AN anonymous email in 2014 warned numerous staff at community radio station RTRFM about predatory behaviour by influential presenter Dave Cutbush, but it went nowhere.
Cutbush, RTR’s director of music until 2010 and presenter until 2015, was this week stripped of his 2012 Golden WA Music Industry award as a result of long-running sexual misconduct against women and girls under 18. He has also left the events company he formed, Life is Noise, as a string of international bands cancel tours in response to the scandal.
RTR chair Rewi Lyall told the Voice on Wednesday that as a result of recent complaints to the organisation, the 2014 email had been uncovered.
The station had previously said it had no record of any official complaints.
“We now know a number of people across the media and entertainment sectors, including some RTRFM employees, received an anonymous email making serious allegations,” Mr Lyall said.
“This issue is just one of a number of concerns subject to our ongoing investigations.”
Cutbush has admitted to “using my male privilege to gain sexual favours…I have used my position in the music industry to my advantage. I have propositioned women much younger than me and have behaved creepily in person at music events and online”.
He denies having “physically or sexually abused anyone”.
“Any allegations to the contrary are untrue.”
Women, some under 18, have described how they were harassed and relentlessly pursued for sex by Cutbush, posting screenshots of his lewd text messages.
Three women say they quit the music industry because of his behaviour.
One told the Voice Cutbush sent detailed, graphic sexual texts, which then turned to bullying when she turned him down.
There are claims Cutbush derailed the musical careers of some of those who crossed him, with former RTR general manager Melissa Callanan posting on Facebook that she’d quit because of his behaviour.
“Many years at RTR as music director … how many female artists lost opportunity for support and airplay…these behaviours are not without consequence for women on the receiving end,” Ms Callanan wrote.
A woman who volunteered at RTRFM told the Voice she was given veiled warnings on two occasions by other staff in 2014, but they came with an impression his position in the industry made him untouchable.
He was portrayed as “a giant, he was so important to the music community, people just put up with it,” she said.
Another text exchange that surfaced this week showed Cutbush asking a 16-year-old girl to “hook up” with him, saying he thought she’d have turned 18 since they last met.
When she re-states she is 16, he keeps pressing her to meet up, only stopping when she tells him he should look for someone “your own age”.
Local muso Adam Brown Strummer says after a friend was targeted by Cutbush, he tried to use the Golden WAMI win as an opportunity to blow the whistle about his behaviour. The guitarist says he was “bombarded” by messages from peers pressuring him to delete the posts.
Life is Noise co-director Jack Midalia announced on December 15; “I take these reports seriously, and deeply apologise for not providing the safe space that the women in the industry deserve. Dave will no longer have any involvement in Life is Noise, effective immediately.”
Mr Midalia, co-director of LIN since 2016, did not respond to questions about when he first heard about Mr Cutbush’s behaviour and whether the pair still had any financial ties.
At the time of going to print RTRFM is continuing its investigations, with general manager Stu MacLeod (who started after Cutbush left) asking anyone with information to contact him.
Jason Cleary, who finished up as the station’s general manager in 2015, told the Voice: “I’m not sure where this has all come from about being well known, there seems to be a lot of social media talk which is not really my cup of tea to get into,” he wrote.
“Certainly no one put in any official complaint whilst I was GM. From what I have read he deserves whatever is coming to him.”
Cutbush issued a lengthy statement admitting to some of the allegations.
“I don’t expect forgiveness. It has taken me too long to realise I have created situations which made women in the music community and beyond feel uncomfortable and unsafe.
“I’m now committed to examining my actions and learning ways to change.
“The [international] #metoo campaign and more recently the [national] #menomore campaign has been weighing heavily on my mind. I thought this day would come when my actions and behaviours would be exposed, and I deserve to be found out.
“Specifically, I would like to apologise to the young girl in Sydney I asked out for a drink. This was a few years ago and she was 16 at the time, and this proposition was not appropriate as I was almost 20 years older. I am sorry for that. It was entirely out of line.”
The woman referred to, Kiki Kiki, was one of the first to speak up about Cutbush, revealing screenshots of his insistent propositions when she was 16. She released a response to his statement, saying “the way in which Dave has referred to his behaviour as ‘inappropriate and sleazy’ downplays his behaviour. It was truly predatory…why has he only addressed my case specifically and not the far more serious allegations brought against him. It appears that he is only responding to this as it has been the most publicised example of his behaviour and he knows he cannot avoid addressing this.”
Culture of silence
DAVE CUTBUSH was able to prey on women for so long in part because of the music scene’s culture of silence, and an atmosphere that permits abuse.
But he’s not alone.
Safer Venues WA’s survey released in November showed just how widespread abuse is in Perth’s music scene, with 90 per cent of women saying they’d experienced unwelcome sexual comments at gigs, 83 per cent saying they’d been non-consensually touched, and 35 per cent saying they’d been physically or sexually assaulted.
The national #meNOmore campaign further shed light on how widespread sexual abuse was in the industry, with dozens of women sharing stories of rape and sexual harassment. More than 1000 women have signed the open letter, which states “it saddens us that the people who hold us in fear and keep us silenced are the people we work with, people who many of us have aspired to work under, and people who some of us have known as friends.”
Fear of damaging the music scene has led to victims being discouraged from speaking up. A prominent Perth music photographer told this reporter in 2016, that a mutual friend who had been raped by a local musician shouldn’t go public about it, because “Perth’s arts scene is really small, it could damage the music community”.
In lieu of the promotors, venue owners, industry bodies and the media taking action to cease working with known abusers, women have instead resorted to quietly sharing between themselves the names of men in the music industry they should never be alone with.
by DAVID BELL