Ask Fan Landers: Do I Tell My Friends About the Abuser in Their Band?
Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist, and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
I need your help. My roommate's BFF recently disclosed that her cousin, who I know from college, has gotten into serious domestic brawls with her older boyfriend. She says cops have been called. I don't think it's him beating her but them both giving what they get, but I don't know exactly. They both are intense and volatile and appear to have drinking problems. How is this my problem? I'm good friends with some of the other guys in the boyfriends' band and wonder if it is my duty to tell them? I would want to know if it was my band, but I don't have any proof only what I heard secondhand.
First and foremost, you need to prioritize this woman's safety over preserving this bands rep. Orient your concern towards your roommate's friends cousin and what you, your roommate and your sister might be able to do to her out of the situation or get her some resources and help (National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−SAFE; their website has info for how you can be helpful as well). Does she seem really interested in leaving him? Could she live with her cousin -- or another safe place -- for a while? Is there someone in their friend circle/tight with the band who is sober and in recovery who could talk to her/him/both about getting some help for their drinking? If the cousin does not want to get help or make changes, these efforts may be futile. Her telling her sister is a good sign though, in that she is not interested in keeping what's going on a secret.
BUT! Before you even consider approaching the band, or seek "proof" you really need to see what you guys/gals can do to help the sister because what you do not want to happen is have the boyfriend retaliate/hurt her for telling someone or for him maybe even getting kicked out of his band because they found out about the abuse. That might be, for now, the only route to go with this, as gratifying as it might be if he had some consequences for being a shitbag. If the band is smart they will find a way to get him out of the picture quickly because one day, he will very likely rain ill-repute down on their band. People do not distinguish if it was the bassist or the xylophonist who is the sketchy dude, it's usually just "Didn't someone in that band get arrested for assault?" The whole band gets painted with the same brush.
There are bands/artists in all genres/scenes who have assholes/date rapists/violent people in their membership -- we've all heard gossip about who. A lot of that shit still inexplicably gets a pass because that's rock n' roll and "it's her word against his" and "everyone gets drunk and does dumb things, and he shouldn't have his career ruined because of one mistake." Some truly bad behavior gets overlooked in the name a preserving a band's career or people wanting to maintain their proximity to a band for their own career-minded reasons. Often times it seems that the worst that happens is people gossip, and there are no consequences; ignoring things is easier than giving a shit about another person's well being. So, thank you for being part of the solution, rather than the problem.
When people are active drunks with a temper, it's not really something that stays secret for very long -- especially from your bandmates. The universe is better at exacting consequences than we ever are -- it may be a matter of just waiting to see what he reaps. While part of me wants to advise that you swear your best friend in the band to secrecy and confide what you have heard, you just don't want to chance doing anything that could make this girl that much more of a target for him. Also, who knows if the band even cares about his extracurricular issues. Also, getting him kicked out his band may not be what stops him from hitting her, you know? It's hard to understand what we can accidentally put in motion even when we are trying to help or do what we think is best for another person -- or their band. If the other people in his band are thoughtful people who he is close to then maybe it might be the time for you guys/gals to just approach him as a concerned friend about where his drinking is getting him these days, because that is obviously a catalyst here. Start there, rather than a direct confrontation about how you heard through the grapevine he hits his girlfriend, as tempting as that may be.