Under The Rockies was offered to host this interview between one of our writers, Jay Caption, and Beth Gorley, a survivor of sexual assault. We thought this was a very important conversation we needed to have in light of all of the sexual assault allegations swirling throughout the punk scene.
If someone you know has been sexually assaulted, the most important thing you can do is believe them. If you yourself has been sexually assaulted, don't be afraid to call your local helpline. Also check out RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization.
When I was younger, I remember my parents always giving me the same speech every time before heading out to school, weekend hangouts with friends and the like, “Make sure you are safe, stay away from people you don't know. You don’t know them, they might want to hurt you.” And I remember at the time thinking, "Get over it guys. I got this handled." Truth is, I felt like it was regurgitated so many times it was irrelevant to me and, at the end of the day, the likelihood of something happening to me when I was out was remote or non-existent and my biological guardians were nothing but a couple of over-cautious paranoid beings. I grew callous to the repeated warnings that my well-meaning parents would dole out every time I went out.
Speaking to others now, I realize I was not the only one who shared the same sentiment. The eye-roll that followed the same speech many of us received in our homes when we were younger. The carefree, whatever-nothing’s-gonna-happen-to-me attitude so many of us clothed ourselves with when we were out. But I have also learned now, there was sufficient reason for my parents to feel the way they did. Being a father and in my 30s, I now know my parents, just like so many others, only meant well because of stories they either heard, read, were around for or it came to them through the grapevine. Whatever the reason, they wanted to protect us from every sort of evil or danger that may come our way.
Sexual assault is a terrible, awful, evil crime that has happened over the decades to many. We may find ourselves knowing a family member, a close friend or an acquaintance who may be victim to sexual assault. “Rape Culture" has become a widespread term to describe a setting where rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. The very notion that there could be an atmosphere where these behaviors are acceptable and often ignored is staggering. Just last year, The Huffington Post reported that every year, 460,000 sexual assaults occur in Canada alone. Out of every 1000 occurrences, 33 are reported to Police, 29 are reported a crime, 12 have charges laid, only six are prosecuted and, out of those, only three lead to actual conviction. That leaves 997 assailants who go free.
Our colleges and universities also suffer a daily plague into abuse behind closed doors. The recent video released by Lady Gaga entitled "Til It Happens To You" is a raw and unsettling portrayal of rape that’s happening on campus, and sends the message that this is very prevalent in the schools and is not being addressed openly. The video closes with the statement that one in five college women will be assaulted this year if nothing changes, and it follows with the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1.800.656.HOPE).
The entertainment industry is no exception to this. How many times do we see the news or read an article that a well-known celebrity is in the middle of a scandal? Since the early 2000s, several women have come forward to bring to light sexual assault allegations against comedian Bill Cosby. As of August 20, 2015, Cosby has been accused by at least 51 women of either rape, drug facilitated sexual assault and/or sexual misconduct, with the earliest alleged incidents taking place in the mid-1960s. A trusted TV icon, once hailed by many, now marred in a sea of shameful conduct.
How do we react when an alleged victim comes forward? Do we side with the celebrity in a false sense of loyalty? Do we dismiss the claims as untrue to preserve the image we carry in our minds of this idol we may admire?
Back in November 2013, an anonymous blog post written on the website www.putyourdamnpantson.com described an incident involving a girl who claimed she had been sexually assaulted by Jorge Herrera, the lead singer of the New York City founded street punk band, The Casualties. Since the post, the alleged "Beth" has received both sides of the spectrum in support and naysaying ridicule. Some have said the person does not exist. Others have alleged it’s just some disgruntled fan out to defame a good man for unknown reasons. Amidst the opposition, supporters of the so-called “Beth” also started the Boycott The Casualties Facebook page and motioned towards cancelling the band’s recent tour across Canada and related shows. As a result of the allegations that were coming to light, many cities and venues backed out of hosting the shows The Casualties were scheduled to play.
But who is this "Beth"? Was this anonymous blogger a fake? A phony living in the shadows of cyberspace playing keyboard warrior for a false cause? Was she ever real? Was there legitimacy in the claims that this horrible experience happened so long ago?
For the first time since the surfaced allegations in a one on one interview, here is Beth telling her story:
Jay Caption: For the benefit of some who may have only recently heard of the allegations regarding the lead singer of the band The Casualties, can you confirm you are in fact the author of the post from November 5th 2013 on putyourdamnpantson.com?
Beth Gorley: Yes, I wrote the Blog Post.
