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  • Niall Smith

Abuse of Power: Addressing Music’s Systemic Lack of Accountability

Breaking down the tragic news that hit the music stratosphere earlier last week.


Last week, it was reported that British DJ Tim Westwood allegedly sexually assaulted seven women from the years of 1992 to 2017.

In an exclusive collaboration between the BBC and The Guardian, they reported that various Black women—in their late teens and early 20s at the time of the reported abuse— described their heinous experiences at the hands of the former DJ in shocking detail.

While this story is hardly news to some—with Black Twitter voicing their dismay and distrust of Westwood back in June of 2020, as well as Captial heads allegedly trying to silence journalists reporting on the issue.

As soon as the claims levied against Westwood hit the net, the BBC issued a formal statement. “The BBC is against all forms of inappropriate behaviour and we are shocked to hear of these allegations. The BBC has strict codes of conduct for all those engaged by the BBC, including on-air presenters.”

Many pointed their fingers at the BBC and his latest appointment at Capital Xtra radio station for ignoring the serious assertions pointed at Westwood from other years. In the report, the BBC and Guardian comprehensively compiled the accounts of the women in question. Some women who came forward stated they feared coming forward sooner because of Westwood’s ironclad influence and grip on the industry and feared industry Blackballing or not being believed.

Time and time again, we see women suffer at the hands of men wielding their power for nefarious purposes—and Westwood is not the first of his kind either.

A woman simply known as Isabel stated she was only 19 when she met Westwood and spoke in length about the trauma she faced. After heading to London to meet Westwood and give him her demo CD, Isabel was whisked away in the dishonoured star’s vehicle.

“We got in the car. He made the most minimal amount of small talk. I could tell that he wasn’t particularly interested in the music thing. I didn’t actually see him undo his trousers. What alerted me to the fact that he was exposing himself was the fact that he actually tapped me to turn around to look. I’ve looked and I’ve seen and I’m like, ‘Oh, no, oh no, like, oh my God’,” Isabel said.

Tamara also voiced similar sentiments. “I was 17, he was twice my age: there was some kind of power dynamic,” when speaking about Westwood's actions. Tamara also added she contacted the production team for last year’s BBC documentary, Music's Dirty Secrets. Tamara asked the crew to investigate the 64-year-old radio personality at the time; however, he was not mentioned in the film.

Tim Westwood got away with his abuse for so long, thanks to his laundry list of industry connections, power and white privilege to farm his gatekeeping. Westwood utilised his gatekeeping powers to arguably prey on one of societies’ most socially powerless—Black women.

Over the years, the music industry—specifically the British sphere—has enabled many predators and less-than-savoury characters to act upon their worst impulses. While Westwood’s stories make many ponder how he got away with his actions for so long, we do have a positive solution, ensuring the protection of women going forward.

We predict the collective and courageous hivemind the victims share will result in more women sharing their stories and seeking retribution. We hope our resources at Cactus City can move forward the conversation and actions regarding the patriarchy’s grip on the music world, so one day, no woman has to suffer at the hands of someone else’s gratification. Although we believe a tide is changing in the industry, more needs to be done by institutions to ensure women's voices are listened to and taken seriously, instead of being silenced. This is not acceptable.

You can stream the documentary, Tim Westwood: Abuse of Power, here on BBC iPlayer.

For more resources and support regarding abuse in the industry, check out the Cactus City charter.


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