Since mid-September, protest group Abuse Sticks Out have been covertly stickering CDs and DVDs in branches of HMV with warnings stating that the artist in question beats women. It began with copies of Chris Brown’s new album, ‘Fortune’, and has since been extended to albums by John Lennon and DVDs starring Michael Fassbender who, it should be noted, has never admitted nor been found guilty of abuse.
Photos of the stickers first appeared on the Twitter feed of Cambridge University Student Union Women's Group. We contacted Abuse Sticks Out to find out why they decided to start the campaign, and where they plan to take it in future. As Abuse Sticks Out refuse to reveal the names of any members of the campaign, these answers were received anonymously by email.
Where you are based, and how many do you number?
“We are a group of women from across the UK whose jobs involved supporting survivors of domestic violence. We got together because we all commented on Twitter about how problematic it is that our society continues to minimise domestic violence and allow abusers to reach icon status. When it's a male abuser, and the majority are, their violence can even be worn as a badge symbolising their masculinity. Being abusive should not be an accolade, it should be shown up for what it actually is and our society should respond to it.”
Why start the action now?
“It was when Chris Brown was top of the charts and literally wore his abuser status on his neck. We all got so pissed off that we put the sticker idea that had been floating around into action.”
Do you have plans to recruit in other cities? Are you planning to take this worldwide?
We have sent stickers to America today! We have been open from the beginning about being able to send stickers to anyone, although, of course, we have limited funds and so have made a virtual sticker pack for people to print out and use. It's not recruitment as such; people are recruiting us to let us help them protest an unfair society.”
Do you hope to stop people buying those albums and films involving abusers? Or shame them? Do you have a specific end goal in mind?
Our aim is to show how prolific abuse is. People think abuse is something that only happens in extreme situations but it isn't. It is a reality for one in four women. Abuse ruins lives and no one seems to give a toss. People need to sit up and start recognising it for the crime that it is.
Are you planning to target every artist who has ever committed spousal abuse?
“That would take us forever. The list is depressingly long. Take a look.”
Where will you draw the line? Will you do the same for Whitney Houston, who admitted she beat Bobby Brown, or is this specifically targeted at men? Are you only selecting people who are proven abusers?
“Whilst abuse is always wrong, it is important to look at how gendered abuse is. Why is no one talking about the two women a week who are killed by a male partner or former partner? Why is no one talking about the fact that 89 percent of people who experience more than four incidents of inter-personal violence are women?”
Rock stars don't traditionally have the greatest moral compasses. Do you think it's possible to enjoy an artist's work even if they have committed crimes or morally dubious acts?
Have you had any recourse from any of the artists targeted?
“No. Although we do wonder why HMV released the statement about Chris Brown's record sales going up. Whether they're lying or not, that sends a strange message. If they are lying, why are they protecting his reputation? Does HMV protect abusers? If they are telling the truth, then the sad fact is that people have been bought Chris Brown's album BECAUSE they have heard that he is an abuser.”
What are the shops doing to stop you? Are you breaking any laws?
“Abusers are breaking laws. We are not.”