Staff Editorial: Handling Sexual Assault Allegations

As many students have likely heard, PWR BTTM will not be performing as a part of this year’s LUaroo. After news circulated that one of the members of the band, Ben Hopkins, was accused of sexual assault in a closed Facebook group, they were removed from LUaroo’s lineup. The responses to these allegations in the industry were, surprisingly, just as quick and severe. In the days after the allegation was made, PWR BTTM was dropped by their record label and their management, their tour was cancelled and their music was removed from Apple Music, Spotify and iTunes.

Although the actions that were taken by these organizations is reassuring, however, there are still many—on Facebook and through other platforms—that are questioning not only the harshness of these actions, but the validity of the accusations against Hopkins. This backlash is worrying; why are so many still so unwilling to believe victims of assault? Since the first allegation was made, other victims of Hopkins’s predatory nature have come out and told their stories, reassured by the swift punishment the band has faced and feeling outraged by PWR BTTM’s professed “unawareness” of any wrongdoings. Still, these victims face the cynicism and distrust that plagues our society when it comes to the issue of sexual assault.

This unwillingness has reached far beyond the current issues that are facing the accusations of Ben Hopkins. In other recent popular culture, record producer and songwriter Dr. Luke was sued by pop star Ke$ha in 2014 for sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment, gender violence, civil harassment, violation of California’s unfair business laws, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligent retention and supervision. These claims were unfortunately dismissed in April of 2016, to the dismay of many fans who were fighting for Ke$ha’s wellbeing.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), an American experiences sexual assault every 98 seconds. As the organization explains on their website, “the number of assaults has fallen by more than half since 1993,” and yet, “only 6 out of every 1,000 rapists will end up in prison.” Clearly, incidents of sexual assault occur much more often than people realize—or maybe more often than people would like to admit. Plenty of progress on decreasing incidents of sexual assault has been made over the past few decades, but we still have a lot of work to do.

The swift actions taken in the wake of the accusations against PWR BTTM set a new standard for the handling of sexual assault allegations: we must put the survivors and the community before the perpetrators. Hopefully this attitude does not stop here, but continues to be spread and perpetuated, not just through on-campus groups like LUaroo, but throughout the general public.