At the time of writing, it was revealed last night that Rex Orange County, birth name Alexander O’Connor, has been charged with six counts of sexual assault.
Last night, my first feelings were of shock and disappointment, which I know has been felt by so many others through the abundance of commentary on social media following this revelation. Hearing of sexual assault allegations, charges and convictions against celebrities in the news is unfortunately not a new occurrence. Yet, when these cases are in the news, it is difficult not to feel a personal impact, especially regarding safety in today’s world. As a result of this, it is valuable to check-in with the people around you and with yourself, when these cases are prevalent in the news and on social media.
It is okay to limit exposure to this information if it is damaging to your mental health.
Prior to this news, I listened to this artist, I was even at his last concert in Gunnersbury Park in August with my younger brother. The context surrounding the abrupt ending of his last tour, with his emotional last performance, created an atmosphere of sadness for the artist himself. This has led to some personal feelings of guilt and questioning my own integrity, as this all seems to make sense now. Essentially, I question were the signs there? Should I have known? If only I could turn the clock back and change my feelings towards the artist. But I know that hindsight is unattainable without the hindsight itself, and now I can use hindsight in my present view.
Using these feelings, a conversation needs to be brought to the forefront, this needs to be in support of the victims of sexual assault. An abundance of commentary has already begun on social media in relation to this news, with a range of reactions across all social media platforms. Yet, this is not always correctly focused, with some individuals using the phrase ‘innocent until proven guilty’ . This phrase is incredibly damaging in this climate. Often sexual assault cases, unfortunately, do not go to court. Thus, if a sexual assault case reaches court, it is likely that there is substantial and clear evidence against the perpetrator. This proves how this phrase is not applicable regarding this case and is incredibly harmful, especially towards the victim(s). Also, this phrase can cause other victims to not come forward with their own cases. This is not acceptable. We always need to support the victims of sexual assault, no exceptions.
Further to this, some individuals are focusing on their own personal losses with money previously spent in support of the artist, and the loss of a seemingly ‘nice’ public figure. This focus is also damaging, taking the view away from the direct and life-changing impact on the victim(s). Although, a (former) fan of the artist can feel an impact, this should be constructed to generate self-reflective thought on how we perceive celebrities and the pedestal we place them on. When news like this comes out, we cannot continue this view and be completely surprised that celebrities can commit such atrocities. We must face the reality and consider the consequences.
In this view, it is obvious that the social media commentary is not enough, we need to move this conversation to real life. This is not just the responsibility of women. You do not have to be a victim of sexual assault or know someone who has been a victim, to feel an emotional connection. These conversations need to be happening between everybody, regardless of experience, gender, and age. I have brought this into my own life by having a conversation with my younger brother, as this is his first experience of a celebrity, he had previously looked up to, being connected to such a vile crime.
If you have felt affected by this, I urge you to reach out to a friend, family member or the University Wellbeing Team. Seeing these cases, in the news and on social media, can be incredibly triggering and overwhelming. Please be kind to yourself and know that it is okay to do whatever you need to do to get through this.
You are not alone.