So you are in fact the Beth that is spoken of.
Yes, I am Beth. There has been confusion because a woman named Elizabeth regularly posts on the blog and did the introduction to the guest blog piece. But I am the Beth that wrote it.
Thank you for that clarification. Recently, no doubt, you have heard of The Casualties shows being cancelled throughout Canada in response to the rise in awareness about the allegations towards Jorge. Can you comment on how you feel about that?
The Boycott The Casualties Facebook page alerted me to the cancellations and changes made to make some shows benefits for local rape crisis centres. I think turning the shows into benefits was a fantastic idea and I hope the overwhelming sense of community and strength helps other women in the scene to speak out and seek help.
Great causes to support without a doubt. Do you know the boycott people personally?
I do not. It was only within the last week I even learned their first names.
Is that right? That must have been extremely moving to you that people would come together this way.
It was all very overwhelming. I never thought it would reach more than my local friends. The fact that within a few days it had been shared 10,000 times left me speechless. I started learning of protests being organized all over the USA. A few people were even arrested trying to block the bands from entering a venue, it was intense.
Was the boycott page started solely based on your post from the website?
Yes, the boycott page was made and then they posted a link to it on the comments section of the blog. That's how I was made aware of it.
Incredible. Does it surprise you that complete strangers would be so supportive not even knowing who you are?
It did at first but then I realized how many of my supporters were also victims of similar crimes, that part was really eye opening. And the more the blog was shared, the more people started telling their stories of interactions with the band and that's when it was clear it was a problem on a much bigger scale. The accumulated list of accounts swayed a lot of the beginning naysayers
But yet there are still naysayers. And for the purpose of this interview, I have to ask: for those out there saying that it's just somebody who doesn’t like the band or that it’s hearsay, what do you say to those people? What do you say to those who believe that you are out to discredit Jorge for your 15 minutes of fame?
I cannot say anything to those people. They do not want to listen and I owe them nothing.
Powerful Statement. And, of course, now many have come forward and shared their stories. So what do you think it says about the punk rock scene that there are so many willing to turn a blind eye?
I don't see it as an issue in the punk rock scene. It's an issue in every community. Any sort of "celebrity" status or hero worship will win out against what's considered an "anonymous" voice on the internet. You see this all the time with public figures. Even Bill Cosby still has supporters.
That's a great point. So, nowadays, do you still make it out to the occasional show?
Absolutely. I'm going to two this weekend.
Awesome! Being a parent myself, I understand needing to get out. Who’s on the roster this weekend?
Despite some road bumps in my experience with punk and hardcore, it has had an effect on every aspect of my life. I'll be seeing a local band of old friends, The Tall Boys, Saturday and then Bane and Turnstile on Sunday.
Well I hope you have a great time. I'd like to talk about where life is for you now for a moment. I understand you’re married? Children at home as well?
Married, two kids, two dogs.
Sounds like life is busy! Your kids are younger?
Yes, two kids under the age of 4. One boy, one girl.
Great little handfuls, no doubt. Beth, does it make you concerned to expose your little ones to the "scene" given your experience?
It’s not the scene I'm concerned about exposing them to, it's the world full of rape apologists and the overall objectification of women in all cultures. If either of them finds the "scene" or whatever's left of it in 10 years, I'll be the first to drop them off at a show around the corner so their friends don't see. Music is a great outlet.
Sounds you will be a very loved mom. I think that's important about what you said about it not being about the scene, particularly punk rock, however a tolerant society in situations like these. Now, I tried to reach the band for comment, but the response from one of the members was, "we have been legally advised not to do so just yet". What do you say in response to that?
I have nothing to say in response. If they actually have legal counsel and cannot talk then what can I say? If it's an empty threat of legality being used to try to intimidate me then I'd say it's not going to work.
A question that has been on many of our minds is why have you not take action against him? If there is legitimacy to their legal claim, are you prepared to do the same?
Statute of limitations prevents me from being able to do anything legally. I'm prepared to take a lie detector test vs. the band taking one.
I would agree that it would absolutely shed light on the situation. Perhaps this can somehow be arranged. What is the statute of limitations?
From what I understand, assault is two years, sexual contact is five and rape is 20.
I see. From the perspective of the reader, to get some understanding, you had five years from the time of this incident. Am I correct?
I had a lot of time that I could have formerly pressed charges, absolutely.
For those wondering... Why didn't you?
