Category: Testimonials

Ulterior Motives

I met M at a small underground festival when I was 24 years old. I didn’t know who he was at the time, but I quickly learnt he was part of a European experimental/techno collective and record label after we started chatting. Like everyone at that queer event, he was very warm and welcoming, and had a brief but nice conversation about our backgrounds. It was then that, out of the blue, he very strongly grabbed my thigh. I was slightly baffled about the gesture, especially as it seemed starkly at odds with the safe environment which brought people together under the banner of no racism and no sexism. In slight confusion, I ignored the movement and continued with the conversation, until I was tired enough to head home.

A couple of months later, I was working an experiential music festival in my home in Eastern Europe, to which he was invited to play. Following his visit, we started talking online. It was around that time that I also started familiarising myself with the queer scene, which was barely present in my country, but provided a safe refuge from the predatory, objectifying hetero-normative culture I had come to know through my private and professional life. I welcomed his friendship, as well as that of some queer and gender non-conforming people I met during that period. 

He often spoke of himself as a sexually open, unconventional but big hearted hippie, to whom sexuality was a form of casual communication between friends. He would consolingly listen to my experiences related to non-belonging, racism, and objectification. He would often speak incredibly highly of me – which was not only flattering, but also made me feel seen and heard in a way only those closest to me did. He was there in my darkest and most defining moments, including when I made the life-changing jump of moving to London on my own. His friendship felt like a warm hug, just like the scene I associated him with: a world that proposed an alternative to interpersonal and political systems exploiting the vulnerable.

The attachment to this new found safety and belonging made me turn a blind eye to the red flags. Even though they were there. Even though they were huge. He was a good 17 years older than me. He talked about his unconventional sex life, and according to his accounts, he was surrounded by women who were either ‘obsessed’ or ‘in love’ with him. One story in particular stuck with me, as it sounded much like he took advantage of someone that was a fan and mentee. While I personally wasn’t a fan of his, I perceived this relationship so meaningful that I shut down the uneasy feelings whenever they arose. Each time he made sexual remarks towards me, I put it down to his sex positive nature, and concluded that this is how he interacts with friends.

Three years of us talking went by, sharing the good, the bad and the painful. Until 2019, when he came to play a gig in my new home, London. In a year riddled with bereavement and loneliness, I was over the moon to see my friend. His behaviour in real life was much like his behaviour online, but turned up to an extreme. He would unexpectedly grope my breasts or draw my hands to his penis, then upon my dissent, he would counteract with extreme kindness and politeness. The constant fluctuation of his attitude towards me felt absurd and incredibly confusing. However, my excitement of seeing him still outweighed the negatives. I wanted to make the most of our time to catch up, so I decided to go to the hotel room with him. I definitely wouldn’t have minded some intimacy, although I made it clear I didn’t want to have sex as I have not been sexually active for several years, and also had severe trauma related to it. Looking back at the sequence of events, it seems unbelievable that I didn’t leave. But as someone coming from a family where abuse and love went hand in hand, I understand the reasons that might be hard to grasp with common sense.

Once in privacy, M swiftly and aggressively removed my clothes in a split second, and got on top of me. What followed was violent, one-sided physical activity, which mostly consisted of me trying to protect myself from him penetrating me. He was large and aggressive. His actions were mostly comparable to pornography where women are in a submissive and degrading position, without the safety and boundaries of BDSM, or an intimacy coordinator on set. It was coercion and control. He tried to convince me several times to engage in an act he had a fetish for but I said no to. He tried convincing me with words, and at times physically (although luckily no full penetration happened). The next morning, I left feeling confused and conflicted. I’m no longer a weird sexless person, and I slept with someone I trusted. 

The next few days, I experienced slight bleeding. I was concerned about my health, but never went to a doctor. From then on, every time I heard about SA in the media or from friends, this night came to my mind. Then, just like with everything else, I swept it under the rug. At the end of the day, he is my good friend, and little misunderstandings happen in friendships.

Circa two months later a very similar incident took place, although from my recollection slightly less violent than the first time. Still, it included things I said no to, which led me to cry after the act. He, on the other hand, laughed – I’m still unsure why.

We continued talking online, including through lockdown. He seemed more talkative, more honest, and friendlier than ever. Our bond grew stronger by the day. He asked me to share traumas I had been too ashamed to talk to anyone about, offering to work through these painful experiences with me. It was also during this time that he sent me unsolicited photos and a video of him masturbating. He immediately apologised and said he loved me. By this time, the pattern of apology instead of permission had become painfully apparent.

In 2021 and 2022, we very seldom talked due to difficulties in both of our lives. The rare occasions he reached out were motivated by a need for sexual gratification. Following another in person encounter and sexual experience with him (this time consensual), his comments towards me grew wilder and more disrespectful, referencing the actions in 2019 that brought me pain and trauma. It became harder and harder to suppress the thoughts that had been there all along. As stories of sexual exploitation kept surfacing from the music industry and beyond, I couldn’t stop drawing parallels. One night, I broke down crying on the toilet, staring at my body which I felt was taken away from me. As I understood what really had been going on for nearly 6 years, I developed an anxiety that stopped me from being able to eat, and I couldn’t work for weeks due to uncontrollably crying for days, even in public spaces. 

