Recently, XOJane posted an incredibly sad “It Happened To Me” story about a woman who dated a famous
musician asshole called “I Dated A Famous Rock Star & All I Got Was Punched In The Face.” In the comment section, a woman posted the following comment accusing indie musician Conor Oberst of rape 10 years ago, which has since been deleted:
“I am not the author [of the xoJane post] but as I said in a previous comment, I was raped by a “rock star” when I was 16 years old and he was in his 20s. My husband suggests I may feel some empowerment by outing my rapist. It was Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes (and several other bands/side projects he fronts, bright eyes being the most popular). I hope you are right about helping the next girl but I’m waiting for the backlash.”
Whoa. Whoa. Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I listened to quite a bit of Bright Eyes during middle and high school, and approximately half my friends wanted to marry him someday. He was (and is) seen as an indie music icon, sex symbol, and moody boyfriend material. His songs ranged from grumpy sad to angry sad to desperate sad to drunk sad to moderately happy but still sad, which we apparently loved at the time (and I admittedly still listen to now on road trips and rough weekends). The revelation that such a huge music figure may have abused an underage girl is horrifying.
The anonymous commenter’s story is both frightening and familiar to anybody who’s been abused, particularly by somebody older, then experienced zero support upon discussing the abuse:
“I was raped by a ‘rock star’ myself. I was 16 years old, he was in his 20s. No one believed me (he wasn’t even that famous then). No one believed me because I had been his biggest fan for several years at that point, his pictures covered my locker, etc. I guess when I made the accusation, everyone thought it was some sick & twisted way to get… I don’t know, closer to him? My own mother didn’t believe me until recently and it’s 10 years later now. This guy is the poster boy for what was known as “emo” back in the day, everyone thinks he’s so sweet and sensitive and sad, that he could never be the vicious monster he was that night. It makes me sick. I want to out him so bad. Every time I hear his name, I want to tell people what he did. I think people deserve to know. But due to how shit went down with my own friends&family at the time of the assault, the backlash terrifies me. It hurts to constantly see the way people fawn over him as if he’s a God. It’s really hard dealing with your attacker being famous or popular when you know the truth about them but feel no one will listen.
Anyway, I am so sorry that this happened to you but so glad you finally got out.”
After a flood of commenters responded to her assertion against Oberst, the user wound up addressing the issue in a since-deleted Tumblr post under the username “XOJaneCommenter.” This is it, in full (which I would not normally post the entirety of, but you can’t go to the original to check it out anymore):
“Look, I didn’t intend for any of this to happen. I was a somewhat regular commenter on xojane and felt safe there. Call it dumb, naive, etc but when I hit that post button, I did not think my comment would be anything more than an exchange with one or two other commenters sharing their stories. Was I stupid to think that making an accusation about Conor like this was just going to remain some blip in the comment section of a feminist website? Obviously. But I didn’t realize that Conor was still *that* popular, to be honest. I guess I felt too safe in that community. I had no intention for this to be all over the place, I really did not.
I am not looking for my 15 minutes of fame or to sue or to let anyone else make money off of this situation (though some are already trying), I am not looking for anything. I am not trying to ruin this man (and that isn’t going to happen regardless). All I was looking for when I made the comment with my story was support from the ladies on that forum that I felt safe opening up to. But now this has been spread all over everywhere and I feel like I need to speak up for the facts, for my character and for my intent (or lack there of).
I wish I could say I was really brave and I was speaking out for the benefit of other victims of rape who may feel discounted in their experiences and alone. But I am not that brave. I am speaking now because everyone else is speaking for me and a lot of it isn’t accurate. But now that it’s out there, if anyone can relate to it and not feel so alone or needs any support, I’m here for that.
I do not expect anyone to coddle me or hate him or to believe me. That’s your choice and has no bearing on my life, but I do expect people to treat me with dignity and respect-this was and is very painful for me. It’s really hard to have my experience smeared everywhere and picked apart, over analyzed, people criticizing me who know nothing of it, etc. But I made the stupid mistake that opened these flood gates so, I will deal with it. But please just try to be respectful-that shouldn’t be so hard. Please refrain from telling me what I could’ve/would’ve/should’ve done. That is highly offensive to any victim of anything and not your place. Please respect my privacy for the safety of my family.
Unfortunately, even when you simply want support from people regarding sexual assault and abuse, your words can often be scrutinized, spread and critiqued. It’s exhausting and frustrating–particularly if all you had hoped was to get it off your chest. Whether people believe you or not (though especially if it’s the latter), sharing your story can come with painful consequences.
As for Oberst, his rep released this statement:
Usually we wouldn’t feel the urge to comment on spurious blog chatter but the recent allegations made about Conor Oberst by an anonymous commenter on the xoJane website are flagrant enough to demand our response. This individual’s accusations are absolutely, unequivocally false. Unfortunately, the internet allows for groundless statements like this to travel the world before the truth has any time to surface. This is a particularly serious and sickening allegation and there is no truth to it. Conor has nothing but abhorrence for the perpetrators of such crimes of sexual violence. The behavior attributed to him by this individual is in direct opposition to his principles. Conor is consulting with a libel attorney regarding this matter.
Did he rape somebody? I do not know. I have a hard time imagining somebody would falsely accuse a famous person of rape on a very popular site using Disqus, from which anybody with access to the back end of the site can access your IP address, but regardless, we have no idea what happened and it would be deeply unfair to pre-convict him without knowing the full story.
However. If this does prove to be true, that would be incredibly alarming given the amount of access he has had to underage fans throughout his career. What I assume is going to happen is that all of his musician friends and famous supporters (as well as plenty of non-celebs) will come out of the woodwork to support him to the press, insisting his accuser couldn’t be telling the truth or else she would’ve already said something non-anonymously and that he is incapable of harming anybody in such a way. But while I would never claim to know Oberst “got away” with anything illegal, in the event he did, it would not be the first time a famous person has done so. It would also not be the second, third or fourth, and so on.
I worry about the alleged victim because (A) in the digital age, anyone can find out virtually anything about you and (B) accusing a famous person, or even a non-famous person, of sexual assault or abuse almost universally ends up with messy media consequences.