On Sexual Abuse & Accountability in Vegan Straight Edge Communities
Combating Abuse in Vegan Straight Edge and 'Radical' Hardcore Punk Communities (Or, How To Destroy a Cult)
CW // TW: This entire article discusses sexual abuse and sexual violence. Some parts of it contain depictions of physical violence, emotional trauma, racial slurs and harassment.
Editor’s note: It’s deeply painful to see this piece published on our site as it contains such vitriolic accusations against people who have been a huge inspiration for many of us in the Vegan Straight Edge scene. Time and time again, the radical subcultures fail to hold people accountable, believe survivors, and work to build communities where we simply don’t put anyone in a position of power and dominance. I think that, beyond roasting these certain individuals, this publication will cause readers to question many other bands they look up to. Surely, it’s not easy to publish something so explosive, but rather than sharing it anonymously on a specially created blog (as many others before), the author—who has already wrote on the topic of sexual abuse at No Echo—reached out to DIY Conspiracy with full confidence in their words. Despite being ensured these accusations are not some bogus claims, I’m fully aware the piece is highly controversial. Therefore, it should be made clear that the statements and opinions expressed here are entirely the author’s own.
Contact the author at: [email protected]
“[He] was wholly inaccessible to any gentler method of correction. His upstart arrogance and ostentatious vulgarity were only assailable by blows dealt with the force and vigour of the present coup.”—Alexandre Dumas
“It is a gift to be given the opportunity to learn about one’s failures. It is a gift to be given eyes to see your misdeeds and abuse that you fail to recognize yourself. Don’t dismiss it, don’t slander it with thought-terminating, growth-assassinating canards about ‘call out culture.’ Hear it, realize you are being told a truth about yourself, commit to learning, and commit to trying to practice solidarity.”—Chris Rouse
We cannot stop talking about “cancel culture,” yet this term, at times derided by left and right, remains nebulous. In his 2017 essay “Planet of Cops” Fredrik DeBoer writes that “you simply cannot say, in polite society, ‘basic fairness requires us to avoid a rush to judgment and to give people the right to respond to accusations.’”
“A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” published in Harper’s in 2020 and signed by a luminary of the left like Noam Chomsky, focuses on stifling speech. In this current of thought, simply having a controversial opinion is grounds for silencing. While accounts like DeBoer’s and the Harper’s letter focus on speech, others have focused on actions: How long ago was the offending act committed? Has the perpetrator grown since then? In these accounts, objectionable actions and speech seem to be criticized indiscriminately, without serious consideration of a person’s well-publicized politics or public position of power (or, as is the norm, their complete lack thereof).
I see an appreciable difference between public discourse on “cancel culture” and what I am doing in this piece. I believe in patience and forgiveness, but I also believe in higher standards for those who have gone out of their way to vocally preach to such an extent that others publicly praise them for their progressive politics. I also see giving up the luxuries of subcultural positions of power as a negligible sacrifice for those who have used these positions to abuse those with less power. Combating the type of hypocrisy that has posed, and still poses, a very real danger to our subculture’s young participants is nothing more than an attempt to hold those who have abused their power accountable, for once.
I will make an important qualifier at this point. I may be breaking with many who share my politics here, but I believe that as a strategic maneuver, we must be exceedingly patient and understanding (particularly if we are not the women who suffer the most brutal violence of our society) not only with those who indicate sympathy for fighting sexual violence but feel ill-equipped to do so, but also with those who make mistakes but are willing to acknowledge them and pursue the hard work of improving themselves. It is also imperative that we extend that same patience, understanding, and spirit of forgiveness to the many people every single one us know who have never even heard the words “rape culture.” I am writing in a polemical mode in this piece.
Consequently, my tone is derisive, and purposely so. The standards cannot be the same for “civilians” and people like Chris Rouse of 7 Generations and Extricate (previously known as Forewarned), Tim Rusmisel of 7 Generations and Vital Actions, and Nicholas James Lynch of 7 Generations and Redbait, who act and have acted in ways to elicit public praise for their supposed commitment to a slew of progressive political causes. One example of such self-glorification is Chris stating in a 2009 interview that “The most general highlight of being in 7 Generations has been the amount of times women have come to us and told us that we were the only band that they felt comfortable supporting and taking part in. Of course I wish we were not the only band, but the fact that we have had the opportunity to provide for women an outlet in the hardcore scene that they did not have otherwise, or to open them up to a community within hardcore in which they could have support and expression otherwise lacking, has been perhaps the most meaningful part of doing this band for me. Hardcore is so lamentably androcentric and hyper-masculine, I am very grateful to have helped provide an alternative.”