I am ashamed of myself for having continued to be friends with the person who assaulted me, for fighting for our friendship that clearly wasn’t what it was, and for being together with him consensually after seeing how coercive and brutal he can be. I kept trying to mend this relationship and to cover up the trails of the abuse, and I thought that by being good buddies and even being together with him consensually, I could turn the tides of what had really gone on.

He knew about my lack of safety net (both familial and economic), as well as my tendency to be vulnerable, which might have been a green light to help himself to my body without the fear of any repercussion. 

I finally had access to therapy, where I learnt about grooming and manipulation tactics, and the deeply conflicting feelings that come with understanding these processes in retrospect. “Shame is blame turned inwards”, said my therapist. I don’t know how long it is going to take for me to come to terms with the loss of this illusionary friendship that was so formative in my life, but one thing I know, is that I don’t want to hate myself anymore.

Living With Abuse

The DJ and I met in Australia when he was on tour 20 years ago. I left my home and moved to Germany to be with him and to make my career in the music industry. I am primarily a singer and I was producing my own music when we met. The first 5 years were like a dream, traveling all over the world and falling in love with a difficult, very talented and successful man. I did not recognise the signs of abuse that I was experiencing at first because of the whirlwind nature of our lives and the fact that I come from an abusive family background, I was well trained in blaming myself.

Once I became pregnant with our daughter, things became increasingly worse for me. His verbal abuse and threats became more extreme. If I stood up for myself he would punish me by threatening to take our daughter away from me and completely shutting me out of our studio so that I couldn’t work. He would criticise my voice, my musicality, my production skills as well as my appearance, how I dressed, how I spoke, what I spoke about. He would then dig himself into a creative and emotional hole, ask me to forgive him and to produce music with him again. This cycle repeated around and around in circles for 15 years. He posted on Instagram a few months ago that he has not been a good man to me. This is true and understandably understated. He has raped me multiple times while I was sleeping. I am not the only woman that he has done this to. He has physically threatened me. He confessed to me that he has sexually assaulted three other women before and during our 20 year relationship and he has sexually harassed countless women on stage and backstage while touring all over the world. Even worse than the sexual abuse and threats of physical violence was the insidious emotional and psychological abuse. The constant undermining, criticising, saying deeply hurtful things and then denying having said them, taking traumatic experiences that I have confided in him and using them to hurt me. Making plans and commitments with me and then changing his mind without telling me and accusing me of trying to control him when I reminded him of what we had agreed to. Taking tiny threads of truth and weaving them into lies to justify his choices, abusive behaviours and betrayals.

I feel ashamed that I have let myself live this way for so long, that I have not spoken out before now. I was afraid of the consequences that reporting him or leaving him would have on me and our daughter. I am deeply grateful for the support of my therapist and the women and men in my life that have helped me to see that no one should ever be treated the way that he has treated me. Nothing I have ever said or done could justify what he has done to me. I am breaking my silence because it is my silence that has allowed his behaviour to go on for so long and it is our collective silence that perpetuates the covering up of abusive behaviour. 

Un-Consensual Kiss

This is the only incident I’ve experienced in a non-gay setting. This happened in February 2020 in a bar – it’s one of those hidden locations that you might struggle to find unless you know where you’re going. 

I always look forward to playing a gig there because they have a strict music policy – unquantized disco and funk, vinyl only. It’s very testing, which I love and it’s an excuse to show off my prized rarities. 

On said evening, I’m well into my set and really having to work hard to keep things going. The dancefloor is busy, and I can see that there are a few new faces in the crowd. I notice that there’s an older gay man (early 50s I’d estimate) and he’s drunk. As an observer, I feel like his behaviour is inappropriate but no-one in the group he’s with seems to mind. As the evening progresses, I keep catching him staring at me, but I try to act like I’ve not noticed. I’m mid-way through mixing two records and really concentrating on what I’m doing and looking down at the mixer, when a hand suddenly appears and tries to pull my hand off the fader. I look up and it’s him. I tell him to wait until I’ve finished and then I’ll speak with him. When I’m finished, I just ask, “are you alright” and he starts telling me about how much he loves Diana Ross and that I should play something for him. He then starts telling me that I’m “the most handsome DJ {I’ve} ever seen”. I just smile and say I’ll see if I have something in my record bag. Then, out of nowhere, with both hands he grabs my face and pulls me towards him. It happens quickly and he tries to push his tongue into my mouth. I could taste the smoke on his breath. I pull away and say I’m not interested as I have a husband (a white lie – but in my experience saying that you’re not attracted to someone doesn’t discourage them, whereas marriage does). His faces changes, he calls me a slag, spits in my drink and walks off. Thankfully, one of the barmen saw the whole thing and was coming to intervene – the man and his group are asked to leave. There’s some commotion, and the man leaves in a huff but the group are allowed to stay as he actually wasn’t with them, they were simply tolerating him. 

