FEATURE: A Time for Action: Why Bishop Charles H. Ellis III Groping Ariana Grande Makes Me Wonder Whether Cases of Sexual Assault and Inappropriate Contact Against Women in Music Will Ever Abate




A Time for Action


IN THIS PHOTO: Bishop Charles H. Ellis III touching Ariana Grande after she performed during the funeral service for Aretha Franklin at Greater Grace Temple on Friday, 31st August in Detroit/PHOTO CREDIT: AP Photo/Paul Sancya 

Why Bishop Charles H. Ellis III Groping Ariana Grande Makes Me Wonder Whether Cases of Sexual Assault and Inappropriate Contact Against Women in Music Will Ever Abate


YOU barely get a week in music or entertainment…



without some crude and unforgivable event filing social media. The latest abuse and outrageous story revolves around Bishop Charles H. Ellis III groping Pop artist Ariana Grande. There has been music media coverage as to whether he groped or ‘grazed’ her. He has apologised and did not mean to be that familiar and inappropriate. Many have defended the man and said he was being friendly and he did nothing wrong: others have come out and claimed it another case, in a long line, or male figures assuming it is okay to behave in such a way. The image is online and we clearly see the bishop’s hand clasping the side of Grande’s breast - he then draws her closer with his hand around her breast. The complete and uncomfortable image is full of irony and injustice. The fact the incident happened at Aretha Franklin’s funeral is bad enough; the words at the bottom of that image – ‘One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism’ – make it laughable. The man, as an official of God and pious figure, is crossing a line and causally brushing it off. Many of his flock and followers have claimed he was not doing anything wrong and people are over-reacting. It seems, mind, there are double-standards when it comes to sex and physical contact. If a woman like Ariana Grande wears a short skirt or revealing outfits then she is shameful and asking for negative focus; if a man makes a move or gropes someone, intentional or not, then that is alright – maybe she was asking for it?!



The contact is not as explicit and violent as we have seen. He did not fully grab her breast and squeeze or go any further but the fact there was contact on her breast makes me believe it was intentional. If that sort of thing is seen as okay then we have a real problem. It is okay to hug someone like Ariana Grande in respect but there is no need to let the hand wander there. If a woman were to touch a man on the bottom in such a situation then she would be called out. The fact that Ellis did it, and is a bishop, means he has had a lot of people backing him. Even if he apologises and says it was a mistake; it is another case of inappropriate sexual contact coming into music. Many might say this is a rather minor event and it will pass but that is not the point. It is the casual nature of that contact and how Bishop Charles H. Ellis III did not seem embarrassed or shamed. Look into the music industry and the facts speak for themselves. Female artists and those in the industry have come out and talked about their experiences The BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show, in December last year, talked with women in music and their accounts of sexual abuse.

This article quotes from the show and brings together some rather shocking stories. I have quoted a couple:

Lajoie, who spent nearly six years working for Sony/ATV in London from 2010, tells the programme that she was sexually abused in London at age 23 by someone working in talent management.

Lajoie, 29, says that the individual fell asleep on her sofa after a night out, but later climbed into her bed and molested her while she was asleep.

“I didn’t know how long he’d been doing it before I woke up,” she says. “He went back to sleep on the sofa and in the morning he was gone.

“It was one of the most horrible experiences of my life – I felt truly violated.”

“Chlöe Howl is a British singer/songwriter who was nominated for both the BBC Sound Of… longlist and the BRIT Critics Choice Award in 2014.

Howl tells the Victoria Derbyshire show that, around this period, a key member of her industry team was “coming on to me in pretty strong way… he was a lot older than me and we were meant to be professionally working together”.

She adds: “I was a teenager… as time went on he would encourage me into doing things I had never really done before like drugs, which I had no experience in whatsoever”.



