TRIGGER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE ADDRESSES SEXUAL ASSAULT AND PREDATORY BEHAVIOUR.
Earlier this summer, Montreal-based DJ, promoter and Prime Mate co-founder Patrick Mocan was called out on social media for allegedly being a sexual predator. What began as a Facebook post by fellow Montreal-based musician, DJ and promoter Catherine Colas snowballed into a social media frenzy. Artists, venues, organizers, party-goers and even Montreal businesses publicly voiced their solidarity or opposition to the call-out. Mocan stayed silent throughout, and left the Mile End without directly addressing the mounting assault allegations.
The reality of communities protecting abusers through collective silence is not exclusive to Montreal, but prevalent in creative scenes across Canada. We can speculate several reasons, but it appears to stem from lack of resources. Services that teach harm reduction and provide information on sexual assault are often grassroots and underfunded, or entirely volunteer-run. There is also a shortage of venues, promoters and media outlets for emerging arts scenes, creating environments of desperation. Many reoffending abusers are organizers, or people in positions of authority that are difficult to challenge publicly without attracting some form of backlash.
And backlash is exactly what happened to Catherine Colas. While Mocan disappeared from public life, Colas remained active on social media.
Leading up to an article on calling out and accountability in the September issue, Discorder caught up with Colas in Montreal to discuss her experience. We wanted to know what happens when you call out, and people respond.
“I was working door at an event that I wasn’t organizing, and I had so many women I know come up to me and say, ‘I don’t understand why [Patrick Mocan] is here, he’s a rapist.’ […] I had seven or eight women come up to me, one after another, so I just grabbed the cash and walked around looking for the organizer. […] I told him that women complained about [Mocan] and asked if we could just kick him out. The organizer looked at me and said, ‘Well, he lent us the needles for the turntables, so I feel uncomfortable kicking him out.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, but he sexually assaults women.’ He just [shrugged].
“[…] The next day I am at work, and who walks in but Patrick Mocan bringing tickets for an event. He walks in and talks to me, and I don’t even remember what he was saying because the whole time I felt so insane with guilt, and grossed out knowing he was getting away with [assault]. After he left I was rolling over all this shit in my head.
“The next morning I was at [a cafe] with friends, and I believe that was the day someone I knew personally wrote me to say that [Mocan] had actually [assaulted] her. That’s when I started writing this call-out [on Facebook]. As soon as I hit enter, I got this surge of anxiety. I could tell it was going to be a nightmare. I was telling that to my friends around me. One of them, […] initially shared my post, but then immediately took it down. I was confused at first, and then I understood that this person may have gotten freaked out. They shared it and maybe felt the same sort of fear that I got, and others in the music community feel, and they didn’t want to get negative backlash. They eventually made a post supporting the call-out, as did many others. But the feelings of being unsupported and scared at first, were very intense. The call-out experience for me, involved a lot of alienation, second-guessing, stress and isolation.”
“I moved back here a year ago, and then my whole purpose of moving back to Montreal was for music — to dj, make music and promote. […] Through that, people started talking to me about the scene. [They were] saying good things, but also bad things. I remember, [Patrick Mocan] came up because I saw this Prime Mate bottle and asked about it. People didn’t really have nice things to say about him. I heard that he was an asshole to women verbally, that he would be inappropriate or misogynistic, not very respectful. Then, eventually I started hearing more about him being a creep. I remember making comments to people, ‘Why do you support this person’s projects?’ […] and people would say things like, ‘Ahhh, you know, it’s the politics. Sometimes it’s really hard to navigate, so we try to preserve the peace as long as nothing terrible is going on.’ But through this [call-out], I have discovered that for many years, a lot of these same people I had conversations with knew about the very terrible things [Mocan] did that involved violently assaulting women. Some of these women had directly told these people what had happened to them, and their experiences were so minimized that it almost convinced [the victims] that assaults hadn’t happened. I find that so incredibly hard to process. And it has created alienation for me, within this community.
“At first when I called out [Patrick Mocan] I couldn’t tell anyone who the victims were who came forward [to me], but one of them ended up being someone I knew [from before this]. I just kept thinking, when people find out who this person is they are going to feel like shit for not voicing their opinions. And that’s why I have such a hard time these days. It shouldn’t matter who the person is.
“There are situations where people have slips, maybe they were too drunk and there was a miscommunication, and something shouldn’t have happened. But it happened once, and they acknowledge it, and do their best to make it right. And then there is Patrick Mocan and people like him, who repeatedly rape women over the course of several years. People apparently knew about it, and did nothing, said nothing. These women have felt unwilling to open up about their experiences because they probably felt like nobody cares, and they don’t feel like going through the process of alienation, backlash, triggering and shame.