I finish my set and order an uber home – I live within walking distance, but I have my record bag with me which is heavy and valuable. The bar is in the basement so I can’t see outside, I wait for the alert on my phone to say the taxi has arrived. As I leave the bar to find my taxi, I see the man across the street waiting for me and he starts shouting at me. I can’t make out some of what he says, but he’s calling me a slag and whore. I get in the taxi and leave. The taxi driver asks me if I’m ok.          

Sex In Exchange For A Gig

My most upsetting experience was this one. I was in my late teens and in my first year of being out of the closet – I was finally living my best life. But there was a lot to learn in terms of navigating ‘the scene’.

At the time, Gaydar was the online social site most gay men used. Through this, I found myself talking to a well known DJ (it escapes me who messaged who first, though I think it was him). The DJ hosted a popular show on Galaxy 102 and was the resident of the biggest and best club in the gay scene in my city. He had a lot of power in the scene, though this didn’t really cross my mind at the time – I just thought we were mates because of our shared interest.

We quickly swapped numbers. We talked about DJing, and I told him about the records I was playing at the time and my fondness for using accapellas. He said that he was going to be recording a special one-off radio show for Gay Pride, and invited me to come to the studio with him to record some of my accapella mashups to play on the show – naturally, I was thrilled and agreed to this.

On the day, I arrive at the studio entrance, he comes down to meet me. It’s a Sunday afternoon and there doesn’t appear to be anyone about. He takes me up to the studio in the lift and there’s no one there but us. He shows me around and tells me a little bit about how the recording of the live shows work – I’m fascinated.

He then asks me what I plan on recording – I talk through all the records in my record bag and he agrees with my selections. He takes me through the booth where the turntables are located. I start cuing up records and recording each mashup. He potters about in the background and then leaves the studio for a while. I carry on mixing. Then out of nowhere, I feel his hands on around my waist and then he thrusts himself into me, pinning me against the workstation the decks are part of. He is fully clothed, but I can feel his erection. He takes my headphones off and growls in my ear “I love little chickens like you”. For context, though I was 19 at the time I was very baby faced and so probably looked 15 or 16 – some years later I realised that I got so much attention because I looked underage and that some guys were really into that. He was ten years older than me.

I froze. I think anyone would be scared, but for me it felt like history repeating itself – I was sexually assaulted at secondary school and it left me feeling incredibly confused about my sexuality for a long time – even after coming out, I struggled to separate sex from violence.  

I was really starting to panic – then he asked me “Isn’t this what you came for?” at which point I seized the opportunity to pull away from him and said that I was under impression that this was purely professional as there hadn’t been any suggestion of anything romantic or sexual at all during our lengthy discussions over the phone and by text. He is stroking himself and I can see the shape of his penis through his trousers.  

He tells me that he loves to bottom for ‘little twinky boys’ and then asked me if I was top or bottom – I told him that I didn’t want to talk about sex. He then asked me if I wanted to DJ at the club where he was resident in the dance room and nodded (we’d previously discussed this – at the time, it was goal), feeling a little scared at this point as I’m still worried he might assault me. He then said “If you want to DJ there, then you’re gonna have to fuck me. I can make it happen. I know people. But if you don’t fuck me, then I’ll fuck you. I’ll make sure that you never DJ there. The choice is yours”. There was a moment of silence and then he just pretended like the whole conversation had never happened by thanking me for coming to the studio and telling me what date the show would be on the air. I left. I deleted his number, never spoke with him again and avoided going in the his room at the club for the remainder of his residency there. When he played my edits on his show, he took credit for them – I felt really used. 

I didn’t tell anyone other than one of my friends, as the DJ was a very powerful figure on the scene, and I didn’t want to risk being blacklisted at other venues too. Even my friend at the time said “Are you sure? He sounds so lovely on the radio”. I now find myself in a difficult position, as he died following a battle with cancer in 2017, and everyone haled him as a hero and a local legend. I still feel like no-one would believe me.     

DJing on the gay scene continued to be difficult – my technical ability was better than many of my peers, but I was almost always overlooked in favour of muscular and/or more attractive guys (some weren’t necessarily even DJs). I was never asked outright to have sex with someone in exchange for work, but it was implied on many occasions. I persevered with it for years, as I was brainwashed into thinking that mainstream clubs weren’t safe for gay men like me.



Harassment and Coercion

I was at a club in Berlin and one of the staff members, who has been involved with the club for a long time, and I’ve known as a friend for years, was there, though quite drunk. He was quite handsy with me and made a lot of sexual insinuations, even though I am not gay myself, and wasn’t really taking the hints that I wasn’t interested. When myself and a few others were all going to the toilet to do some drugs, he joined along and made even further advances, even so far as grabbing my crotch and commenting on the size of my penis and how he’d be curious to see it. THEN he went so far as to try and push me in to the stall, all the while making some glamorous promises about how he could help me to get an EP on the label for the club (he was running it at the time) or even get me in to the ear of the owners and higher-ups to make me a resident DJ at the club. After multiple “no thank you’s” he got frustrated and gave up, but months later would attempt the same thing again. And I’ve heard from multiple others that I’m not the only person that he attempted this with, nor was it a big secret that that was his angle most of the time.