In skirting around the issue and failing to identify abuse from the start, Tom Meighan’s case – and the initial statement issued by Kasabian – was a missed opportunity to condemn domestic abuse and show support for victims. Ahead, Women’s Aid explain why these scenarios can’t afford to go unnoticed.
On Monday 6 July, news broke that Kasabian’s lead vocalist Tom Meighan had left the band because of “personal issues” that had affected his behaviour.
“Tom Meighan is stepping down from Kasabian by mutual consent,” read a statement posted on Kasabian’s official Twitter page. “Tom has struggled with personal issues that have affected his behaviour for quite some time and now wants to concentrate all his energies getting his life back on track.”
Unsurprisingly, the post quickly attracted the attention of Kasabian’s fans, many of whom offered messages of praise, sympathy and support to the singer for putting his wellbeing first. The ambiguous nature of the post was what made the announcement so concerning to so many – especially as Meighan has spoken publicly about struggling with his mental health in the past.
As far as social media was concerned, Meighan had fallen victim to a serious hardship – and his departure from the band was a sign that he had decided to put his health and wellbeing first. But that wasn’t the case.
On Tuesday 7 July, it was revealed that Tom Meighan had plead guilty to attacking his ex-fiancée Vikki Ager while drunk on 9 April. The singer had, the court heard, subjected Ager to a number of physically violent acts. The court was also told that a child had witnessed the “sustained attack” and called 999.
For many of the fans who had responded to Kasabian’s first statement with sympathy, the revelation that Meighan’s “personal issues” were ongoing assault charges was incredibly distressing. But this isn’t the only reason why the inaccurate reporting of Meighan’s crimes was so problematic – indeed, as Ruth Mason, Head of Change That Lasts at Women’s Aid, tells Stylist, hiding the behaviour of perpetrators such as Meighan only serves to further silence victims.
“Public figures play a vital role in shaping our culture and helping us understand the world around us,” Mason says. It was disappointing to hear Kasabian explain that Tom Meighan’s departure from the band was for ‘personal reasons’ without stating the real reason: he had pleaded guilty to assaulting his former fiancée in front of a child.
Mason continues: “We feel this was a missed opportunity to show impactful leadership. We know that any form of abuse is unacceptable. However, if abuse is not named, it cannot be condemned. We need everyone to stand with survivors and send the message that those using abuse will be held accountable for their behaviour.
“The police recorded 1.3 million domestic abuse incidents and crimes in England and Wales in the year ending March 2019. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as only one in five victims will ever speak to the police about the abuse they experience.
“For too long this crime has been hidden behind closed doors, so hiding the behaviour of perpetrators like this increases the silencing of survivors. We welcome conversations that raise awareness of abuse, creating space for survivors and encouraging them to get the support they need. We all have a role in educating society about what is acceptable behaviour, and what its consequences are.”
In response to claims that Meighan had purposely misled fans by obscuring the nature of the situation in Kasabian’s initial statement, he has since released an apology, saying he would “never knowingly mislead fans” and “wanted to assure everyone” that he was in a good place mentally.
“I would like to make a statement about recent events and publicly apologise to my partner Vikki, my band-mates, my friends, family and fans,” Meighan wrote. “I am very sorry and deeply regret my recent behaviour. In no way am I trying to condone my actions or make excuses. I am completely to blame and accept all responsibility.”
It’s important to note that Kasabian also released a full statement after news of Meighan’s domestic abuse charges broke, saying there was “absolutely no way” they could condone his conviction and that “domestic abuse and violence of any kind is totally unacceptable”.
If the reaction to Kasabian’s initial statement should teach us anything, it’s that accurate reporting of domestic abuse is vital in raising awareness and demonstrating public support for victims. Taking all responsibility and outwardly condemning his own actions was the right thing for Meighan to do, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the true nature of the case was obscured at the start.
As previously reported by Stylist, one in four women will experience domestic abuse in their life and one in six men. And, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, two women are killed by their current or ex-partner every week.
Just last year, the UK’s two main press regulators adopted domestic abuse reporting guidelines devised by feminist campaign group Level Up to ensure that media reporting of domestic abuse respects victims’ dignity and tells their stories and truths with accuracy. And although Kasabian’s statement does not constitute “media reporting,” their position as public figures means the way they talk about domestic abuse is still incredibly influential, making it crucial that they get it right.
If you are worried that you might be the victim of abuse, it’s quite likely that you are. If these signs of an abusive relationship sound all too familiar to you, then get out of that situation as soon as possible.
The National Centre for Domestic Violence also offers a free, fast emergency injunction service to survivors of domestic violence regardless of their financial circumstances, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Text NCDV to 60777, call 0800 9702070, or visit ncdv.org.uk.
If you are in danger, please call 999.