Johnnyland accused of being ‘rape apologists’
Toronto’s all-ages music scene has been shaken up this past week over allegations published online that Johnnyland, a collective group that hosts all-ages shows at several venues in the city, “is run by rape apologists.”
“not only did they allow the rapists to continue to participate... they also denied and victim blamed my friend”
Last week, Gush Goddess, an anonymous Toronto casual blogger, received stories from several survivors of rape and sexual harassment that claimed Johnnyland has “horribly handled” situations of sexual coercion, assault and rape during their shows or people involved with Johnnyland. Gush, with the consent of the two alleged survivors, shared their stories on her blog on Monday afternoon. The first story was told by the friend of an alleged survivor, stating, “not only did they allow the rapists to continue to participate and play at their shows, but they also denied and victim blamed my friend who was, at the time, one of their admins as well.”
“Nobody tried to help, I was raped later that night after going to Cold Tea with everyone.”
While it must be stressed that the validity of these experiences cannot be confirmed, the initial post by Gush soon prompted over a dozen others to send in stories of similar experiences occurring during Johnnyland events. All-ages events are known for often being rife with problems related to underage drinking and drug use. Despite Johnnyland’s stated goal of being a “safe haven” for youth music, many of the stories shared by Gush mention incidents resulting from unsafe conditions.
The second story shared in Gush’s initial post was written by an 18-year-old, who said, “I bought a couple of PBRs and someone I knew asked to have a sip and I let them and it got passed around and it got back to me and I kept drinking it. And … from doctor’s [sic] analysis as well as a nurse diagnosis, that [sic] it had ketamine in it, likely a large dose. It made me act erratic and wild and unpredictable and scary. I was running around harassing people and yelling at them. Nobody tried to help, I was raped later that night after going to Cold Tea with everyone.”
In addition to the posts indicating an unsafe environment festering at Johnnyland shows, many accusations have circled around the response and behaviour of members of the committee that run Johnnyland. At best, these stories claim that the committee was unresponsive to reports of underage drinking, sexual coercion and assaults that occurred at Johnnyland shows. At worst, they claim that prominent members in the committee itself and artists encouraged and even participated in these acts.
Shortly after Gush’s posts came to light, Johnnyland posted a response on their Facebook page to address the various accusations against them, saying: “At our show venues we have both professional security and volunteers to ensure the safety and security of everyone who attends our shows. We have never sold alcohol to underage teens, or condoned such sales. Any guests selling drugs or alcohol would be immediately removed from our shows…. To be absolutely clear, Johnnyland is not an organization that would ever condone rape apologists, sexual or physical assault. But at the same time, we cannot apologize for things we are not guilty of, and we cannot condone one misinformed anonymous blogger, however well intentioned, to make untrue accusations that run against everything Johnnyland stands for.”
The reaction to the statement was mixed, with many coming to the defense of Johnnyland on the grounds that the accusations were unproven and defamatory to the accused, who were often mentioned by name in the stories collected by Gush. Others claimed the statement passed the blame onto unpaid volunteers and authorities having a love of partying and not being able to control their attendees, which survivors said they were not comfortable with. Although Gush had posted a response to Johnnyland, the blog was taken down as of Wednesday evening on the advice of legal counsel.
Several venues in Toronto such as D-beatstro at Lansdowne and Bloor have said they will no longer welcome shows organized by Johnnyland. Meanwhile, supporters of the alleged victims in the all-ages music community has started to react, creating a new Twitter hashtag called #solidaritywithsurvivors.