them now co-opting a message of inclusion without acknowledging the past and then profiting from it and the phenomenal individuals who do embody this is an abomination to me.

I have been reluctant to share my story because it includes many others and I have no desire to share their stories for them. The music, fashion and arts industries are insular and exclusionary and nobody wants their name to be forever associated with a more famous abusive man. One thing I have realised as a woman who has been committed to feminism since I could speak, who has been raped and assaulted and consistently fought to extinguished patriarchal oppression is this. The only thing that you have a choice in when you’ve been abused by a person in a position of power is what you let it mean for the rest of your life. I am not a rape victim. It is a thing that happened to me. I refuse to be defined by it, challenged and destroyed. I am more and I will own my story. But in doing so I have to live with the knowledge that others after me may have suffered. That perhaps I could have done more.

This platform will protect everyone so that we don’t have to bear the weight of prosecution and repercussion alone. So we can prevent instead of coming forward with our stories. So that we can finally feel that we have done something to stop this without destroying our own lives. And so that men like my first boss, who I hope is afraid right now, and the many others I and countless others have encountered across the creative industries, finally face the consequences of their actions.

I used to think I was special for being so tough. Now I realise that we wear the trophies that our oppressors give us and no woman/person should have to be tough enough to fight off sexual assault just to be able to do their job.