I was mortified, and still am, of my parents finding out. As a minor, that next morning, my only goal was getting home to my bed. As an outspoken feminist, I felt like I had somehow let everyone down. Like, how could this have happened to me? Then I felt shame and couldn't imagine having to tell that story to my parents. Then I felt violated. I didn't want anyone touching me or prodding me. As a naive young girl, I just wanted it all to go away.
That's frightening. I cannot imagine what you must have gone through. Do your parents know now?
Nope. If they do, they haven't approached me.
Surely, with as many supporters as you have gained recently, you must have thought about bringing them in as well?
I've tried about 100 times but it's still hard. I don’t want to hurt my mother.
Understandable. Approaching our parents can be heavy even on the best of days for small things, let alone a situation like this. I’m sure many can relate. Have The Casualties played in your city since this happened?
Yes, in the late ‘90s.
And not since?
Only once, that I am aware of, in the last four years.
Were you ever inclined to confront him or the band at all?
The last time they came through was to play a local music festival. At that time, I only had one child, a son, and it weighed heavily on me that any moves I made could affect him. I thought about posting a blog, flyering outside the show, even going to the show and wearing a profound shirt with a message and confronting him on stage. But, in the end, I couldn't justify getting a babysitter, spending what little money I had and possibly getting arrested. I did reach out to a good friend of mine on the bill and their band donated their cut to a local women's shelter.
True friends indeed, I would say. Do you feel differently now? If you had and were given the public opportunity to confront him, have things in your life changed that you would follow through? I have to say, I would be surprised to see much resistance from most. Recently there has been an outpouring of support for you, wouldn't you agree?
The most major change that has happened, and would make me more prone to a public confrontation, was having a daughter. She has made me stronger as a woman and as a mother. This might be her fight one day against her own attacker. I want her to know she should never stop fighting back. There will always be naysayers. I still read their comments and messages. It's not all support and positivity. I try not to focus on those people. They have their own agendas and priorities.
Well, for those who have thrown benefits in behalf of victims of sexual abuse, those who have spoken out for you and in small ways supported your story, I think it’s important that they feel it has not been in vain.
Oh, it has absolutely not been in vain. The outpouring of support has been phenomenal. We've had so many people reach out to us about their own pasts and have sought help and spoken out because of the blog. Friendships have been built out of the ugliness of the situation, money has been raised and the punk scene, for me, has never felt safer. On my lowest nights, I would read and re-read comments from the community. Their strength and support has kept me going this entire time. Every time the band brings up the law, I feel the need to speak even louder. Because it's not about me anymore, it's about all of us, all of the survivors. This shit has to stop.
With all of this, where is life today for you? Does life carry on a little more towards normal every day?
Since the original blog post, life hasn’t slowed down. I have two kids, two jobs and I still want to change the world. I'm working with a group of amazingly strong and resilient women to keep our community safe and to keep women's voices heard. Last week was my 35th birthday and I celebrated by raising over $500 for RAINN [Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network] and ran seven miles to prove to myself I could.
That's awesome, congrats! I have a hard time running seven steps, let alone seven miles! Your story is truly inspiring to many, including myself. The fact you involve yourself locally, inspire those abroad to do the same, shows that you are not just a "keyboard warrior" talking smack about a band but are truly involved in helping make a change in our world. We thank you for sharing your story.
Thank you for reaching out and giving this "anonymous blogger" a chance.
One last question, for all out there who come across this interview, what advice can you give other victims of sexual abuse who have not yet had their story heard?
I'm here if you ever need to talk.
For everybody who gets to read this, what's your name?
Beth Gorley. And I'm fine.
With that we ended this interview. By chatting with Beth, it amazed me the resilience and willingness to be put out in the open among the community, a feat, I imagine, does not come across many easily.
It is imperative, I believe, we give the young women, men and children the voice they deserve when they muster the courage to say something at all. To at least investigate, and not cower in fear, over the rejection we could readily face for standing up for somebody. Within the punk rock scene itself, the values of community are preached and loudly promoted, so why not speak up? I can’t help but chuckle about a band who heavily opposes organized authority to run to them in the face of this situation and not reach out to their accuser. If you ask me, all credibility has been waived by doing so. But that's just my opinion, of course.
If we do not bridge the gap between decency and tolerance, then I suppose the future of our sons and daughters is a bleak one to welcome. How can any of us predict when we could be confronted with a similar situation in one way or another?
In instances such as this, when asked if we did all we could to end sexual abuse and tolerance, can we wholeheartedly say with a resounding resolve, "yes"? This is one writer that hopes we all can.