News / Vancouver

‘Rape culture’ in Vancouver nightlife scene spurs #MeToo push

Local DJs, artists reeling after alleged rapist list posted online—and one of those named dies. Now, tough questions are being asked about what's next.

Advocates say recent allegations of sexual assault in Vancouver point to a wider problem in the city’s music and nightlife community — and they’re working to try to fix it, one proposal at a time.

Salvatore Laporta/Getty Images

Advocates say recent allegations of sexual assault in Vancouver point to a wider problem in the city’s music and nightlife community — and they’re working to try to fix it, one proposal at a time.

If you are in crisis and need help: 1-800-SUICIDE or www.crisiscentre.bc.ca.

If you have experienced sexual assault: 1-877-392-7583 or www.wavaw.ca.

“I’m still reeling,” said Vancouver artist and nightlife event organizer Erica Lapadat-Janzen. “And still angry.”

She is just one of many members of Vancouver’s nightlife community who have spent the past week grappling with a widely shared Facebook post accusing seven of their peers of sexual assault, some facing multiple allegations — and the death of one local DJ on the list.

Lapadat-Janzen said she knew “the majority” of the accused on a list that spread quickly as other allegations against the men and others in the community emerged on social media, sparking accusations of defamation, suppressing sexual assault survivors' voices, and even blame for the death.

None of the allegations on the list have been tested in court, no charges laid, and Metro is not naming the complainants, the accused or the original poster.

But in the wake of a worldwide outpouring of harassment disclosures under the hashtag #MeToo this month, Vancouver DJ Zachary Mclean Webb's death sparked outpourings of anger, grief — and blame.

The 33-year-old was reported missing last week — around the time he appeared on the list, although in dispute is whether before or after the Facebook post. On Saturday evening, a family member wrote on Facebook that he'd been found dead, expressing "grief, sorrow and shock" and urging his friends to “seek support" and "reach out if you need help.”

Citing privacy, the B.C. Coroner’s Service would not confirm his death nor its cause; a spokesperson said they are "investigating a case that matches the age and dates of your query."

The Vancouver Police Department would also not confirm or deny the case, nor whether it was investigating any of the allegations.

“This is a very sensitive incident for us,” said Sgt. Jason Robillard in a phone interview. “We want to make sure we handle it responsibly and respectfully.

“We’ve seen a lot of things on social media … We want people to avoid being tried on social media. We are the proper avenue for it.”

Daniyah Shamsi, who performs as DJ Angle, described the incident as extremely distressing.

“It’s a really tragic situation, I feel bad for everyone,” she said. “But I’m not surprised this is one of the outcomes that happened — there’s so much harassment happening.

"It’s what you end up with when we don’t have justice or accountability — when people name problematic things and they get silenced, nobody believes them, or they receive so much abuse back.”

But after a series of celebrity sex assault trials and thousands of survivors’ complaints being dismissed by Canadian police forces as “unfounded,” many fear being dismissed or even further traumatized by authorities. Sgt. Robillard insisted police who handle such cases are experts and take such complaints seriously.

“If people ask, ‘What’s the point?’ — there is a point," he said. "We’re here to help, to investigate, and ensure all parties involved get their due process.”

(Metro attempted to contact all of the accused for comment; only one replied, declining an interview, followed by his lawyer who warned the list is defamatory).

But advocates say the incident points to a wider problem in the city’s music and nightlife community — and they’re working to try to fix it, one proposal at a time.

One of those is a newly formed harassment-prevention patrol team on the Granville Strip on late weekend nights, started by Good Night Out Vancouver, which has created a certification system for venues.

Other fixes include improving survivor supports, better training nightclub bouncers and staff to respond to sexual violence and harassment, more cameras in venues, and ending the practice of giving women free entry and drink tickets while men pay for access.

If the focus is on women’s entry freebies, the point's been lost, Lapadat-Janzen said. "Giving free drinks or tickets to women to get young women there, that is perpetuating a problem," she said, "but the main issue is people taking advantage of people and being predatory — and coming together to protect people.

“It’s systemic rape culture in every industry, not just our little scene in Vancouver … How can we make our spaces, where people are vulnerable, as safe as possible? That’s the main issue.”

And for people uncertain about filing complaints with authorities, another avenue for support is crisis organizations such as Women Against Violence Against Women. But although painful chasms remain over how to effectively stop "rape culture," Shamsi said, there is hope.

“All we can do is support survivors and tell the individuals being named to take responsibility for themselves, that’s where it starts," she added. "But it takes the person committing the abuse or causing harm to want to be held accountable, to see what they did was wrong.

"There are ways to do that with so much love and care — and by understanding restorative justice practices."

Lapadat-Janzen acknowledged the events of the past week have put "an ugly light on our whole culture," but that "this isn’t just a Vancouver nightlife thing where it’s a lot of young people, a lot of drinking, and people are more vulnerable to people who are predators.

"These people are brave who have come forward with these stories. And a lot of stories still haven’t come out yet.”

If you or someone you know are in crisis and need help, call toll-free 1-800-SUICIDE or visit www.crisiscentre.bc.ca.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault and needs support, phone toll-free 1-877-392-7583Women Against Violence Against Women's 24-hour crisis line.

Clarification (Oct. 26): Good Night Out Vancouver's bar district patrols are newly formed, not the organization which was founded two years ago.

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