Me Too founder Tarana Burke has addressed an independent report surveying sexual harm in Australia’s music industry that was published last week.
The report, titled Raising Their Voices, collated the results of a survey that was contributed to by over 1600 people working in the Australian music industry. The report found what it deems to be “unacceptable levels of sexual harm, sexual harassment and systemic discrimination in the contemporary music industry in Australia”.
“People in the industry are passionate and committed, but there are significant systemic risks and cultural challenges,” the report read. “These facilitate harm and unacceptable behaviour, and mean that perpetrators are rarely held to account.”
Among the report’s findings were that 55 per cent of participants said they had experienced sexual harassment or harm during their career, including 72 per cent of women surveyed and 39 per cent of men surveyed. 85 per cent of participants who participated as a different gender reported at least one experience of sexual harassment.
82 per cent of those that experienced sexual harassment or harm said they did not report it, and only three per cent “made a formal complaint” about what they had experienced. Of those that did pursue a complaint, more than half were “dissatisfied with the outcome”. 91 per cent of women surveyed said they had experienced “sexism from senior managers, supervisors or other leaders”.
Burke, the American activist who started the Me Too movement to encourage survivors of sexual abuse and harassment to speak out about their experiences, delivered a keynote speech earlier today (September 7) as part of this year’s BIGSOUND conference.
As The Music reports, Burke was asked during her keynote about how the music industry should address the results and take necessary steps following their release. “We need courage,” she responded. “There are lots and lots of stories. Hard stories and stories of horrible things that have happened behind those doors.”
“[The response] needs accountability,” Burke said. “It would be amazing to see artists and industry actually own and be accountable for their part and reflect on the harm they’ve caused. It sets the stage for what accountability could lead to,” she continued, adding that that kind of accountability is rarely seen.”There is so much denial.”
“It takes courage to own up and confront an abuser. There is so much turmoil associated with being a public survivor,” Burke said. “We don’t see that kind of courage coming out of the industry. I would like to see that courage.
“Sexual violence is not about desire or sex, it is about power and privilege. If we take that step, and people are willing to give up their power it would start the conversation for the next steps.”
In addition to the findings, the Raising Their Voices report outlined a list of 17 recommendations made to improve conditions within the industry. Those recommendations included the establishment of a Contemporary Music Industry Cultural Reform Council set up to address sexual harm, harassment, bullying and discrimination.
That council, the report suggested, would develop a code of conduct, establish an “independent safe space” for people to confidentially disclose experiences, and create awareness campaigns.
Other recommendations included that “industry leaders” deliver a joint statement “acknowledge[s] the harm” that sexual harassment has caused thus far, with a “commit[ment] to cultural reform” and to undertake the proper protocol in holding those that have perpetrated harm fully accountable.
The full Raising Their Voices report can be viewed and downloaded from the report’s official website.