Those outside our subculture have never had the privilege of a politically developed milieu that has taught them to actively challenge sexual violence, whereas Chris, Tim, and Nicholas’s public positions—which went as far as helping to “provide an alternative” if we are to believe Chris—have garnered such effusive praise that newer bands like Vanguard, who publicly say they “very much look up to 7gen” and whose very name is partially inspired by 7 Gen’s “anti-sexual predator song ‘Vanguard’,” pay homage to 7 Gen’s feminist credentials. If these three men can accept public praise of this sort—and I have never seen one of them seriously challenge it—they must accept the heightened scrutiny that should accompany it. It will be difficult for these men to say they didn’t know better because their public personas have been rooted in knowing better for the past decade and a half.
Even the most cursory glance at their public words makes that clear. Let us work to help those outside our little world understand the issues we care about as much as we can, and let us mercilessly lampoon those who have cheapened our struggle for the sake of their pathetic egos. Any hint of resentment these three men might feel for my vituperation indicates a subconscious double standard, suggesting that they hope to maintain their positions as recipients of public honors for their feminist politics, while simultaneously desiring the gentleness and understanding for their egregious mistakes we should reserve for people who know as much about feminism as I know about rock formations in Madagascar. This is untenable. This is not a time to be gentle.
In the Extricate song “Pious Fraud,” Chris feels at ease lambasting religious hypocrisy, but perhaps secular hypocrisy is different enough to deserve patience and understanding in all contexts to him. Chris, Tim, and Nicholas can either hold on to their positions as feminist figureheads (which they have contributed to crafting themselves) and de facto spokespersons in our community, and accept the scrutiny and criticism that goes along with such a role in good stride, or admit that they are utterly clueless about feminism, patriarchy, and sexual violence, and that nobody has, or ever had, any business looking to them as inspiration or an example.
I have been compelled to make these issues public after facing the serious—and perhaps insurmountable—limitations of private accountability. I spent several weeks in summer 2020 intensively corresponding with Chris about most of what follows, and while I do believe that he made a real effort in private, I felt exasperated by him repeatedly evading several matters and failing to even acknowledge others, which I will again mention here in hopes of a straightforward answer from him. If his current statements are any indication, Chris has shown himself willing to be publicly accountable only to the extent that it does not fundamentally challenge the stream of public praise he has come to enjoy. By refusing to allow him to shape the narrative of his public statements as he sees fit, I am reclaiming certain histories for his victims.
I informed Chris that I had more to say to him in my last email to him almost eight months ago, which remains unanswered. Since he has not taken the initiative to write a single sentence in that time letting me know he is still taking these matters seriously, it should not come as a surprise that his victims have run out of patience for holding Chris accountable on his own terms. Three factors inform my switch to a public forum: first, in July 2020 Chris told me that he would wait about a month to release a concrete statement explaining why he would no longer be a part of his band Extricate. The statement has still not come, and Chris has not offered an explanation to me as I have been waiting. Perhaps he expects me to pester him for something he told me would do on his own volition.
Given the distance between his other public statements and actions, I take this as yet another example of him not taking his politics seriously in practice. Second, I examined Chris’s public statements closely only after our private exchange, and his ill-founded arrogance in interview after interview left his victims and me ever more impatient for his promised statement, or at least an accounting for its delay. Third, Chris has done nothing to stem the tide of public praise he and his projects receive, which invalidates his victims’ experiences. It seems that Chris has chosen to quietly abscond from this community because I, and several women, have made it clear to him that he can no longer exist in it as an unaccountable abuser. After the exhaustion from my efforts with Chris and an attempt to hold Nicholas accountable that ended up being worse than useless, I had no more energy to run through the same rigmarole with Tim. If he has an issue with my pursuit of public accountability with him, he can thank his friends for their grievous shortcomings. I am not trying to silence anyone. I am trying to make people speak.
It is important for me to write this piece as an effort to stop further abuse in this community, to support the women who have suffered at the hands of these men, and to help validate their experiences. I have written these words in close consultation with several survivors, on whose behalf I am privileged enough to write. Their insights and inspiring courage have been instrumental in making this piece much stronger than it otherwise would have been. There is not a word in this piece that has not been discussed with and approved by survivors, down to the tone. Any resentment Chris, Tim, and Nicholas feel about any aspect of my writing therefore indicates the same unregenerate enmity toward survivors which led them to act in such abusive ways in the first place. There is something seriously wrong with a community whose abusers have driven their victims to feel unable to voice what they have endured, and it is my hope that all of us will not only encourage survivors to speak, but take action by carefully and sympathetically listening to them when they do.
