Hayley Williams on Sexual Abuse in the Music Industry: 'Call It Out and Cut It Out'

'It makes my stomach hurt and my eyes red'

July 21, 2020

On Monday night, reports surfaced about sexual abuse and misconduct within the roster for Indie/Emo record label Burger Records. “What I actually experienced was emotional abuse and sexual coercion by someone in a position of power over me,” singer Lydia Night of The Regrettes said in her accusal of SWMRS drummer Joey Armstrong of sexual misconduct.

“Words can only go so far in repairing any damage that has been created,” said the label addressing the situation. But words beget change – and it's change that is desperately needed.

Paramore singer Hayley Williams, who is currently navigating the world as a solo artist, opened up about her own experiences in the Indie music scene over the years and expressed her unwavering support for those who are speaking up about sexual assault and abuse in the industry.

“Have been reading a lot of statements from friends and peers in the music scene who have all experienced sexual and other kinds of abuse at the hands of dudes in bands or other parts of our industry. It makes my stomach hurt and my eyes red,” Williams said in an admittedly lengthy (but necessary) post on her social media channels.

“It’s so crazy to me how frontwomxn can be such powerful inspiration to so many young people, who see us as very much ‘in control’ of ourselves and our immediate surroundings when we’re up on a stage. I know that the ‘powerful’ feeling, for me, is real – I do feel that empowerment, which transcends any notion of gender; the freedom of being so much more than the sum of my literal parts – where I am on stage.”

While that power is at times all consuming, Hayley admits that “frontwomxn are vulnerable and feel shame just the same as any young person going about any other life-path,” and also made sure to note that men in bands are vulnerable as well, but are sometimes, whether consciously or not “wrapped up in the toxicity of a culture that has existed long before most of us became a factor in it.”

The point? Hayley acknowledges that she has come out mostly unscathed, admitting she is a rare breed to not have any early to mid-2000s “horror stories,” but can certainly relate to experiences of narcissism and “improper power balance,” and says the only way to make a change is to “call it out and cut it out.”

Hayley says she is incredibly proud of her peers for speaking up and unburdening themselves of the secrets they’ve kept “for fear of shame or blame.”

As for the legacy of Burger Records, which was certainly an impetus for Hayley’s statement, they have announced a series of “major structural changes” including president Lee Rickard’s resignation, co-founder Sean Bohrman's move into a transitional role, as well as plans to rebrand itself BRGR RECS and launch an all-woman imprint, BRGRRRL.

“We extend our deepest apologies to anyone who has suffered irreparable harm from any experience that occurred in the Burger and indie/DIY music scene, the latter of which we take part,” the label said in a statement. “We are also deeply sorry for the role Burger has played in perpetuating a culture of toxic masculinity.”

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