The Runaways’ (Cherie Currie, Lita Ford, Joan Jett, Sandy West, and Jackie Fox) rise to fame in an industry dominated by men promised the start of a new era of chick rock n’ roll. But now, after the passing of their male manager, Kim Fowley, it is clear that even the fame and perceived power of women in the rock world is stained with sexual violation.
Before her fame, Jackie Fuchs (now Jackie Fox) was a driven and unique teenage girl with ambitious dreams; nothing more than a bookworm thrust into the world of “rockers in glitter shorts and leather.” Ironic as it may seem, she was drawn to the fantastical sense of freedom that The Runaways seemed to provide. Unbeknownst to Fox, she was leaving behind the restrictions of her high school to work under a man with the power to eradicate her.
Kim Fowley was Fox’s boss, mentor, and provider; putting him in a position of ultimate power which the Huffington Post claims he notoriously used to assault and exploit the teen girls that surrounded him. Fox recollects that on New Years Eve of 1975, after a show with the band, she was coerced into taking several Quaaludes before attending a party with her band mates that would leave her violated and traumatized. The incident is clouded by hazy memories, inconsistencies, and halfhearted denials and Fox remembers very little of that night, but believes she can recall enough to comprehend what had happened to her. “You don’t know what terror is until you realize something bad is about to happen to you and you can’t move a muscle,” she remembers, “I can’t move. I can’t speak. All I can do is look him in the eye and do the best I can do to communicate: Please say no. … I don’t know what it looked like from the outside. But I know what was going on inside and it was horror.”
The article in The Huffington Post describes each and every grueling detail of the scene that night. “Fowley invited other guys to have sex with Jackie before removing his own pants and climbing on top of her. “Kim’s fucking someone!” a voice shouted from the door of the motel room to the partygoers outside, calling them in to watch. Arguelles returned to the room to see if this was all a big joke.
On the bed, Fowley played to the crowd, gnashing his teeth and growling like a dog as he raped Jackie. He got up at one point to strut around the room before returning to Jackie’s body.”
All witnesses agreed they felt intimidated, The Huffington Post piece claims; Roessler, a high-school friend of Fox, says she couldn’t stop staring at him. “I remember really clearly just staring at him like, ‘If only I stare at him hard enough, it’ll make this all stop. If only I stare at him and he looks at me, he’ll go ‘Oh my god, what am I doing?” No longer able to bear the sight of this horrific crime, Roessler got into her car and left. Krome, a previous alleged victim of Fowley’s, fled to the next door room and began to drink, but recalls Jett and Currie sitting off to the side of the room, snickering during the fiasco. Fox also remembers looking over the side of the bed and seeing Currie and Jett staring at her while Fowley writhed on top of her.
Fox showed up at band practice later that week, not yet ready to end her rock star career, but still in search of some affirmation from her band mates that she had, in fact, been assaulted. Instead, “the girls hardly registered her presence.”
“Currie says the girls, who were then all 16 and 17, never talked about how to handle the rape. There was no decision or strategy. The unspoken rule was simply, ‘you forget it and you move on,’ Currie explains. ‘I pushed it out of my mind the best I could.’”(The Huffington Post)
As it turns out Fox was one in a long line of Fowley’s alleged sexual assault victims. Krome, a 14-year-old songwriter who was present for the rape on New Years Eve, says Fowley demanded sexual favors from her in exchange for his help with her music. In September of ’75 Audrey Pavia, 18 years old at the time, says Fowley sexually assaulted her backstage at a Runaways’ show. He allegedly pinned her against the wall, shoved his knees between her legs, sucked on her ear and whispered all the things he was going to do to her. Pavia remembers noticing her hair matted with his spit as she walked away that night. But that’s just how sex-obsessed Fowley conducted business; he called it “doing the hustle,” according to The Huffington Post.
After a melt down and a suicide attempt on tour in Japan, Fox quit the band and went home to Los Angeles. For years, she kept Fowley’s alleged crime a secret; she suffered in every aspect of her life because of it, Fox admits. Finally, 40 years later, after Fowley’s death and a spark in rape victims’ cases and awareness, Fox made the decision to come forward about what she had experienced on New Years Eve in 1975, according to The Huffington Post. Fox released her latest statement about the incident through Facebook.
“I have been so incredibly moved over the last few days by the outpouring of love and support that has followed the story of my rape on New Year’s Eve 1975.
When I contacted the Huffington Post at the beginning of the year, I never imagined my story would touch such a nerve. I wondered whether anyone would even read it, or if they did, whether they would care. The response took me completely by surprise.
This was not an easy story for me to tell. I had to go over the details of the worst night of my life, not once but repeatedly. The writer of the piece, Jason Cherkis, and the Huffington Post’s fact checker handled the questioning with great sensitivity; but in the wake of the Rolling Stone rape-reporting fiasco and the well-known past disagreements among members of the Runaways, they were leaving nothing to chance. They asked for my SAT scores, my school transcripts, contact info for the lawyer I spoke to last year. My family and I opened our homes and our files, without reservation. We gave Jason a glimpse into some of our most private moments, as well as some of our deepest—though thoroughly underserved—shame.
Jason spoke to people I hadn’t thought about in years—people who didn’t like me, as well as those who did. He spoke to every known living person who was there the night of my rape, save one. Jason contacted friends I’d lost touch with after I was raped, friends I’ve missed terribly. I had serious second thoughts about going public several months in. How would disclosure affect my family? How would it change how my friends saw me? Would I be known forever after as “that girl from that band, who got raped”?