“The reigns of the kings and queens who are portrayed as kneeling with their hands joined in prayer in the windows of churches were stained by oppression and bloodshed.”—Marcel Proust
“These twisted works lay bare your heart.”—Chris Rouse
There is not a hint of exaggeration when I write that rampant sexual violence was the existential condition of 7 Generations from first practice to last show. Chris regularly covered for Erik, 7 Gen’s first guitarist, who was outed only in 2007. Before the band had even formed, when a woman courageously (and cautiously) asked Chris about the rumors she had heard about Erik’s predation, Chris defended his close friend in an abusive rage: “I know my friend, and I know he would never do anything like that!” His hostile, aggressive, and intimidating response was enough to make this woman feel the danger of ever questioning his judgment again. This was no isolated incident, as Chris had to cover for abuse to keep the band going throughout its entire existence. I am not merely speculating, but making a case by reading Chris’s own words and taking them seriously.
Let’s accept what Chris states in a 2015 interview (which is further corroborated by his statements in 2013 and 2009 interviews, in addition to his 2009 announcement of the band breaking up): “When Seven Generations formed, as mentioned above, there was hardly any Vegan Straight Edge presence in the hardcore scene whatsoever. What was there was inchoate and dispersed and there was not really anything around which the minute numbers of Vegan Straight Edge people could cohere.” If this is true, it is not at all controversial to say that he had to cover for Erik to ensure that the band could continue on long enough to build the community it did. If he faithfully depicts the doldrums of the Vegan Straight Edge scene when the band formed, it wouldn’t have exactly been easy to find a replacement for Erik at the time.
If he didn’t think there would be excitement or patience for such a band in a context of “minute numbers of Vegan Straight Edge people,” how does he think he would have been able to find someone else—not only with the requisite excitement and patience, but also someone able to play guitar and write songs—to actively participate in such a project? When he mentions “the fairly incongruous tastes, agendas and dispositions of the first line-up” he provides further evidence that Erik was the band’s only option at the time, suggesting that his covering for Erik’s abuse by shutting down any rumors about him and refusing to listen to them, let alone take them seriously, was fundamental to the band’s very existence. Why would he have consciously chosen “a farrago” with “significant political incongruity” and “fairly incongruous tastes, agendas and dispositions” if there had been an alternative? Only in 2006 did “the band [reconstitute] itself with a new line-up.” How would the band have been able to exist for long enough to inspire new band members to keep it going if he hadn’t sustained the band by covering for Erik over those years?
Erik left the band in 2006, but Tim and Nicholas’s sexual predation continued to propel the band from that time until its breakup three years later. If his public statements (and omissions) are any indication, Tim has a bigger problem with two consenting adults choosing to marry than with his own sexual acts of sexual violence. If we simply assess the evidence, we see that he has chosen to publicly derogate marriage while remaining silent about his predatory and abusive sexual relationship with a high schooler when he was in his mid-30s. It doesn’t take a logician to therefore conclude that as far as Tim’s public persona goes, the first of these is more objectionable than the second. Tim was well aware of this girl’s—not woman’s—age at the time, but Tim is such a radical that he has evidently transcended the patriarchal institutions that shackle mere mortals.
Perhaps his anarchist radicalism is just more advanced than what he must see as my reactionary and politically underdeveloped belief in the norms of the state, although any “anti-authoritarian” that accepts a sexual relationship between a man in his mid-30s and a high school girl as anything but an inherently oppressive power imbalance may as well follow that path to its logical conclusion and voice their support for pedophilia.
The Vegan Straight Edge, Hardcore Punk, and Animal Rights communities would be better off if he had just been radical enough to not sexually prey on underage girls. Chris knew about Tim’s predatory relationship, yet had no problem playing in a band with this abuser as a vocal critic of sexual violence. I knew about the relationship too, and I knew it was wrong, but as a teenager too cowardly to call out men much older than me, I feared Chris’s abusive response, his typical reaction to hearing anything that made him even slightly uncomfortable, at least back then. This goes a long way toward explaining the way he has blinded himself to not only his own abusiveness, but the difficulty for others to hold him accountable for his sheltering of abusers, which I detail below. Still, my knowledge of this relationship is an instance my own pathetic lack of principle and courage to speak up against sexual violence. This is one example among a never-ending stream of the ways that I am also complicit in normalizing sexual violence, and why nobody should herald me as an unproblematic example.
