Argentina’s Indie Rock Community Mobilizes After Two Sexual Abuse Survivors Speak Out

Lead Photo: La Ola Que Queria Ser Chau
La Ola Que Queria Ser Chau
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As music lovers and band members nursed their hangovers on Saturday, April 16, Mailén Frías shared a video on Facebook that demanded Argentina’s indie music community confront the subject of sexual abuse and rape head on.

The video is a detailed testimony of Friás’ rape the previous Sunday morning, perpetrated by José Miguel del Popolo, lead singer of Argentine band La Ola Que Quería Ser Chau. “This is perhaps the most important post I have made on social media,” Frías writes in the link for the video. “Beyond the intention of making it clear that Miguel sexually abused me [on] Sunday 4/10, I want to also make it known so that other people who are victims of some kind of mistreatment can lose their fear of speaking out.”

Later, Rocio Marques – Miguel’s ex-girlfriend, who dated the singer for three years – shared a similar video testimony on her Facebook account. She writes, “The ‘bodily pain’ of the female collective is healed one by one. And as bodily pain heals, so does the pain of the human community. Our own healing is not just a gift for ourselves, it is also for the world.” Her video tells the story of the physical, mental, and verbal abuse she endured throughout their relationship – including the time he raped her after she tried to break up with him. Marques reveals that while they were together, Miguel confessed he had a previous relationship with a 13-year-old. She also discovered child pornography on his computer while they were living together.

For a relatively tight-knit community, the revelations came as a shock. On social media, musicians across the country showed their support, some with a report number and a helpline for other survivors of abuse to come forward.

Two of La Ola’s members, Guiliana Borello (Mailén’s close friend) and Francisco “Fradi” Dos Campos, announced their departure from the band in a Facebook post. In the same post, Dos Campos empathized with the women. “What Mailén has suffered is very tough, and we can’t just look past that. Let’s share this and not let this kind gross kind of violence spread.”

But Miguel’s behavior was more commonplace than the community had originally assumed, as Mailén and Rocio’s testimonies quickly empowered other survivors of sexual abuse in the music industry to come forward. A public show of support from the band El Otro Yo turned into a Facebook post filled with complaints from women claiming lead singer Cristian Aldana had developed inappropriate relationships with minors in the past. As the administrator for the page began deleting comments, another Facebook page called Victims of Cristian Aldana appeared online. It now has over 4,000 followers. Last week, the Argentine government formally opened a preliminary criminal investigation against Aldana. The case draws on the testimonies of six women, all of whom had originally come forward via the Facebook page.

Deckie, lead singer of the band Planctons, says the revelations brought a somber atmosphere to the musical community in Buenos Aires, and revealed the prevalence of abuse in the scene. In an interview with Remezcla, she said, “I feel there was a huge change of energy, of great sadness and disappointment. Outrage over the artists.” She adds, “Thanks to this, I learned that a lot more people who are part of the circle had gone through a situation of abuse at least once.”

In the aftermath of the week’s revelations came reflection within the community. Questions began to circulate as to whether warning signs were ignored and whether the behavior of some artists was normalized. On Facebook, a picture of Carolina, a fan who requests her surname remain anonymous, began to resurface.

Photo courtesy of Imaga Fémina
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She holds a sign at an El Otro Yo show, claiming to have been subject to abuse by Cristian Aldana. What’s more, a blog she previously created for survivors of his abuse has re-emerged, though it failed to garner strong support when it was created in October 2015.

In both Argentina and beyond, this is certainly not the first time accusations of sexual abuse have been made against people working in the music industry. A 14-year-old named Lori Mattox lost her virginity to David Bowie in the 1970s. Steven Tyler infamously impregnated a 14-year-old girl.

This kind of behavior isn’t just a relic of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle of the 60s and 70s. Last year, Dirty Projectors member Amber Coffman accused Heathcliff Berru, founder of Life or Death PR, of sexual harassment on Twitter.

The tweets yielded an outpouring of support from artists, journalists, and fans alike, as other women came forward to speak on the abuse perpetrated by powerful figures in the music industry. It also spawned a conversation on self-care, and whether women should be obligated to come forward if they are survivors of abuse. The Industry Ain’t Safe, a blog launched shortly after Coffman came forward with the allegations, shows the continued intimidation and fear imposed on women, preventing them from coming forward.

In Argentina, Deckie admits that “the stuff about Cristian did not surprise me completely. We all knew a minor who was with him. Many people look the other way because they want to believe in their idols.”

In the aftermath of the testimonies of Frías and Marques, some have engaged in extensive victim blaming, normalizing rape and the apathetic attitude adopted by many in the rock community. At a show in Mendoza on April 16, Guillermo “Walas” Cidade, lead singer of the punk band Massacre, spoke on the abuse Fríasci suffered at the hands of Miguel. “The girl from the video says she was raped twice,” he yelled. “What did she do in between, smoke a joint and wait for him to come back?” The following day, he issued an apology on Facebook.

Sexual abuse and rape within the music industry are just one branch of a wider endemic of gender-based violence. Last year, activists launched a campaign called NiUnaMenos, designed to raise awareness on Argentina’s alarmingly high rate of femicide. The NGO La Casa del Encuentro estimates that a woman is murdered every 30 hours in Argentina. Last June, some 200,000 people marched to Congreso in Buenos Aires to protest the government’s inaction on the femicide epidemic. This June, another protest is planned, as 66 women have died in instances of violence since the beginning of 2016. When asked to comment on the movement, a representative from NiUnaMenos said, “I think it is interesting to open a debate on sexism in the music industry, a chain of male violence of which rape, including femicide, is the last link.”

Frías and Marques’s testimonies and the subsequent movement reflect a burgeoning desire to change the status quo. Women are mobilizing and speaking out against the normalization of sexual abuse and assault and calling for behavior and attitudes towards women within all communities to change. Giuliana Borello, former member of La Ola Que Quería Ser Chau, is one of many women who plans to attend the protest against sexual abuse in the music industry on May 20.

Borello says, “What we want to achieve through the demonstration is to join together, to give us strength, to support victims of abuse to encourage them to come forward and to make gender violence visible in the atmosphere of rock. It seems important that we organize ourselves and say that we women will no longer fall silent. Enough of abuse, violence and death, against women and transgender folks. I ask everybody who wants a more just society, to move, to get out, to accompany us.” A stand will be placed at the demonstration for other victims of abuse to make reports should they wish to.