Variety: Sexual Assault Survivors Speak Out on Grammy Weekend: ‘The Music Industry is the Catholic Church on Steroids’
Below is a Variety article that was published on February 4, 2023
Written by: Elizabeth Wagmeister
On the eve of Grammys weekend, a group of sexual assault survivors came together to call on the music industry to take action against sexual predators and those who enable them.
“We need to take concrete steps to make sure that the music industry is safe and equitable,” said Melissa Schuman, a former member of the 2000s girl group Dream, who previously accused Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter of rape, which he has vigorously denied.
“How much does music care?” Schuman asked, referencing Friday’s MusiCares Person of the Year gala, a Grammy tradition which raises funds to assist music professionals in need.
Alexa Nikolas, the actor known from Nickelodeon’s “Zoey 101” tearfully took the podium Friday afternoon at press conference held at the L.A. Live complex in downtown Los Angeles, hours before MusiCares hosted its annual Grammys weekend soiree at the nearby Los Angeles Convention Center.
“I have seen the music industry publicly participate in smear campaigns that have come up about me,” Nikolas said. “It’s time to turn down the music and listen to what countless survivors of this industry have to say… Predators will come and go, but as long as institutions like the music industry enable and participate in the abuse and silencing towards survivors, then it won’t matter if ‘one bad apple,’ as they love to say, gets let go.”
She continued: “Mark a survivor’s words: the music industry is the Catholic Church on steroids.”
Nikolas filed a suit against her ex-husband, the musician Milosh, in 2021, accusing him of sexual abuse and grooming her when she was a teenager. Nikolas eventually dropped her suit, and Milosh sued her attorneys for malicious prosecution, alleging they filed a frivolous lawsuit.
Schuman, who was the first woman to come forward with allegations against Carter, was hit with a countersuit earlier this week by the Backstreet Boys member, who claims she, along with another rape accuser, took advantage of the #MeToo movement to “defame and vilify” him.
The crux of the press conference was for the women to share their allegations of abuse, trauma and silencing by high-profile figures in the music business.
The women were joined by attorney Jeff Anderson of Anderson & Associates, who recently filed separate lawsuits on behalf of two women, one who alleged she was abused as a minor by Marilyn Manson, and another who makes similar claims against Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler.
Manson has fiercely denied the sexual assault allegations in the latest lawsuit, which claims the abuse occurred in the early days of Manson’s career.
“Brian Warner does not know this individual and has no recollection of ever having met her 28 years ago. He certainly was never intimate with her. She has been shopping her fabricated tale to tabloids and on podcasts for more than two years. But even the most minimal amount of scrutiny reveals the obvious discrepancies in her ever-shifting stories as well as her extensive collusion with other false accusers,” Howard King, an attorney for Manson (whose real name is Brian Warner) says in a statement to Variety. “If anyone actually compares the vicious lies in the new complaint with the contents of prior interviews this woman has given to the press and on podcasts, the remarkable inconsistencies will demonstrate why this misguided action will not survive legal examination. Brian will not submit to this shakedown — and the courts won’t fall for it either.”
Anderson — who is representing the woman who sued Manson this week, as well as the woman who filed a suit against Steven Tyler — called on the music industry to stop the use of non-disclosure agreements to silence women, and demanded an end to the “systematic concealment” of abuse across the industry. “We demand and invite the industry to do the right thing,” Anderson said, calling on MusiCares, the Recording Academy’s nonprofit, to support survivors. “Let’s work together to pursue and honor the survivors that have spoken the truth and have dared to care in a way those so many in this industry have chosen not to.”
While the #MeToo movement has swept across the television and film business, the music industry has been criticized for being slower to respond. The women who spoke on Friday afternoon asserted that the industry needs to develop better practices and reporting structures to stop abuse.
Nomi Abadi, a musician and composer who founded the Female Composer Safety League, which has more than 200 members, said that she did not vote for the Grammys this year, even though she is a member of the Recording Academy.
“I was unable to bring myself to vote,” she said. “I simply cannot fathom the idea of going along with an industry that allows ‘Silence Breakers’ to be ripped of opportunities because we spoke out. We should not have to choose between being artists and activists.”
Sandra Booker, a singer, songwriter, playwright, actor and activist, said that “nothing was done” after she made accusations within the industry. “I became the villain instead of the victim,” she said.
“I am here to call out the people who stand in solidarity with predators and give them protection year after year,” Booker said. “We can stop this. The choice is ours. I appeal to MusiCares and this entire industry to take a stand.”
Anderson said that he and others who spoke out will be attending MusiCares event on Friday night where they plan to “demand and implore” the industry to protect survivors.
“It’s time for the cleanup of the coverup,” Anderson said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a statement from Marilyn Manson’s attorney, who contacted Variety after publication.