While I have no reason to believe that Chris knew about Nicholas’s sexual predation, he created a safe environment for sexual abusers, which is clear from his covering for Erik and Tim. In a 2013 interview, he states that “our friend Nicholas James…called me one day and offered so much support and encouragement that he should be largely credited with the band’s decision to carry on and rebuild.” A perfect synergy: a sycophant for every abuser and hypocrite. Nicholas, in his 30s at the time, would send explicitly sexual text messages to an underage girl the whole time he was in 7 Generations, and made this girl so uncomfortable riding with him to an out of town show that she felt she could never be around him again. After a relentless barrage of sexually explicit messages to her over a period of years, Nicholas would then assure her that “everyone’s thinking it. I’m just the only one that will say it.” Her only recourse was responding with things like “I’m 16.”
In September 2020, I attempted to broach this subject with Nicholas’s current band, Redbait, who did not deny anything (perhaps their story will change since this is now a public issue), and only offered vague platitudes about forgiveness and how Nicholas is not a danger to women. They did not even bother responding to my second message, part of which I will reproduce here in hopes of answer: “While Nicholas wasn’t the most egregious offender, his behavior was indispensable to creating a broader milieu of normalized sexual violence, which is all the more flagrant considering it took place in a supposedly ‘radical’ niche. He wasn’t some clueless hardcore bro who didn’t know better. You write ‘if he could make this right, he most certainly would.’
There is no simple way to ‘make this right,’ but publicizing the fact that Nicholas, as a man in his 30s, went out of his way to sexually harass an underage teenage girl in a subcultural niche that has victimized countless young girls is a start. This would involve openly stating that he sexually harassed and tried to have sex with an underage girl over the course of years even when she expressed to him that he was crossing boundaries, all while playing in a band that openly spoke out against such behavior. I don’t think something like this is a way of casting somebody out; the future of your band is yours to determine. However, a public statement of that sort can serve as a useful lesson for young, impressionable people to learn how much damage people in supposedly ‘enlightened’ bands can do.” Nicholas’s unbelievably shallow politics—I’m not convinced that he knows anything about communism that can’t be learned from memes—envision a world in which capitalists will give up an entire way of life by being divested of their wealth and power, yet he will not even deign to publicize his own predatory behavior because it too seriously jeopardizes his position in a subculture. Such a course of action would require him to quell his utter disdain for the girl (now woman) he sexually harassed. While Nicholas and his band chose not to pursue any course of action indicating that he feels an iota of remorse for his behavior when this issue remained private, their public response will inevitably recall a line from the infamous 15th chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses: “Order in court! The accused will now make a bogus statement.”
Chris has used his position of power to cover for other abusers, both in 7 Generations and Extricate. In the rare instance of him taking action against his former bandmate Erik, the evidence suggests that he was driven by opportunism above all else. When somebody courageously pushed back against 7 Generations being listed on the same flyer as an infamous Vegan Straight Edge sexual abuser (hereafter Abuser 1) after Chris and Tim led the campaign to cast Erik out, Chris lost his patience and finally responded by saying “I don’t know what to tell you. [Abuser 1] has more sway in the Vegan Straight Edge scene than 7 Generations, so I can’t say anything about it.” This supposedly outspoken foe of sexual violence was reduced to a sniveling husk when somebody with higher social standing than him abused his own friends. Never mind that Chris had heard of this abuser’s behavior firsthand from one of Abuser 1’s survivors, in detail. It would be one thing if Chris’s pathetic cowardice affected only him, but because of Chris’s silence, Abuser 1 gained access to a new generation of young women, and went on to seriously abuse at least one more woman in the community that I—and Chris—know of.
