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MU Reacts to Reports of Abuse of Black Women By a Prominent DJ

Recent reports of Tim Westwood’s decades of abuse of Black women are yet another example of the power imbalances in the music industry that allow men to use their positions of power to abuse women over lengthy periods of time without consequence.

Published: 29 April 2022 | 12:32 PM Updated: 29 April 2022 | 1:46 PM
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For the industry to change, it needs to listen to survivors, investigate their reports, and take action no matter what position the perpetrator holds. Image credit: Shutterstock.

The brave women who have come forward said they feared their accounts would not be taken seriously and that racial discrimination would lead people to minimise, dismiss or ignore their claims. The MU know this to be true from our own research on sexual harassment.

Union research in 2019 revealed:

  • 85% of MU members who experienced sexual harassment did not report it.
  • 56% cited workplace culture as a barrier to reporting.
  • 40% did not report due to fear of losing work.

All of these are backed up by experiences shared on social media and with the MU's Safe Space service.

We cannot ignore the role racism plays in harassment and abuse

One in three members surveyed by the MU also felt that the sexual harassment they experienced was linked to a protected characteristic. This may have been their ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity or disability.

For Black musicians this is not new. Recent research by Black Lives in Music confirmed that 64% of Black musicians felt they had to ignore racist comments or microaggressions to progress their careers, and highlighted specifically the disproportionate impact this has on Black women.

When we talk about sexual harassment and abuse, we cannot ignore the role that racism plays in enabling the abuse to happen and acts as barrier to reporting. There needs to be an industry-wide conversation about the silencing of Black women’s voices.

The music industry must change

The music industry, and anyone who engages musicians, must no longer ignore reports of sexual harassment, abuse or rape and discrimination. For the industry to change, it needs to listen to survivors, investigate their reports, and take action no matter what position the perpetrator holds.

The systems and support required to make change are still not in place. Only when we work together to create an industry that encourages disclosure, that’s free from discrimination and victimisation and where survivors are fully supported, will we begin to see meaningful change.

The importance of accountability

That includes holding organisations that let predatory behaviours go unchallenged to account. The MU will be contacting each of the organisations involved in this case to understand why no action was taken.

This is also why we created the MU’s Safe Space service - so that musicians have a space where they can report this behaviour, where they will be believed, guided to support and where, with the survivor’s permission, the union will take action.

The MU has put together a sexual harassment at work policy, and invites organisations working with musicians to contact the union for support in this area. Organisations such as Safer Spaces are also working to make the music industry safer for musicians, audiences and fans.

Campaigning to end sexual harassment at work

The MU’s work also includes campaigning to extend protections relating to discrimination and harassment in the Equality Act 2010 to all freelancers so that they are entitled to the same protections as the wide range of individuals in the workplace who are already protected.

Alongside this, the MU is calling on Government to strengthen protections by allowing intersectional claims to be brought under the Equality Act, so that the legislation that protects survivors reflects their lived experiences and recognises the role racism can play in sexual harassment.

Finally, we encourage everyone reading this to read reports from the BBC and the Guardian, which highlights the experiences of survivors.

#ProtectFreelancersToo

End sexual harassment at work

Government committed to introducing a mandatory duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment at work. Now we need action to protect all freelancers too.

End sexual harassment at work

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