San Francisco punk band Culture Abuse have broken up in light of singer David Kelling admitting to sexual misconduct with an underaged girl.
In a statement on Instagram, the other members of Culture Abuse emphasized that “the victim is our first priority.” Before sharing the anonymous individual’s full account of Kelling’s actions, with her consent, the band noted,
“However we do not want [our breakup] to be the focus of this story, as survivors come forward, we commend their bravery and absolutely need to respect and listen to them. We are well aware that this does not fix the pain caused but we are hoping it’s a first step. There are no excuses for this behavior and it cannot be allowed.”
They went on to say they would disassociate from Kelling, but urged him to “seek therapy to unlearn his past behavior and attitude and insure other victims and survivors receive the justice they deserve and to most importantly prevent further abuse.” They added, “This is not just David’s issue, it is our issue, it is a mens conduct issue.”
In that spirit, they pledged to turn the band’s Instagram account into a “platform to educate and share information and important articles for abusers and victims,” saying they’d be extracting the word “abuse” from the account. “This is a mens issue, and we are aware of how many men follow this account specifically, so it is our duty to hold each other accountable and in hopes create a safe community for all,” they wrote.
Following the initial allegations from an anonymous individual, Kelling admitted to his behavior in his own Instagram post. “10 years ago I was 22 and slept with a 17 year old. I led her on and pressured her and over time left the relationship without checking in on her feelings,” he wrote. “Now come to find out it caused pain that she has had to deal with all that time.”
Kelling, who has cerebral palsy, said his disability led to him processing “my feelings in some unhealthy ways. I had a lot of anger and frustration that caused me to lean on sex and drugs and manipulation to cope with depression/emotional issues instead of seeking real help.” He suggested this misconduct was directed at other individuals, as well, adding, “This is not the only instance where someone deserves an apology and this has not been the only time where I have acted without considering other’s emotions.”
In their own social media statement, the other members of Culture Abuse echoed Kelling’s tone, writing, “We cannot be sure that this is the only victim that will speak out.”
The band’s follow-up post shared the victim’s own account of Kelling’s sexual misconduct, which included grooming, sexual coercion, soliciting and sharing nude photographs of a minor, and statutory rape (the age of consent in California is 18; the victim was 17 at the time of their first physical sexual encounter).
The woman said Kelling began pressuring her into having phone sex when she was 17. “He explained to me that because of his disability girls never really [paid] him attention and made me feel like I was the most special person in the wold for taking an interest in him,” she wrote. “So I complied with him… Every time I thought were were just being friendly and catching up, I was pressured into phone sex. We eventually slept together after being convinced that his sexual pressure was that out of care.”
She went on to detail how Kelling pressed her to keep their relationship a secret “because him and his band mates would be dropped from their labels and banned from various venues, as if I was [the] one who jeopardized them.” He then began requesting nudes, and when the victim started dating someone who lived in Kelling’s town, she “found that Dave had shown/sent my underage nude photos to other adults.”
Read all the statements below.
Kelling’s reckoning and Culture Abuse’s breakup come as a new wave of sexual misconduct and abuse allegations in independent music scene. Rampant abuse amongst the staff of and bands associated with Burger Records led to the label’s folding. The Growlers’ keyboardist Adam Wolcott Smith quit the band after numerous allegations arose against his bandmates, including rape and making a college journalist take off her shirt before conducting an interview. The Regrettes singer Lydia Night accused SWMRS drummer Joey Armstrong (son of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong) of grooming and predatory behavior. Nobunny retired from music after admitting using “my power and influence to take advantage of young women and teenage girls.” Members of Cosmonauts, The Frights, The Buttertones, and others have all also had accusations levied against them.