It would be difficult to name a single person in the subculture better placed at that time—considering Chris’s vocal feminist politics, position of authority in the Vegan Straight Edge scene as the vocalist of 7 Generations, and detailed knowledge of Abuser 1’s acts of sexual violence received from victims firsthand—to hold Abuser 1 accountable. We have already established Chris’s sheltering of Erik for years, which directly enabled Erik to access more women to harm in the community, so we can now examine his delayed and opportunistic action against this sexual abuser. Although Chris had heard rumors about Erik before 7 Generations even formed, and several times while Erik was in the band, he suddenly became receptive to them when his own relationship with Erik had deeply frayed. Only after Erik was no longer in 7 Generations—leaving the band without a record label, practice space, and experienced songwriter—did Chris become open to hearing Erik’s victims and actually listening to them for the first time. Why wasn’t he interested in pursuing rumors about Erik much earlier, when he had so much more to lose from listening? If he did not act opportunistically, but out of principle, where was this principle when he cravenly chose to remain silent about Abuser 1, whose abuses he knew very well? The problem with remaining silent about Chris’s defense of abusers is that it enables him to find new abusers to shelter. In his new band, formed in 2018, Chris went out of his way to play several shows with the band of another infamous Vegan Straight Edge sexual abuser (hereafter Abuser 2). Chris knew about Abuser 2’s abuse, yet made no effort to determine how one of this abuser’s victims felt about Chris rehabilitating a person who continued to harass her. Predictably, Chris did not feel compelled to say anything about his own role in covering for Abuser 2 after Abuser 2’s band kicked him out for his acts of sexual violence in late 2019. I will not do all of Chris’s work for him, so I will provide him the opportunity to live up to his very vocal politics by publicly naming Abuser 1 and Abuser 2. Any difficulty he has in doing so illustrates his continued commitment to defending abusers.
“Who is it that can tell me who I am?”—Shakespeare
“Upon my word, I think the truth is the hardest missile one can be pelted with.”—George Eliot
“Truth is like a thrashing-machine; tender sensibilities must keep out of the way.”—Herman Melville
“Force open the eyes of the blind. Make them see our hideous crimes.”—Chris Rouse
Whether it is with Erik, Tim, Abuser 1, or Abuser 2 (among others, but alas our word count is not infinite) if one finds an instance of sexual violence they will find Chris on the wrong side of it, ready to defend and shelter sexual abusers at all cost. That kind of principled consistency over the course of two decades—more than half his life—is truly remarkable. At 37 years old, in 2020, after five years of being enrolled in a PhD program, after publicly stating in a 2019 interview that he is privileged enough to read for a living, Chris did not know what was wrong with his 34-year-old white male friend and bandmate Tim having a sexual relationship with an underage girl until I explained it to him. At 37 years old, in 2020, after five years of being enrolled in a PhD program, after publicly stating in a 2019 interview that he is privileged enough to read for a living, Chris did not know what verbal abuse is until I explained it to him. Are we really supposed to believe that this same sage—ready to lecture others on these elementary matters while clearly incapable of understanding them unaided—somehow has the ability to transcend himself and penetrate the works of a thinker as subtle and nuanced as Nietzsche? (The answer is a resounding no, at least as far as my assessment of Chris’s laughably juvenile reading of Nietzsche goes). If I am mistaken, perhaps Chris, a person who writes lyrics like “it is not your right to…abuse women,” yet who could not take two minutes to look up “verbal abuse” to clear up his confusion about the thing he so forcefully tells the world it isn’t anyone’s right to do, can provide some evidence to correct me. We are left to speculate on what Chris, with his abysmal lack of nuance, actually considers abuse.
In my analysis, Chris’s natural tendency to side with abusers has everything to do with his disinterest in seriously exploring questions of power. After devoting two years to a research project, in 2015 our philosopher emerged from his lair of learning to publicly mention his 307 pages of notes on the subject (can this be read as anything other than ridiculous gloating? Are we supposed to be impressed?). This effort was a means for him to tackle the pressing historical and contemporary question that he posed for himself: “why is it so often the case that a leftist will have been treated with the harshest political scorn by a fellow leftist?” In his world of ideas, utterly detached from the reality of all the women who have suffered because of him, he chose to pursue this question over a much more relevant one: “why is it so often the case that a leftist will have been subjected to the harshest sexual violence by a fellow leftist with more power than her?” Does it have anything to do with the way more powerful people like him shield abusers?
Chris also readily defends racist behavior, and the resistance he will undoubtedly feel outing his friend in this instance can provide him a clear example of his commitment to upholding any power structure one can think of. One of his close friends once texted him, verbatim: “I’m in South Africa. Niggers everywhere.” This was no mistake by an uninformed teenager (egregious enough as that would have been) but a text composed by a very vocal white “anti-racist” when he was 37 years old. I am repulsed writing this word. I have feared for my life as white people have shouted this word at me as they chased me away, reminding me who can and cannot safely walk in public in our glorious country. I have often thought that the same white people who made me fear for my life would have also heartily laughed at the “joke” Chris and his friend found so hilarious at their private Klan meeting. I can picture Chris’s private text to his friend as some iteration of “I’m sorry man, but if you read it yourself you’ll see what this fucking sand nigger is driving me to do. Please don’t take it personally, and above all, I’m sorry for sharing our private racism with someone who was never meant to see it.” Any white person who would like to chime in about my supposed overreaction to this little exchange will never know what it feels like to have their lives endangered because of that word.