“Sometimes, the music scene feels really hard. […] feels like people are more concerned about their positions in the scene and the kinds of opportunities they can get than actual morality and [acting on] real fucked up human situations. Because of the kind of person I am, it is basically impossible for me to brush that aside. I just can’t.”
“People keep writing me to tell me that the way I called out [Patrick Mocan] was bad, but how else could I have done it?
“[…] I don’t think there is a right way to call out, I think there is just a way. Either people bring it up, or they don’t. It is a shitty subject and no matter how you bring it up, it will be shitty and uncomfortable to take in. The reason why saying it publicly is good, is that it just gets the word out. […] I mean, I would like to know. I wouldn’t want to hook up with someone who is a violent rapist, and has not acknowledged their problem or been seeking help.”
“As a community, I think it is everyone’s responsibility. […] That’s why I have been getting really angry on social media. Stop saying ‘thank you’ to me. Don’t make it sound like I am doing this great, rare work. We should all be doing this.
“There are different levels of abuse too — emotional, verbal, sexual, physical, and they all need to be considered. And it isn’t just about men assaulting women, it’s about assault in general. All these factors need to be considered.”
“Several months ago me and another artist were poking at the fact there are a lot of all-male lineups, and how problematic that can be. […] When you have an all-male lineup, and the event is thrown by men as well, the event attracts a big swarm of men, and it doesn’t really promote a diverse crowd. It just caters to people who don’t really have to suffer sexual harassment that much, or don’t have to deal with these kinds of things on a regular basis. But that’s a situation where a lot of people say, ‘I don’t see a problem,’ but there is a problem. So when I talked about that [on social media], I got a fuck load of backlash.
“A lot of people contacted me saying that I had ‘a really shitty attitude’ and was bringing ‘bad vibes’ […] People would resort to homophobic comments too: ‘Oh, she’s an angry lesbian and that’s why she’s saying this, because she just hates men.’ I find it frustrating when [homophobia] happens because another aspect of my prodding against all-male lineups is that not only are these lineups predominantly men, but they are predominantly straight, too. I have a lot of queer friends that I have to convince to come to events because they assume the vibe will not be on par. […] I just got shit on so much for bringing up concepts that to me, just make sense, and are not hard to achieve [as a community].
“I have sat down [with people who run venues] and told them how I want to run events. I want more women involved, I want at least one woman working security, I want a lot of women behind the inner workings. And as much as possible, I want my lineup to be very even on different levels. It isn’t just all white, or all women, or all straight. I want it all over the place, as much as possible.
“[…] And if I run an event and someone says to me, ‘This person here abused me,’ most of the time I will ask that person to leave.”
“There’s just no easy way to bring up these subjects. On a [social media] platform makes sense, to me. You can reach out to many people, but it makes you so vulnerable to attacks. And even attacks from women. I remember when I called out all-male lineups [I had] women who I have worked with before try to make me feel like a shitty person for saying and doing what I did. […] It is a patriarchal thing where instead of seeing how this conversation relates to all women, they saw it as a threat. Sometimes it feels like, maybe if they come out as a feminist, men will judge them and they don’t want to have to prove themselves all over again. When I [encounter] that kind of response, it feels so weird. I like partying and I like music, but brushing that aside, this is real life with real problems.”
“I wish people voiced opinions and realized how exhausting it is. You don’t have to say thank you or talk about it in an overly invested way, just recognize that [calling out] affects people on a mental level. Just check in and say, ‘Hey, are you okay? Do you need to talk about it? Can I call out with you?’ I got some support at some point during this process, but it felt like I had to ask for it. Like, how do people not clue in that this is exhausting and intense, and I that I probably need help?
“I get so many emails from women telling me that [Patrick Mocan] or someone else assaulted them, but that they don’t want to come out publicly. I have also been through that type of experience myself, so this situation has been really triggering. Spending hours talking to women about their violent sexual assault stories, all week for several weeks, is intense. I am seeking some kind of acknowledgement of the intensity. An acknowledgment to underline the fact that this is a real problem, and that attempting to confront it can be very taxing for an individual, and how perhaps it shouldn’t all rely on one person.
“[…] People are just so cavalier about this topic. They talk about it like it’s a movie or something, but it is real life. And it isn’t real life in a different city. It is real life in Montreal. Calling out is not ‘politics being brought into the music world,’ but [pointing to] a problem that exists within society.”
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