In late 2013, Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst was accused of rape by a commenter on an xoJane post. She later recanted her allegations after Oberst took legal action, and his lawsuit was eventually dropped. Three years later, Oberst says he is still working through what happened.
In an interview with Noisey, Oberst explained how the accusations upended his life as dramatically as physical trauma:
“When something like that—something random and terrible—happens to you, it’s like… At this point I equate it to getting in a car crash or getting struck by fucking lightning. I don’t feel like there’s ever complete closure to something like that in the sense that you carry the psychological things with you,” he says, just before his Midwestern mentality catches up. “But everyone has some or many things like that in their life, maybe not that public or extreme. It’s one of those things where you’ve just got to go on with life.”
He also spoke to his fear of being held up as an example every time a woman accuses a man of assault:
“It’s such a tricky topic for me because I don’t ever want to minimize how much that happens to women all the fucking time,” he says. “They say one in four women will experience some kind of sexual assault in their life which is fucking insane and heartbreaking. So as painful and surreal and fucked up as my situation was, I don’t ever want to use this as an example to justify anything.”
Oberst said that after the accusations, he fell into a deep depression; he said that he had little to do with the Internet preceding the accusations, and part of the difficulty for him was how rapidly the rumors spread and amplified:
“So to have this outside force appear in my life, and having to deal with it, it was one of the most surreal experiences in my life.”
His new music apparently deals in part with the public’s tendency to “builds artists up only to tear them down,” a theme that is clearly adjacent to his personal experiences.