Chris has publicly extolled the value of debate and boasted of his own debating prowess on numerous occasions over the years. In a 2013 interview, he reminded us that “one should consider the words of the late, great Christopher Hitchens from his Letters to a Young Contrarian ‘only an open conflict of ideas and principles can produce any clarity. Conflict may be painful, but the painless solution does not exist in any case and the pursuit of it leads to the painful outcome of mindlessness and pointlessness; the apotheosis of the ostrich.’” In a 2015 interview, he held that 7 Generations “developed a sort of confrontational attitude, one that required that we obstinately stand by the things we said [!!!!] and push back against all reactionary objections,” and was “often subjected to bitter resentment, especially for addressing the marginalization and objectification of women in the hardcore scene,” emboldening them out of necessity “to steel ourselves against [hugely aggressive and vitriolic responses] by always being prepared to converse, debate and persist in our beliefs in the face of hostility and potential violence from much of the hardcore scene” (emphasis added). Just last year, Chris, with his typical smugness, publicly bragged that his debating skill is such that his opponents have no recourse but to throw a brick through his window. Fair enough.
With this level of bravado, it should be no problem for someone as skilled and practiced as him to publicly debate me—a person with no particular distinctions, intelligence, eloquence, debating experience, or charisma to speak of—on several points: Chris is a bully, an abuser, a defender of abusers and predators, a defender of racist behavior, an opportunist, a coward, a hypocrite, a person who privileges his ego before principle at every juncture, a person who goes out of his way to talk to the police, and an embarrassment to veganism, straight edge, feminism, atheism, hardcore punk, and the entirety of the leftist political tradition. Furthermore, sexual violence and his covering for it were the existential conditions of 7 Generations from the first practice to the last show, and any positive sentiment he feels toward the band is a product of him lying to himself for 18 years, which indicates how violently his abuse can distort reality. He created and presided over a living hell of verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse for almost everyone around him during these golden years of his life, and if the still-suppurating wounds of the survivors are any indication, it was a mistake for 7 Generations to have ever existed. I invite him to disabuse me of any of these points in public debate, should he find issue with my words. Him and his associates remain free to wail about how unfair I am, but they should remember that their doing so privately proves my point that Chris is literally indefensible. If anyone would like to publicly debate me on Chris’s behalf on the above points, the invitation is also open.
As Chris’s covering for Abuser 1 and Abuser 2 indicates, not publicizing these matters simply creates more abuse. Any desire these men may have to hold on to some positive “essence” of their flawed-in-practice projects smacks of the committed American liberal who wants to criticize their flawed but well-intentioned country. Anybody on the left can easily see that an accurate critique of the American state and all of its accompanying violence has to give up certain pieties, but these men seem to believe in themselves too much for an analogous operation. It is impossible to honestly criticize 7 Generations, Extricate, Redbait, and Vital Actions without tearing down their entire edifices.
“Let us not value the splendor of words.”—Cicero
“Our entire community is overrun by self-aggrandizing individuals attempting to make more of themselves than can be truthfully maintained.”—Chris Rouse
I would like to ask Chris, Tim, and Nicholas: How do you account for the stunning disparity between your public words and your actions? How do you think your victims feel when they see your public words? How do you think they should feel? How do you think your victims feel when they see others publicly praise you? How do you think they should feel? Do you believe that the degradation you feel from my words of truth is even remotely comparable to the humiliation your victims have felt seeing you not only not face any consequences for your actions, but seeing you publicly praised repeatedly for your supposed righteousness?