From labels and studios to gigs and interviews; there is a shocking truth that is not getting a lot of oxygen. Who knows the true extent of the problem in music as some women will be too afraid to come out and discuss their situation. Even if there is a casual contact – I still maintain Ariana Grande was groped – then is not acceptable and need to be dealt with strictly. Whilst some of us are aware of the horrors and extent of abuse in music; there are some who do not realise what is happening. There are legal barriers and issues regarding suing and shaming high-profile figures. Cases like what we saw with film mogul Harvey Weinstein have seen females in the film industry come out; movements like #MeToo have created more conversation and awareness – what of music and what is happening here? This article casts light on extreme cases of sexual violence in the industry and the fact it extends to educational facilities:

Possibly the most extreme description of the horrors in the industry comes from former Pussycat Dolls singer Kaya Jones, who claims she was in a “prostitution ring” (“My truth.I wasn’t in a girl group”). Since it was discovered that Harvey Weinstein hired ex-Mossad agents to “…stop the publication of [his] abuse allegations…”, threats of that intensity appear plausible (Farrow). However, this is just a small snippet of the crimes that cover the music industry.

…Although a significant amount of these issues are found within popular music, other genres of music also have their fair share of sexual violence. Berklee College of Music, one of the finest music institutions in the world, recently announced it has dismissed eleven professors within the past thirteen years for sexual abuse and harassment (Larimer). In comparison to Elmhurst College’s music department, this would be equivalent to terminating the employment of all but one of their full-time faculty”.


IN THIS PHOTO: Ethan Kath and Alice Glass of Crystal Castles/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Many women do not come forward because they fear they will not be believed. Others fear commercial fall-out and pressure if they speak up. I have read about label bosses and men during video shoots taking advantage of female artists and touching them inappropriately. There seems to be this assumption, in some and not all men, that women are more submissive and should be grateful of their attention; a subservience and submissiveness – they need to remain silent and, if there is a bit of touching, then what is the bother! Not every man in music is that cavalier: the abuse and sexual assault allegations are shocking but we can only blame a small minority of men in music. Regardless of how prone and common these cases are - we ca– never truly count the cases and how far they extend – it needs to be stamped out. Maybe, in decades past, musicians took advantage of women and were more handsy because that is what happened. That gaudy and repugnant ‘groupie’ culture glamorised debauchery and that notion the male musician was untouchable and a god. I feel that attitude pervades and many assume power and influence means they can do what they want. Recent cases of sexual assault and abuse in the music industry bring in artists like R. Kelly – who was not charged but accused or running a sex cult and keeping sex slaves – Ethan Kath of Crystal Castles – who was accused of raping Crystal Castles singer Alice Glass – and members of the Polish Metal band Decapitated – the band were accused of kidnapping and raping a fan which led to their arrest.

I am only touching the surface: there are so many other cases reported and those that might never see the light of day! Most musicians and men in music are respectful and will never abuse a woman in such a way but, shockingly, there are far too many cases happening. Whether it is a rape or series of assaults or what happened to Ariana Grande; it seems to be a huge issue that warrants a lot more news time and media coverage. A lot of brave women are coming through; social media makes it easier to bring accusers to justice and highlight issues – do we really know the full extent of these abuse cases?! In a lot of the cases reported; the man in question has either been arrested or kicked out of a band but, whilst the right thing to do, many are still flouting their authority and feel they can get away with anything. There has always been sexual assault and abuse in music and we need to punish those culpable a lot more harshly. I am worried how many cases are not being reported and how nonchalant a lot of men are. They will touch a female inappropriately or harass them; take advantage and feel it is okay to make a move against their will. This grubby and horrible side to music has been occurring for decades and, as we saw as recently as a few days back, it is happening now. I know Bishop Charles H. Ellis III is not a member of the music industry but it highlights how female artists are treated; how endemic and widespread the issue is and, shockingly, how many people brush off such images/occurrences as minor and natural. If we are to see an end (or reduction) in cases, minor and serious, then those casual and culpable need to be dealt with…


IN THIS PHOTO: Ariana Grande/PHOTO CREDIT: Stephen Lovekin/Rex/Shutterstock 

A lot more severely.