I thought I had prepared myself for the haters—I was wrong. I was shocked by some of the vitriol; more so by the fact that nearly all of it came from other women. But their voices were drowned by a chorus of support from women I respect and admire—women like Kathy Valentine, Maureen Herman and Jane Wiedlin. And then there are the private messages. The sheer number of people who have written to tell me their own stories of rape and abuse has been heartbreaking. Many have said they’ve never told anyone about their rape or abuse, or that the people they told didn’t believe them.
But they’ve also said that my story has given them hope that the dialogue about rape is changing. Some have reevaluated their own trauma in light of learning about the Bystander Effect. One person wrote that I had given her a gift: “the ability to see that the people in the room were victims too. Their behavior didn’t mean I deserved [the abuse]. It just meant they were afraid and didn’t know what to do.”
I know some people watching the online drama unfold have been discouraged by the lack of support I’ve received from my former band mates. To which I can only say that I hope you never have to walk in their shoes. My rape was traumatic for everyone, not just me, and everyone deals with trauma in their own way and time. It took exceptional courage for many of the witnesses to talk frankly about how they felt. Most have apologized to me for their inaction that night—apologies that have been unnecessary, though welcome.
My rape also left scars on Victory and the other people who only experienced indirectly what happened that night. It can’t have been easy to listen to the way the band treated me after I left (treatment I was mercifully unaware of at the time). All I can say about what was said and done is that my band mates were children who’d witnessed something criminal and tragic. I’ve no doubt they were dealing with it as best they were able. They had no responsible adults to guide them—only a rapist and his apologists.
If I am disappointed in one thing, it is that the story has become about who knew what when and who did or didn’t do what. That isn’t the story at all. It would be nice if everyone who was there the night I was raped could talk about how it has affected them over the years. But if they don’t want to talk it about, I respect that. It’s taken me years to talk about it without shame. I can only imagine what it must have been like to have watched it happen.
I only wish that if my band mates can’t remember what happened that night—or if they just remember it differently—they would stick simply to saying that. By asserting that if they’d witnessed my rape, they’d have done something about it, they perpetuate the very myth I was trying to dispel when I decided to tell my story. Being a passive bystander is not a “crime.” All of us have been passive bystanders at some point in our lives.
If we have any hope at all of putting an end to incidents like these, we need to stop doubting the accusers and start holding rapists, abusers and bullies accountable. What we don’t need to do is point fingers at those who weren’t to blame for their actions.”
Although Currie claims that she got up and left the room that night, Krome and Fox alike remember her and Jett sitting in the corner of the room, amused by the scene that played out in front of them. Victory Tischler-Blue (Fox’s replacement in The Runaways) recalls the women making fun of the entire incident in band practice years later. Both Jett and Currie have issued statements denying they took any part in the affair.
Jett, who had originally brushed off all inquiries about that night, telling the press that Fox could speak for herself, felt compelled to speak up after Maureen Herman, bassist for Babes in Toyland, publicly confronted her on the subject.
“Joan Jett’s continued silence at the public disclosure of her witnessing of her bassist’s rape at the hands of their manager is starting to taste like indifference with a side of victim-blaming. That’s a really dangerous message to send to the many women and musicians Jett has inspired and influenced in her successful career. As a woman, a musician, a rape victim, and a feminist, my disappointment is turning to rage. It will not be a silent rage.
Though Joan Jett was not the perpetrator of the crime committed against Jackie Fuchs, she was a witness to the rape and did nothing. I understand she was very young at the time and its possible Fowley leveraged the threat of rape to retain power and influence over the other band members. It was a very public rape, after all.
But now, the perpetrator is dead, and the victim has taken the courageous step of telling her story to encourage others tot ell theirs. Jett’s dismissive response to requests for a comment—that Jackie can tell her own story—is not enough. She has the unique chance of finally standing up for the band mate she so tragically denied all of these years. How healing that would be, how far it would go in assuring victims that rape is never their fault—no matter what.”
Jett’s response was humble and compassionate, completely contrasting the description in The Huffington Post.
“Anyone who truly knows me understands that if I was aware of a friend or band mate being violated, I would not stand by while it happened. For a group of young teenagers thrust into 70s rock stardom there were relationships that were bizarre, but I was not aware of this incident. Obviously Jackie’s story is extremely upsetting and although we haven’t spoken in decades, I wish her peace and healing.”
Currie’s memory of that night does not match Jackie’s recollections.
“I have been accused of a crime. Of looking into the dead yet pleading eyes of a girl, unable to move while she was brutally raped and doing nothing. I have never been one to deny my mistakes in life and I wouldn’t start now. If I were guilty, I would admit it. There are so many excuses I could make being only one month into my sixteenth year at the time that people would understand but I am innocent. When I return from Sweden I will seek a qualified polygraph examiner to put to rest any and all allegations. I will make public the questions, answers, and results of that test. I am a proud person but for this, I may need to open a Fund Me account since I do not know how much this will cost. I am not a rich person but a carver. I wouldn’t ask for funding for my new album because I am proud. I will prove I am telling the truth. I will not allow anyone to throw me under the bus and accuse me if such a foul act. I will fight for myself. It is the only thing I can do.”
With the loving support she has received, Fox says she has decided to turn her traumatic experience into a vehicle to help others, and has become an advocate for victims of rape and sexual assault.