I would like to ask Chris: What do you have to say about Tim and Nicholas’s behavior? Do you believe it is legitimate for them to still have access to positions of power in our community? Who sent you that racist text? What do you have to say about it? Do you believe it is more humiliating for your friend to be held accountable for his racism or for people who have feared for their lives because of that word to watch him gain social clout and quite literally profit off of anti-racism with his current band? Do you believe that your vocally “anti-racist” friend has earned the privilege to continue playing and touring in his vocally “anti-racist” band? Do you believe Tim’s patrons should continue funding a sexual predator, or should they instead use those funds for an animal liberation project free of abusers? How do you feel knowing that Nicholas, the person you “largely credit” for the band’s continued existence used your band as a vehicle for sexual predation, and that your abusiveness blinded you to it? What are the implications for my larger point that abuse occurred because of, not in spite of, your band’s success? How do you feel about Vanguard naming themselves after your “anti-sexual predator song”? What do you have to say about the “alternative” you provided to the “hyper-masculine” hardcore scene? Who are Abuser 1 and Abuser 2? Why were you willing to speak out against Erik but not Abuser 1 when you knew as much as you did about the latter? Do you believe it is plausible to view your action against Erik as anything more than opportunism when one considers your record on sexual violence as a whole? Can you name a single person better placed than you to have spoken out against Erik, Tim, Abuser 1, and Abuser 2 when you learned about their respective abuses? Can you name a vocally feminist man more deeply hated by more women than you? Do you think these women are wrong to feel the way they do about you?
I would like to ask Tim: What do you have to say about Chris and Nicholas’s behavior? Do you believe it is legitimate for them to still have access to positions of power in our community? Do you believe it is plausible to view your action against Erik as anything more than opportunism when you preyed on several underage girls yourself? Since you publicly praised a straight edge Instagram page as recently as February 2021 “for immediately removing a post promoting the band Tears of Gaia after learning of the singer’s history as a sexual predator” because “There should be no space in punk for sexual predators,” why do you think there should be space in punk for you? Is there space in the animal rights community for sexual predators? If people should remove posts promoting Tears of Gaia because of the singer’s history as a sexual predator—and I agree that they should—why should they also not remove posts promoting 7 Generations after learning of your history as a sexual predator? When you were in a vocally feminist band, why did you believe that an underage girl could consent to a sexual relationship with you, a man in his mid-30s? You knowingly entered into a sexual relationship where consent was not possible. Your sexual predation is beyond doubt, but our communities are wondering, isn’t there also a word for sexual relationships without consent that begins with the letter “r”?
I would like to ask Nicholas: What do you have to say about Chris and Tim’s behavior? Do you believe it is legitimate for them to still have access to positions of power in our community? Do you believe that your behavior can be reconciled with membership in a “feminist” band? How do you believe the girl you sexually harassed should feel about your brazen attempt to have sex with her as a teenager when you were playing in a vocally feminist band in your 30s, and about the way you handled her effort to hold you accountable?
Positions of power in our community are a privilege, not a right. I believe that these men have abused their privilege, and I wholeheartedly agree with the survivors who do not find these men’s future access to positions of power legitimate. Yet Chris, Tim, and Nicholas have shown a sustained contempt for survivors, so I will not be at all surprised should these men desperately cling onto their positions.
Let Chris, Tim, and Nicholas be reminded that this is no time for self-pity. Their actions have driven survivors to the brink of suicide. Before these men begin indulgently rattling off their personal sufferings to elicit our sympathy in this context, they should remember that not a single one of their victims enjoyed the luxury of some carefree life before enduring these men and their abuse. If Chris, Tim, and Nicholas resent what they may see as my “humiliation” of them, they should (for once) consider their survivors, who experience the true humiliation of seeing these men publicly praised to this day. Every single instance of public praise of Chris, Tim, and Nicholas and any of their projects—down to wearing a 7 Generations shirt in public or posting about them positively on social media—is a crass insult to survivors, and a reminder that everything they have suffered does not matter to anyone.
I am not criticizing the following individuals, record labels, and bands, since I am quite sure that they are simply unaware of these men’s histories, but every time a person like Mike Hartsfield publicly writes that Chris’s band is “literally changing our scene for the better” and chooses to release Nicholas’s band on his record label, every time a label like Bitter Melody chooses to release Chris’s band, every time a band like Stick to Your Guns publicly recommends Nicholas’s band when asked for other bands with “politically minded” lyrics, every time a band like Racetraitor publicly praises Nicholas’s band by saying “we love this band so much, we begged them to be in our music video,” every time 84 “patrons” give Tim $1,486 a month for him to continue hiding his sexual predation, every time a person like Keegan Kuhn publicly writes “I support Vital Actions because they are the most efficient, life saving [sic] conservation organization that I know of” as if there are no conservation organizations run by people who aren’t sexual predators, every time a band like Glacial Descent publicly cites “the poetic urgency of Seven Generations” as an influence, every time a person like the vocalist of Moral Law wears a 7 Generations shirt while performing, every time bands choose to name themselves “Cauterize”, “No Other Way” or “Vanguard” in homage to 7 Generations, the daggers Chris, Tim, and Nicholas have thrust into their victims twist with renewed force. The role of such praise goes a long way toward explaining these men’s behavior. Why would these men feel any urgency to pursue the hard work of truly trying to combat sexual violence and everything else they claim to be against—which requires serious discomfort, sacrifice, and privileging of principle over ego—when nothing beyond cheap talk guarantees such profuse public recognition?
