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Nashville program aims to prevent sexual assault in music industry

Nashville program hopes to prevent sexual assault in music industry (File image of guitar close up by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images)
Nashville program hopes to prevent sexual assault in music industry (File image of guitar close up by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images)
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WARNING: This story may be triggering for victims of sexual assault. Discretion is advised.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — Every 68 seconds, someone in America is sexually assaulted, according to the Sexual Assault Center.

In Nashville, some musicians feel sexual harassment is prevalent and common, and say it’s a big problem in this specific industry.

Country singer Lindsay Ell was just 13 years old when she says someone sexually assaulted her. She was raped by another person at the age of 21.

“I just remember being really, really scared and feeling really, really alone,” recalls Ell.

Ell says it's easy to disregard how much of a problem sexual harassment is in the music industry.

“How prevalent do you feel sexual harassment/sexual violence is in the music industry?” asks FOX 17 News’ Amanda Chin.

“I, unfortunately, think that sexual harassment is very prevalent. Certain power structures trying to use their power to have different motives here and there so, it happens a lot and I hate to say that, but it happens a lot and it’s a problem that needs to be addressed,” believes Ell.

According to a survey conducted by the Music Industry Research Association, 67 percent of female artists have experienced sexual harassment.

Ell says it's sad to hear stories of sexual assault from her artist and songwriter friends throughout the industry.

Ell is proud to support and stand by a program that started in January called “Safe Tracks,” a bystander intervention training program designed specifically for the music industry. The program's goal is to help eliminate and stop sexual assault from happening in the first place.

“The person that is in college still is gonna be a little bit nervous, potentially anxious, and doesn’t have the power in that room,” says Jack Ohmes, the training specialist for “Safe Tracks.”

Ohmes also co-founded the program and says power dynamics can play a huge role.

“There’s not a lot of resources for these things and these conversations aren’t always had. People can get uncomfortable,” says Ohmes.

But Ohmes and Ell emphasize the importance of not only education but action.

“It’s one thing to learn something and it’s another thing to actually act upon it,” says Ell.

This comes as a young woman, wishing to remain anonymous, is suing country music singer Jimmie Allen, accusing him of rape and sexual assault.

The woman says she worked as Allen's former day-to-day manager and believes the company she worked for, Wide Open Music, knew about his alleged behavior and failed to do anything about it.

“And it really escalated to completely a nightmare. It’s hard to imagine how anybody would survive something like this,” says John Spragens, the attorney for Jane Doe.

Through the singer's attorney, Allen sent FOX 17 News this statement:

“It is deeply troubling and hurtful that someone I counted as one of my closest friends, colleagues and confidants would make allegations that have no truth to them whatsoever. I acknowledge that we had a sexual relationship — one that lasted for nearly two years. During that time she never once accused me of any wrongdoing, and she spoke of our relationship and friendship as being something she wanted to continue indefinitely. Only after things ended between us, did she hire a lawyer to reach out and ask for money, which leads me to question her motives. The simple fact is, her accusations are not only false, but also extremely damaging. I’ve worked incredibly hard to build my career, and I intend to mount a vigorous defense to her claims and take all other legal action necessary to protect my reputation.”

FOX 17 News has reached out to Wide Open Music and its founder, Ash Bowers, several times now, and we are still waiting on a response.

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