It’s difficult to guess which of these hypocrites will be the first to deploy state power to try to silence me, and by extension, their victims, since the shallowness and meaninglessness of their politics is clear for anyone to see. If I had to bet, though, I would put my money on Chris. While his band Extricate’s most recent post, in reference to the George Floyd uprisings, derides “the armed agents of the state,” Chris has been quite happy to speak to the police in the past, his grandiose words notwithstanding. Chris abused a young woman so badly when 7 Generations was a band that she felt the need to move to the other side of the country to get away from the trauma he inflicted on her. She confronted him in 2013, and after their physical fight ended, Chris ran up to her from 20 feet away to slam her into a window when she wasn’t looking. She quickly fled, but when the police arrived, Chris then proceeded to tell them her first and last name, physical appearance, clothing description, and city. I witnessed these appalling scenes firsthand, and their images will never leave my mind. It is a mark of my own cowardice that I have remained publicly silent and have not confronted Chris about them for almost a decade for fear of his abusive retaliation. There is no excuse for my silence. The way I handled this situation was unequivocally wrong, and is yet another example of the way I have failed victims.
In that same year, when explaining his anti-police lyrics in an interview, Chris stated that “I had come to feel that the police were most saliently an armed force whose purpose was to protect the dominant order imposed upon our country by rich white people. Their brutality, the arbitrary nature of their authority and the fundamentally abusive nature of their relationship to common citizens was something that I felt earned them the just resentment and even eventual violent reprisal of the great majority of the people.” One wonders why the same person who writes lyrics like “your guns, your uniforms, your badges, in my eyes they brand you a fascist” would nine years later go out of his way to provide so much detail to fascists.
“The disillusioned mission boy (Caliban) is always a graver threat to an established religion than the pagans who were never taken in by its promises. The anger born of a sense of betrayal implies an earlier faith.”—James C. Scott
“Hardcore, as a culture, makes a great many pretentious claims to being more meaningful than other cultures. This is fairly ubiquitous in the hardcore scene. If this claim is to be meaningful then the onus is on the hardcore scene to live up to such a claim.”—Chris Rouse
There cannot be accountability or forgiveness without an admission of wrongdoing. I do not believe that these men should be wholly cast out of our communities—I’ve seen firsthand how this is no solution—because they will simply take their abusive tendencies to new spheres where no one is aware of their histories.
Unfortunately, because all of these men’s relationships rest on lies, some people will inevitably abandon them as a logical consequence of being informed. I believe that these men should stay right here, but without the benefit of their access to positions of structural power, where we can all keep them accountable. I hope that this piece will be a lesson for younger generations in our subculture: always question those you admire, and never take them at their word. It is easy to speak words like these men do. What it takes to truly live by them is another matter entirely, and goes a long way toward explaining why more honest people hesitate to speak so boldly.
It is sobering to think of what an incomplete picture I have of these men’s histories of abuse, and how many more of their victims will endure their pain alone, thinking that nobody cares about their experiences since all they see is public praise for their abusers. I hope that anybody else who has suffered because of these three men will feel free to message me about their experience, so I can play a role in alleviating their suffering by further holding these men accountable. I might also add that I am no authority, not least because of my own shortcomings, and that I have no example to follow as I try my best to pursue accountability. I welcome all suggestions and criticisms of those with more experience, and hope that we can continue fighting sexual violence together if our “radical” communities are to be worthy of the name.
“The story of its ruin is simple and obvious; and, instead of inquiring why [it] was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long.”—Edward Gibbon
“Let the end come.”—Chris Rouse
A note on style: As I state in the article, the writing style of this piece was a deliberate choice that I discussed extensively with victims. All of us agreed that while it may not be an ideal form, anything less would give Chris Rouse an excuse to dismiss it with his academic elitism. Anyone who has ever read anything he has written or who has witnessed him in a disagreement (online and in person) knows this form of dismissal very well. The writing style, literary references, and rhetorical effort to pit his own words against him were therefore strategic maneuvers meant to clearly show him that he cannot hide his abuse and sheltering of abusers behind his academic knowledge any longer. My only regret is not adding this note at the outset: the victims and I were naïve enough to believe that the people in this community feel more disturbed by allegations of abuse than matters of style.